I read an interesting article by Daniel Drezner at The Washington Post, The One Question That Hawks Need to Answer About Syria. The point he made was that war hawks always talk about all the great things they are going to accomplish. But they can never explain how it is that more arms shipments, more bomb dropping, more invasions are going to accomplish those goals. Drezner went through the list: Iraq, Libya, Yemen. In each case, we just made things worse. Why would this time be any different? That’s an important question that we never get an answer to.
The more fundamental question is why these kinds of people are constantly pushing for yet another invasion. I don’t buy what Drezner says, “There is a strong and bipartisan 21st-century record of US administrations applying military force in the Middle East with the most noble of intentions and then making the extant situation much, much worse.” I italicized the significant part. We go to war for the most noble of intentions?! This is the crap I was taught growing up — it wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. This is what a “professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University” thinks?! No wonder we are so screwed up.
What we do is to claim the “most noble of intentions.” This is just like American presidents always claim that war is the last thing they want. This is discussed in good depth in, War Made Easy (pdf). You could not pick a more premeditated war than the Iraq War. Yet George W Bush said, “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly.” He also said, “We seek peace. We strive for peace.” And most telling of all, “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.” Yeah, that was just what the Iraq War was about!
But what do people like Dick Cheney get out of calling for war as the solution to every international conflict? I think it is tribalism. People like that see the world as a struggle between good and evil. In this case, the Iraq War wasn’t a disaster at all. They went in to deal with Saddam Hussein and now he’s dead. Everything else was just a necessary sacrifice. And if a despot rises from the ashes of that damage, well, there’s always another war to fix that.
So the problem is not that going to war to solve these problems is a bad idea — although of course it is. The problem is that those who drag us into war are doing it for different reasons than they say. And it is a real problem that an academic buys the official line and doesn’t dig any deeper. I doubt very seriously that Daniel Drezner thinks that we went into Iraq for the “most noble of intentions.” Indeed, we know that the Bush administration came into the White House looking for any way it could to go to war with Iraq.
Increasingly, I see our country’s political problems not as the result of a Republican Party gone mad, but of a media infrastructure that just accepts the myths of the country and never calls out nonsense for what it is. I’m glad that Drezner is against intervention because it doesn’t work. But that just provides the intellectual groundwork for support of the next conflict that a president says is really, really important — the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a blah blah blah.