OCALA, Fla., June 23, 2014 — Iraq is in dire straits.
Ever since the U.S. military completed its withdrawal in late 2011, American hopes of Western-style liberal democracy in Iraq have eroded at a speedy clip. Now, the perpetually war-torn country is falling back into dictatorship. Unlike last time, though, the tyrants aren’t secular nationalists, but determined theocrats.
Iraq has traded Saddam Hussein for a hardline version of al-Qaeda. What can America learn from this debacle?
First, our foreign policy is dominated by two schools of thought. The first is neoconservatism, which calls for intervention in foreign crises even if the U.S. has no material stake in them. The second is neoliberalism, which calls for intervention in foreign crises even if the U.S. has no material stake in them.
Can you spot the difference between these philosophies?
Neoconservatives and neoliberals alike believe it is America’s mission to spread democracy, even to nations whose people really don’t want it. At the same time, they ignore pressing matters at home.
Some intellectuals, but fewer politicians, are trying to change this. Among them is John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago whose work has has generated both praise and controversy.
“The United States has pursued a foolish foreign policy since the Cold War ended in 1989, but especially since the tragic events of September 11,” he told CDN. “American leaders of both political parties have been committed to a policy of global domination, which calls for the United States not just to be the world’s policeman, but to be involved in the domestic politics of countries all around the world. And this includes countries that are of little strategic importance to the United States.
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“Of course, this imperial policy has led to many wars, most of them unsuccessful. Indeed, America has fought six wars since 1989 and has been at war for two out of every three years since the Cold War ended. This is not a smart foreign policy, and thus it is not surprising that public opinion has shifted against Washington’s interventionist policies.”
In spite of this, Dr. Mearsheimer claims that “(i)solationism is not becoming a popular idea. The American public is not returning to the 1930s. Instead, it is fed up with our failed attempt to dominate the globe at the end of a rifle barrel and wisely wants to scale back our interventionist tendencies. The public wants restraint, not isolationism. Let’s hope the public has a major influence on our foreign policy.
“The reason that neoconservatives and others interested in global domination call advocates of restraint isolationists is they know that isolationism is a thoroughly discredited strategy in the United States, and thus falsely labeling anyone an isolationist is a way of discrediting their ideas.”
As it is, our foreign policy is caught in a serious rut.
Russia, which until recently was considered a failed superpower, is coming to dominate Middle Eastern power plays. All the same time, America is left with thousands dead and staggering debts as a result of not only the Iraq War, but prolonged involvement in Afghanistan.
The U.S. needs a change. What should this change entail? If nothing else, staying out of a crumbling Iraq is proactive decision-making. Awful as that nation’s distress is, if America couldn’t transport democracy last time, what suggests that a second try would be more successful?
Militant Jihadist forces have reportedly seized and executed the very judge who delivered Hussein’s death sentence. Can the nature of Iraq’s political situation be any clearer? The U.S. has no place in it; that fact is increasingly beyond dispute.