Good Foreign Policy a Casualty of War; Today, it is we Americans who live in infamy
Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
Los Angeles Times
. Los Angeles, Calif.: Mar 23, 2003. pg. M.1We are at war again -- not because of enemy attack, as in World War II, nor because of incremental drift, as in the Vietnam War -- but because of the deliberate and premeditated choiceof our own government. Now that we are embarked on this misadventure, let us hope that our intervention will be swiftand decisive, and that victory will come with minimal American, British and civilian Iraqicasualties.But let us continue to ask why our government chose to impose this war. The choice reflects afatal turn in U.S. foreign policy, in which the strategic doctrine of containment and deterrencethat led us to peaceful victory during the Cold War has been replaced by the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. The president has adopted a policy of "anticipatory self-defense" that isalarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor on a date which, asan earlier American president said it would, lives in infamy.Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, but today it is we Americans who live in infamy. The globalwave of sympathy that engulfed the United States after 9/11 has given way to a global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism. Public opinion polls in friendly countries regardGeorge W. Bush as a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein. Demonstrations around the planet, instead of denouncing the vicious rule of the Iraqi president, assail the United States on adaily basis.The Bush Doctrine converts us into the world's judge, jury and executioner -- a self-appointedstatus that, however benign our motives, is bound to corrupt our leadership. As John QuincyAdams warned on July 4, 1821, the fundamental maxims of our policy "would insensibly changefrom liberty to force ... [America] might become the dictatress of the world. She would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit." Already the collateral damage to our civil liberties andconstitutional rights, carried out by the religious fanatic who is our attorney general, isconsiderable -- and more is still to come.What drove the rush to war? Hussein has a significantly smaller military force than he had in1990, and he has grown weaker as more weapons have been exposed and destroyed under theUnited Nations' inspection regime. The cause of our rush to war was so trivial as to seem idiotic.It was the weather. American troops, our masters tell us, will lose their edge in the Persian Gulf'smidday sun; so we had to go to war before summer. This is a reason to rush to war? We have,after all, a professional army -- and a professional army ought not to lose its edge so quickly andeasily.There is a base suspicion that we are going to war against Iraq because that is the only war wecan win. We can't win the war against Al Qaeda because Al Qaeda strikes from the shadows anddisappears into them. We can't win a war against North Korea because it has nuclear weapons.