Monday, June 25, 2007

Put on a Happy Face

Brendan Nyhan takes note of Joshua Muravchik's specious argument that opposition to the Iraq War is making war with Iran more likely, and then adds this at the end:

PS The sad thing is that the "next war" may be different than Iraq (ie actually necessary), but every indication is that it will play out as a referendum on the current war. It's yet another way the Bush administration has poisoned the well for its successor.

I'm not so sure why Nyhan sees future circumspection as "sad" (but then, I disagree with the notion of reluctance in connection with a truly "necessary" war and that might be Nyhan's out). The numerous predictions that we will soon be hampered by some stultifying "Iraq Syndrome" are every bit as overstated as the dread "Vietnam Syndrome" of years past.

For example, according to the Vietnam Syndrome narrative, the public's negative reaction to the Vietnam war supposedly cut short America's willingness to use force going forward. And this was a bad thing.

First of all, it should be noted that America continued to use its military forces abroad throughout the remainder of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s - Vietnam Syndrome be damned. Just ask the Grenadans, Panamanians, the Iraqis, various peoples that call the Balkans home - not to mention many of Central and South America's citizens who might have dealt more with proxies, but proxies that were frequently trained and assisted by our own soldiers in the field.

Second, can anyone fill in this blank:

The world would be a better place if only America had gone to war with [Country X] in the period between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. However, because America was unduly reluctant to commit troops overseas, we failed to wage war against [Country X] and the world has suffered for it.

Now, as I mentioned above, Nyhan could be relying on the notion that the next war would actually be "necessary," and thus hesitation would be a bad thing. However, coming to a consensus on what such necessity would entail seems important. Would war with Iran ever be a necessity? If so, under what circumstances. What other countries do we foresee potential "necessary" wars with?

After all, America's reluctance to use military force abroad has not been a recurring shortcoming throughout this nation's history. Quite the opposite. We tend to err on the side of employing bellicose options when we should be searching for more pragmatic, long-lasting, effective and humane solutions - to a fault. Thus, the notion that a conflict that truly required war would arise, but that the American people would decline to meet it in such a manner, seems rather far-fetched.

What saddens me is the prospect that even after the Iraq War's tragedy plays out to its conclusion, the American people will not have sufficiently disabused themselves of their misplaced faith in the power of war to achieve various and sundry objectives. After all, the Vietnam Syndrome failed to cure the patient of such maladies despite it's much-hyped potential to provoke a pathological overreaction.

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