In case you hadn't noticed, the neoconservative approach to foreign policy has been an unmitigated failure.
The media are still abuzz with stories of the North Korean missile tests. David E. Sanger of the New York Times notes that "after a barrage of missile launchings by North Korea, President Bush and his national security advisers found themselves on Wednesday facing what one close aide described as an array of 'familiar bad choices.'"
"Familiar bad choices" will be a suiting epithet on the Bush administration's tombstone. Sanger notes that top advisers are less concerned over what to do about North Korea's new missile "than with the bigger question of whether the president is prepared to leave office in 2009 without constraining an unpredictable dictator who boasts about having a nuclear arsenal."
Mister Bush will leave office--in 2009 or whenever--with more problems than any successor, Democrat or Republican, will be able to solve easily. The Brave Neoconservative World has already turned into the Next World Order, a world order that's a far cry from the delusional dream of U.S. global domination through military force.
Our experiments with regime change at the point of a gun in Afghanistan and Iraq have been colossal train wrecks. Pentagon planners can't come up with a coherent master air attack plan for Iran because they can't find anything suitable to bomb, or any proof that Iran isn't telling the truth when it says it doesn't have a nuclear weapons program and has no intention of developing one. And the best solution to the North Korean missile testing seems to be to encourage them to test fire missiles until they don't have any missiles left.
Without question, the critical vulnerability in the neoconservatives' overall foreign policy was its myopic fascination with Iraq. They were bound and determined to invade that country come hell or high water, whether Saddam Hussein was still in power or not. This unfortunate misstep, and the incompetent manner in which it was executed, has left America profoundly weaker militarily, economically, and diplomatically. Our executive branch has a well earned global reputation for secrecy and deception, and our news media have been so profoundly corrupted that there's no taking any information coming from any U.S. source at face value. That's a sorry state of affairs for the nation that was the home of Honest Abe and the president named George who could not tell a lie.
Reversing America's vector to oblivion will take swallowing some very big and very bitter pills. One will be that the cornerstone of America's power--its military might--can no longer be relied upon to achieve the country's policy aims. The more the balance of armed force has tilted in our favor, and the more we have applied armed force to foreign policy, the more unfavorable consequences we have managed to create. This is not to suggest we disarm. Our physical security, and arguably that of the entire world, will continue to require a robust capability to respond swiftly and decisively to contingencies that only armed force can counter.
But we'll have to disavow, even if only tacitly, that the preemptive deterrence doctrine is a bust. War hawks will continue to insist that any posture other than willingness to fight any where, any time shows weakness, but applying terms like "appeasement" and "surrender" to the actions of a nation that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined is ludicrous. We can spend a heck of a lot less on armed force than we are now and still whip anyone who wants to take us on hands down.
We need to get out of Iraq, and barring a miracle, there's no good way to do that. Whatever moral obligation we have to help that country get on its feet is just about paid up. Right now in Ramadi American troops are fighting Iraqi insurgents with an Iraqi unit that's undermanned because up to 500 of its soldiers didn't want to fight other Iraqis. If Iraqi soldiers don't want to fight for themselves, we have no ethical requirements to do it for them.
We might want to redeploy forces to Afghanistan to clean up the mess we allowed to resurge there. That would be admitting we made a mistake, though, and we might wind up just creating another Iraq and draining our force even further. We may have to admit that Afghanistan is an insoluble problem and pull out of there too.
We'll have to concede that Iran has right to develop its own uranium enrichment capabilities and hope we can find a way to ensure they don't go in the nuclear weapons direction. Unfortunately, there may be no sure-fire way to ensure Iran doesn't produce nukes behind our backs. If that's the case, we'll have to fall back on the same deterrence measure we applied to the Soviets during the Cold War and the one we're using with the North Koreans now: our own nuclear arsenal.
Like many, I'd like to see a complete eradication of nuclear weapons, but I don't see anything like that in the cards for decades. Another one of those bitter pills we'll have to swallow is that non-proliferation is a blown policy. The cats are out of the corral, and all the cowboys in the world won't be enough to round them back up. We'll just have to put out a bowl of milk and wait for them to come around when they're good and ready to.
As I wrote last September, empires come and empires go. Some land softly, some wind up as a footnote of another empire's history book. In order for America to position itself as a "first among nations" in the next world order, we're going to have to taste a little crow.
But hey, I hear that with the right seasonings, crow can be downright palatable.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.