The Bush Administration hasn't come right out and admitted it, but it appears there are tentative plans for troop withdrawals from Iraq. This seems reassuring not just as policy, but in what it says about the American system. Apparently, public opinion still matters. Congressmen still fear getting the boot, so not all elections are rigged. And maybe some people, like Scooter Libby, will wind up in jail on account of this war and the misinformation campaign that led to it.
That said, the "system" failed in this war, and has failed for decades. It has been built on a myth. Actually, several myths, that have plagued us for decades:
- The Constitutional responsibility of Congress to declare war is an anachronism. This has been argued since Truman dragged the country into Korea. The world is supposedly too dangerous, and the President, as "Commander in Chief" of the armed forces, must have the discretion to use force as necessary. This is pure hogwash. Thanks to a new invention called a "jet airliner," a Congressman could be vacationing in New Zealand yet arrive back in Washington in 24 hours. The Constitution does not authorize Congress to delegate the responsibility of declaring war to the President. Members of the House and Senate who voted to "authorize the use of force" against Saddam Hussein without a specific declaration of war violated their own oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
- The United States has a responsibility to rid the world of tyrants when it can. Two questions worth pondering. Does the United States have this responsibility in theory? Can it ever exercise it in real life? Tyranny is a relative idea. Sweden is an evil place if it jails pastors for preaching against homosexuality. Any legislator who would vote for such a thing deserves to be beaten to death with a baseball bat. An enemy of free speech is an enemy of the human race. Worse, this Politically Correct jihad, a bigger cultural danger than Islamism, is exported from Western Europe through Canada until it poisons the United States But should we overthrow Sweden and other freedom-hating European countries? How bad must the tyranny get? And how small and powerless must the country be before its overthrow becomes "do-able" and therefore a moral imperative? And why can't the oppressed peoples of the world themselves overthrow their governments? Why do we have to do it? The American military is to protect the liberty and safety of the American people, not the liberty of foreign people.
- Other countries can't be trusted with "Weapons of Mass Destruction." The reason to have a nuclear arsenal is to deter foreign attacks. The reason to have chemical and biological weapons is to deter foreign invasion. If other countries can't be trusted with them, neither can the United States. But if the USA has the right as an independent nation to arm itself as it sees fit, then other independent nations have the same right. If Saddam Hussein had the weapons which were the pretext for this invasion, we should have anticipated that he would have used them against our invading troops. I would have. And Saddam knew we had a nuclear deterrent and would have incinerated his country had he tried to attack us. He would never have attacked us directly or through terrorist carriers even if he had the weapons we said he had, and even if wanted to.
- Liberty, democracy, and human rights are the foundations of an ethical foreign policy. We must do the rest of the world a favor by giving it an "extreme makeover" into America's image. After all, "democracies don't go to war with each other." While that itself is a dubious proposition, it is far more true that trading partners don't go to war with each other. Change can be either constructive or destructive; it can emerge under conditions of peace and commerce, or from war and revolution. Democracy is a form of government; it is not a religion. Going to war for great causes and crusades is what religious fanatics do, not what peace-loving and truly free peoples do.
- The United States has a responsibility to Israel. Why? Holocaust guilt. Even though the USA was not responsible for the Holocaust. Even though it always has been the safest and greatest home for Jews. More than Israel itself - ancient or modern - ever was. How many more billions of dollars will we spend, how many more of Israel's enemies will we fight, and how much more wasted effort will expend trying to broker peace in the region, all to protect a small but rich country fully capable of protecting itself?
- The Middle East's vast oil reserves make the area a vital interest. This is the classic lie of American foreign policy - that American force must back American commercial interests. Is it not in the interests of American business to find cheap energy supplies? When the government "secures" such supplies, like Middle East oil, for American business, we experience market distortions. The security costs are paid for by the government, not by businesses themselves. Businesses, getting cheap energy through government backing, have no incentive to find or develop other energy sources. The costs are borne by taxpayers, while the profits go to corporations.
The war in Iraq wasn't botched through bad or fraudulent intelligence. It wasn't botched because of incompetence and a poorly-planned occupation. It wasn't started because the Republicans are evil, and it isn't being sabotaged by opportunistic Democrats.
The seeds of this catastrophe were planted in 1898 when the USA declared war on Spain to "liberate" Cuba. When it tried to "Christianize" Catholic Philippines in the early 1900's, when it tried to "make the world safe for Democracy" in World War I, when it founded the United Nations in 1945. When it dropped nuclear bombs on Japan and elevated the Presidency to an office of absolute power. When it built the Pentagon and gave it mega-budgets, and when it established the CIA, NSA, and other alphabet bureaucracies. With these new "super powers," came the myths that justify their existence. Myths based on ideology, morality, patriotism, and fear, but not on the clear best interests of the American people.
What the government does scarcely resembles the common good. This is most clearly evident in defense and foreign policy. The only good news is that the American people may finally be waking up to this fact.
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.
A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.