The last US combat troops are leaving Iraq. By the end of the month they will all have gone and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” will have ended, to be replaced by “Operation New Dawn”. About 50,000 US military advisers will remain in Iraq for another year to make sure that the poor Iraqis don’t make a mess of things, and then the Yanks will go home, leaving behind the ghosts of more than 4,400 dead US soldiers and scores of thousands of dead Iraqis.
But the Iraq war is not over, no matter what the Obama administration may wish to the contrary. In this week’s Spectator the military historian and political analyst (and Catholic) Andrew Bacevich writes, in a piece not yet posted:
“US combat operations might be shutting down, but the war surely continues. In Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, insurgents still operate with relative impunity. Bombs routinely detonate. Assassins gun down Iraqi officials. Deadly attacks on security forces persist, indeed, are becoming more frequent as the US military presence diminishes. The promised political reconciliation that was to endow Iraq with an effective and legitimate government has not materialised. Meanwhile the beleaguered Iraqi political apparatus teeters somewhere between mere paralysis and outright collapse.”
“Bring ’em on,” as George W Bush said.
Will the US learn anything from the failure of “Bush’s war” and the equally shambolic conflict in Afghanistan, now “Obama’s war”? It doesn’t look like it, but in his new book, Washington Rules, (hat tip the Economist) Bavevich proposes a new military policy for the United States that ought to make future Iraqs impossible. In place of the policy of intervention it has pursued since the Second World War, he would like to see a US military policy based on three principles of non-interference:
“… one principle ought to be that US forces exist to defend the vital interests of the United States, not to police the world. The second principle ought to be that the principal duty-station of the American soldier ought to be America, and that we should abandon our empire of bases scattered around the world. And the third principle ought to be – and this is very much contrary to Bush doctrine of preventive war – the United States should use forces for defensive purposes and only as a last resort.”
Some might think that we would all benefit from such an America. Apart from anything else, the withdrawal of American troops from Europe would make us think seriously about a common European defence force.
Bacevich is a professor of international relations at Boston University, and has been a persistent critic of the American occupation of Iraq. Unlike many enthusiastic for war, Bacevich, a graduate of West Point, actually knows war at first hand, having served in Vietnam from the summer of 1970 until the summer of 1971.
His approach to foreign and domestic politics is thoroughly Catholic. A couple of years ago, in the American Conservative, for example, he outlined what I thought at the time, and still think, is as good a conservative platform as you are likely to find anywhere. Here it is, in Bacevich’s summary:
“A commitment to individual liberty, tempered by the conviction that genuine freedom entails more than simply an absence of restraint; a belief in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the rule of law; veneration for our cultural inheritance combined with a sense of stewardship for Creation; a reluctance to discard or tamper with traditional social arrangements; respect for the market as the generator of wealth combined with a wariness of the market’s corrosive impact on humane values; a deep suspicion of utopian promises, rooted in an appreciation of the sinfulness of man and the recalcitrance of history.”
What the world needs now is an isolationist and traditionalist America that is as suspicious of big business as it is of big government. Western Europe ought to head in that direction, too.
In our dreams…
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