Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul makes hay out of the acknowledged fact that “Today, the Middle East is less stable than in 2003″. But what does that really demonstrate? That Bush was wrong to lead us in, or that Obama squandered our success there? The Middle East, Iraq in particular, was more stable in 2008 than it was in 2003. After 5 years of Obama, the entire world is less secure and holds the USA in lower esteem (enemies don’t fear us and friends don’t trust us) than before 9/11. Far from indicting Bush and neo-conservatism, these facts repudiate the isolationists, anti-Americanism, and the Left–Barack Obama in particular.
After 2008, Iraq had fallen off the radar. For five years, stories about Iraq rarely made the front page of any American newspaper. The number of U.S. servicemen and women killed dropped two thirds from 904 in 2007 to 304 in 2008, fell by half again in 2009, and by more than half yet again in 2010 to just 60. No news is good news; Joe Biden was ready to take credit on behalf of Obama for this foreign policy success. ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell were partnering with the Iraqi national oil ministry in Business-as-Usual mode. As Fouad Ajami, the Lebanese-born American, put it in his January 9, 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Bush of Arabia‘, “There is Shiite primacy, Kurdish autonomy in the north, and a cushion for the Sunni Arabs — in fact a role for that community slightly bigger than its demographic weight.” This is about as close to success as foreign policy ever gets on an imperfect planet Earth as opposed to a Kindergarden of Eden.
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As for the Iraqis’ presumed nostalgia for Saddam Hussein’s stable and predictable regime, Iraqi citizens who were suspected of being insufficiently in love with their leader could rely on the stable predictability of their eventual torture and/or extermination. The hundreds of thousands of victims of Saddam Hussein’s genocide and their families do not miss him. If they are unhappy with us, it is because in their estimation, we botched the job.
The Libertarians go far beyond just Iraq or Vietnam to indict the USA and Great Britain for the crime and folly of colonialism. But was Britain’s ‘intervention’ in Hong Kong for 100 years an abject failure? More broadly, was the entirety of the British Empire’s world dominance a colossal mistake, if not evil? Certainly we can cite many failures and even atrocities committed by the British around the world in the past 300 years. But is that the same as saying that on net balance, the alternatives actually available then would indisputably have been better? Today, 8 of the top 12 most prosperous and free nations in the world are former British colonies and/or English-speaking nations–the heirs of the Magna Carta. Chile is one of the noted exceptions, thanks largely in part to its adoption of free-market principles that originated in the Anglo-Saxon world. More people speak English (or study it at least) in China than the entire population of the United States. Former British colonies have thrived in proportion to how well they have adopted the principles learned from their former overlords. This is not a lost experiment.
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