Bush Has Made Us Vulnerable 12-22-08
Because the Wall Street Journal has been hawkish on the war in Iraq, consistent with its posture on hawkishness generally. I was a little surprised to see the December 19, 2008 piece by Mark Helprin titled “Bush Has Made Us Vulnerable.”
He sums up the Bush’ administration record, “…catastrophically throwing the country off balance, both politically and financially, while breaking the nation’s sword in an inconclusive seven-year struggle against a ragtag enemy in two small bankrupt states.” The generally disastrous result is consistent with the administration’s attempts at developing a coherent rationalization for their policies, while events force it to articulate goals as America is forced down the staircase: to ridding the world of dictators, to changing the political structures in the Islamic Middle East, to limiting the ambition to democratize Iraq; to finally, “…merely holding on in our cantonments until we withdraw.”
Gracefully written, Mr. Helprin’s criticism is succinct and spot on. The problem of course, is the next step. What would he do? In a word, he is one with the Journal. In fact he is at one with the Bush Administration: He would do everything.
I know that he wants to do everything because he lists the problems that the U.S. has to be able to handle. It has to deter the development of military strength in Russia that threatens to dominate Europe, to check the expansion of Chinese power that would make it the hegemon in the Pacific, to threaten to destroy any regimes that support terrorism, as the U.S. defines support and terrorism; to create a military presence in Saudi Arabia that could police Baghdad, Damascus and Riyadh, and to start a war specifically aimed at Arabs in response to the act of terror that America experienced.
American intellectuals will be forced to scale their ambitions. Thousands of young, overwhelmingly male engineers in a labs across the globe are forcing America to scale its ambitions. Some ambitions are within reach: Some are not. America can never again have a world where her three year olds are infinitely safe, and the Chinese and Russian three year olds are infinitely vulnerable.
Mr. Helprin, like American neocons generally, refuses to scale his ambitions.
“But the costs of not reacting to China’s military expansion, which could lead to its hegemony in the Pacific; or of ignoring a Russian resurgence, which could result in a new Cold War and Russian domination of Europe; or of suffering a nuclear detonation in New York, Washington, or any other major American city, would be so great as to be, apparently, unimaginable to us now.”
He goes on to list the characteristics that might rescue us:”marshaling the resources, concentration, deliberation, risk, sacrifice, and compromise necessary to avert them.”
I have a point of view, a point of view that I think will be forced upon Mr. Helprin and neocons generally. The key word, a word that he uses is “compromise.”
Americans can do a lot of things and go a lot of places. Americans can not do as many things and go as many places as they could go prior to the beginning of the nuclear age.
The neocons will come to accept, be forced to accept, a more modest American presence by a comparative hand full of young men who share one characteristic: They were not anxious in algebra class.