Just look at the sorry history
To the Editors:
It is with rather bad grace that many of the very same conservatives who supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq are arguing that, now that we are committed, we must stay the course (e.g., Gil Barndollar, "Turning back would be irresponsible-we've gone too far," Orient, November 21, 2003). The logic here, which is spreading rapidly through the conservative punditocracy, is all too reminiscent of justifications for continuing a bankrupt war in Vietnam that cost 60,000 American lives (not to mention untold Vietnamese casualties), and nearly $350 billion in today's dollars.
Let me see if I have it right: having all but conceded that the administration failed to properly plan for the aftermath of war, conservatives now insist that we must all pay for their administration's mistake by continuing a failed policy? That reasoning simply fails to make sense.
Neither do such statements address the real issue, which is how Iraq is best reconstructed now that we've devastated it through sanction and war. I suspect that for conservatives staying the course in Iraq means continuing a policy of unilateral reconstruction, in which U.S. defense contractors with close ties to the administration benefit from no-bid procurements, and U.S. oil companies dominate Iraqi oil production. Meanwhile, the American people pay the bills in blood, while the Iraqi people themselves suffer from American ineptitude as they are paternalistically nudged toward the only acceptable result for the administration: neo-colonial status.
Or perhaps staying the course means begging the U.N. for help in cleaning up the mess we created, but offering nothing in return. (Now there's a deal.)
If there is a lesson in this national debacle, it is one taught by the history of America's foreign wars over and over again. The pattern is clear: for over a century our government has used blatant propaganda to justify foreign interventions designed to serve a very narrow (and usually corporate) definition of national interest. The experience of the past tells us that Americans can rarely rest secure in the moral rectitude of their government when it goes to war against dictators it once propped up. Men like Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega, once declared freedom fighters and bastions of democratic life in the international jungle, become tyrants against whom no expense must be spared in removing.
The sorry outcome is that the nations we invade-from the Philippines to Honduras to the Dominican Republic to Grenada to Afghanistan-seldom wind up benefitting from the destruction we wreak. Most often, the people in them resent the hollowness of our rhetoric and the disingenuousness of our promises-a phenomenon which only fuels global resistance to our hegemony. And thus the process continues.
I though we would have gotten it by now. Wouldn't it just be simpler to bypass the entire cycle, and leave these places alone in the first place?
Associate Professor of History
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