Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Preventive warSpeaking of The American Prospect, Paul Starr's article in the 05/04/06 edition, Next Stop Iran?, opens with an important point, one that isn't discussed nearly enough. It's something that Andrew Bacevich explores at some length in The New American Militarism (2005). And that's the relationship between today's Bush Doctrine of preventive war and Cold War nuclear preemptive-strike strategies. Starr writes more specifically about a related notion of "rollback":
During the early Cold War, while right-wingers called for the rollback of Soviet communism, the strategists of containment argued that the United States ought to be patient, confident that internal forces would weaken communism from within and that the "gravitational" force of a revived Western Europe would eventually draw Moscow's satellites out of its orbit. It took decades, but the strategy worked. We can only imagine the toll in human life if the advocates of rollback had been in charge and led the West into war with Russia.I would say that the neoconservative version of preventive war stems more directly from the nuclear strategies favored by some hardliners during the Cold War. But the point that Starr makes is valid. The preventive war approach was not the policy that provided whatever success the United States can legitimately claim in the Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union. He concludes:
More generally, America needs to devise an exit not just from Iraq, but from the spiral of antagonism with the Islamic world. The president has brilliantly combined lectures on the desirability of democracy in the Middle East with policies guaranteed to inflame popular majorities against us. Another preventive war would make that antagonism worse. But there is another possibility. If we can get out of the vicious cycle created by Bush’s misconceived efforts to project force, the West’s freedom and prosperity may begin to exert their gravitational pull. As the architects of Cold War strategy understood, those are our really powerful weapons.
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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