The New York Times, September 1, 2005
As we mark four years since Sept. 11, 2001, one way to organize a review of what has happened in American foreign policy since that terrible day is with a question: To what extent has that policy flowed from the wellspring of American politics and culture, and to what extent has it flowed from the particularities of this administration?
It is tempting to see continuity with the American character and foreign policy tradition in the Bush administration's response to 9/11, and many have done so. Americans have tended toward the forcefully unilateral when we have felt ourselves under duress; and we have spoken in highly idealistic cadences in such times, as well. Nevertheless, neither American political culture nor any underlying domestic factors have determined the key decisions in foreign policy since Sept. 11.
If the United States withdraws prematurely, Iraq will slide into greater chaos. That would set off a chain of unfortunate events that will further damage American credibility around the world and ensure that the United States remains preoccupied with the Middle East to the detriment of other important regions - Asia, for example - for years to come.
We do not know what outcome we will face in Iraq. We do know that four years after 9/11, the whole foreign policy of the United States seems destined to rise or fall on the outcome of a war only marginally related to the source of what befell America on that day. There was nothing inevitable about this. There is everything to be regretted about it.
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Very well put.
I am currently working on a post (or a few) outlining the arguements surrounding the war on terror. I get tired of hearing people lump Iraq into the War on Terror and lump support for the war into support for the troops. Much of this seems to come from the "Jacksonian" supporters you talk of.
Your comments are very well reasoned and don't blur the lines of logic and argumentation as so many do these days. Keep it up.
While Dr. Fukuyama's comments are true in part, one might add that four years after the fact our enemy has been unable to hit us on American soil again. There was nothing inevitable about this either, and the war in Iraq, regrettable as it is, has had the intended effect of preventing such a thing.
Furthermore, I do not think one can point to a better cause, or a cause more just, in the case of the American Revolutionary War than in the present war. We certainly could have worked things out with England, paid taxes intended to cover the expense for a war fought for the colonies, yet we chose not to. The present war is a war of choice very much in line with the American ethos at its root. Something is wrong in the world and we will not be content to wait for a solution, when war is present as a possible option to a desired end.
Perhaps we will fail, but this remains to be seen. The world is not easily changed by war and there is a great risk in it, but this is not contrary to the habit of those who have governed in America.
Timothy E. Kennelly
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