Since the beginning of the War on Terror, the United States has taken on the task of forming hostile nations into allies in the Middle East. The best analogy I can think of to currently describe the way things have gone is likening our nation building efforts to the comic strip “Peanuts”. The nations that we go to war with are much like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown, America in this scenario, to kick. We run to kick the football, Lucy moves the football, and we fall on our behind. The difference is that immediately afterward, Charlie Brown knows that he’s been had and vows to never fall for that again, before he inevitably does. Our politicians on the other hand, refuse to reflect on the results of past interventions and many times embrace a “full steam ahead” approach.
I don’t write this as apologetics for Ron Paul, the Cato Institute, the founding fathers, Reason Magazine or any other well known libertarian intellectual cause. Instead, I’m going to use an inherently conservative thought process, the cost-benefit analysis. Liberals hate the cost-benefit analysis because it shows that their government programs to be counter-productive; this is why they often resort to arguing based on emotions and intent. Unfortunately, despite President Bush’s noble intentions, the major engagements of the War on Terror may not pass the cost-benefit test.
We invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to eliminate Al-Qaeda and to topple the country’s acting government, the Taliban. While fighting the enemy, we also helped set up an acting Afghan government. And in 2004 Hamid Karzai was elected president of the country and the US has supported him ever since. However, it has been revealed that Karzai and his family are corrupt and that he perhaps fraudulently won re-election in 2009. The US decided to express its disapproval by sending a troop surge of 30,000 to double down on our efforts of giving him a stable country to govern. Worse yet, its also been learned that Karzai, behind our back, has been in talks with the Taliban and has had diplomatic relations with Iran. But even before Karzai’s corruption became apparent, he still wasn’t exactly our BFF. Karzai frequently threw the US “under the bus” in press conferences and openly supports the farmers there growing Opium poppy despite our requests. Even taking Karzai out of the equation, a cost-benefit analysis must be done (not in this article) on whether or not we should still be fighting in Afghanistan. Former CIA director and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panneta estimated in 2010 that there were no more than 50-100 Al-Qaeda still in the country.
Next we turned to Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a terrible dictator who ended up getting what he deserved, not many Americans on either side of the political aisle would disagree with that. But, as the Iraq war winded down and the US turned into a police force to help stabilize their government, the people at home wondered what the new Iraqi government would look like. While still in its infant stages, details of the new Iraqi government have been disappointing at best. It appears as though Iraq has warmed up to its former hated enemy, Iran. This is particularly bad, because the Iraq-Iran conflict helped to keep Iran in check. This is why in the 1980s we helped supply Iraq with materials to produce chemical/biological weapons; with the idea of them to using the weapons against Iran. Further showing its gratitude towards the US, Iraq recently voted against Saudi Arabia’s proposal to increase oil production at OPEC’s 2011 conference. Seeing nations turn their back on the US after the US had invested large sums of money isn’t particularly unusual, but what makes this different is that the US still has 50,000 soldiers over there. This is a blatant slap in the face.
Worst of all is Libya. If there is something positive to be said of the War in Libya, one could say that its been the least costly of the wars. Despite its comparatively low price tag, Libya could quite possibly have the costliest long term consequences. To clarify, just like Saddam, Muammar Gaddafi is an evil dictator who deserves whatever grisly fate that awaits him. But, the United States went to war for the stated goal of stopping an alleged massacre that never took place, not for “regime change”. Then, in spite of goals which stated otherwise, we stayed until the regime change was complete. Now the question that remains is, “What now? Who are these rebels?”. That answer appears to be an interesting mix of regular citizens who grew tired of their oppressor, radical Islamic insurgents, and long term US ally Al-Qaeda. Wait… no, that’s not right, Al-Qaeda’s goal is to destroy the US and Israel. While the new Libyan constitution hasn’t been written, it was released that Sharia law is anticipated to be the main source of inspiration. If the Muslim Brotherhood’s popularity in Egypt is any indication, the so called “Arab Spring” will not have positive long term effects on the US and it’s allies. Rarely do events have 100% negative consequences without a silver lining, and Libya very well could be one of those times. In life there are disappoints and ideas that backfire, but rarely do you spend money and resources to create a nation whose leadership’s stated goal is to destroy you. Before many marriages that end in divorce go bad, there is usually a blissful honeymoon. Likewise the Libyan rebels started off giving the US a deserved gift, by denying their request to extradite Lockerbie bomber Al-Megrahi.
The Middle East has plenty of hostile countries, some unfriendly indifferent nations, and very few allies. One of those nations considered friendly to the US is Kuwait, particularly after we saved them from Saddam Hussein’s invasion in Desert Storm. Now to Kuwait’s credit, they have repaid us with their support in the UN by voting against us a region-low 67% of the time. More and more on the right, people grow disenfranchised by our foreign involvements. Republican California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said that behind closed doors, most republicans will admit that Iraq was a mistake. This sentiment briefly gave businessman Donald Trump the affection of some republicans when he considered a presidential run. One of Trump’s main platforms was taking trillions of dollars in oil from Iraq to offset our costs there. The fact that the idea garnered some support among republicans shows that at the very least, they’re willing to admit that the Iraq war didn’t yield desired results; so they feel the need to get something out of it. I agree that in retrospect, knowing what we know now, it was a mistake. But you can’t go around taking nation’s oilfields or anything else for that matter, might doesn’t make right. The equivalent I draw from the people who support the US taking oil from these nations we intervene in is this: Let’s say I cut your grass without me asking. You either try to stop me or passively let it happen. When its done I take some household appliances to compensate myself.
A best case scenario in these countries is that we pay billions yearly for their defense, having them become reliant on us, allowing them to become socialist in nature; all while complaining about our presence and influence. This allows them to become what I like to call “International democrats”. They do nothing to warrant the US taxpayer paying for their defense or fighting for them, yet we do it. What would be better is if we charged them at cost or more for us to protect them, but even then, that’s only a solution if you want to use our military men and women as mercenaries instead of only using them to “protect the US Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic”. Better would be forcing these nations to pay for their own defense, taking them off the government payroll.
In the world there are going to be problems that arise on an international level. Friendly dictators and elected officials alike will lose power or get overthrown from time to time. When a US-friendly regime loses power its one thing, when the US pays great costs in lives and money to create a hostile regime is infinitely worse. Woodrow Wilson’s progressive dream is alive and well today with the goal of “making the world safe for democracy”, championed by republicans (McCain, Graham) and democrats (Lieberman). Creating democracies in a region where the people who make up the electorate despise the US would seem to make the policy mutually exclusive with safety at home.