Tactics is merely
The mechanical movement of bodies . . .
After nearly nine years, about 4,500 Americans killed and 30,000 wounded and no one seems to know how many trillions of dollars it will cost in the end, the United States is finally doing what we should have done almost immediately, once we made the mistake of invading Iraq: cut and run. We are leaving behind a devastated infrastructure, at least 100,000 dead Iraqis, a vast trove of monuments, art treasures, and documents destroyed or dispersed, but we never did find Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, which were the alleged cause of the invasion.
In leaving Iraq we are abandoning a country that we ruined: an ancient Christian population that is being ethnically cleansed from northern Iraq, looming conflicts between Kurds and Arabs, Sunni and Shia, and anti-Western and pro-Western Iraqis. Although I opposed the war for months, even before we went in, the troop withdrawal, before any stable regime has been created, is a cowardly betrayal both of the Iraqis we subjugated and of the American, British, and Coalition troops who fought and died.
Many Republicans want to stay and finish the job, though what that job is no one seems to know. First it was all about the WMDs. Then the message came down that we were fighting terrorism in Iraq so we would not have to fight it in America. We were also, or so we were informed, building democracy in a country that has not enjoyed the blessings of legitimate self-government since Sargon of Akkad marched through Sumeria and washed his weapons in the sea over 4,000 years ago. More recently, when the Obama administration came to power, we learned from Mrs. Clinton that we were really fighting to liberate women.
To pay any attention to these pronouncements is as great a waste of time as it would be to listen to the political plans being put forward by the rival Republican candidates. It would give them too much credit to say that people like the Clintons—and their Republican alter ego Newt Gingrich—lie to the American people. The concept of “the truth” or “reality” is alien to people who use human speech only as a tool for gratifying their ambitions.
Since winning our independence, Americans have been called upon to fight many wars, some of them just (the War of 1812), and some of them merely necessary (the Mexican War, the Indian wars). Some, like the Spanish-American War and World War I, were neither. Both were justified by deceptive rhetoric that maintained our sense of national righteousness. The damage we did was, for the most part, inflicted on others without undermining our moral sense.
In 1898 and 1917 American politicians had to fudge the facts to justify a war. In 2003 George W. Bush and his advisors were able to get away with justifying a war on overtly immoral grounds that even Hitler or Stalin might have disdained to use. Hitler, at least, claimed that he invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland to defend German nationals from oppressive regimes.
I am not comparing the American conduct of war with the crimes of Hitler or Stalin; that would be foolish and untrue. But George W. Bush and his Cabinet further degraded the moral understanding of the American people who accepted his logic of anticipatory war, the utility of torture, the “inevitability” of terrifying “collateral damage,” and the reasonableness of assassination as a legitimate tool of policy for which no apologies need be given. Atrocities have been committed in the history of every nation, but the United States is unusual among civilized countries in openly justifying them on immoral grounds. When the Navy Seals obeyed their orders to kill Osama bin Laden, decent Americans cheered; when a Libyan punk kicked Qaddafi in the face and shot him, they cheered again as they did when people who were technically U.S. citizens were assassinated in the Middle East.
In all of America’s wars of the past 150 years, two main themes emerge. When Republicans, capitalists, and conservatives justify entrance into a conflict, it is often for the creation and increase of an economic empire, buttressed by military alliances, somewhat analogous to the Japanese Co-Prosperity Spheres of the 1930’s. Democrats, progressives, and leftists tend to employ more idealistic justifications—of wars to end all wars, wars to defend democracy, wars to suppress the threat of Nazism or communism or, most recently, male chauvinism.
This is a gross oversimplification, of course, since Republicans are increasingly prone to use idealistic rhetoric, and the best leftists have tended to oppose U.S. wars of aggression. Nonetheless, the tendencies exist. The capitalist justification for war is symbolic of the cowboy or entrepreneurial strain in the American character and of the ethnic self-consciousness that produced the theory of Manifest Destiny and Theodore Roosevelt’s triumphalist dream of Anglo-Saxon imperialism.
If we were to take their rhetoric at face value, we should regard the neoconservatives as heirs to TR’s racialist fantasies. Standing shoulder to shoulder with our Anglophone pals in Britain, Canada, and Australia, we shall create a New American Order of truth, justice, and the American Way. Naturally, they are too shy to use the word empire, and they fall back on Latin—the ancient imperial language few neocons have bothered to study—and speak of the Imperium.
Once again, the Republicans’ slogans are Open Markets and Free Trade, guaranteed by the North American Free Trade Agreement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the World Trade Organization. Noncooperative countries, if they are as large as China, have to be tolerated, but if they are small and troublesome, they can be punished with sanctions—no different from embargoes, except embargoes (unless in time of war) are violations of international law.
Our wars are expensive: The congressional Super Committee could not come up with even the paltry $1.5 trillion in cuts they needed. Nonetheless, wars are very good for many businesses—mercenaries and assassins (I should say security contractors), oil companies, defense contractors, military personnel fortunate not to lose one or more of their limbs to an IED.
Greed may not exactly be good, but at least it is a common human sin that is a deformation of an otherwise healthy impulse to compete for success, but the globalist ideology of the Democrats (and Republican neoconservatives) is utterly wicked in encouraging Americans to waste their wealth and lives on complete strangers and to go abroad to impose their way of life on any victim that comes their way.
The messianic spirit of this policy can be traced back to the Puritans and to New England’s conviction that America must be a New Jerusalem. However, the specific policies go back, for the most part, to the French Revolution and to Marx and Engels, who viewed the nation-state (along with the family and private property) as an institution that had been created by patriarchal men solely for the purpose of oppressing women and the poor. “The workers have no country,” they declared in The Communist Manifesto. “We cannot take from them what they have not got.”
In the early stage of the revolution, “the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy,” but in the course of time, “National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereunto.” In these circumstances, the proletariat will also disappear. As distinctions between individual rich and poor people disappear, so will distinctions between rich and poor nations: “In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another will also be put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to.” Here, in a nutshell, is the entire doctrine of modern internationalism: an end to the exploitation of poor nations by rich nations, and, ultimately, an end to the system of nation-states.
The convergence of these policies led to the invasion of Iraq, and it will lead us into one war after another. The Republicans will argue for war on the grounds of securing our economic interest and national security and promoting the American Way, while the Democrats will demand social justice, freedom from Christianity, and the liberation of women. If we had a Green Party President, we would go to war to halt global warming and liberate camels.
The United States has had her share of competent and even brilliant foreign-policy experts. Unfortunately, men like George Kennan have rarely been in a position to make decisions or set policies. The highest offices are often held by ideologues or gross incompetents: crack-brained bureaucrats like Robert McNamara, affirmative-action inventions like Colin Powell, political hacks like Hillary Clinton, or naive and inexperienced academics like Madeleine Albright.
More disturbing perhaps than the unstable ideologues are the rank incompetents. Condoleezza Rice was supposedly a Russian expert, but she would not and could not speak the language, even when asked by a Russian journalist. Mrs. Clinton has no greater knowledge of foreign affairs than her husband had, and if we go by titles, the Obama administration’s most crucial policies are in the hands of Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, and Leon Panetta. Panetta, Obama’s point man on intelligence and defense, was drafted to serve two years as an enlisted man and refused an opportunity to become an officer because it would have meant more time in the Army. Napolitano, charged with defending the security of the “homeland,” is distinguished only for her refusal to defend the border and her hatred of American policemen who might possibly be willing to do their job.
Increasingly, the foreign and defense policies of the United States are in the hands of unstable and ignorant children, but they are children with nuclear weapons.