Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Patrick Buchanan: How Empires End

Patrick Buchanan has a pretty sober perspective on America's situation right now. In this blog posting, he sees American efforts in the Middle East as the end of a failed effort to establish America as a global empire.

Whether you agree with the article or not, his perspective and his logic seem hard to take lightly. And his comparison of the new American embassy under construction in Baghdad to the Christian knight's fortress built in Acre back in the 12th century is fascinating and something to think about.

Sir Chuck


  1. In the first place all empires end and often end in similar fashion. It is a tautology. That is a council of despair.
    In the second place, the level of committment actually being given is not really what you would expect of a world-conqueror.
    In the third place the assumption is that in Iraq we have troubles we would not otherwise have. That is rather problematic seeing as the love of Islamiscists for us has never been proverbial. I fail to see why it matters overmuch that we are fighting them in Iraq instead of somewhere else.
    Moreover our honor is pledged. Do we really want to get a reputation as people who lure others into siding with them and then abandon them?
    Furthermore, getting a reputation as a people who cannot take casualties encourages the enemy. It is like putting death on a credit card, just as we put money on a credit card.
    Pat would like America to be Switzerland. Wouldn't we all. The problem is that Switzerland is the size of Oregon, and filled to the brim with nasty bits of broken terrain. Switzerland's strategy is fit for Switzerland. And if America becomes Switzerland then who will be America? If nobody does we have recreated the world of 1940(or 1914).
    But among the most important things is that America must learn to honor it's committments. America is double-minded. The affect is that when there is trouble abroad people insist we "do something" and say it is somehow our fault in some mysterious way. But once we do something and it turns out to require unpleasantness, other people(and sometimes the same people) insist we go home. The effect is that we can't resist meddleing, but we never stay long enough to do good. It is just as "Imperialistic" to intervene for a month and then get bored, as it is to stay there long enough to make sure we have done what we set out to do.
    Pat is probably right in the sense that we should avoid making further commitments as much as possible-Americans are to cowardly to pay for them. But we can't avoid the commitments we already have.
    And then there is Iran. Would an Iran without tens of thousands of American troops across the border from them be more polite then one with such?
    Why is Iraq singled out as an example of "empire". America's real empire is the seas, the clouds, and the waters under the sea. It is because of this that these places are safe. This is taken for granted yet without our empire, millions would starve. Suppose some Islamiscists decided to challenge the "infidels arogant claim to own the sea"? It wouldn't be that hard-just regular piracy and there would be no way to catch every single one, nothing to do except either strike back-with more Iraqs.
    Or cede the ocean to the Islamiscists and leave them to plunder everyone at will.
    That is of course absurd. Like many such things abstract logic doesn't follow the real world. Yet we have no more claim to police the seas then we do to police Iraq. If we aren't willing to fight for the one we have no reason to fight for the other. Now we can say that Iraq is different because it is an imprudent extension. That is doubtful but arguable. But Pat is not counseling prudence. He is counseling despair.

    Sir Jason

  2. Very well said, Sir Jason. I whole-heartedly agree with your common sense, but have never been able to state it as effectively as you have in your rebuttal to Mr. Buchanan.

    I especially concur with your point...

    Moreover our honor is pledged. Do we really want to get a reputation as people who lure others into siding with them and then abandon them?

    It really irks me that the rush to arms in 2002-03 included an overwhelming majority of our national representatives, and now a large portion of those are calling to abandon those whose nation we blew into turmoil. Seems to me like we owe it to them to stay until there is some semblance of law and order, even if they aren't rapid adopters of peaceful democracy.

    We made the bed, let us lie there until the bad dreams are over...

    Sir Chuck

  3. Long missing from the table, but still around.....

    A stray thought hit me as I read the blog and your comments: it's about what role we should play. Empire builder. Peace maker. Warrior. The list goes on.

    I recall in a management seminar long ago, a presenter discussing that a benevolent dictator as the best type of leader (they’re just hard to find in a democratic republic). I would submit that this conflict could use a father rather than a diplomat or an army.

    An army is trained to kill, destroy and take territory. There may be small factions that play more “civilized” roles, but to expect something different from the military is silly. They aren’t peace keepers or nation builders.

    A diplomat is trained (I guess that the correct verb) to make peace. But it seems to be more entropy (everything moving to a state of no energy and disorder) than nation building.

    A father is a very different animal all together. He must play many roles, but all of them with purpose and authority. He can’t always be the nice guy, but he can’t be too harsh in the process either.

    sir don.....
    Knight of the Golden Horseshoe

  4. Great to hear from you again, Sir Don.

    I agree, the resources in place seem ill-suited to foster the building of a peaceful nation. Where's George Washington when you need him?

    Odd to think that, had Saddam not been hanged by "his people", he might be the popular (Iraqi) choice to take the reins of leadership in Iraq. Or maybe not.

    The sticky point is, that it's hard to imagine that the US and UN diplomatic forces would allow a dictator, benevolent or not, to ascend to power. Otherwise, Iraq would already be under the control of one of those Al-lahs...

    Sir Chuck

  5. "Father", is an unfortunate word-it takes to much upon ourselves. "Benevolent Dictator" doesn't really do it, for in fact those are rare.
    The problem is that really Democracy as we think of it is as much a cultural phenomenon as a political arrangement. Probably the closest resemblance to it in the Arab World is Kuwait. It would be closer to what Medievals would call a Democracy then what we call it.
    Kuwait was originally a coalition of tribes that took control over a small area with water and connection to the sea and caravan routes. It was agreed that the Al-sabah family would take the Emirate, the rest would control the trade and they would meet in council together-a "constitution" structured to fit tribal society. Kuwait cannot be glamorized but they were a peaceful and(until oil)hard working people and well worthy of their wealth. They were a "democracy" fit for the culture, not perfect and perhaps not up to Western standards but fair enough.
    As for improvements in our own system I can see two. One is to form "constabulary" battalions specifically for counterinsurgency and Operations-other-then-War. Some would be National Guard; governors would be glad to have them at flood and fire seasons when they are not needed abroad which makes them more fitting for the militia tradition then NG armor for instance; they will have to be paid more as they will be in action more often then other NG units.
    Another is to form a division of the State Department specifically for negotiating with locals. This would be modeled on the old Indian Political Service, of the days of the British Empire which conducted tribal diplomacy and gathered intelligence; several great English explorers and spies were in the IPS.
    These two things are of course for the future. For the present the news from the blogs is that things are improving. But war goes like a see-saw and everything must be taken with a grain of salt. One can always hope.

    Sir Jason

  6. Wish you were in the President's Cabinet, Sir Jason!

  7. Wish you were in the President's Cabinet, Sir Jason!


    I don't. People that high have to take insults that would offend the honor of a street-thief and endure it. But I have sometimes thought I would have made a good intelligence analyst.

    Sir Jason

  8. Yes, you'd be a great "spook"... :-)

    Sir C

  9. Actually I've sometimes thought I was a little like Jack Ryan.

  10. Jack Ryan didn't have much muscle either.

    Sir Jason