|Good Foreign Policy a Casualty of War
Today, it is we Americans who live in infamy.
By Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
March 23, 2003/L.A. TIMES/Opinion section
NEW YORK -- We are at war again -- not because of enemy attack, as in World
War II, nor because of incremental drift, as in the Vietnam War -- but
because of the deliberate and premeditated choice of our own government.
But let us continue to ask why our government chose to impose this war. The
choice reflects a fatal turn in U.S. foreign policy, in which the strategic
doctrine of containment and deterrence that led us to peaceful victory
during the Cold War has been replaced by the Bush Doctrine of preventive
war. The president has adopted a policy of "anticipatory self-defense" that
is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl
Harbor on a date which, as an earlier American president said it would,
lives in infamy.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, but today it is we Americans who live in
infamy. The global wave of sympathy that engulfed the United States after
9/11 has given way to a global wave of hatred of American arrogance and
militarism. Public opinion polls in friendly countries regard George W. Bush
as a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein. Demonstrations around the
planet, instead of denouncing the vicious rule of the Iraqi president,
assail the United States on a daily basis.
The Bush Doctrine converts us into the world's judge, jury and executioner
-- a self-appointed status that, however benign our motives, is bound to
corrupt our leadership. As John Quincy Adams warned on July 4, 1821, the
fundamental maxims of our policy "would insensibly change from liberty to
force ... [America] might become the dictatress of the world. She would no
longer be the ruler of her own spirit." Already the collateral damage to our
civil liberties and constitutional rights, carried out by the religious
fanatic who is our attorney general, is considerable -- and more is still to
What drove the rush to war? Hussein has a significantly smaller military
force than he had in 1990, and he has grown weaker as more weapons have been
exposed and destroyed under the United Nations' inspection regime. The cause
of our rush to war was so trivial as to seem idiotic. It was the weather.
American troops, our masters tell us, will lose their edge in the Persian
Gulf's midday sun; so we had to go to war before summer. This is a reason to
rush to war? We have, after all, a professional army -- and a professional
army ought not to lose its edge so quickly and easily.
There is a base suspicion that we are going to war against Iraq because that
is the only war we can win. We can't win the war against Al Qaeda because Al
Qaeda strikes from the shadows and disappears into them. We can't win a war
against North Korea because it has nuclear weapons. Indeed, the danger from
North Korea is far more clear, present and compelling than the danger from
Iraq, and our different treatment of the two countries is a potent incentive
for other rogue states to develop their own nuclear arsenals.
How have we gotten into this tragic fix without searching debate? No war has
been more extensively previewed than this one. Despite pro forma
disclaimers, President Bush's determination to go to war has been apparent
from the start. Why then this absence of dialogue? Why the collapse of the
Democratic Party? Why let the opposition movement fall into the hands of