Monday, May 21, 2012

Damned if we do, damned if we don't, damned whatever we do or don't

Victor Davis Hanson, in another must-read column, asks, "Can we still win wars?" It is another discussion (if far more eloquent than I or most others could do) of the irresistible force of American military power versus the movable object of American political will. The professor gives some historical interpretation that may surprise quite a few but is nevertheless very accurate. He then gives a hard, very obvious, very unpleasant truth about the Middle East:
Remember, there is also an ironclad law about the Middle East, one we keep forgetting: Arab intellectuals (many of them educated or residing in Western universities) hate the U.S. for backing dictators; they hate the U.S. for intervening to remove them; they hate the U.S. for trying to impose postbellum democracy upon them; and they hate the U.S. for staying clear and letting Arabs be Arabs on their own.
Re-read that paragraph. Multiple times. Memorize it. Any time there is a story involving US policy in the Middle East, remember it. Apply it.

You want examples? He has ‘em:
Take out Saddam—”you created him in the first place”; stay to rebuild the country—”a neo-imperial enterprise to impose your values on a traditional society”; stay away and let him kill his own, or allow his successors to kill each other—”a callous disregard for the suffering of innocent others.”
Remember the critiques of Gulf War I and Gulf War II:
  • Gulf War I: a needlessly large coalition that curbed our options, a hyped-up war that did not warrant the huge forces we deployed, a shake-down of our allies to turn war into a money-making enterprise, a cynical disregard for the Shia and Kurds who yearned for democracy, a video-game war in which we slaughtered the inept without incurring much risk or danger;
  • Gulf War II: a too-small coalition that did not win international respect, too few forces deployed for the mission, a wasteful enterprise that did not demand monetary contributions from our allies, a naïve romance that Arabs could craft their own democracy, a dirty war in which we needlessly exposed our troops to mayhem and death.
Common denominator: whatever a Bush was for, critics were against.
As always with Victor Davis Hanson, read the whole thing.

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