Wars Change History
are neo-conservatives reading these days? I wouldn't know. Probably
not books by Edmund Burke or Gabriel Kolko.
may be considered the father of modern conservatism, but his outlook
is much too realistic for neocons in love with foreign policy adventurism.
"Men," wrote Edmund Burke in 1790, "have been sometimes led by degrees,
sometimes hurried, into things of which, if they could have seen
the whole together, they never would have permitted the most remote
Burkean imagination tends to make people careful. Few individuals
would have enlisted or supported their leaders, had the horrors
of the First World War been anticipated. 15 million soldiers and
civilians were killed and at least 20 million wounded. Central planning
and socialism received an enormous boost in Great Britain. The Austro-Hungarian
Empire was dismembered. The Ottoman Empire collapsed. Communism
triumphed in Russia. The utter defeat and humiliation of Germany
paved the way for Hitler and another World War.
change history. No one can foresee how. A war in Iraq would be no
different. America ought to have learned this lesson by now. It
has had the opportunity to do so on more than one occasion in the
recent past. For those who need a reminder, I recommend the brief
overview of American foreign policy in Another
Century of War?, by Gabriel Kolko.
at Afghanistan, for example.
United States began to aid the mujahideen in Afghanistan after the
Soviets invaded the country in December 1979. The CIA spent $3 billion
in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, more than all of its other
covert programs combined. This was done in close alliance with the
rulers of Saudi Arabia.
least fifteen thousand, and perhaps as many as thirty thousand,
foreign fighters joined the mujahideen. The Saudi regime saw Afghanistan
as a useful place to send its own potential opponents, thereby neutralizing
them. The chief of Saudi intelligence chose a man called Osama bin
Laden as the key leader of the Arab Brigade. Kolko notes that Bin
Laden’s tasks included establishing recruiting offices in thirty-five
countries. There were thirty such offices in American cities alone.
network that was established during those years – with enthusiastic
assistance from the US government – became crucial when bin Laden
created al-Qaeda in 1989. Training camps were established in Afghanistan,
the Philippines, Sudan, and Somalia. Many of the extremist Islamic
movements that were launched in a number of nations thereafter had
in fact been incubated in Afghanistan:
– about two thousand in Bosnia alone – subsequently fought in Chechnya,
Algeria, Somalia, Kosovo, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Some remained
in Afghanistan, joined later by others, as the backbone of the Taliban
regime. Ultimately al-Qaeda may have trained and indoctrinated up
to seventy thousand potential fighters – and terrorists – and created
cells in at least fifty countries."
intended consequence of the CIA operation? Of course not. But these
things happen in war.
world is a dangerous place. Politicians frequently add to the danger
by joining fights that are really none of their business. "The
United States after 1947 attempted to guide and control a very large
part of the change that occurred throughout the world, and a significant
part of what is wrong with it today is the result of America’s interventions",
writes Kolko. "Others have paid for their consequences, and
now the United States too must pay."
Kolko is a war historian. But he is more than that. He provides
not just the relevant facts and figures, but also a dose of cynical
systems are not constructed to obtain and confront unpleasant facts,
and they have few safeguards against irrational behavior. This myopia
is increasingly dangerous."
is not much hope for change in the political camp:
who become the leaders of states are ultimately conformists on most
crucial issues, and individuals who evaluate information in a rational
manner – and therefore frequently criticize traditional premises
– are weeded out early in their careers."
conservative leaders are no better than the rest. George W. Bush
campaigned in 2000 as a critic of big government. Things turned
out very differently. What was to be a conservative agenda has been
discarded in favor of a project Gabriel Kolko calls military Keynesianism:
the pillars of the conservative faith were crumbling, and overwhelming
bipartisan approval of bailouts, public spending in the name of
defense or fiscal stimulus, and projected deficits confirmed (if
confirmation was needed) that conservatives were no more true to
their articles of ideological faith than were liberals."
but hardly unexpected.
Batiste (send him mail)
lives in Sweden. His
website is ONE
IS A CROWD.
© 2002 LewRockwell.com