Hawks for Peace
(The American Conservative) -- by W. James Antle III --
As President Barack Obama assures the country that the war in Iraq is winding down, a sigh of relief is emanating from the unlikeliest corner: the conservatives who have for more than seven years been the war’s staunchest supporters.
It’s not exactly that conservatives have had second thoughts about Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, the “cut and run” Democrats, or the need to project military power after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What they have come to doubt, however, is those aspects of the Bush Doctrine that come dressed in Wilsonian garb.
However reluctant conservatives may be to question retroactively the justice of our Bush-era wars, many are beginning to wonder if our prolonged occupations and nation-building exercises are worth American blood and treasure. Are our recently acquired colonies in Iraq and Afghanistan, they might ask, merely children who will never grow up?
Some of this is mere partisan opportunism, as when Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele advised candidates at a Connecticut GOP fundraiser that they should disown Afghanistan — initially invaded under George W. Bush with near unanimous Republican support — as “a war of Obama’s choosing.” Translation: Let whatever goes wrong in Afghanistan be the Democrats’ problem for a change.
When Ann Coulter defended Steele against criticism from, among others, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, she took pains to distinguish Bush’s fine Republican war-making from Obama’s pusillanimous imperial time-wasting. This is unsurprising, as there is a long history of otherwise hawkish conservatives having distaste for what Bob Dole once described as “Democrat wars.”
Other mainstream conservatives are honestly starting to ask what we are accomplishing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is propping up Hamid Karzai or refereeing a political dispute between Nouri al-Maliki and Iyad Allawi really the great civilizational struggle between the West and radical Islam?
Many prominent conservative hawks are saying no. One naysayer is Washington Times columnist Diana West who has claimed, among other things: no, we are not winning in Iraq; no, the surge did not work; no, a comparable surge will not work any better in Afghanistan. She’s even willing to criticize Gen. David Petraeus, something that can get you in trouble with Republican writers of nonbinding congressional resolutions.
“Judging by the 99-0 Senate vote that confirmed Petraeus as Afghanistan commander last week, another Iraq is precisely what America wants,” West wrote, “as though Iraq were an American ‘victory’ worth the cost, human and monetary, of repeating.” West is not alone. No less a hawk than National Review Online’s Andrew McCarthy complained, “We went [to Iraq] to topple Saddam; we stayed to build an Islamic ‘democracy,’ and the result is an Iranian satellite.”
“Nation-building is the most prominent — and most important — part of the neocon doctrine,” wrote Jed Babbin in the American Spectator. “And the decision to pursue it is the principal reason that we are losing in Afghanistan, Iraq is falling apart, and the real enemy — the terror-sponsoring nations — have grown stronger.”
None of these writers can accurately be described as a budding noninterventionist. But most conservatives who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning and favored no more than a limited mission in Afghanistan can agree with them on the following: neither Islam nor foreign lands can easily be reformed by either bureaucrats or the force or the force of arms; our interventions have produced something closer to sharia states than Switzerland’s; Iran is now more powerful in the region rather than less...MORE...LINK