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Learning That Warmongering and Nation-Building Don’t Work

Obama Receives Nobel Prize

With President Barack Obama further tarnishing his Nobel Peace Prize by starting yet another Middle Eastern war, exuberant Neoconservatives claim their moment has arrived. And it has, though not in the way they believe. The Neocons’ claims that war-mongering and nation-building serve America’s interests have become obviously ever more absurd.

In 2001 President George W. Bush initiated what was supposed to be The Neocon Moment, projecting a swaggering global presence in which the U.S. would bomb, invade, occupy, and otherwise intervene whenever and for whatever reason it chose. Autocrats would flee, candies would be tossed, enemies would be defeated, flowers would bloom, allies would comply, cakewalks would be held, democrats would flourish, and the lion would lie down with the lamb.

Alas, administration policy wrecked Iraq. Although President Bush never repudiated what he’d done, he appeared to lose his taste for war.

Candidate Obama ran against the Bush presidency, but little changed U.S. foreign policy. No one could mistake the latter as a peacenik libertarian.

Except, apparently, for the Neocons. They now proclaim The Neocon Moment. Explained Matthew Continetti, “monsters [have been] brought forth by American retreat,” and “the threat of those monsters requires unilateral deadly force wherever necessary to kill our enemies and deter our foes.”

Retreat?

Admittedly, Obama could have done more from a Neoconservative standpoint—bombing Tehran and Damascus, for instance. Yet even Bush might not have obliged in these cases. More than a decade of foreign policy defined as “what Washington says goes” has been a bust.

In fact, “The Neocon Moment” is distinguished by its failure. As evidence of the need for a return to swaggering interventionism Continetti offers a parade of horrors either created by Washington or well beyond its control.

There’s the Islamic State, which exists only because of the misguided Bush invasion of Iraq. Like modern liberals at home, neoconservatives use the ill consequences of their earlier wars to justify new wars.

There’s Ukraine, a testament to what happens when one encourages one’s allies to be helpless dependents while facing an adversary with a far greater interest in the outcome of any confrontation. There are al-Qaeda affiliates in several countries, which arose in response to promiscuous U.S. meddling abroad and persisted in the midst of multiple wars.

There’s Iran, in which Islamists overthrew a U.S.-supported dictator who took power in a U.S.-supported coup. There’s the Taliban, which survived more than a dozen years of Washington’s efforts at nation-building.

Neocons have no answer to any of these. They imagine a world of immaculate intervention, in which foreigners welcome being killed and never strike back.

Washington should just bomb, invade, and occupy, never mind the enemies created or hostilities engendered. Alas, the more Washington attempts to micro-manage the globe, the more likely it is to be attacked.

Neocons also imagine a world in which America automatically deters and only America deters. No one would dare challenge Washington if the president exercised “leadership.”

In fact, countries with the most at stake will risk and spend more than their adversaries, as the U.S. demonstrated during the Cold War in Latin America. Russia and China are no less adept at playing the game of deterrence. Does the U.S. have anything at stake in Ukraine and the Senkakus which warrants the risk of war? The answer is no.

One doesn’t have to look far to see the wreckage left by today’s interventionist consensus, generally advanced by Neocons, nationalist hawks, and liberal interventionists. Washington has attempted to fix the Middle East and Central Asia for decades.

The result? War, instability, autocracy, brutality, collapse. U.S. officials consistently have demonstrated the reverse Midas touch, leaving Washington widely despised and American forces constantly at war.

The Balkans has turned out little better, with nationalist divisions still evident two decades after Washington imposed an artificial political settlement. Europe represents the globe’s greatest aggregation of economic power, but is not inclined to defend itself, preferring instead to rely on the U.S.

Only now is Japan finally emerging from hiding behind the peace constitution” to consider a more active military role. South Korea continues to subsidize the North even as U.S. troops guarantee the former’s security.

It’s true:   Americans are not living in the Libertarian Moment. Rather, we are living in The Neocon Moment, a testament to the foolishness and arrogance of those who believe themselves to be engineers of peoples, societies, and nations.

Yet Washington officials have yet to tire of America’s permanent state of war. Only when the American people insist that politicians make peace, not war, will The Libertarian Moment finally arrive.

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