RESTORING AMERICAN GREATNESS
Attorney Jonathan Emord
January 4, 2010
The incoherence of the Bush Administration has been replaced by the indecisiveness of the Obama Administration when it comes to foreign affairs. Those countries which learn lessons about our nation that last the longest are the countries that experience the effects of American military power. Generations long remember with fondness American forces pounding their way through Europe to destroy the Nazis occupiers and restore freedom. Generations will also long remember the American army now present in Iraq and Afghanistan but with a far more mixed perception. The difference in world view for these two different generations of American military is extraordinary. Europeans of the Greatest Generation still regard the Americans as liberators. The Iraqis and Afghans largely view the Americans as self-interested occupiers. Our primary problem is that we apparently do not yet perceive the profound significance of that difference in perception, but we must if we are to restore America’s image as both a good and great power.
The first Gulf War left the world with a very important image of the United States, an accurate image of generosity and courage. A power that would invade and violate its neighbors was sacked by an overwhelming American military force that arrived in extraordinary numbers, deployed rapidly, achieved its objective, and then retired from the field. The Iraq War proceeds from a very different American agenda. President Bush was not content to invade, remove Sadam Hussein from power, and retire from the field. He instead declared that America would erect a Western-style, Jeffersonian Democracy in Iraq and would remain there indefinitely to defend that regime and to ferret out regime opponents. We chose to dictate the system of Iraqi governance. Likewise in Afghanistan we invaded to force the Taliban (supporters of Al Qaeda) from power but have remained there (and intend to remain there indefinitely) to defend the non-Taliban regime now in power.
It is not in Americas vital national interest to define for other countries how they will be governed. It is not in Americas best interest to erect and maintain an army of occupation to that end. Our interest in Iraq and Afghanistan is rather limited. We do not want either regime to attack neighboring allies or to harbor and promote terrorism. Rather than maintain at enormous expense bases of operation within those countries, we would do well to withdraw our ground forces and rely on air power to enforce our will against terrorist cells and others who plan to do us harm. An army of occupation is invariably resented. Locals regard the indefinite presence of a foreign power as a threat to their way of life, culture, religion, and traditions. Such a power disrupts their daily affairs. They know the foreign power possesses arms and presumes to use them to enforce its will upon them. Even if they agree with the American agenda, they invariably long for self-rule and control.
Moreover, when our enemies see us in the flesh day to day, they perceive us as human and vulnerable, something that erodes and defeats the purpose of a military. Our enemies perceive our humanity as a weakness. They parade about the bodies of American military soldiers to prove to potential recruits and the public at large that Americans are not invincible but can be defeated. We must not allow ourselves to be perceived as less than invincible. We must employ our might to destroy those who would destroy us with exactitude and certainty; we cannot transform a community of people who have only known theocracy and dictatorship into a Jeffersonian democracy by force of arms or by the promise of greater riches. Likewise we cannot cause a society that is a Third World culture, Afghanistan, to come into modernity and abandon barbarism.
Much as we detest injustice and barbarity, it is not our affair to arrest those wicked circumstances if the people of a country will not revolt against unjust rule but prefer instead to accede to it. That is their affair, not ours. Our concern must be to protect our vital national interests. At the moment, those interests are defined, in part, by a global effort to ferret out and destroy terrorists. That war is a police action akin to a struggle against organized crime because it ordinarily does not involve a nation state. When nation states harbor terrorists or fail to permit us to route them out, we have a right, indeed a duty to our own people, to compel those nations to cooperate, by force if necessary. When a comparatively small body of radicals seek to murder innocents in the West, it is they who we must attack; we ought not use them as a feeble justification for placing among an entire nation an army of occupation and then coercing and cajoling the nation’s governors to support our preferred causes.
We mislead ourselves when we think that Iraqis and Afghans are fundamentally like us. They are not. Their world view differs dramatically from our own. If a majority of Iraqis or Afghans accept theocratic dictatorship, that is their sad lot. It is of no particular interest to the United States unless the dictator attempts to impose such a regime on an unwilling neighbor or offers his country to serve as a training ground and refuge for those who would commit acts of terror against us. If the nation threatens a neighbor and our vital interests to American life, liberty, and property are at stake, we have cause to wage war with that nation.
If a terrorist group within a nation threatens our vital interests to life, liberty, and property, we have cause to annihilate those groups—even if the nation in which they operate objects. If a terrorist group within a nation threatens our vital interests to life, liberty, and property and the nation aids and abets those terrorists, we have cause to wage war with that nation and annihilate those groups. But, as is the case with Iraq and Afghanistan, neither nation threatens its neighbors at present or our vital interests, we should focus instead on annihilating the terrorist groups within those nations and remove our forces but for those necessary to track and exterminate the terrorist enemy.
I see no reason why we ought not withdraw our ground forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving air power (and predator drones) to function within those countries from bases outside (for the limited purpose of destroying terrorists). We should work with neighboring countries to build an intelligence network to spy within those countries and identify enemies. Our aim should be to engage in a global hunt for our enemies using the most prudent means, infiltration via people of their same language, nationality, and religion, followed by prompt and thorough extermination of those intent on doing us harm. On occasion we may need to resort to the use of special forces to engage in precision strikes and then flee once the work is done via air to safe harbors.
The old adage that familiarity breeds contempt applies well in the context of armies of occupation. When Americans bring with them their Western cultures and Judeo-Christian religions to remote regions of the world that view us as alien (and, indeed, as impure) by appearance, culture, and religion, we cannot expect to be viewed as anything but outsiders. When we presume to remain indefinitely in base camps and to traverse the countryside in military vehicles, we cannot expect those who view us as outsiders to trust us as they would a close friend or neighbor and to respect us as they would an equal who does not bear arms. People of like mind invariably want to control their own destinies, not be acted upon by outsiders. Xenophobia is common in primitive cultures and is reinforced when religious leaders characterize the outsiders as infidels who would corrupt local morals.
To restore American greatness, we must return to a basic understanding of our proper role in the world. We are not here to transform the planet into American clones. We are here to restore and maintain our Constitutional republic and to do battle with anyone whether within the United States or outside of the country who is intent on sacrificing Americans’ lives, liberty, and property.
When exercising American military power in foreign lands, our aims must be discrete and direct. We should not use our power as a defense for political regimes we think favorable to our cause. We should instead demand as a condition precedent for other nation’s existence that they refrain from sacrificing our lives, liberty, and property wherever our people or property may be in the world. We should conserve our extraordinary power to impose overwhelming force against those who would try to take from us our liberty and property.
As for their own affairs, their own preference for government, and their own cultures, let them stand as monuments to our tolerance and let our doors remain open for those who wish us well and who seek refuge from tyrannical regimes.
© 2010 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved