The situation in Iraq deteriorated significantly last week with the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. In what was apparently a sectarian strike by Sunni insurgents against the Shiite religious site, the already-grim situation has taken an ominous turn toward all-out civil war. Responding to the attack, Shiite militias went on a rampage, burning dozens of Sunni mosques, assassinating Sunni imams, and launching random attacks against Sunni citizens.
Writing in the UK Telegraph, Ahmad Ali describes the situation in gloomy detail:
"But this is going to be worse, I think. This may be the start of when it all goes really wrong and the thing that we all fear — the sectarian war that will destroy my country and my children’s future — may be about to begin. "
"This is not the city I knew. I had friends and colleagues who were Shia. My family married into Shia families. Now I am too frightened to be in my home. Maybe we will feel safe to go back when things are calm. But tonight we are fugitives.
How did it ever get to this?"
An interesting question, that.
Just how DID it ever get to this?
Two months ago, after the most recent Iraqi election, I wrote:
A civil war is now almost inevitable. What they cannot win in the voting booth, the Sunnis must now try to win via the barrel of a gun.
The only good thing that could have emerged from this election was a graceful American exit. Saddam is gone. There are no WMDs. A successful democratic election was held.
Any sane American government would take that as a cue to declare victory and head for the exits (although one could certainly argue that a sane government would never have gone to Iraq in the first place…but that is another issue entirely).
Unfortunately, no one ever accused the Bush administration of sanity. They seem to believe that this election was a success and that things are better than ever. And since their original intentions included permanent American military bases, they have no real desire to leave Iraq anyway.
So whether by delusion or design, American forces don’t appear to be leaving anytime soon…which will place our soldiers in a ring-side seat at a nasty, three-way civil war.
While I realize that quoting myself is not exactly in good taste, my purpose in doing so is not to claim some fantastic powers of analysis or some preternatural ability to see the future, but is actually quite the opposite. If I, a common citizen in fly-over country, could see where this was heading, why couldn’t the "masters of the universe" in Washington DC?
Just who in blazes is steering this ship?
Iraq is an artificial country created by British imperialism. It has no historical or cultural tradition of liberal civil society necessary for a modern democracy. What little that did exist was crushed by several decades of Saddam’s authoritarian rule. It is also sharply divided along religious and ethnic lines, making a functioning democracy extremely difficult to construct under even ideal circumstances.
When the United States crashed the gates and toppled the Iraqi regime, we loosed the hounds of hell. In all honesty, any fool should have been able to see this coming (which is why we never should have invaded Iraq in the first place).
So where does this leave America? Our treasury is empty, several thousand of our soldiers have been killed, and a large portion of our army is hunkered down in an Iraq which teeters on the brink of civilizational meltdown.
One might think that amid this colossal foreign policy failure, our governing elites would be roaming the streets in sackcloth and ashes. The neocons, the CFR, the Pentagon brass, and the functionaries in the State Department should be begging the American people for forgiveness and promising not to do anything this reckless ever again.
But the expectation of penance presumes the existence of a conscience and a trace of humility on the part of the offender.
A quick analysis of two recent neoconservative tracts reveals a situation far removed from anything resembling a guilty conscience.
President Bush’s recent State of the Union address was a rambling diatribe aimed at the evils of "isolationism" and a call to "stay the course" in Iraq:
"In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom — or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy — or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting — yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership — so the United States of America will continue to lead."
Even more disturbing was a recent op-ed piece by allegedly reformed neocon Francis Fukuyama in the New York Times Magazine. In the article, Fukuyama spends considerable time critiquing neoconservatism, but he also degenerates into a stem-winding rant against "isolationism." Jim Lobe dissected this article quite elegantly in a recent piece that bears quoting:
Fukuyama, best known for his post-Cold War essay proclaiming the historic inevitability of liberal democracy, “The End of History,” argued in the Times article that neoconservatives so badly miscalculated the myriad costs of the Iraq war that they may have empowered their two foreign policy nemeses — realists, who disdain democracy-promotion; and isolationists, who oppose foreign entanglements of almost any kind
But Fukuyama is most concerned that these failures may spur an “anti-neoconservative backlash that coupled a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the United States with friendly authoritarians.”
“What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a ‘realistic Wilsonianism’ that better matches means to ends,” he wrote in what appears to be a bid to delineate a new foreign policy consensus — some already call it “neo-realism” — around which centrist Republicans and Democrats can rally."
Fukuyama’s (and Bush’s) rhetoric is so shocking in its dishonesty that it is almost beyond comprehension. The neocons, along with their Wilsonian allies in the Democratic Party, launched an unprovoked attack on Iraq that any village idiot could have predicted would end in disaster.
Now, at the precipice of a full-scale meltdown, what are their concerns? Are they apologizing for their mistakes? Are they lamenting the destruction they’ve caused?
No. In reading both of these pieces, it is quite clear that the neocons (even a supposedly reformed one like Fukuyama), are not worried about the death, destruction, and mayhem, but are rather concerned about the possible resurgence of "isolationism" that may accompany their policy failure.
This is egocentricity of monstrous proportions.
For starters, let us be precise with our language. "Isolationism" is a term invented by interventionists to make minding our own business sound like an immoral policy. It is a "straw man" argument that is intellectually dishonest and intentionally misleading.
I, for one, am tired of listening to the "isolationism" smear. In reality, it is the interventionists who are morally bankrupt on so many levels that one hardly knows where to begin. And since it’s their policies that have gone so horribly wrong, let us take off the gloves and discuss a few of them:
#1 The interventionists are un-American
President Bush has proffered the idea that America’s destiny is to "end tyranny in the world." This is consistent with no sane interpretation of the beliefs of our Founding Fathers. Again and again, America’s early leaders warned against America’s involvement in foreign disputes and the formation of "entangling alliances." We should not, they cautioned, go in search of monsters to destroy.
By contrast, the ideologues of interventionism contend that America should sally forth and attack nations for the purpose of "spreading democracy," even as they undermine freedom here at home with increasingly authoritarian policies. We are to be, in their opinion, a "benevolent world hegemon."
This philosophy could be described as Marxist, or perhaps even fascist, but it has little to do with the ideals that accompanied the birth of our Republic.
#2 The interventionists are corrupt
In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned the American people about the rise of a military-industrial complex. He feared that corporations and bureaucracies involved in overseas adventurism would one day become powerful enough to steer America on a course of perpetual war for perpetual peace. Looking at our nation today, it is difficult to argue that those fears have not been realized. How many of the ideologues who agitated for our Iraqi invasion have personally benefited from the policy? How many neocon tycoons made money peddling influence? How many billions were pocketed from "no-bid" contracts?
And this point goes well beyond mere war profiteering. Washington DC teems with bureaucracies dedicated to managing "global issues" and sticking our nation’s nose where it doesn’t belong. What would happen to these folks in an "isolationist" America? Do they not have a massive, collective stake in perpetuating our current, disastrous foreign policy? Might not their opinions concerning the "evils" of isolationism be tinged with ulterior motives and self-interest?
#3 The interventionists are incompetent
How many disasters have the American people now suffered at the hands of our interventionist foreign policy elite? These wizards gave us the Bay of Pigs fiasco. They gave us the Vietnam War quagmire, complete with over 50,000 dead American soldiers, a million dead Vietnamese, thousands more maimed, and billions of dollars wasted. They gave us the ill-fated "nation-building" expedition to Somalia, the absurd "nation-building" expedition to Haiti, and now the disastrous "democracy-spreading" operation in Iraq.
These policies (along with countless smaller operations) have tagged America as the focus of evil in the minds of people around the world.
The obvious immorality of our interventionist foreign policy should be an adequate argument for isolationism by itself, but the incompetent way interventionism has been executed adds even more weight to the criticism.
The only thing worse than manic imperialism is incompetent manic imperialism.
#4 The interventionists are chickenhawks
Historically, many ideologues of hegemony and imperialism have possessed enough courage to personally participate in their military expeditions. Alexander the Great and Richard the Lionhearted, for instance, led their peoples into disastrous military campaigns, but they led from the front. They didn’t bask in opulence while others paid the price for their hubris.
America’s policy elites, on the other hand, are famous for their rigorous avoidance of military service. President Bush spent the Vietnam War in the Texas Air National Guard. Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton had "other priorities."
How many of the architects of our current war have ever served? How many denizens of Washington’s militaristic think tanks have ever heard a shot fired in anger? How many academic foreign policy theorists have ever been deployed to a war zone?
Our governing elites are constructing a morally bankrupt system whereby they profit from interventionism whilst carefully avoiding any of the personal risks. It is a Brave New World in which they are the ruling alpha class, who are born to rule, while the working classes are lowly epsilons, fit only for cannon fodder.
#5 The interventionists are pompous egomaniacs
Every one of our military misadventures has, at its core, truly frightening arrogance. President Bush, for instance, claims that our nation’s destiny is to "end tyranny in the world."
This breathtaking assertion is as impractical in its execution as it is hubristic in its theory. But Bush’s goal is merely one of the many crusades into which we’ve been dragooned over the past century. Clinton wanted to end ethnic hatred in the Balkans (something that may not happen until the Second Coming). Bush I wanted to "nation build" in Somalia. LBJ wanted to bring democracy to Southeast Asia. Woodrow Wilson thought he was going to win a "war to end all wars."
Only a person who has a deranged, unbalanced belief in his own omnipotence could believe such goals to be within the realm of American military might.
Unfortunately, humble men do not get elected president or craft American foreign policy (or write op-ed pieces for the Weekly Standard).
#6 The interventionists are liars
Americans have traditionally been suspicious of expansive foreign policy adventures. Our leaders and opinion makers are aware of this trait, and have often resorted to lies and distortions to frighten the people into acquiescence.
The Iraq War was accompanied by an avalanche of deceptive propaganda. The WMDs, Saddam’s "participation" in the 9/11 attacks, his "connections" to al-Qaeda, and the infamous chemical-spraying drones were all conscious falsehoods told by our leaders to scare the American people out of their "isolationism."
In Vietnam, it was the fictitious "Gulf of Tonkin" incident. In Kosovo, it was (false) claims of genocide. In WW I it was the sinking of the Lusitania. In the Spanish-American War, it was the sinking of the Maine.
Time and again, interventionists have spun elaborate lies in pursuit of their goals. Each time, like Charlie Brown kicking the football, the American people have fallen for the fraud.
Nevertheless, the gullibility of the masses does not excuse the dishonesty of our rulers.
The purpose of our military is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Its purpose is not to stop ethnic strife, "nation build" or to "end tyranny in the world." The American people, despite being whipped into occasional bloodthirsty outbursts, are a peaceful people. Absent propaganda and deceitful scheming, they are generally content to raise their families, toil at their work, and practice their religion without undue acrimony.
To the interventionists, these humble traits represent pure evil. The interventionists of all stripes believe Middle America’s desire to be left alone is self-centered, puerile, uncaring, ignorant, and anti-social. Only by spilling blood in messianic crusades can America, in the interventionists’ opinion, realize its true potential.
But I think this game is coming to an end. The curtain is lifting, exposing the manipulators and their malicious designs.
After all, everyone knows who transformed Iraq into swirling piles of bone dust…and it wasn’t the isolationists.
Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.