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Friday, May 27, 2005

The problem with self-indulgent war 

Daily Kos :: Army recruitment crisis.
In summing up the impact of the Iraq war as it relates to the US army recruitment crisis, one of the things Kos notes is this: "The perception of US invulnerability has been shattered. After the US and its Northern Alliance allies routed the Taliban, the world quivered in the face of US military might. Saddam caved on every demand presented him -- destroy his missiles, allow inspectors back in. The US could've used that perception to push for meaningful concessions in North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere. Instead, we're bogged down in an unecessary war in Iraq, our military spent and depleted, and with Americans unwilling to replenish the ranks. The diplomatic fallout is obvious, but our inability to use force as a tool is a bigger casualty."
Absolutely -- as I have said before, the world needs a strong United States to project a vision of civilization and democracy, and to deter rogue states from starting trouble. But the US elephant has to tiptoe, not stomp.
Previous presidents realized that the only way the United States could maintain an image of invulnerablility was by resisting the temptation to engage in self-indulgent wars of choice -- Kennedy didn't resist the Bay of Pigs, and the US looked pretty weak and foolish after that one. Korea and Vietnam could be portrayed as righteous proxy defensive wars against communist expansion -- the domino theory, don't you know. Afghanistan was defensive, too in the sense that it was a legitimate response to an attack.
Iraq was a war of choice. And the Bush administration is reaping what it sowed -- the US public will neither support a draft nor let their sons and daughters enlist. And if Bush tries to goose the nation to another war, the public won't believe him again. THEY know "fool me once", even if Bush does not.

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