The Bush administration came to represent everything bad about American foreign policy. George W. Bush is gone. But the foreign policy remains. The battle for peace, prosperity, and liberty continues.
It’s a difficult and frustrating struggle. Although the two big political parties create endless sturm und drang when fighting for votes, they actually disagree on surprisingly little of substance. Listen to George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama on Iran, and the differences are hard to parse. Analyze NATO expansion, talk about "humanitarian" intervention, and discuss troops in South Korea, and you won’t find a peacenik among leading policymakers. War and the threat of war are central to U.S. foreign policy.
Not war to protect America from an existential threat, preserve the American people, territory, and constitutional system, and ensure American liberty and prosperity. But war to transform the globe. War to exert U.S. power. War to enforce compliance with Washington’s dictates. War to demonstrate the American government’s will. War to promote democracy. War to establish credibility. War to assist allies. War to stop dominoes from falling. War to arrest drug dealers and warlords. War to demonstrate leadership. War to settle other people’s civil wars. War to enact regime change. War to make peace. George Orwell lives.
Of course, there are occasions when war is an awful necessity. But not often. War should always be a last result, not a matter of choice. And most certainly not a matter of promiscuous choice. In recent years the U.S. has used or threatened to use force in Lebanon, Libya, Grenada, Panama, Haiti (twice), Bosnia, Serbia, Somalia, Iraq (twice), Pakistan, and Afghanistan. American officials freely talk about bombing Iran and North Korea. Influential policy advocates suggest invading Iran and Syria. Individuals lobby for intervention in Rwanda and Sudan. Always war and more war.
The arguments against war should be obvious. Deaths of Americans and those in the lands attacked, many of whom supposedly were being helped. People wounded, maimed, and displaced. Societies disrupted. Monies wasted. Hostilities inflamed. Seeds of new wars planted. Conflicts which turn cake walks into charnel houses.
There’s no reason to think that much will change with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running U.S. foreign policy. The specific wars might be different. But the death and destruction will continue.
And so must the fight for peace, prosperity, and liberty.
Admittedly, it’s hard not to grow frustrated, feel the battle is hopeless, and give up the struggle. We must persevere, however. The saying may be trite, but is nonetheless true: if not us, whom? If not now, when? The advocates of intervention and war remain ever active. So must those of us who desire peace.
It has been a great pleasure for me to write "Foreign Follies" every week for nearly three years. I hope at least some readers have found it as enjoyable to read.
I’ve now switching roles, having moved back to the Cato Institute, where I’ll be more of a policy analyst and less of a controversialist. I will miss the chance to throw brickbats weekly, but will be promoting the same ends in a somewhat different fashion. I wish my friends at Antiwar.com well and look forward to continuing the battle for peace alongside you, Antiwar’s loyal readers.