Saturday, April 16, 2005


Rip Van Winkle Foreign Policy

Victor Davis Hanson has written a piece that sets our current foreign policy in the context of what we tried before and found wanting (via Instapundit). In “Our Not-So-Wise Experts,” in National Review Online, Hanson catalogs prominent critics of our recent efforts, and highlights how stunningly wrong they’ve been by summarizing the approaches they tried to utter failure.

Brent Scowcroft ... once assured us that Iraq “could become a Vietnam in a way that the Vietnam war never did.” Did he mean perhaps worse than ten years of war and over 50,000 American dead, with the Cambodian holocaust next door?

Zbigniew Brzezinski feared … that it would take 500,000 troops, $500 billion, and resumption of the military draft to achieve security in Iraq. Did he mean Iraq needed more American troops than did the defense of Europe in the Cold War?

Madeleine Albright, while abroad, summed up the present American foreign policy: “It's difficult to be in France and criticize my government. But I'm doing so because Bush and the people working for him have a foreign policy that is not good for America, not good for the world.” Elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, troops out of Saudi Arabia, democratic demonstrations in Lebanon, West Bank voting, promises of change in Egypt — all that and more is “not good for the world”?

For the last year, such well-meaning former "wise people" have pretty much assured us that the Bush doctrine will not work and that the Arab world is not ready for Western-style democracy, especially when fostered through Western blood and iron.

Hanson then reviews the prior foreign policy approaches that not only failed to prevent 9/11/01 or control Militant Islamic Terrorism, but also worsened many of the world’s worst geopolitical swamps: Realism, Punitivism, Bribery, and “Let Them Be.”

So how did these prior strategies turn out? Hanson’s answers (all quotes Hanson):

Realism brought us an “autocratic, corrupt, and unpopular” Saudi royal family, “whose petrol-fueled mosques and madrassas were the laboratories of thousands of anti-Western terrorists.” Punitivism “embodied the worst of all strategies — just enough muscle to enrage our enemies but not enough to scare them, just about right to earn their lasting scorn without ever solving the problem. Nothing is as dangerous in war as striking but not defeating an enemy, showing contempt without the real ability to humble and humiliate him.”

Bribery cost us plenty, $57 billion to Egypt alone, “suggesting to the Cairo Street that a weak country was prevented from fulfilling its destiny of destroying Israel only by American and Zionist machinations.” Letting them be resulted in “a pathological Middle East left alone to blame others for its own self-induced mess, kept "in its box" by American money, a few missiles, and soft talk.”

Which brings Hanson to the truly progressive – and thus far astonishingly effective -- foreign policy of the Bush Administration:

Policy #5: The New Americanism

We’ve seen some very strange things since this war started on September 11. But nothing is quite as odd as the past architects of failure weighing in on the dangers of “neoWilsonianism,” “neoconservative ideologues,” and veiled references to Israeli machinations, as the Bush administration finally sets right three decades these people’s flawed policies and tries to promote a new Americanism based on our own universal values and aspirations.

The past ostracism of Arafat and the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, followed by democratic engagement, will bring eventual stability to the Middle East and enhance the security of the United States. After the failures of all our present critics, this new policy of promoting American values is our last, best hope. And the president will be rewarded long after he leaves office by the verdict of history for nobly sticking to it when few others, friend or foe, would.

As always, Hanson maintains a steady context for a constructive policy perspective. Perhaps if critics of our Global War on Terror, or naysayers of our efforts in Iraq and throughout the world, were to offer some viable alternatives. It's as if they've been asleep for the past three and a half years, and Rip Van Winkle like, they awake with the same perspectives that were so inadequate in the recent past. These walking sleepers remain as inpervious to the solution as it progresses as they were to the problem as it grew from nocturnal worry to waking nightmare.

I say we tell them to have a glass of water and go back to bed.

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