Edward Luce has a very strange recollection of the last 15 years:
The US public turned against overseas militarism when the Iraq war began to go wrong under George W Bush. It has stayed that way ever since. Fifteen years on, it is easy to presume American “non-interventionism” has become the settled view of its people. But US history – and common sense – suggests that the climate can switch rapidly from cold to hot when confronted with new facts. Think of what happened after 9/11. Now imagine hordes of Ukrainians fleeing as Russian tanks churn up their towns this winter.
I wish it were true that there had been a sharp turn against “overseas militarism” back then, but this doesn’t describe public opinion or U.S. policies during the last 15 years. The public definitely did turn against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but within just a few years of withdrawing the bulk of U.S. forces from Iraq there was broad public support for bombing ISIS in Iraq and then in Syria. This supports Luce’s point that public opinion is fickle and changeable on these issues, but it also makes the rest of his column seem rather odd.
Luce imagines that China and Russia are intent on taking advantage of what he calls American “sullenness,” but this seems like an absurdly American-centric way of understanding their views. The Russian government is not convinced that the U.S. has turned non-interventionist. The current crisis is the result of their assumption that the U.S. and NATO are too involved in Ukraine, and the Russian government is now insisting that this change. There is misreading going on here, but it is a Western misreading of the causes of the crisis.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.