March 9, 2013


Mission Accomplished: Iraq as America's biggest Blunder (Peter van Buren, 3/07/13,

Anniversaries are times for reflection, in part because it's often only with hindsight that we recognize the most significant moments in our lives. On the other hand, on anniversaries it's often hard to remember what it was really like back when it all began. Amid the chaos of the Middle East today, it's easy, for instance, to forget what things looked like as 2003 began. Afghanistan, it appeared, had been invaded and occupied quickly and cleanly, in a way the Soviets (the British, the ancient Greeks...) could never have dreamed of. Iran was frightened, seeing the mighty American military on its eastern border and soon to be on the western one as well, and was ready to deal. Syria was controlled by the stable thuggery of Bashar al-Assad and relations were so good that the U.S. was rendering terror suspects to his secret prisons for torture.

Most of the rest of the Middle East was tucked in for a long sleep with dictators reliable enough to maintain stability. Libya was an exception, though predictions were that before too long Muammar Qaddafi would make some sort of deal. (He did.) All that was needed was a quick slash into Iraq to establish a permanent American military presence in the heart of Mesopotamia. Our future garrisons there could obviously oversee things, providing the necessary muscle to swat down any future destabilizing elements. It all made so much sense to the neocon visionaries of the early Bush years. The only thing that Washington couldn't imagine was this: that the primary destabilizing element would be us.

Except, of course, that the entire point of deposing Saddam was to trigger destabilization in the Middle East, which the author bizarrely thinks should be kept quiet by brutal dictatorships.  That is always the Realist view -- that our peace and quiet matters more than the freedom and quality of life of the wogs -- but it is unAmerican and we never hew to such a line for long.  

Every war we fight destabilizes regimes that deny their people--or some significant portion of them--their God given rights.  Every war becomes unpopular in the fighting, because we are not serving our own selfish interests but are accepting personal costs.  Then every war becomes popular once it's won and the liberated "enemy" evolves into a friend not unlike us.

W's wars won't be fully appreciated, by us or them, until the rest of the Arab world liberalizes.  In other words, until every regime has been destabilized.


Sovereignty Redefined (Edward B. Driscoll, November 3, 2005, TCS)

The second section of Judd's book illustrates how America and its allies represent a great threat to the idea of classical sovereignty, "because of our willingness to impose liberal democracy abroad, to effectively hasten what contributor Francis Fukuyama has dubbed the 'end of history.'" The essays that Judd chose for this section illustrate his opinion that America itself has redefined sovereignty so that the right to maintain the governance of a nation now depends on a regime's ability to maintain basic civil rights, and a conform to liberal democratic norms.

Judd notes that the isolationist (or non-interventionist) Right has been quite hostile to this development, "which does of course involve us in the internal affairs of states from Syria to Burma to Somalia to Haiti." However, Judd's selections demonstrate that this is consistent with America's past. Americans after all settled the continent all the way to the Pacific, fought a Civil War at home, and abroad fought Imperialism, Nazism, and Communism successively, all the while requiring other peoples to adopt our own foundational principles.

Judd hopes that his book will help "to convince Americans in general, but reluctant conservatives in particular, that George W. Bush's expansive mission of democratizing the Middle East is not just vital to the future of the region and our own national security, but entirely consistent with American history, is indeed quintessentially American.

"Whereas some argue that we have no right to tell others how to govern themselves" Judd says, "we always have, and our Declaration of Independence makes universalist claims that there is a duty to organize regimes as we've organized our own".

Posted by at March 9, 2013 9:25 AM

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