Neither the American people nor even the American foreign policy elite, it seems to me, have ever been very good at facing international realities. For much of the Cold War, many policy makers acted as if we were in a prewar era, when we were actually, in my opinion, in a postwar era dealing with the natural long-term results of the Second World War. Those now in charge of American foreign policy, including the Secretary of State, evidently believe that Ronald Reagan and the
The Second World War is in one sense the more relevant analogy, since it actually destroyed hostile regimes, and restored democracy in some (although less than half, as it turned out) of the territories those regimes had conquered. The Administration evidently has hoped to replace the ruling regimes in
The Second World War, we may now say, was the climax of an era of large-scale industrial warfare that began in the American Civil War. From 1860 until about 1970, wars involved conscript armies numbering in the millions (16 million Americans were mobilized from 1940 through 1945.) They were fought with massive firepower delivered on land, from the sea, and from the air, destroying whole regions and cities and killing millions of people. They also involved massive economic dislocation, including manifold inflation, hunger, and, especially in
In contrast, the Bush Administration began its grand project in 2002 while simultaneously cutting both taxes and the size of the armed forces—and even now, as the length of the Iraq War nears that of the Second World War, it has done nothing to reverse course. Meanwhile, our industrial production has fallen far below what it was at mid-century and it is far from certain that it could ever be revived. Nor can today’s weapons be mass-produced in the same way—they are too costly and too intricate, and rely, essentially, upon various kind of invulnerability, or upon avoiding wars with heavily armed powers.
The struggle in the
I have previously compared the intervention in
A world without a draft, mass production of weapons, and high marginal tax rates could be a better world, but only if we allow for the existence of regimes with truly different values. I do not think it is too late for such a course. A broad based international conference of regional powers and Iraqi political groups to try to hammer out an Iraqi settlement (something like the