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America’s Destructive Lack of Realism

Last winter, when I heard John McCain drummed up support to bomb Syria, it makes me wonder if the 535 members in Washington have dementia.  We already had an unnecessary intervention in Libya, we’ve mostly concluded our business with Iraq, and Afghanistan is crumbling.  In a time where Americans are anything BUT enthusiastic or willing to become involved in another nation’s affairs, we must first ask, as George Will has, how many wars do we want to fight.

I was an unabashed neoconservative who supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq until I saw, as William F. Buckley aptly pointed out, how this movement grossly underestimates American power.  This was evident in the negligence in the post-war Iraqi reconstruction operations that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. The planning of the entire reconstruction effort, outlined in National Security Presidential Directive 24 issued in January 2003, gave the Department of Defense complete authority over the post-war operations.  It’s absurd.  Rebuilding Iraq into a modern, free market democracy in three months or less.  No wonder chaos ensued.  This whole notion of liberal democracy proliferating throughout the Middle East, in a region with no historical precedent of such values, is mind numbingly naive.

Even with our involvement winding down in Iraq, it appears the only winner is Iran since we’ve weakened the only nation in the region to curb its growing influence.  The resilience of the new democracy in Iraq and its disposition towards the United States in the future remains to be seen.  However, Syria is still holding out from the so-called “Arab Spring,” Iran still has nuclear ambitions, which would set off a regional arms race, and Egypt has fallen prey to the radical Muslim Brotherhood after we threw our good friend, Hosni Mubarak, under the bus in the hopes that a vibrant democracy will emerge there. Is this our dividend after spending $700 billion in Iraq?  Was this the best use of American political and military resources?

America’s destructive lack a realism is becoming disastrously expensive and straining our military.  Afghanistan and Iraq has cost us a whopping $1.2 trillion dollars in war expenditures.  We could be facing a $4-6 trillion dollar price tag when this whole ordeal is over.  We need to reexamine our financial stability and national interest for future engagements.

Case in point, Libya had nothing to do with American interests.  We do not receive oil from Libya. We don’t have diplomatic relations with Libya.  It was a civil war that was none of our business in a tribal society whose various clans hated Qaddafi more than each, hence the fragile display of national unity.  Like in Iraq, civil institutions were derived from one man and his family creating a power vacuum that will lead to more bloodshed.  The various militias refuse to disarmand the eastern half of the country has declared autonomy.  Did we really stop a slaughter? I feel more bloodshed will ensue because of our reckless engagement in their affairs.

People die in war, especially in the brutal theater of civil war.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean it’s our business. Especially when we have become involved in tribal societies before with little success.  We realists do not deny the existence of moral truths and principles, but when applied in the anarchic field of international relations, it is inherently dangerous.  It thrusts a nation, whose only purpose is to survive, into entanglements that are diplomatically obtuse, detrimental to its interests, and leads to prolonging the conflict.

If Qaddafi had squashed the insurrectionists in Benghazi, it would have been over, but we intervened, allied ourselves with rebel elements affiliated with al-Qaeda, and escalated the civil war leading to more deaths. In Somalia, our intervention culminated in the infamous Black Hawk Down incident, despite the fact it was hopeless from the start. There was no government to open up a diplomatic channel, no infrastructure, and clan ties that prevented national unity.  We lost nineteen American soldiers to help feed people in a failed state. A tragic waste of American resources.

The era of nation-building and humanitarian interventions need to end.   If our criteria for involvement is humanitarian based, we will be in a perpetual state of war.  The essence of nation-building, as George Will rightly said on Charlie Rose, is oxymoronic since it’s an organic entity that take generations to perfect.  Just because American marines are on the ground, doesn’t mean the maturation process will be accelerated.  In all, these attempts at social engineering are textbook cases of the irresponsible and arduous tasks that have drained American power over the past decade.  I’m thankful that a growing consensus in this country is starting to view such ventures as nonsensical.  It’s simply not worth the cost.

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