Monday, July 30, 2007

Fewer missions, not more troops

You would think more people would be writing such things, but it's rare enough that it's almost enough to make you cheer when you run across something like this by Benjamin Friedman at the MIT Center for International Studies, with the above title. Shouldn't it be obvious?

Frustrated by the mess in Iraq presidential candidates from John McCain to Hillary to
Richardson to Obama to Richardson to Romney are calling for enlarging U.S. military forces. Bush has proposed adding 27,000 Marines and 65.000 soldiers over the next five years.

The problem with this approach, Friedman argues, is that "its advocates ignore the lesson of Iraq, one U.S. leaders long understood but recently forgot: running other countries uninvited is a job the U.S. should avoid. Counter-terrorism does not require counter-insurgency and state-building. These missions are prone to failure, expensive, and a source of anti-American sentiment."

Friedman is bold enough to state what should be obvious" "disorder abroad is generally inconsequential to our security. History is full of failed states, and only Afghanistan, by harbording al-Qaeda, created serious problems for U.S. security." We'll be more effective if we stop trying to sell democracy with bombs. "What the nation needs is not more troops, but more restraint in using them."

Inbterestingly, Andrew Sullivan, a rare war hawk at the outset who has been able to reassess his position based on the mistakes and sad experience of Iraq, may be coming around to a similar position. He sees the possibility of a "new isolationism" in the U.S. "It is not the classic type of before the wars. But the palpable energy behind the Paul and OPbama candidacies and the vacuity of those defending the status quo in US foreign policy contains hints of a new shift toward a humbler view of national security."

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