have this thing about not admitting error. In
a perverse sense, this may be because honesty
requires that they do nothing but. Faced with
the prospect of admitting that the entire enterprise
of the modern state has not done what it is supposed
to have done (I'll spare you a complete or even
truncated list), they take the road of the pathological
criminal: insisting that they did nothing wrong
even though everyone in the courtroom even in
the world knows otherwise.
the same time, there are ways that governments
concede that "mistakes were made." One way is
the pullout, such as is being discussed with regard
to Iraq. Sectors of the Bush administration are
hinting that it could come sooner rather than
later, even as the neocons howl and wail that
success is only a nuclear bomb away. The neocons,
however, appear to have squandered their credibility
and power. This bow to reality by the Bush administration
is all to the good. You can't rule a country,
much less bring it freedom and democracy, from
a foxhole. All you can do with safety is tunnel
first spoonfuls of dirt are already in evidence.
Maj. General Charles H. Swannack has said that
he is ready to withdraw from Ramadi, a hotbed
of resistance. The idea is to turn over the whole
city to the Sunnis and stand around on the outskirts
of town to make sure that all goes well. On the
way out, he said, the US will not "tolerate attacks
on coalition forces and people jumping for joy
in the streets." Yes, he really said that.
officials can pout that the Iraqis are not ready
for freedom, just as the Soviets complained that
the irascible Muslims of its far-flung empire
were not ready for enlightened communism. The
bottom line is that nobody wants to be ruled by
martial law administered by a foreign military
occupation, no matter what ideological label it
claims as its rationale. It didn't work in ancient
times and it doesn't work now. Most people get
it. Fat governments with too many WMDs never do.
predictions follow. The unworkability of the occupation
and public pressure will force the US to leave
Iraq at some point in the next year. The neocons
will scream that the failure was due to doves
in the Bush administration. Bush himself will
go down in history as a dupe, or a tragic figure
at best. Iraq will become decentralized politically,
intolerant religiously, and continue to be violent,
dangerous, and poor for many years. The ostensible
head of the Iraqi state will receive the grudging
backing of the US because there will be no choice.
And the American people will forget about the
place, just as they have forgotten about Panama,
Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Libya, and all the other
lucky beneficiaries of US bombs.
all the talk of the calamity of this war, never
forget the broader picture: what an incredible
opportunity was squandered after the end of the
Cold War. The US had emerged as the universally
acknowledged ideological victor in that forty-year
struggle. That the Cold War was not actually an
ideological struggle so much as a classic standoff
between two evil empires is irrelevant for understanding
the implications of this fact: totalitarian communism
collapsed while the free economic system of the
market economy remained standing in total triumph.
The world was ready for a new period of genuine
liberalism, and looking to the US. On the verge
of an amazing period of technological advance,
we were perfectly situated to lead the way.
had never been a time in US history when George
Washington's foreign policy made more sense. A
beacon of liberty. Trade with all, belligerence
toward none. Commercial engagement with everyone,
political engagement with as few as possible.
The hand of friendship. Good will. This was the
prescription for peace and freedom. It was within
our grasp. Our children might have grown up in
a world without major political violence. A world
of peace and plenty. It could have been.
it was not to be, mainly because George W.'s father
decided that he wanted to go down in the history
books for doing something big and important. What
else but war? The US was now the world's only
superpower and itching for some fight somewhere.
It's a bit like a playground filled with wimps
and one boy with a black belt in karate who never
absorbed the lesson in how and where to use his
fighting skills. And then there was this oil-drilling
dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, and Bush decided
to intervene. Twelve years later, the US is still
there, causing unrelenting havoc for those poor
yes, there were many other wars in between: the
ridiculously named "humanitarian wars" of Bill
Clinton, in which US troops went to places where
people were variously suffering, killed enemies,
and left people suffering even more. Each intervention
cost the US more than the last. Look through a
list of countries where Marines have been deployed
since the end of the Cold War and you will see
a list of countries in which the US is hated and
despised by the local population. No, folks, this
isn't an amazing coincidence.
short history leaves out 9-11, of course, but
after two years we are in a better position to
assess that event realistically. It did symbolize
some amazing rise of a new totalitarianism in
the form of Muslim terrorism. It didn't signal
the failure of American isolationism, as the warmongers
absurdly claim. It didn't portend the need for
the US to become the largest and most militarized
global government in the history of the world.
it was a monstrous act of vengeance for US policies
in the Gulf region and the Middle East, and the
whole world knew it. Americans themselves, apparently
unaware that their government had been working
to stir up as many enemies as possible for so
many years, were the only people on the planet
who were shocked.
"they" don't hate "us" because we are good. Mostly
"they" like Americans and our culture, our businesses,
our land, our history. What "they" hate is the
US government because it is imperial, ham-handed,
violent, arrogant, hypocritical, and stupid. The
Bush administration seems to have set out to confirm
this impression in every conceivable way.
is never too late for a new beginning. Let us
learn from the failure of the war on Iraq. As
the generals and would-be civilian dictators crawl
through the tunnels on their way back to DC, and
watch from this side of the ocean at what a mess
becomes of Iraq, let them all do some serious
thinking about the role of the US in the world.
They claim they want to be a force for freedom.
How can they do that? By minding their own business
and staying home. As a rule, they should avoid
bombing people. That's a good start. As a second
Farewell Address should be required reading.
this ever happens, US officials may just may
have to tolerate some jumping for joy in the
streets. And not just in Ramadi.
H. Rockwell, Jr. is president of the Ludwig von
Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor
© 2003 LewRockwell.com
Posted: November 19, 2003