"Democracy can yield the peace we all want."
-- George W. Bush
How much peace does Mister Bush really want? Not a whole hell of a lot, by the look of things.
My ePluribus Media Journal article "Wars and Empires" discusses how, since the early 20th century, America's wars have brought increasingly counter-productive results. World War I, the "war to end all wars," laid the groundwork for World War II. The "good war" led to the decades long Cold War and the "third world" proxy wars that accompanied it. We fought North Korea to a tie more than 50 years ago. Today, we're at a loss as to how to curb its nuclear weapons program. And the Swift Boat controversy in the 2004 presidential election clearly illustrated that the country still suffers trauma from the Vietnam experience.
Our invasion of Iraq has created an insurgency/civil war/Hobbesian nightmare in that country. Despite having troops in countries that surround it, we supposedly face "no greater challenge" than Iran.
The "spread of democracy" throughout the Middle East turned the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah into legitimate political parties, which has now led Israel to launch a full-blown war against Palestine and Lebanon.
Though America's military is unsurpassed in combat capability, it is proving unsuited to achieving our national aims. This unpleasant reality has damaged our ability to conduct foreign diplomacy, and the cost of the military and conduct of armed conflict has become a profound burden on our economy.
We can only draw so many lessons from spinning alternative histories. There's a pretty good argument that says we should have stayed out of World War I and let the Europeans slug it out among themselves until none of them could possibly have recovered enough to fight a second world war. Some think our participation in World War II was unavoidable, but that Roosevelt should have listened to Churchill and cut Stalin out of eastern Europe. Some say we had to defend South Korea, but MacArthur blew things when he pushed too far up the Peninsula. Many still make the case that we would have won in Vietnam if we'd only stayed another eight months to a year and blah, blah, blah.
Some critics of the present Iraq War think the decision to invade was a sound one, and everything would have been hunky dory if only the boobs in charge of the war hadn't dropped the ball after the fall of Baghdad. Peter W. Galbraith, author of the book The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End, writes ``With regard to Iraq, President Bush and his top advisors have consistently substituted wishful thinking for analysis and hope for strategy."
While I agree in spirit with Galbraiths' sentiments, I vehemently oppose the overall conclusions that he and other war critics draw. The "wishful thinking" wasn't so much the delusion that we would be "greeted as liberators" and that centuries of animosity among Sunnis, Shias and Kurds would melt away like a snowman in the streets of Baghdad. The cognizant dissonance in the neoconservative philosophy was (and still is) that a hegemonic United States could impose secure, America-centric world order at the point of a gun.
Perhaps the most dissonant aspect of the neoconservative vision was its policy of "preemptive deterrence." The phrase itself is a model illustration of semantic internal fallacy. You can't stop something by starting it.
And you can't claim you know what a potential enemy intends through strategic intelligence because, as the Iraq debacle showed, you can't rely on strategic intelligence, and you can't rely on lack of strategic intelligence to act on worst case assumptions (although, as Sy Hersh points out in The New Yorker, that's precisely what contingency military plans for Iran are based on).
If you wait for adversaries to act on you assumptions of their intentions and capabilities, you're not preempting. You're reacting. What's more, if you react in a way that's out of proportion to your adversaries' actions, you're overreacting.
Which brings us to a proper description of the policy the Bush administration has followed since it shoe horned its way into office: preemptive overreacting.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.
The Next World Order series.