Ending the march of folly
An exit strategy for Iraq

summer in Durango, summarized his views on a national security strategy for the 21st century in his book, The Fourth Power – A Grand Strategy for the United States in the Twenty-First Century. According to Hart, the fourth power is the power of our principles. He reminds us that before we start exporting our values and ideals, we need to live them.

How are we doing? Clearly we have failed. We have failed to keep a low profile in the Middle East, and now we have set the conditions for civil war in Iraq. The Bush Administration has tried to implement a foreign policy based on pursuit of an empire that is in fundamental conflict with the values, ideals and principles that made this nation great.

There is still no sustainable grand strategy for the United States, and the invasion of Iraq is a sucking chest wound irreparably damaging the vital organs of the nation. In a Time magazine editorial, Ret. Marine Corps Gen. Greg Newbold was even more blunt. In his piece, “Why Iraq Was a Mistake,” he writes: “My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions – or bury the results.”

In his new book, Imperial Grunts, Robert Kaplan lays out a romantic view of today’s soldiers fighting against Islamists and terrorists as something very close to Custer’s Indian-fighting army of the 19th-century American West. As one reviewer of Kaplan’s book put it: “Here is a serious writer in 2005 admiring the Indian wars, which in their brutality brought about the end of an entire American civilization.”

Indeed, many still cling to the view that the United States must maintain its empire or the world will be less secure and less prosperous. But this is a vision of the few for the many. It is based on a nostalgic view of the past and ignores the revolutionary trends of the future. The effects of globalism and a new level of transparency and openness in society today make it extremely difficult to implement policy or develop a national security strategy that is not in line with the

core values, principles and vital interests of the American people.

What to do.? We must once again reject empire as a national policy. The neo-conservatives that back this unilateral go-it-alone strategy are breaking ranks. Francis Fukuyama is the most recent neo-conservative intellectual who is honest enough to say that the use of military means in Iraq will not establish the desired political ends and that Iraq has become a “magnet, a training ground and operational base for Jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at.” As Gary Hart has written, “We believe that America’s purposes are best achieved not through empire and force, but through principle and persuasion.”

What to do.? We must once again reject empire as a national policy. The neo-conservatives that back this unilateral go-it-alone strategy are breaking ranks. Francis Fukuyama is the most recent neo-conservative intellectual who is honest enough to say that the use of military means in Iraq will not establish the desired political ends and that Iraq has become a “magnet, a training ground and operational base for Jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at.” As Gary Hart has written, “We believe that America’s purposes are best achieved not through empire and force, but through principle and persuasion.”

We must get out of Iraq. Time is of the essence. We must not forget that half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America’s leaders knew our strategy would not work. Seasoned veterans and seasoned statesmen like Congressman Murtha and Sen. John Kerry have laid out an exit strategy. Second, we need a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year’s end.

Third, we need a grand strategy that fits our ideals and values and that allows us to project power and influence with less risk and more credibility – without jettisoning the very essence of who we are and what we want to be as a people and as a nation.

At the same time, we need to implement a “Marshall Plan” for developing alternative energy. We can’t afford not to do this. Gary Hart reminds us of the true costs of our current energy policy: “Right now, America’s energy policy is to rely on foreign oil supplies and to go to war for them if they are threatened. We are using our military, that is to say, young Americans, as the guarantor of our wasteful lifestyle.”

We got fooled again. Time to pick ourselves up, fire the incompetent and fiscally irresponsible, and vote this coming fall for candidates – local and national – with backbone that will put this country back on a path toward a democratic republic. We must live our values rather than attempt to expand an empire.

– James Callard

James Callard is a retired Air Force colonel. He teaches courses at Fort Lewis College and for the University of Colorado at Denver.

 

 

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