Thursday, July 06, 2006

Eating Crow in the Next World Order

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.


  1. The report in yesterday's NYT about ground truth in Ramadi says it all -- we are getting ready to level a significant section of the city to create a "Green Zone".

    Looks like we've finally arrived at the metaphysical Destroying The Village To Save It moment in Iraq.

  2. It's a zoo with all the cages open.

  3. Anonymous4:49 PM

    For someone with such a distinguished military career you are clueless on what is going on with the war on terror. Colossal train wrecks? Are you serious?

  4. I have a superb idea of what's going on in the war on terror. Incidents of terror have increased since we invaded Iraq.

    Did you not know that?

  5. Yes, Anonymous, "colossal train wrecks" sounds about right to me too, but perhaps you could name one single good outcome from our overseas (mis)adventure? Just one?

    And please, don't reply with the "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" nonsense - because that "strategy" merely leaves our borders porous beyond belief, provides more than ample genesis for the creation of MORE terrorists, and drains the treasury well beyond empty.

    It appears we learned absolutely nothing from the Soviet Union's misadventures in Afghanistan, not to mention our own Vietnam debacle. But learning isn't really the issue, is it, in a regime ruled by wishful thinking and pure fantasmagoria?

  6. Kathleen:

    Your question is disingenuous, I suspect, because no matter what "anonymous" cited as a single 'good,' you'd refuse to acknowledge it as a good.

    Of course if you're talking about "overseas" generally, to include Iraq and Afghanistan both, then certainly the fact that the Taliban no longer runs Afghanistan is a good. We'll see whether we've got sense enough to keep them from getting back in. Also, the removal of Hussein is a good, as is the elimination of his sons, in my opinion. The elimination of Zarqawi is also a good. The advent of elections in Iraq is a good.

    Or are you going to tell me, as I think you will, that all of these things are bad?

  7. The question is whether any of these "goods" are good enough to offset the unintended bad consequences.

    I'd say the answer is a resounding "no."

    And in that case, can any of the "goods" really be considered good?

  8. Anonymous10:02 AM

    If you get fresh flowers and candies every day and then get the shit beaten out of you, are those flowers and candies good? Or is it really the case that you have to take the whole situation into consideration when you talk about good or bad.

    One thing I don't understand is how people think that Americans can fight for the Iraqi's while we're waiting for them to "stand up". Who fought for America against the British? Did the Ottoman Empire invade America, and help us defeat the British? No, it was Americans fighting for America, plain and simple. American blood was spilled willingly by Americans to ensure a free and prosperous future. Why does anyone think that Iraq is any different?

    The Iraqi army is never going to stand up while our forces are there. To fight with the Americans is to be seen as collaborators, which many are loathe to do. They are in the army for money, not loyalty.

    This whole boondogle is like an investment gone wrong. The stock price keeps falling because the fundamentals are all wrong. But look! They got new offices! They have a new "strategy"! If the business is fundamentally flawed, then none of that is going to prevent its failure. A wise investor cuts her losses and moves on to the next investment opportunity, for which I have a great idea.... about the United States of America?

  9. Jeff:

    I don't disagree, but Kathleen didn't ask for a quantitative analysis of the goods, or for a comparative analysis of the goods versus ills, she simply asked if there has been a single good. Of course there has. Your question boils down to "was it worth it," which is the right question to ask, but too many people go to the fringes of the issue (as is usually the case in American political discourse), and that's where you get the 'not a single good' type of thought.

  10. Well, I still ask whether a good that wasn't worth the cost is really a good, especially in the case where it's being cited as a justification for the war.

    The good news: I lost 35 pounds.

    The bad news: it was my right leg.

  11. Jeff:

    Yes, I think it is still a good. The difference between the things I mentioned and your example is that the things are mentioned really are 'goods,' where as the 'good news' in your example was really never a good to begin with, it was something bad from the start (loss of a leg).

    A good thing is still a good thing. If an orphanage burns down and a man saves one little girl from the building, but rescuers are unable to reach the rest of the children, his saving of that girl is a good (no doubt about it in my mind). On balance, do you wish the orphanage never burned, or that more children were saved? Of course. But does that make the fact that he managed to save one child less good? No.

  12. Analogies are seldom if ever perfect. Using your scenario as an analog of Iraq, I'd say if we started the fire, should we be patting ourselves on the back because we pulled one kid out of it?

    Can we use that as justification for setting the fire?

  13. No, my question was not disingenuous; I asked it in all sincerity. However, it was unclear.

    By "good" I am referring to a good outcome for the USA, which after all, is the purported reason for our actions throughout this mess. The removal of Saddam and elimination of Zarqawi is probably "good" for the Iraqis, but they’ve paid an intensely steep cost for it, and had no say in the matter, not a trivial detail given that they're a sovereign state.

    But when has the Bush administration claimed that our Iraq adventure was done for the good of the Iraqis? Only in hindsight, when WMDs morphed into "freedom on the march." Now that is something that reeks of disingenuousness, and in fact, defines it!

    Do the ends justify the means? Can we justify all the Bush lies that got us into Iraq by pointing to our wee bit of success there (I'm sure we must have painted at least one school) in spite of all the death, destruction, ill will and terrorism that we have spawned by our actions? Gad, what an unbalanced equation!

  14. Jeff:

    Touche. I thought of that while I was making my post, actually. In thinking on it further, I will say that at least the U.S. didn't create the Taliban and their oppression against women and others; Hussein people might argue over, but I'd say we didn't create his cruelty and oppression. As for Zarqawi, that's a more difficult case. If we hadn't invaded Iraq, I don't think the Zarqawi we've seen the past few years would have come into existence.


    I'm not using the goods to justify the war, just pointing out they exist. I made no calculus or equation. As far as I'm concerned, the Bush adminstration led us into war under false pretenses. I don't think you can retroactively justify that, no matter what happens. The only thing we can do now is work to achieve the best outcome (for us and Iraq) under the circumstances.

    I will differ on one point, however - I think the removal of Hussein and Zarqawi (and indeed the Taliban) is good for humanity. Whenever such people are stopped, it is good for humanity as a race. Likewise, I think it will be good for humanity when Bush is out of office in 2009.

  15. Anonymous10:48 AM

    the removal of Bush-Cheney would be the best thing for humanity that could possibly happen.

    Followed by a declaration that corporations have NO civil rights atal and that HUMANS are the only "persons' with liberties and rights.

    FUCK corporations.

    Then...all drugs need to be legalized so that the international banking system can wean itself off illegal drug money.

    Then...CONGRESS ( an all new one with 535 new members (get rid of ALL OF THEM)) needs to REIN IN BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS by capping interest on lending and repealing the lifetime debtors act (otherwise known as the "Bankruptcy Reform Bill"

    THe Patriot ACT must be repealed and the system of constitutional law and order RESTORED.

    But none of that is gonna happen because der shrubenfuherer ain't leavin office in 2008.

  16. The U.S. has a huge ownership of everything that is wrong in the Middle East. We supported Saddam against Iran and the Taliban/Al-Qiada against the Russians. We have a lot of responsibility for the environment that exists. Jeff's orphanage analogy is right on. We need to oversdose on crow.

  17. religion is no sustitute for foreign policy

  18. It never ceases to amaze me how you libs can blame Bush for every evil act around the world. Do you seriously argue that diplomacy has EVER had a chance in North Korea? And how do you deal with Clinton's North Korea policy? Was that equally a dismal failure?

    The sad fact is, we cannot control every evil dictator in the world. We approach them diplomatically and do our best to resolve our differences without resorting to force. But in the end, we are sometimes faced with having to deal militarily with a hostile enemy through no fault of our own.

    You analysis, if applied to WWII, would place the blame for Hitler's actions squarely on the shoulders of Great Britain. While I would argue that British appeasement certainly encouraged Hitler, I also argue that war was inevitable because Hitler was bent on world domination. No amount of diplomatic effort was ever going to change that.

    Equally, we face lunatics in the Middle East and in North Korea. We must pursue diplomatic solutions but it is remarkably naive to believe that diplomatic failure results only from administration incompetence. Or perhaps it is just that you rabidly hate Bush with the foreseeable result that you are incapable of unbiased analysis.

  19. Three words, Ron:

    You're an idiot.

    Go back to the mother ship and get some better talking points.

    And tell your handlers the next time they want to come after me to send somebody a damn sight better than you.

  20. I love it. Typical liberal response. I made a substantive argument that rebutted your argument. I did not attack you.

    Rather than deal with anything I said, you resort to ad homenim attacks, the last refuge of those who are out of arguments. You must be so proud. Why not actually engage in debate or is that more than you planned on?

  21. No, Ron, you didn't make a substantive argument. The likes of you seldom do.

    Drop the lunatic WWII comparisons, drop the "liberal" tags, come up with something truly "substantive" and we'll talk.

  22. I can see your fellow koolaid drinkser are all that are welcome here. That's fine, it's your site. You aren't required to engage in any sort of discourse.

  23. You might want to wipe that grape colored stain off your chin before you accuse anyone else of drinking Kool Aid.