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Ten Years After Iraq, A Debate About America's Role in the WorldAlan Brownfeld Salem-News.com
Some neoconservatives are prepared to go to war haphazardly, as we did, at their urging, in Iraq.
(WASHINGTON DC) - It is now ten years since the U.S. invaded Iraq. Based on false information about alleged weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. embarked upon war with a country which had never attacked us, and which had nothing to do with 9/11. It was as if, some pointed out, after Pearl Harbor we launched an attack upon Mexico.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress acted irresponsibly. They passed a vague Authorization for Use of Military Force instead of the congressional declaration of war the Constitution requires. The media----liberals and conservatives alike---displayed willful credulity, never seeking independently to discover the truth.
Now, Iraq is in chaos. In 2010, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, formed a coalition government with parties representing Kurds and secular Sunnis. Since then, he has driven the Sunni Vice President into exile and the Sunni finance minister and Kurdish foreign minister no longer visit Baghdad. Iran's influence is growing. Iraq has been allowing Iran to fly weapons through its airspace to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Philip Carter, an Iraq veteran and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, notes that, "We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction on March 19, 2003, when the U.S. troops invaded...the Bush administration compounded that error with its failure to admit the existence of the insurgency, let alone plan for it, and its failure to provide adequate resources...Senior administration officials made matters worse with their arrogant statements about the war and the troops' plight----such as when then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz casually dismissed then-Gen. Eric Shinseki's troop predictions as 'wildly off the mark,' or when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld glibly told troops scavenging for vehicle armor in Kuwait that 'you go to war with the army you have.'"
Finally, voices are being heard questioning the aggressive use of American power abroad in the post-Cold War world, when who is an enemy is less than clear, and who is a friend is also uncertain. Republicans, who took the country to war in Iraq with the acquiescence of Democrats, seem particularly torn.
"A real challenge for the Republicans as they approach 2016 is what will be their brand?" said Richard N. Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former aide to the first President Bush. "The reason Rand Paul is gaining traction is overreaching in Iraq. What he is articulating...is an alternative."
The growing split in the Republican Party could be seen at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told the conference that the filibuster he conducted earlier in the month over the Obama administration's drone policy was aimed at the limits on presidential power and American power abroad. "No one person gets to decide the law," he said.
Neo-conservatives----the ones who led the country to war in Iraq and promoted the false notion of weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad---are concerned about voices such as Rand Paul. Dan Senor, the spokesman in Iraq for the Bush administration and a prominent neo-conservative voice, who now urges an attack on Iran, warned of a push to reorient the party toward a "neo-isolationist' foreign policy. That policy, he said, "is sparking discussion among conservative donors, activists and policy wonks about creating a political network to support internationalist Republicans."
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), another strong supporter of both the invasion of Iraq and a strike against Iran, another country which has not attacked us, has dismissed Sen. Paul and those who agree with him as "wacko birds." Other Republicans, however, have praised Paul and his filibuster. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) joined the filibuster.Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, said Paul was "able to capture some national attention in standing up to the president. My view is that he is an important voice in our party."
Sen. Paul calls himself a "realist," not a neoconservative---and not an isolationist. "This is a divide that has been festering and deepening for a generation," said Thomas Donnelly, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, says: "You are starting to see a bit of the split between the libertarian-leaning lawmakers and essentially what you see as defense hawks. We are a war-weary nation. While the GOP is still seen as the national defense party, what you are seeing is a rising trend of libertarianism. You are also seeing the Republican Party reset on where it is on national security. Essentially what the libertarians are saying is, 'Hey, we have to be more careful about the future because we've just been through 10 years of war here.'"
Isolationism is a dangerous policy both for the U.S. and for the world, as is interventionism---especially based upon false premises, when U.S. interests and world peace are not directly involved.
Some neoconservatives are prepared to go to war haphazardly, as we did, at their urging, in Iraq, Embracing that philosophy has hardly proven wise---for the Republican Party or the country. But not taking a leadership role in the world is not a legitimate option for the U.S. It would make us---and the world---far less stable and secure.
As THE ECONOMIST points out, "Not every problem is solved by America noisily taking charge. A sharper critique, as advanced in a new national-security strategy from the Project for a United and Strong America, a bipartisan group of ex-envoys and senior officials, compares the emerging world order to a fiercely competitive marketplace, in which Americans must invest, via engagement, to defend the open, rules-based international order vital to American interests."
With regard to the posture being taken by President Obama, THE ECONOMIST argues that, "Speaking softly suits Mr. Obama. His desire to see other powers stop free-riding on American security guarantees is understandable. In a world of shifting power balances, it is sensible to appeal to the self-interests of others, especially after the over-reach of the Bush era. But he is taking a risk. Step back too far from big sticks, and when America speaks it may not be heard."
Finally---ten years after the misguided invasion of Iraq--- a real debate seems to be starting about what America's role in the post-Cold War world should be. All of us will benefit from such a debate, It is long overdue.
Salem-News.com contributor Allan C. Brownfeld received his B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary, his J.D. degree from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary and his M.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. He has served on the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia, and the University College of the University of Maryland.
The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, Mr. Brownfeld has written for such newspapers as THE HOUSTON PRESS, THE RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH, THE WASHINGTON EVENING STAR and THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. For many years he wrote three columns a week for such newspapers as THE PHOENIX GAZETTE, THE MANCHESTER UNION LEADER, and THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. His weekly column appeared for more than a decade in ROLL CALL, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in such journals as THE YALE REVIEW, THE TEXAS QUARTERLY, THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, ORBIS and MODERN AGE.
Mr. Brownfeld served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and was the author of that committee's 250-page study of the New Left. He has also served as Assistant to the Research Director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to such members of Congress as Reps. Phil Crane (R-Il) and Jack Kemp (R-NY) and to the Vice President of the United States.
He is a former editor of THE NEW GUARD and PRIVATE PRACTICE, the journal of the Congress of County Medical Societies and has served as a Contributing Editor AMERICA'S FUTURE and HUMAN EVENTS. He served as Washington correspondent for the London-based publications, JANE'S ISLAMIC AFFAIRS ANALYST and JANE'S TERRORISM REPORT. His articles regularly appear in newspapers and magazines in England, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and other countries. You can write to Allan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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