Like many of her Democratic colleagues, Sen.
Dianne Feinstein is calling for a timetable to exit Iraq. That is not enough.
The longer we stay, the more Americans will be killed and the greater will be
the burden on the American taxpayer and the U.S. military. As we have seen recently,
with the recall
of former Marines to active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is
stretched too thin. Were the U.S. to face a genuine crisis, not the made-up
one of Iran, we would not have the resources needed to deal with it adequately.
The sooner the U.S. leaves Iraq, the more secure the American public will be
from an attack on American soil. The only purpose in staying in Iraq is to postpone
admitting that we have lost the war. How many of our soldiers have to die before
we inevitably face the truth?
Even if we were to pull out before the end of this year, our departure would
not be enough. Feinstein and others have argued that we must keep troops in
the area, in Kuwait and elsewhere. The Bush administration still has not given
up on the idea of maintaining military bases in Iraq indefinitely. Leaving our
soldiers in the area is asking for trouble. As long as our troops are stationed
in Muslim countries, we will be subject to assault. In Lebanon
in 1983, 241 U.S. servicemen died when Hezbollah staged a suicide bombing. Even
though our Marines were in Somalia in the early '90s to bring humanitarian supplies
to the people, they were waylaid and forced out. In 1996, Osama
bin Laden called for Muslims to drive the Americans out of the holy lands
of Saudi Arabia. His express purpose for 9/11 was to force our retreat from
the land of Mecca, the holiest
site in Islam.
Although it is especially important to remove our forces from Muslim countries,
it would be advantageous to bring them home from other overseas bases as well.
Why do we need troops in Germany? The Cold War is over. Why do we need troops
in Japan? Is it to intimidate the Chinese or the North Koreans? In Okinawa,
among other places, the local population strongly objects to the presence of
our military, which also breeds resentment in neighboring countries, many of
whom feel threatened.
Terrorists have not attacked Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, or many
other nations that have no military presence in the Muslim world. The fable
that Muslims are attacking us because they don't like our democracy or our freedoms
implies that they should also be bombing Stockholm and Geneva, which are less
protected and easier to attack than New York City or London. Clearly those cities
and nations have little to fear from al-Qaeda.
This does not mean that the U.S. should become an isolationist state. Isolationism
was originally embodied in the U.S. rejection of the League
of Nations. Pulling back our troops to our own land would not preclude our
participation in such international bodies as the United Nations, the World
Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. Moreover,
with the budget savings that a less aggressive foreign policy would make possible,
we could provide greater help to poor countries and those suffering from AIDS
or natural catastrophes. Having a smaller military budget would strengthen our
economy, already the globe's strongest, while giving us a great deal of influence
in the world. In fact, posing no threat to other nations would likely increase
our sway over them.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency for powerful countries to want to exercise
their power. As we all know, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In the late 18th century and early 19th century, Britain became the world's
major power and created a huge empire. The U.S. today has close to absolute
power. As a result, the temptation is compelling to impose our will on others,
always in the name of freedom or democracy. Historical precedents abound. As
Stephen Kinzer outlined
America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq, the U.S., starting
in the last decades of the 19th century, began to exert its power over weaker
countries. The U.S. has also built much of its empire without direct rule: we
just put "our sons-of-bitches" in power.
Regrettably, many people feel a patriotic urge to "fly the flag"
around the world. Resisting the temptation to interfere militarily in other
countries would be difficult. Can it be done? From an optimist's point of view
it seems likely that, if the U.S. scaled back its military to a level that would
allow us simply to defend our shores, this nation might become the "city
upon a hill." We could even wind up with more influence than we can
achieve through military might. We would certainly have a more peaceful globe.