*Some people point to the budding revolution apparently led by Al-Qaeda and conclude that Obama’s policy of pulling American troops out of the country has failed.
My contention is that the failure of Obama’s policy is the final in a series of events based on a perspective destined for failure.
Any insurgency in Iraq today is really a failure in the exercise of nation building started by George W. Bush when he committed American forces to the task of overthrowing Sadaam Hussein; Hussein’s regime had to be replaced with something. But if the fall of cities to Al-Qaeda is any indication there is a substantial segment of the Iraqi population that didn’t appreciate the American version of society we attempted to establish.
American style nation building is an activity that epitomizes a Cold War mentality. The idea was to create artificial allies all over the world by toppling regimes and installing governments that would align with the United States. We may have ridding the world of some bad guys in the process but the reality is that we also established and strengthened some bad guy as well – see: Husein, Sadaam. Nation building is a bad idea because it makes the goal of having allies not good enough and instead allies have to be of a certain type.
Nation building is especially a problem when an alternative is examined, the idea of a Muslim or non-democratic country befriending the United States and the United States accepting that friendship. Such a relationship might be hard to imagine but the basis of American foreign policy until the Cold War was simply maximizing friends. Ideology was a secondary consideration and so Muslim friends were okay and nation building was unnecessary. But once we became the most powerful country on earth, we tried to enforce our philosophy on potential friends.
The Vietnam War, thought by many across the political spectrum to be the worst episode in American foreign policy during the 20th century, illustrated that nation building doesn’t always work. More importantly it illustrated that the world doesn’t end when American nation building fails. Unfortunately everyone focuses on the first of these lessons without realizing that the second lesson undermines the very idea of forcing a people to do things our way.
The insurgency in Iraq gives the United States a chance to wash its hands of a situation. If the philosophy of Al-Qaeda is just too much for American moral sensibilities, then let’s get ready for another Vietnam-like quagmire.
And then let’s wonder why we exercise these morals sporadically.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.