The Bush Administration's Radical Bellicosity

News at Home

Ms. Appleby, professor emerita of history at UCLA, is a former president of the American Historical Association and a writer for the History News Service.

The entanglement of the United States in Middle East politics gets tighter and tighter with every turn of events. Although the destruction of the World Trade Center burst upon us as a totally unsuspected development, the September attack in fact came after 50 years of American involvement in the affairs of Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq, not to mention Israel.

As President Bush poises our armed forces to take action against Iraq should that nation fail to comply with UN arms inspectors, one arresting question remains unanswered: should the United States be aggressively policing the world like this or do the needs at home deserve our leaders' full attention? The query itself has an interesting history.

It is an ironic twist from the past that the first congressional discussion of Muslim culture turned on the same foreign policy issue that is embroiling the country right now. In a debate about helping the Greeks in their revolt against the Ottoman Turks in 1821, members of Congress asked if the United States should pursue its values by promoting them abroad or by cultivating them at home -- what we might shorthand to "over there-ism" and "over here-ism."

The Greek effort to throw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire at first seemed doomed to failure. But the longer the Greeks held out, the more their independence movement took on the aura of humanity's indomitable fight for freedom. By 1824 American citizens had become involved. The American "Hellenes" began to hold public meetings, send clothes and medicine to the Greek rebels and petition their representatives to pledge American support for the heroic struggle of the Greeks.

But caution carried the day in 1824; the House defeated the resolution promising moral support. Those who resisted the temptation to aid the Greeks persuaded their colleagues that the greatest contribution Americans could make to democratic self-government was by cultivating democracy at home.

Virginia's John Randolph summed up the issue in words that are relevant today when he insisted that the United States could best help mankind "not by its crusade to establish the empire of our principles, not by establishing a corps of diplomatic apostles of liberty, but by the moral influence of its example." The country followed this advice through the nineteenth century.

We could act on this wisdom today, but it would require shaking free of the precedents established in the past hundred years when the United States became the powerful Western hub for European interests. It became that hub only after a century of isolation from the rest of the world, isolation ended by the two World Wars. By 1945, the United States was the largest and most prosperous country in the Free World. Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany had exhausted themselves in the two devastating wars.

The ensuing Cold War intensified our sense of acting on a world stage when we became the principal champion of freedom in a global struggle with the Soviet Union and its Communist allies. Both the Soviet Union and America's European allies had already established outposts around the world, so few countries in the Third World escaped the conflicts between the First and Second Worlds after the hot war merged into cold.

Now, thirteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which symbolically brought an end to the Cold War, we have a chance to consider the wisdom of cultivating our principles at home instead of "over there." Americans have rightly felt vulnerable since September 2001, but the intensified fear of terrorism could just as easily serve conservative foreign policy goals as the Bush administration's radical bellicosity. Pulling back from further warfare would not only soothe both our allies and opponents, it would also focus Americans' attention on the concrete measures they could take to make us safer at home.

The sober message of conservatives in 1824 was that the country's "first and most important duty" was to maintain peace. It's again within the realm of possibilities that we adopt that as America's first principle. With the attention and revenue spared through a disentanglement from the Middle East, the United States could become that exemplar of freedom, justice, restraint and tolerance that the world's peoples yearn to see.

This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.

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DAN ZION - 2/25/2003


Michael - 1/23/2003

Charles Rostkowski. Who is he ?

John M. Peters - 12/6/2002

The nucleus of all middle east peace initiatives in the past 30 years has been the attempt to bring Arabs and Jews to coexistence. How ironic.

The popular myth is that Arabs and Jews have always been trying to kill each other. The truth is exactly the opposite.

Living for centuries as a distinct and recognizeable minority in the Arab world, Jews have enjoyed greater security and prosperity than Jews who now live in Israel.

One of the first steps taken by Muslims after ousting the Romans from Jerusalem, was to permit the Jews to re-enter and rebuild their Temples.

During the Spanish Inquisition, retreating Muslims gave shelter to Jews fleeing Christian barbarism, resulting in the significant Jewish community of Morocco.

Following the defeat of Ottoman Turkey in World War I, the General Syrian Congress passed a resolution on July 2,1919, regarding its desire for independence. Article 7 of which provided that "Our Jewish fellow-citizens shall continue to enjoy the rights and to bear the responsibilities which are ours in common."

The subsequent recommendations of the King-Crane Commission (appointed by President Wilson) urged the geographic unificiation of Syria (then consisting of modern day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and all of Palestine/Israel). It also lobbied for the rejection of the proposed Jewish State in Palestine, with the Jewish population of Syria to remain a part of the ethnic mix of the country. To do otherwise, they cautioned, would mean the imposition of a Jewish State by force, open Arab hostility and would require an initial military deployment of at least 50,000 soldiers to enforce it.

The recommendations were rejected by the British and French who proceeded with their cynical plan to divide post-war Syria into pieces, divided up between the British and French. The British also proceeded to expedite the Zionist plan for the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. With United States backing, the U.N. exceeded its own Charter, voting to formally divide Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State. Israel decalred its independence the next day. The rest, as they say, is history.

For decades thereafter, relations between Jews and Arabs would never be the same. Many Jews suddenly found themselves unpopular residents of angry Arab nations, and emigrated to Israel or the west. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs had already been uprooted by the Zionists and turned to refugees. Others, who refused to be bullied away, remain as second class citizens in Israel or under occupation by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza.

Now great minds and diplomats insist that Arabs and Jews must find a way to coexist. How novel!

If alive today, Messrs. King and Crane might be heard to say: "We told you so." Who could blame them?

Steve Seater - 12/5/2002

George W. Bush, aka, the Shrub, is following a blueprint prepared for him and the rest of the War Party-- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Pearl-- by the bellicose, neo conservative think tank the Project for a New American Century. The report entitled " Rebuilding America's Defenses", called for America to "secure" the entire Middle East and to invade Iraq whether or not Saddam was there. All the things the Shrub has done regarding national security, including his call to immediately deploy an unbelievably costly and technically unprovenl balistic missile defense system, reward the Pentagon with countless added billions, develop an aggressive and bullying new nuclear posture that goes so far as to call for new kinds of nukes, etc. is all advised in the above report given to him and the War Party before he was even elected. The Shrub and company are pushing for world domination and because of 911 they are succeeding. They believe that nobody will be able to stand up to our military juggernaut, and they are right. But as in the past, the tactics of war will change. Increased terrorism will be the weapon of our enemies and the world will be a much more dangerous place for Americans and her allies. Steve Seater

Douglas Bissell - 11/25/2002

OK, I have. According to a Latin dictionary, professor is a masculine noun, and adjectives agree with nouns in gender. Have the Romans changed their mind in the several decades since this dictionary was published?

It would have been useful if you had shared your wisdom with me on this issue, rather than going for the easy quip. On the other hand, I realize that Herodotus didn't know Latin.

Mike Tennant - 11/21/2002

Since you asked for corrections. . .

The U. S. has been interfering in Iraq for decades. Just to take the case of Saddam Hussein, though, he was installed with the assistance of the CIA and was kept in power throughout the 1980s by a constant supply of U. S. weapons and other assistance. That's why there was no hue and cry when he "gassed his own people" (the Kurds): The gas he was using had been supplied by the U. S.

Saddam's "bellicose behavior"--which consisted of taking Kuwait, another brutal dictatorship, which was stealing Iraq's oil--had been given the green light by the first Bush administration. Saddam must have been as shocked as the rest of us were to discover that he was the next Hitler. There is no reason now, and there was no reason then, for Saddam to be the enemy of the U. S. Our government made him our enemy.

On the other hand, had it not been for our government's interference in Iran so many years ago (and I'm not convinced it isn't still occurring to some degree), there would have been no need to install and prop up Saddam in the first place. He was there to counter the militant Islamic government of Iran, which came to power because of the Iranians' hatred of the U. S. puppet known as the Shah.

See how one bit of foreign interference begets another, which begets still another, and so on, until the various illegitimate children of U. S. foreign affairs begin fighting with each other and then turn on their father when he tries to punish them for it? What was it Shakespeare said about weaving a tangled web?

Foreign aid and weapons have almost certainly gone to the other countries you mention. This year Egypt, for one, received $2 billion in aid; and last year they got $1.3 billion in military assistance and $655 million in economic assistance. Jordan received $75 million in military financing and $150 million in economic assitance in 2001. Perhaps even worse, the Taliban got $40 million of our money in May of 2001! Apparently they didn't play ball with their financiers, though, and got taken out later that year.

The U. S. does next to nothing to "promot[e] the human rights of Muslims" or to foster "peace in the Middle East." The best that can be said is that our government's good efforts are canceled out by its bad ones. From propping up Saddam Hussein, the Shah (way back when), the Taliban, the Israeli government, the House of Saud, Osama bin Laden (in earlier days), Musharraf, and other dictators and oppressors to murdering Afghans and Iraqis and conspiring in the murder of Palestinians and Kurds, our government has done far more to destroy the human rights of Muslims and foment war in the Middle East than it has ever done for peace.

Oystein Hetland - 11/20/2002

Yes, I am a European. And yes, I am critical to the U.S. And yes, I think that Appleby is right. Why? Because at the moment you seem like a giant trampling through a village, not understanding why some small villagers stick spears in your foot.

Consider this scenario: You are perhaps driving to work from say, Virginia, to Washington D.C. On the way you are stopped three times, being checked for weapons or any other "suspicious" material. You notice that the person next to you, who happens to be another nationality, walks straight through. This involves waiting. A lot of waiting, and humilation by a 19-year old boy. Driving back from work, same procedure. When you get home, you find out that your family has been killed because the feds thought bombing your entire block was the best way to get rid of a suspected criminal. Wouldn't you too become rather annoyed with this after a while? And start asking: Why does this happen? Who supports this suppression? And then you hear that Canada is giving the feds billion after billion in weapons aid. Among those, the bomb that killed your family. This is the situation for palestinians. Every day humiliated, and denied what others have. And it may snap for you at some point. And in your anger and hatred, you turn to violence. Against Israel. Against the U.S., who supplies Israel's weapons. You hear about Bush talking about "peace and freedom". Well, that definitely is denied the palestinians.

And then Saudi-Arabia. Here American military aid is pouring in, helping maintain an old-fashion royal family that definitely has nothing to do with "freedom and liberty". What they do have a lot to do with, is oil.

And now Iraq. Supposedly, Iraq is to be invaded because of the perceived threat of a nuclear-armed Saddam. Well: Is Saddam's wish for nuclear weapons not understandable? He has a nuclear-armed neighbor, Israel, that noone will disarm, especially not the U.S., and he has a superpower hanging over his head, obviously intent on cutting it off. The only way he can feel safe, is with WMDs. Saddam giving nuclear weapons to bin Laden? Bin Laden, who hates Saddam's gut, for not being a good muslim? Who wants to abolish all secular regimes in muslim countries? No way.

And just to make one thing absolutely clear: I am not a fan of Saddam. And I don't want to romanticize people like Arafat either. But I don't think that invading a country, inserting a puppet ruler, will solve any problems. Rather, I believe that people around the world very much desire democracy, even liberal democracy. In a way, I support Francis Fukuyama's idea of the "end of history" - that the entire world will eventually become democratic. But this has got to be on people's own terms, not on some foreign power's. Iran is here the prime example. Having rid themselves of the U.S. vassal - the Shah, they established the Iranian theocracy, much because of the fact that Islam functioned as a beacon for those who loathed the Shah. The islamic revolution biggest supporters were the students. What is happening now? Iran is in the process of reforming. And who are the driving forces? The very same students. They are fed up with someone telling you what to think. It is only a matter of time before true democracy is established in Iran. But not a western democracy, but one built on their own terms.

So how could the U.S. respond to terrorism? By abolishing its double standards. I don't think many people would agree on that there is one moral standard applying to "our sons of bitches", and another to "the other sons of bitches". Sharon is just a big as terrorist as Saddam. Sabra and Shatila does not look good on your CV. You should retract your military aid to countries around the globe, including Israel and Saudi-Arabia.What is fueling Al-Qaida? Those two cases. Without the hatred emanating from those two countries toward the U.S., Al-Qaida will be left like a fish out of water.

But what are you doing? You pour money into the military, thus further increasing the violence spiral. And unless you find out that those money perhaps could be better spent on poor children in America's ghettos, you may one day wake up with a horrible hangover.

And just one final point on Kosovo: Would you accept a treaty saying that because there was some trouble between hispanics and whites in Texas, and peacekeepers would have to be sent in, they should have unrestricted access to all railways, airports, roads, and harbors in all of the U.S.A.? This, among other rather outrageous attacks on Yugoslav sovereignty, was what Milosevic was presented with.

For more info:


Mike Tennant - 11/20/2002

Hooray! Finally somebody gets it right!

"The truth is that US imperialism is a left-wing (dare one say 'socialist'?) project -- Wilson, FDR, Lyndon Johnson are its architects."

It just doesn't make sense for people who consider themselves conservatives to support offensive war, period. (Then again, neither does it make sense for them to support the "war on drugs," so perhaps consistency is a little too much to ask of those who pass for conservatives these days.) After all, those of us on the right know darn well that the federal government does absolutely zero right domestically while threatening our freedoms daily. Why should we expect it to do any less abroad? If anything, the feds are MORE likely to commit abuses outside of their own borders where there is no accountability and no appeal to the Constitution or U. S. law.

On top of that, the (endless) war furnishes an excuse for all kinds of onerous government growth at home. We've had the USA PATRIOT Act (one of the greatest misnomers ever attached to a law, notwithstanding all the "civil rights" laws that have sailed through), TIPS (stalled only temporarily), and now the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security and Office of Information Awareness. Every one of these is not only unconstitutional; it also destroys our God-given rights to liberty and property.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

Imperialism--which is precisely what is meant by "preemptive strikes," "regime change," and "spreading democracy"--is driven by the same impulse which drives leftists to use government to force people to hire those they wish not to hire, drive cars they wish not to drive, leave fallow land they wish to put to good use, etc. Those who want to use the U. S. military to remake the world in our image are no different from those who want to use the federal government to remake other Americans in THEIR own image.

Ah, but we are "promoting freedom and democracy" and "liberating the oppressed!" Hogwash! The U. S. government has played footsie with all kinds of murderous regimes over the past century, including those of Saddam Hussein and the (late?) Taliban, and it's still entangled with plenty more. Besides, I remind you of the words of John Quincy Adams: "While we are the well-wishers of everyone's liberty, we are the guarantors only of our own." We cannot and should not try to go around the world forcing governments of our own choosing (under the guise of spreading democracy) on other countries. That's imperialism, which is contrary to the American tradition--and the tradition of liberty.

David H. Miller - 11/20/2002

I notice that among the responses to Joyce Appleby's little history lesson are suggestions that she's really just a typical left-wing academic: to use Mr.Lance Gritters' phrase, an "America-hating socialist."

I'm all in favor of a bit of red-baiting when appropriate: America hating socialists are indeed evil and certainly deserve to be called to account. But in this case, the accusation is wrong.

One of Appleby's best-known works, "Capitalism and a New Social Order," is a systematic (and persuasive) argument that Jeffersonians early in the history of our Republic were not soft-headed anti-free-market agrarians but were rather principled, outspoken advocates of laissez-faire capitalism. Furthermore, in the book, Appleby makes quite clear that she approves of and admires their position.

She's no more an "America-hating socialist" than Ronald Reagan!

Furthermore, the one historical figure she quotes in her essay is "Virginia's John Randolph." Randolph was one of the most important American political figure of the early 1800s: he made his name by criticizing Jefferson for not being sufficiently Jeffersonian, for Jefferson's not being strong enough in supporting limited government and states rights.

John Randolph was as far from being an "America-hating socialist" as one can find in American history.

Indeed, among educated conservatives, Randolph has long been an historical icon: Russell Kirk, one of the founders of modern American conservatism in the 1950s, wrote an adulatory biography entitle "John Randolph of Roanoke."

The truth is that US imperialism is a left-wing (dare one say "socialist"?) project -- Wilson, FDR, Lyndon Johnson are its architects. From George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Robert Taft and Ronald Reagan the true American conservative tradition has been to protect our borders against invasion but to avoid foreign wars.

Joyce Appleby is recalling us to our country's own heritage. She's not an "America-hating socialist." She's a true loyal American.

Scott Jones - 11/18/2002

A. Lloyd writes:

"Mr. Jones, perhaps you could elaborate on your point? If you think Iraq poses zero security threat...say so."

No, I don't think that Iraq poses "zero security threat" or that the moon is made of green cheese. That is why I spoke of the "unfinished business" left behind by Bush senior, in my message (which Mr. Lloyd is invited to try to read).

Lloyd's next declaration: "I can only assume your opposition stems from the fact that you either 1. agreed with his father's policy (and don't want it changed) or 2. have no cogent argument and think it is clever to notice that father and son have different policies".

It is typical of Lloyd to "assume" the irrational as part of his incessant attempts to apologize for the blunders of Bush Junior. If I "agreed with the father's policy" would I have called it "unfinished" ?

Father Bush made a mistake in 1991 by not seeking to have Saddam captured and tried for war crimes. His mistake was understandable at the time, since this would have gone beyond the then Security Council mandate, although maybe not more so than the 11 years of "no fly zone" bombings since. Now Bush the Second wants to go back in and fix the unfixed problem. Having won the war and muffed the peace, we now have to get ready to fight another war. From where we are today this too is understandable. What did NOT make sense is the "radical bellicosity" of last summer, which Colin Powell has spent most of the fall having to undo in order to again get the UN behind us. The first Bush made an understandable oversight (in an otherwise effective response to a previously ignored problem). The second is unqualified and inept and being rescued by an experienced Secretary of State and a sympathetic British prime minister.

As for "creating an Arab democracy" I'll believe that when I read about it having been actually accomplished (in the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, for example).

I hope this suffices as an "elaboration" for any possible reader actually trying to understand things and not just score rhetorical partisan points.

S. Jones

Alec Lloyd - 11/18/2002

Mr. Jones, perhaps you could elaborate on your point? If you think Iraq poses zero security threat, if it is perfectly acceptable to leave a brutal dictator in power so long as he provides us with oil (and to hell with his oppressed subjects), say so.

As it is, I can only assume your opposition stems from the fact that you either 1. agreed with his father's policy (and don't want it changed) or 2. have no cogent argument and think it is clever to notice that father and son have different policies.

If creating an Arab democracy isn't daring, perhaps you can point out the existing ones?

Herodotus - 11/17/2002

Check your Latin. Before you post.

James Jefferson - 11/15/2002

A dissent from one point within Gus Moner's otherwise cogent comment:

His statement that, for Palestinians, their "only way to attack the might of the west, as they haven’t other means" is terrorism, does not stand up to even a moment's reflection. If the Sharon lobby weren't so busy demonizing every Arab that ever existed, they might have reminded us, including Gus, that there is an Arab party in the Knesset and many Palestinians in America. It is by no means obvious, furthermore, that the tactics of Ghandi might not work in the West Bank itself if a concerted effort were made (see the relevant chapter of Michael Moore's "Stupid White Men" for some further thoughts along those lines). Non-violent protests might also benefit from positive publicity if vested interests in the mainstream American news media were inclined towards real reporting rather than sensationalism.

James Jefferson - 11/15/2002

Not that the Vietnam War has any particular relevance to the current question of historically unprecedented unilateral, pre-emptive attacks proposed as a "doctrine" by a U.S. President-in-training, but since Lance Gritters raised it, I wonder which "America-hating", "socialist" prof conned him into thinking that massive American intervention in the Vietnam War was NOT a foreign policy mistake.

Scott Jones - 11/15/2002

Going back to finish off the the unfinished business of one's father (to get the top villian left behind in the last Gulf War) hardly seems like a "daring, dynamic leader defying conventional wisdom and doing the impossible." Or were you referring to that earlier example of daring dynamism: "we don't do nation-building"?

Alec Lloyd - 11/15/2002

Mr. Hoppton has just made Mr. Palmer’s point (why must every American foreign policy initiative involve comparisons to Vietnam?).

The same people opposing war with Iraq were convinced the Soviet Union would never collapse.

Being wrong means never having to say you’re sorry, particularly if you are a college professor. I share Mr. Palmer’s view of political activists playing at being history professors and it deeply saddens me. The humanities have already been corrupted by specialized victim studies (“womyn”, gay left-handed Appalachians of Thai descent or what have you). This process will accelerate unless the profession can get over itself and stop pretending that they alone should hold the keys to the kingdom.

As for Mr. Palmer’s doubts about Iraqi democratic prospects, it is interesting to note the shift in global environment since Ataturk’s days.

Iraq is a dictatorship, and a brutal one at that. Yet even in one of the most coercive states in the world, the ruling clique feels the need to go through the motions of democracy. Why else to explain the (rigged) referendum and (bogus) parliamentary debate?

The fact is democracy is seen as the only legitimate form of government—even by the Arab “street.” Iran has an elected parliament and reasonably free elections, they simply have no real power against the mullahs. This alone is evidence to believe that there is a deep desire for the real thing in both Iraq and Iran.

This will not be instantaneous. It may take several years of transition to build the institutions capable of sustaining democracy. However, history is replete with examples of daring, dynamic leades defying the conventional wisdom and doing “the impossible.”

Arvid Malm - 11/15/2002

"Just because a C-average American president butchers the English language does not mean that thinking historians have to silently acquiesce, or worse yet, perpetuate the atrocities."

I rather doubt that the president's speech was intended as historical analysis - rather it was a rundown of the enemies of the United States. Personally, I find it rather hard to get worked up over the use of the term "Axis" - after world war II, it is for obvious reasons rarely used as a synonym for "partnership", regardless of the dictionary definition.

Regards / Arvid Malm

Lance Gritters - 11/15/2002

As a former history undergraduate and graduate student I never cease to be amazed at the attempt of so many historians to pass of their personal partisan politics as "history". Ms. Appleby's anachronistic comparisons aside, nothing within history is going to validate her contention that the United States should be focusing on domestic issues. I seriously doubt if Al Gore or former President Clinton were in the White House Ms. Abbleby would find an immediate isolationist policy so compellingly demonstrated by her "history". The truth is that she is simply concerned with attacking the present administration by shouting the same slogans we heard from Democrats throughout the last election. Ms. Abbleby seems to believe that her social-political concerns should come before fair and honest academic discourse. I think it is shameful that someone who has been the president of the AHA would attempt to utilize their academic standing in order to spout partisan politics. In truth, however, I have had many experiences with history professors who like to use the classroom as a platform to "teach" us all the political lessons of history. On the day of the September 11 attacks one of my graduate professors immediately began a speech about the relativistic nature of terrorism, proceeding to compare the attack on the World Trade Center with the American Revolution. There is no right or wrong, it is all in how you look at it. And any perceived mistake of the United States in the past (i.e. Hiroshima, Vietnam, Latin America during the Cold War) becomes an eternal justification for present atrocities commited against its citizens. There is nothing within the field of historical study that compels a student into an anti-globalization, isolationist, relativistic, America-hating socialist, but many in the profession would like you to believe that there is. I think we can count Ms. Abbleby among them.

Max Baruch - 11/14/2002

Webster's dictionary defines "axis" as "partnership, alliance". Not similarity of troublemaking potential, PARTNERSHIP. To say that the Iranian mullahs and Saddam are part of "an axis of evil" after these two parties fought an eight year war that killed something like a million of their citizens, makes about as much sense as if Churchill were to have called for action against Hitler in the 1930s by calling Germany and France part of an "axis of continental nationalism".

Just because a C-average American president butchers the English language does not mean that thinking historians have to silently acquiesce, or worse yet, perpetuate the atrocities.

Arvid Malm - 11/14/2002

Well, I rooted for McCain myself, so I won't digress. It's just that I don't see Bush as the complete failure some people try to make him out to be. (Plus, I dislike many of his enemies - that is the main reason I stand up for him from time to time...)

Regards / Arvid Malm

-Stabil som fan!

Albert Madison - 11/14/2002

I agree with the general inference of Arvid Malm that George W. Bush is not in fact the simpleton cowboy which his poor speaking skills have implied, in the eyes of much of the world. And, as I already indicated, his predecessor made well beyond a tolerable quota of clumsy mistakes. (Which, however, is why would Americans should insist on improvement in our international relations and not cheer like half-drunk football fans every time our side manages to complete a play without a fumble.)

My point on Kosovo is that the anti-Milosevic campaign worked, in no small measure, because it had broad (not universal, nor perfectly egalitarian but widespread and broad-based) multilateral support. If the US and UN now manage to finish the unfinished business of the Gulf War (it took a good decade to neutralize Milosevic too, and he had no weapons of mass destruction to play cat and mouse with) it will be to no small degree because of patient efforts, by Americans and non-Americans, which have gradually been wearing down the President's pigheaded and amateurish go-it-alone instincts.

If a qualified leader with international experience, a John McCain for instance (who was ultimately defeated in the 2000 primaries because of what he called at the time, the "dirty money from Texas"), had entered the White House in January, 2001, it is highly doubtful that a gentlemanly UN Secretary general would now have to politely lecture a U.S. president on the basics of international diplomacy.

We are stuck with a Texas Ranger president for at least two more years. We can credit him for not making bigger mistakes than he has, and for learning from prior mistakes he and several of his predecessors have made, without pretending that he is more than a neophyte when it comes to global issues.

Arvid Malm - 11/14/2002

A few comments.

"the main stumbling block to UN action on Kosovo was the shortsighted ruling elite of Russia"

And the shortsighted ruling elite of China. That makes for two permanent members. France went along, but without enthusiasm.

"But Clinton managed an unprecedented INTERNAL intervention without Russian support, except perfunctorily near the end, whereas Bush has had to pull out all the diplomatic stops just to get the UN to put some teeth into its longstanding policies on Iraq."

If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Clinton also attempted to 'put some teeth into inspections. Several times. So the fact that Mr. Bush succeeds suddenly counts for nothing since he put 'too much' effort into the issue? Mr. Clinton's method of lobbing a few cruise missiles Iraq's way was hardly more successful, nor was it 'multilateral', as it only had Brittish support.

As for the UN:s inspection policy, it is hardly 'longstanding', as it hasn't been in effect for four years.

"Has Europe changed radically in the last 4 years"

Not really. Those 'peace protesters' you see today most likely demonstrated against Kosovo too. (Target symol and all - the Serbs were quite proficient at the propaganda game...)

Still, I think you have a point in that we should not engage in UNSC-worship - it's one institution among many.

"But America got a new President who thought before 9-11 all we needed in foreign policy was missile defense"

It's pretty easy to put somone down if you get to make up their positions for them.

"that the answer to 9-11 should be an American "crusade"

Obviously, there has not been any american "crusade". That downtrodden arabs who get a twisted interpretation force-fed through their regime-controlled media interpreted Bush's comment as if the Crusades 2.0 were in the making is understandable. You interpreting it in that manner is more likely due to you liking easy debates.

"that the way to fight Sunni terrorism was to fulminate against an "axis" of secular Iraq, Shia Iran, and grass-eating North Korea"

I'd say this is a pretty decent rundown of the main international troublemakers. Sure, someone might be left off, but placing them all on notice was hardly a bad move. Since the US went after Afghanistan, Yemen, etc. after the 911 attacks, and not North Korea, your fear of the US focusing it's efforts in the wrong place also seem to be rather unfounded.

/ Arvid Malm

-Stabil som fan!

Alec Lloyd - 11/14/2002

How many sorties did the rest of NATO provide over Serbia? If I am not mistaken, US and British airpower did almost all the heavy lifting. Just as in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, it seems antilogical to blame the US because some of its allies are faithless. This is like blaming Norway for Quisling's treason. All you are doing is reaching for a club, any club, to bash the Bush administration.

Finally, which Clinton administration policy do you hold to be a success?

Somalia is still a basket case (remember, it was Clinton who shifted the mission from UN aid to a hunt for Aidid)
North Korea now has nuclear weapons,
China has improved ballistic missile technology,
A nuclear rivalry has sprouted in the Indian subcontinent, and
A global terrorist movement was emboldened by his half-hearted responses to kill thousands.

The Good Friday Agreement and Oslo Accords both collapsed before Clinton left office and his celebrated Kyoto Treaty was rejected across the globe (and unreservedly by the Senate).

The Columbian "Peace Process" resulted in building unprecedented power for FARC and its narcoterrorist allies.

Seriously, if this is success, what would failure look like?

James Thornton - 11/14/2002

A link describing Blue Bat can be found at: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/ops/index.html#20

Bill Herbert - 11/14/2002

Actually, the U.S. only accounts for 15% of Saudi oil exports, which is second to Japan, and really not that far ahead of Western European countries, when population is accounted for.

We do buy most of the oil Iraq legally exports, however.

But these are both moot points. The people responsible for these wanton acts of murder are as irate about East Timor being granted independence and the "tragedy of Andalusia" as they are over our foreign policy -- for which we have nothing to be ashamed or feel guilty.

James Thornton - 11/14/2002

Thanks for the compliment, but I do not hold a doctorate in history. I am an Air Force intelligence analyst. Thanks for your service to our nation. I hope our generation can serve as well as yours.

Most respectfully,

James Thornton

Bob Hoppton - 11/14/2002

"History is clear on the matter: if it was in our interests AND we possessed the requisite means to act, we acted. If it wasn't, we didn't" it is intoned.

Beware monocausality, my high school history teacher used to tell us. And sweeping generalizations, the English teacher would add.

How, for example, was it in "America's interests" to sacrifice billions of dollars and 50,000 lives in Vietnam ? Couldn't we have trained Colin Powell and John McCain some other way ?

Mike Palmer's point about the "opponents of this war" failing to "marshall the legitimate arguments" is very well taken. But historians are not the only ones to blame here.

Americans suffered the most horrible attack in the country's history last year, we have one of the most incompetent and inexperienced presidents ever (at least in the international arena where he has to be coached by the ministers of other countries) and the general public seems incapable of thinking beyond flagwaving and making "heroes" out of some brave firefighters who should not have died, and would not have, had their higher-ups done their jobs properly.

The "shame" goes way beyond the often "shallow" historical analyses found on HNN.

John Paul Baez - 11/14/2002

Read a bit of history yourself, Mr. Rostkowski and you'll discover that things are not as black and white or as repetitive as you seem to think.

The reason for setting a good example is not "change the minds" of a few thousand committed lunatics but to not act like lunatics ourselves, and through our ignorance cause sympathy for our enemies on the part of billions of uncommitted Moslems.

J. Baez

J. Barlett - 11/13/2002

Mideast rulers may not "rely on U.S. assistance for their legitimacy" but they do rely on the U.S. economically. The dictatorial rulers of Saudi Arabia (for example) would have billions of dollars less to annually spend on weapons or to support Al Qaeda if America could manage to reduce its per capita energy consumption to the level of Germany, France, or Japan. If this seems unreasonable, take a look at the one-person-carrying SUVs next time you're stuck in commuter traffic, and try to convince yourself we are doing all we can.

Albert Madison - 11/13/2002

I'm not here to defend the Clinton foreign policy record, but having a bumbling multilateralist succeeded by a bumbling unilateralist is not a recipe for successful long term promulgation of American interests abroad.

The Kosovo parallel illustrates how things have gone from bad under Clinton to worse under Bush. As in the recent Iraq question, the main stumbling block to UN action on Kosovo was the shortsighted ruling elite of Russia. But Clinton managed an unprecedented INTERNAL intervention without Russian support, except perfunctorily near the end, whereas Bush has had to pull out all the diplomatic stops just to get the UN to put some teeth into its longstanding policies on Iraq.

The difference is that while Clinton, like Bush, faced opposition from Russia, he had fairly solid support from the REST OF EUROPE, and thus could use NATO instead of the UN to go after Miloosevic. The contrast with Bush could hardly be starker, since he’s managed to get very little support within Europe for toppling Saddam except from Tony Blair and corrupt officials in Italy.

Has Europe changed radically in the last 4 years ? I doubt it. But America got a new President who thought before 9-11 all we needed in foreign policy was missile defense, that the answer to 9-11 should be an American "crusade", that the way to fight Sunni terrorism was to fulminate against an "axis" of secular Iraq, Shia Iran, and grass-eating North Korea, and who talked last summer about regime change in Iraq "with or without" the support of international bodies, before bothering to consult Congress or the UN because "you don't launch new products before Labor Day".

Clinton's faults were legion, but he was not THAT inept.

Mike Palmer - 11/13/2002

You can dress Joyce Appleby's commentary up any way you wish, but the bottom line is that she is professing "isolationism" along almost identical lines to, of all people, Pat Buchanan. Unfortunately, the big problem with what Appleby writes is that it's, simply put, very, very bad history.

First, it's 2002 and not the 1820s, and this "war" isn't about our Middle Eastern policy, it's about, as Richard Reid the "shoe-bomber" put it, a struggle between "Islam and democracy." Professor Appleby needs to read what bin Laden's been saying for the past six years. He wants to destroy the West, kill "Crusaders and Jews," and reestablish an Islamic caliphate. His right-hand-man, Ayman al Zawahiri wants "Andalusia" back. Is Dr. Appleby prepared to surrender Spain to Al Qaeda? What about Sicily and the Balkans? Is she prepared to watch as Osama's revived caliphate destroys Israel as a state and slaughters millions of Jews? Appleby writes: "Although the destruction of the World Trade Center burst upon us as a totally unsuspected development, the September attack in fact came after 50 years of American involvement in the affairs of Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq, not to mention Israel." What? While Joyce Appleby ponders the last 50 years, Osama and his band of killers are still talking about the Crusades and the loss of Spain. Earth to Joyce! Earth to Joyce! The United States did not even exist in the 11th century that so infuriates and motivates Osama.

I might also add that Appleby doesn't know what she's talking about with regard to the Greek revolt and American policy. Our unwillingness to support the Greek revolt was not brought about solely, or even primarily, because of our determination to remain "isolated." That was, to a degree, a factor. But other important factors also shaped the decision. First, the United States did not possess the ability in the 1820s to project sufficient power into the eastern Mediterranean to make a difference. Second, Greek pirates were annoying our Mediterranean trade. Third, we had a growing trade with the Ottoman Empire that we feared we would lose if we officially supported the Greeks. Fourth, asserting an American right to intervene in European affairs would have undermined the "Monroe Doctrine" of 1823 that called for an end to European intervention over here. Fifth, we were aware that forces in Europe, far more powerful than the United States, were moving to support an independent Greece. In other words, if we didn't take care of the problem, someone else would, and did by 1829. In short, the decision NOT to support the Greeks was classic realpolitik, i.e. an expression of American national self-interest, and not simply the voice of isolationism epitomized by John Randolph.

Moreover, the Greek Revolt was NOT this country's first run-in with Middle Eastern problems, as Appleby suggests below. Our first post-1783 treaty was with Morocco. We started trading "arms for hostages" in 1796, the first year of American arms sales to the Middle East. I wonder why Appleby didn't mention the Tripolitan War of 1801-1805? The United States wasn't unwilling to intervene in old world affairs in that crisis. And we did so again in 1815-1816 against Algiers. History is clear on the matter: if it was in our interests AND we possessed the requisite means to act, we acted. If it wasn't, we didn't.

The shame of this debate is that the opponents of this war seem unable to marshal the legitimate arguments (and, I might add, historical facts) that could, and maybe should, be made against it. There are enormous risks involved with the policy that we are pursuing. History demonstrates that wars have a nasty habit of developing their own momentum and taking wholly unforeseen directions. Based on my knowledge of the region, I could very easily construct a horrifying scenario, without having to grossly exaggerate casualty rates, for what might follow our strike against Iraq. The history of the Middle East provides no--zero--example of anyone attempting successfully in the Arab world what Ataturk did in Turkey. (And I would add that Ataturk had to force people, using means that we would not tolerate, to abide by his decrees.) I would have been impressed if Appleby, or any historian who opposed the administration's policy, had written an essay pointing out the lengths to which we might have to go to establish, by force, a secular republic in the Arab world. After all, Saddam Hussein's party, the Ba'ath, started out as would-be secular republicans and look at the tactics they developed to retain their control over the country. I could go on.

Unfortunately, all most of the opponents of the war seem capable of doing is to attack Bush, claim that the war's all about oil and SUVs, and provide some shallow historical commentary that would, at best, earn a C in any upper level History course. Is this the best our profession can do?

Mike Palmer

Levendus - 11/13/2002

"I’ll explain how the general climate would have been better with multilateral behaviour. All US allies would be on board, and the goodwill earned after 9/!! Wouldn’t have been squandered. Thus, the climate of perennial tension and war would be permeating less. The inspections would anyway have gone on. What’s wrong with that?"

Just a thought, but maybe America's true allies are on board and always have been. As far as goodwill is concerned, it seems to have been rather shallow once it was seen that America was not going to do things like our European "allies" thought they should be done.

Finally, without any credible threat of force, from whence comes the confidence that the weapons inspections would have taken place?

Arvid Malm - 11/13/2002

Erm, the fact that other nations contributed little to the Afghan war effort has much more to do with the fact that most western armies, besides the US and UK ones, are ill suited to expiditionary warfare. Most European nations now have a significant amount of forces in Afghanistan, in a policing role. For actual warfare however, our militaries are mostly geared towards teritorial defense and peacekeeping. This in turn means that you should direct any comments regarding the lack of participation in the Afghan conflict to the respective european governments. The EU is aware of the problem however, and have proposed various remidies. The problem is that these remidies are expensive, and at the moment, Europe appears to be more than willing to spend our cash on other things than a sparkly new rapid-reaction force.

Regards / Arvid Malm

-Stabil som fan!

Levendus - 11/13/2002

Not only is isolationism not a practical option, it is wholly unnecessary. The geopolitical exigencies extant in 1824 are no longer. In 1824 the US had been independent for a mere 50 years and had to re-fight their colonial rulers just 12 years prior. In 2002 the US has the military/economic capability to intervene wherever it is necessary. Now we are not faced with an either/or situation. We can do both.

Gus Moner - 11/13/2002

Perhaps you are right, choosing inwards in whimsical. Nevertheless, better to work on the reasons we are being attacked as well as working on defeating the attackers, at the same time, with the same effort. Might not these be the right scenarios for the “concrete measures to make us safer at home"?

Gus Moner - 11/13/2002

Read the resolution. Attack Iraq, remove Hussein and control the government (and the oil) is nowhere to be read. Bush has an agenda, the rest of the world another.

Gus Moner - 11/13/2002

Well, this is a beautiful assessment. “…with no bases or allies worthy of the name, the United States utterly destroyed a hostile theocracy in its isolated mountain fortress”. Afghanistan’s theocracy was removed by the Russian re-armed Northern Alliance with US help. The US could NEVER have done it at least until summer 2002 without them, for exactly the lack of bases and the enormous logistics of invading a country.

Almost the same numbers of Afghan women wear their Burkas as before. Some Afghan women in Kabul are going to school. However, life for the Afghans is practically the same, just less brutal perhaps. The same tribal forces rule the land now as before, their level of freedom is hardly changed.

The UN vote and the UN way is the same. The US, however, intent on war, will anyway find the excuse to attack. The vote is the window dressing for that attack. Collapsing the legally elected Arafat is not necessarily a good thing. Remember, Sharon is a terrorist too. Finally, al Quaeda remains operational, in conditions I suspect are better than you describe.

I’ll explain how the general climate would have been better with multilateral behaviour. All US allies would be on board, and the goodwill earned after 9/!! Wouldn’t have been squandered. Thus, the climate of perennial tension and war would be permeating less. The inspections would anyway have gone on. What’s wrong with that?

Bill Heuisler - 11/13/2002

Never have I read a more cogent demonstration of history and dialectic. Speeding joyfully through the nimble, well-written prose, I discovered I had participated in an operation called Blue Bat in 1958. We were told to dig in on a Lebanese hilltop and prepare to fight, but they never told us the name of our endeavor. Thank you for the journey, Dr. Thornton.
Bill Heuisler

Gus Moner - 11/13/2002

Acts of terrorism eradicated from Japan? Bad example. What of the 60's Red Faction, the Sarin gas tunderground attack? Just to name two. Anyway don't fall into the trap that what works in Japan works in Iraq.

Gus Moner - 11/13/2002

Perhaps it’s difficult to comprehend that if you get on well with people and trat them with respect, they probably won’t be aggressive. The rhetorical question about Nazi Germany is and old cliché, yet it’s good for argument. Getting on did not work when tried and we all know that. However, the Middle East is not Germany. There are different relationships at work there, but incredibly there are parallels also to the analogy you put forward.

Hitler rose to power on the injustices caused by the enemy victors with the WWI peace treaty’s onerous terms. They interfered with their territorial integrity and stifled economic development, controlling internal aspects of their sovereignty such as military spending. Whether you believe these terms were onerous or not (history says yes, look at the difference with the 1949 peace treaty) it is indisputable that the madman rode these issues, as well as communism and anti-Semitism, to power.

Their complaints are not far off the mark from Arab/Muslim complaints. The West has interfered with their territorial integrity, imposing shahs, sheiks and princes on people and lands, drawing bizarre boundaries and imposing 4 million Zionist settlers on them. The US is seen as ruling Persian Gulf states through the support of corrupt ruling families that siphon off incredible sums of their oil wealth. Additionally, it is perceived as occupying the land of heir holiest sites with US troops and meddling with their economic wealth and oil, considering it a patrimony of western nations, to be controlled and fought over by western states.

The west has been supporting the subjugation of the Palestinian population who live under the constant terror of endless Israeli military interventions with curfews and all. They view the Palestinian terrorists as patriots fighting for their homeland with the only weapons they have. Israelis, of course, differ. Although both forms of terrorism are appalling, both sides have failed to move in any meaningful way toward peace. The Israeli campaign has lasted 50 years and has not ended Palestinian terrorism, precisely because they are not resolving the core issues that give riser to the terrorism from both sides. Proof that this works is that when Israel and Egypt made peace, cross border tensions decreased dramatically.

Our forbearers’ collective actions during the past century have led us to this situation today. These are the grievances that have been accumulated, as they see them; we have a significant role in having developed them. What are the causes of the spiral of violence now? They want the west to feel in their flesh and blood what the Palestinians feel. This is their stated aim. Does any of it justify terrorism? No, of course it does not. I do not even want to claim their views are correct interpretations. Although they may well be, the truth is usually in between. But terrorism is their only way to attack the might of the west, as they haven’t other means.

The problem is that since the time of the Crusades the Western nations of Christendom have disdained the Muslim world. They have felt the impact of all the political machinations and interference. Unless we begin addressing these issues, we’ll never begin to eradicate the causes of terrorism. We’ll forever be living in the Orwell/Huxley future of permanent and war and vigilance, shifting enemies and fear of attacks.

Douglas Bissell - 11/13/2002

Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but this is the first time I have seen "Professor Emerita" as a title. My Latin goes a long way back, but it seems to me that the reason for "emeritus" is not that you are making some judgment about the sex of the individual, but because it modifies the masculine noun "professor." Having purged politically incorrect expressions from English (like "chairman"), do we now have to re-make Latin as well?

Richard Stevens - 11/13/2002

'And how many failed attempts by the Bush Administration to go it alone are required, before such blunders (not the occasional multilateral move to which it is dragged kicking and screaming by force of circumstance) are acknowledged by its apologists ?'

Mr. Jefferson,

There have been zero attempts by the Bush Administration to 'go it alone' and, of course, no failed attempts. Is it not fair to sugggest that the credible threat of American military intervention put the fear of irrelevance into the UN? And that that fear had produced a 17th Iraq-related resolution?

Now, Saddam apparently is convinced that he cannot ignore this resolution as he has the previous 16; now he has agreed to a strengthened inspection regimen.

It is possible that we might have achieved enhanced inspections with far-less belligerent rhetoric. It is surely wrong, however, to characterize the efforts to date as 'blunders'. If anything, is the feckless policies of the previous administration that could be so characterized.

AST - 11/13/2002

Well said.

From the examples of Germany, Japan, Korea and Viet Nam, it seems that without the removal of an evil regime, we don't get peace. We get Cold War.

You'll notice that Bush is not proposing military action against Iran or North Korea. I think this is because those two have been judged as being susceptible to diplomatic measures. But Saddam is not predictable. Prior to the Gulf War, many of the people who assure us today that he is deterred by our military might would have said he wouldn't dare invade Kuwait. He miscalculated.

If he gets nuclear weapons, who knows what he'll do? I can easily imagine him attacking Israel with nukes in order to make himself a hero throughout the Arab world.

James Thornton - 11/13/2002

I would like to begin by acknowledging how much I respect the opposing point of view that the US should not interfere in the affairs of other nations on moral grounds. However, if the US were to pursue such a policy, realism would set in and the results for the nation and the world would be disastrous. Al Qaeda and their ilk hate America for what we stand for and not for what we have done. The only way to appease them would be to convert to their form of Islam and acquiesce to their dream of a global Caliphate. Dr. Appleby and those who wish for America to withdraw from the world should therefore boycott any American corporation that markets products overseas such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Boeing, Ford, or anything made in Hollywood. She and others like her should not fuel their car with gasoline, turn off their television sets and radios, and not go to any more films. Otherwise they risk hypocrisy because even if we withdrew our overseas armed forces our culture and captitalism would continue to enrage them. The US has no other choice but to continue forward defense if it wishes to remain a prosperous and secure nation.

Dr. Appleby is writing less about the Middle East and more about the traditional tension between in American foreign policy between Isolationism (“over here-ism”) and Internationalism (“over there-ism”). Isolationism has been soundly rejected by administrations Democrat and Republican stretching back to Thomas Jefferson who chose not to pay extortion to the Barbary Pirates and employed the US Navy to guarantee the freedom to navigate the sea. American commerce is based upon this freedom and defending that freedom has also led to a quasi-war with France, the War of 1812 with Britain, American involvement in the First World War, and the confrontation with Libya over the “Line of Death” in 1986. America would not be prosperous today if it were not for a strong forward presence to guarantee the safety of shipping. The end of the Cold War demonstrated that left to its own devices the region (and the world for that matter) would return to an era akin that of the Barbary Pirates. Regional powers like Saddam’s Iraq and Iran under the Ayatollahs would seek to gain dominance, which in turn would threaten the economic prosperity of the US. Understanding that the economic prosperity of the US is the foundation for American global power, the terrorists chose the World Trade Center as a target in 1993 and 2001.

History clearly shows that American involvement in the Middle East dates at least to the Republic’s earliest days and I suggest that events of today are rooted in the sands of ancient Sumeria when somewhere around 2000-1800 BC, a semi-nomadic merchant named Abraham formed a covenant with God. Whether you practice a faith or not, it must be recognized that the Judeo-Christian faith is the very foundation that Western Civilization is built upon (by Western Civilization I take a Chinese perspective). Yahweh promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, and considering that over half the world’s population is either a Jew, Christian, or Muslim, this prophecy seems to have been fulfilled. The Bible can be disputed regarding the Patriarchs, the Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan, but archaeology clearly indicates that Israelite settlement of Palestine occurred at least by Iron I (1200 BC). The Ten Commandments and teachings of Jesus form the core of the Western moral code. Christianity synthesized with the philosophy of the ancient Greeks and Romans during the Middle Ages and the High Renaissance, which in turn led to the Enlightenment. The very principles of the American nation are founded upon the philosophies of such Enlightenment thinkers as Locke, Newton, Hobbes, Descartes, and Voltaire. Their work would have not been possible without the monastaries of the Catholic Church preserving the ideas of Greece, Rome, and Judea. The Founding Fathers did not originate ideas such as the social contract, freedom of religion and speech, or the separation of church and state in an academic vacuum. Muslim scholars in Andalusia (Spain), Egypt, Baghdad, and Palestine admittedly get little recognition for their valuable contributions to Western civilization (of which they are a part).

An interlude in American involvement in the Middle East occurs during the 19th century while Britain is the dominant world power, and America is preoccupied with Manifest Destiny and the settlement of the Frontier. At the close of the century the Spanish-American War would mark the emergence of the US as an imperial power with the annexation of Hawaii, the conquest of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, and the occupation of Cuba. The US would also force the Japanese out of isolation and send troops to China during this period of expansion.

The British would become the dominant power in the Middle East following victory in the First World War and would remain so until the conclusion of the Second World War when the torch of global leadership is passed to the US. With the onset of the Cold War the US was left with no choice but to counter Soviet designs on the region. Namely the traditional Russian desires dating from reign of Ivan the Terrible for warm water access and an Asian empire. Thus the Truman Doctrine, or containment, became the centerpiece of American foreign policy for over half a century. President Truman also immediately recognized the state of Israel after Ben Gurion’s declaration. President Eisenhower enunciated the Eisenhower Doctrine as recognition that the failure of the US not defending its interests in the Middle East would lead to unchecked Soviet expansion. He sent troops to Lebanon to restore peace (Operation Blue Bat-1958), but also condemned the British, French, and Israeli seizure of the Suez. This was at a time when the US was self –sufficient in the production of oil. Also under the Eisenhower Administration, the CIA deposed the democratically elected government of Iran and reestablished the monarchy of the Shah (1953) because it was feared that the government had socialist tendencies.

American foreign policy in the Middle East would shift again under the Nixon Administration. Nixon, realizing that America could not get directly involved in every conflict because of the situation in Vietnam began to support proxy forces to contain Soviet expansion. This became the Nixon Doctrine.

Following the Yom Kippur war and the oil embargo, President Carter established the Carter Doctrine, which declared that the US would wage war to protect its economic interests in the Middle East (oil). At the end of his presidency the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan, the Shah was deposed, and the Iranian hostage crisis humiliated the US. Camp David and the assassination of Anwar Sadat as well as Saddam’s rise to power in Iraq and the commencement of the Iran-Iraq War occur almost concurrently.

Following the Marines Barracks bombing in Lebanon the Reagan Administration decided to support Iraq In hopes of suppressing the spread of Shia Islamic Fundamentalism from Iran and constrain Soviet influence in Iraq. The US also flagged Kuwaiti tankers, and established closer ties with Saudi Arabia as Iraq and Iran began to target neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf. An Iraqi Exocet missile cripples the USS Stark and the US destroys Iranian oil platforms in retaliation for Iranian mining of shipping lanes during the “tanker war”. Throughout this time the US is funneling support to the Afghan Mujahedeen through Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. One of the Mujahedeen, Osama bin Laden, forms Al Qaeda.

Failing to conquer Iran, Saddam sues for peace and then almost immediately invades Kuwait. Bin Laden offers his services to the House of Saud, but is rejected. Thus, the US deploys forces to Saudi Arabia and initiates Operation Desert Storm to evict Iraq from Kuwait. The decision not to prosecute the war or to support internal rebellion aimed at overthrowing Saddam forces the US to maintain a military presence in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and withdrawal from Afghanistan in conjunction with the first and second intifadah’s in the occupied territories, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the conflicts in the Balkans and Chechnya, and the return of Mujahedeen to their native countries contribute to an increase in Sunni Fundamentalism. The perception in the Muslim world is that the West is waging a global war on Islam, and because the US is the leading Western nation (the Great Satan) it is held responsible.

During the Clinton Administration the UN sanctions on Iraq atrophy, and US troops are withdrawn from Somalia following the casualties suffered in Mogadishu. Flush with confidence after beating the Russians in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and perceived victories over the Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Sunni extremists turn their sights on the sole remaining superpower and commence a war of terror. Bin Laden issues his infamous fatwa to kill Americans everywhere. The housing complex at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia is struck in 1995, and the African embassy bombings take place in 1998. The Clinton Administration responds with an inconclusive criminal investigation and the lobbing of cruise missiles at empty camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Al Qaeda is further emboldened and they attack the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and the US homeland itself in 2001. This brings us now to the current war on terrorism and the brewing confrontation with Iraq on issues left unresolved from Desert Storm.

When compared to other administrations, President Bush’s foreign policy has been remarkably restrained considering the attacks of September 2001. Pearl Harbor and Nazi Germany proves that totalitarian regimes cannot be reasoned with and 9-11 and the recent disclosure by North Korea demonstrates that this fact remains unchanged today. Thus far, with the exception of Afghanistan, his administration has been almost all bark with little bite. In fact, Republican Presidents tend to use the armed forces on a smaller scale and less frequently than their Democrat counterparts. President Nixon sought to reduce direct American involvement in favor of proxy forces and concluded American involvement in Vietnam. Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) executed relatively minor operations in Grenada and Panama, and continued to rely mostly upon (albeit distasteful) proxy forces thus sparing American lives. Desert Storm was the exception rather than the rule. Compare this with President Truman sending American forces to fight in Korea, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson involving the US in Vietnam, and the US military deploying with ever increasing frequency (mostly humanitarian and nation building missions) during the Clinton Administration. President Carter is the exception to the Democrat rule, but aside the Camp David accords his foreign policy legacy is abysmal. Therefore Bush 43’s “radical bellicosity” really is not so radical at all.

Harry Eagar - 11/13/2002

"As history clearly shows, acts of terrorism cannot altogether be eradicated from the planet."
However, history shows that acts of terrorism have altogether been eradicated from Japan. This despite the fact that the Japanese have not changed their opinions that led them to rape and murder their way across east Asia.

I have no doubt that similar vigorous measures would work in the Koran Belt, too.

AST - 11/13/2002

As I recall, the Ottoman Empire lost its holdings in the Balkans and Greece after it began losing battles to Western Powers, such as Russian, France and Britain. It it hadn't been challenged militarily it would probably still exist.

Jeremy - 11/13/2002

Are you psychic? You know exactly what Bush & co are going to do? So far, the US has attacked exactly zero middle east states. The only one that it seems likely is Iraq, and we've been involved in a low level war with them for the last 10 years or so.

Has Bush acted in a manner most neoconservatives wanted, Iraq would have been invaded last year. Syria, too. Most don't want to invade Iran, since that seems likely to topple on it's own eventually.

Had Bush acted in the manner that some people wanted, most of the middle east would now be essentially a parking lot.

One of my favorite quotes from someone like that

"I'm 48 years old and I've been taxed to pay for America's nuclear arsenal my whole life. Now I want to get my money's worth."

Michael Morley - 11/13/2002

Bush administration "blunders?"

In the space of three months, from a cold start, with no bases or allies worthy of the name, the United States utterly destroyed a hostile theocracy in its isolated mountain fortress. The women of Afghanistan are free again to read, and work, and feel the sun on their faces. The children of Afghanistan are free again to fly kites and sing. The people of Afghanistan are the freest they have been in a generation.

Less than six months after the United States formally stopped paying lip service to the "Oslo peace process," the murderous Arafat kleptocracy is on the verge of collapse. The Palestinian people are closer than they have ever been to removing the terrorist culture of death which has held them back from the modern world.

Less than a year after "world opinion" condemned the "simplistic" characterization of the Hussein dictatorship and the Iranian theocracy as an "axis of evil," the UN Security Council has unanimously backed the United States, and the people of Iran are on the verge of revolution.

Meanwhile, the remaining members of al-Qaida live a hunted existence, cowering in remote caves and deserts, never knowing if a Predator lurks in the skies above.

This must be some strange definition of "blunder" not found in Webster's Dictionary.

Please explain how things would have been so much better if we'd been more "multilateral?"

Monopticus - 11/13/2002

Yes! and it only took 150 more years and UN intervention to fix the greek/turk problem


Justin Raimondo - 11/13/2002

"Is Bush acting in a 'radically bellicose' manner? Given our true capacity for mayhem, I'd say that he has acted with great restraint."

Let's see: some state-less barbarians attack the U.S., and George W. Bush and his neocon confreres want to "retaliate" by .... attacking the entire Middle East, starting with Iraq but surely not ending there. This is "retsraint" only if your name is Benjamin Netanyahu.....

In fact, we are waging a war for Israel's sake, not our own: Iraq is no threat to Americans, except those Americans who have chosen to live in the "settlements" in Israel. Saddam's WMD -- if they exist -- can't reach New York or Los Angeles, but certainly Tel Aviv is within range.

Let's start putting America first by going after the REAL enemy: Osama bin Laden. Let Ariel Sharon go to war with Saddam Hussein if he so chooses (certainly the IDF has the military capability, thanks to the American taxpayers and Israel's amen corner in the U.S.....)

Justin Raimondo - 11/13/2002

"Is Bush acting in a 'radically bellicose' manner? Given our true capacity for mayhem, I'd say that he has acted with great restraint."

Let's see: some state-less barbarians attack the U.S., and George W. Bush and his neocon confreres want to "retaliate" by .... attacking the entire Middle East, starting with Iraq but surely not ending there. This is "retsraint" only if your name is Benjamin Netanyahu.....

In fact, we are waging a war for Israel's sake, not our own: Iraq is no threat to Americans, except those Americans who have chosen to live in the "settlements" in Israel. Saddam's WMD -- if they exist -- can't reach New York or Los Angeles, but certainly Tel Aviv is within range.

Let's start putting America first by going after the REAL enemy: Osama bin Laden. Let Ariel Sharon go to war with Saddam Hussein if he so chooses (certainly the IDF has the military capability, thanks to the American taxpayers and Israel's amen corner in the U.S.....)

Charles Rostkowski - 11/13/2002

Since Islam is often called the Religion of Peace, it is the radical Islamofascists who are committed to "radical bellicosity". It strikes me as disingenuous to ask Americans to try by setting a good example to change the minds of the Islamic terrorists. They have demonstrated, at least since the 1972 Olympics in Munich that they really do want to kill us and establish a worldwide caliphate. I suggest Ms Appleby read a good biography of Winston Churchill, especially his life in the '30s, to get a sense of how one deals with and international terrorist intent on subduing the world.

Arvid Malm - 11/13/2002

One-size-fits all approaches to foreign policy are rarely very successful. I'm sorry for dragging in the most tired of arguments, (there is good reason for it's overuse, however...) but would really "constructive commercial and political relations that respect the wishes of the masses" have been very helpful, say, in dealing with Nazi Germany? The Al Qaeda?

If someone has different objectives and goals from yourself, positive engagement is not always desirable, or even possible. In such cases, the choice stands between letting the other party impose it's will on the world, or actively resisting their effort to do so. Given the strength of the United States, I see no reason why it should let itself be forced into surrender by such a relatively insignificant group as the Al Qaeda.

Also, keep in mind that "positive engagement" is the norm for US foreign policy. But the positive approach doesn't always work out very well, and yes, in such cases I believe that some 'belicosity' might be in order. - In the end, when all else has failed, violence is the only means of conflict resolution available. In the case of Al Quaeda et. al. it is unlikely any kind of positive engagement, or even avoidance, is possible. In the case of Iraq I still see some hope for a peaceful outcome - time will tell if I am being naive in that regard.

Regards / Arvid Malm

-Stabil som fan!

Stephen Jenkins - 11/13/2002

The United States is an "exemplar of freedom, justice, restraint and tolerance that the world's peoples yearn to see."

Arvid Malm - 11/13/2002

All 'bellicose' moves by the Bush administration have been UN-sanctioned, as far as I know, unlike, for instance, the non-sanctioned Kosovo war. (There was relatively little talk of unilateralism back then...) I get the feeling your analysis of the current administration's policies is based more on rethorical style and image rather than actual actions.

As for the administration being 'dragged kicking and screaming' into every multilateral engagement, well, by who? The Democrats? They already had their formal approval for going to war before they went to the UN in both the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq. Let's face it - there is no 'true path of multilateralism' nor a unilateral one. Most administrations end up seeking international help and engagement on some issues, and going it alone, or with a select coalition on others. The Bush administration hardly deviates in any radical way from this pattern.

Regards / Arvid Malm

-Stabil som fan!

WildMonk - 11/13/2002

"Pulling back from further warfare would not only soothe both our allies and opponents, it would also focus Americans' attention on the concrete measures they could take to make us safer at home."

The Islamic Holy Warriors and their brothers in arms will not be "soothed". Their mission is, in their own minds, not only clear but destined to success. We made only token ("soothing") responses after Khobar Towers, the USS Cole, and the Embassy bombings and merely encouraged the Islamists.

So, I wish you were right. I would very much prefer a world in which America could simply turn inward and "set an example." But choosing this option in the face of attacks already completed against us is choosing to submit to the will of our self-declared opponent.

Is Bush acting in a "radically bellicose" manner? Given our true capacity for mayhem, I'd say that he has acted with great restraint.

Respectfully yours.

Bill Herbert - 11/13/2002

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe our "interference" in the internal affairs of Iran ended over 20 years ago. Our interference in Iraqi affairs only started 12 years ago, after that government's bellicose behavior. Though there is widespread opposition to "regime change,' as a solution to this particular crisis, support for our current impositions on Iraqi sovereignty is nearly universal.

As for Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, it is certainly true that those governments are corrupt, but none of them were installed by the U.S., nor to they rely on U.S. assistance for their legitimacy. In fact, Egypt's current government evolved from the highly nationalistic and anti-American Nasser regime.

From our heavyhandedness in forcing Western Europe to finally act in response to humanitarian crises in Bosnia and Kosovo, to our pressuring the Israeli goverment to take unprecedented steps of constructive engagement with the Palestinians, no country or international body has done nearly as much as the U.S. in promoting the human rights of Muslims, and fostering peace in the Middle East.


Philip Burstein - 11/13/2002

The Appleby piece uses reasoning from an 1824 debate in Congress. The complete irrelevance of that discussion should be obvious. In 1824 the United States was military weak, and safely isolated from most foreign dangers by an ocean that took six weeks to traverse. In 2002 the United States is the only power with the ability to fight and destroy terrorist groups and countries anywhere in the world, and these entities in turn have the power to do us harm if we leave them undisturbed. Isolationism is not a practical option at this point.

Matt Norman - 11/13/2002

I find it odd that Prof. Appleby, who I am sure thinks of herself as progressive, would use John Randolph of Roanoke to support her position. The world was a lot more different in 1824 and the U.S. government was in no position to render the Greeks aid in their struggle for independence beyond a symbolic congressional resolution. U.S. isolationism is not the answer to the complex problems of today's world. I doubt very much that an Iraq with nuclear weapons would make the world a safer, more secure place. It is very unfair to characterize the Bush Admin.'s actions as "radical bellicosity." Someone bent on war would not go to all the trouble of placating the French and Russians in the UN. One only has to view the current situation in North Korea to see the results of the type of foreign policy Appleby seems to support.

James Jefferson - 11/13/2002

Alec Lloyd:

"Given that UN Security Council approval was unanimous, how much more support is required before it becomes 'multilateral?'"

None, Mr Lloyd. And, yes, clear sky is blue, spring grass is green, and the Pope is Catholic.

And how many failed attempts by the Bush Administration to go it alone are required, before such blunders (not the occasional multilateral move to which it is dragged kicking and screaming by force of circumstance) are acknowledged by its apologists ?

Alec Lloyd - 11/13/2002

Given that UN Security Council approval was unanimous, how much more support is required before it becomes "multilateral?"

Gus Moner - 11/12/2002

There is something to be said for the vast difference in time between the period quoted and the present and it would have been interesting to touch upon it.

Be that as it may, the concept of disentangling with conflictive areas and changing from a policy of aggressive control to constructive commercial and political relations that respect the (current) wishes of the masses seems reasonable to me in any era. I believe that’s the most valuable point made. Allowing people to sort out their own progression and removing the aggravations we cause them by trying to control them would go a long way towards removing the causes of terrorism.

As history clearly shows, acts of terrorism cannot altogether be eradicated from the planet. In Palestine, they have been taking place since the 1920’s, over 80 years, perpetrated by both sides. This will remain true as long as disaffected, or politically or economically aggrieved people view the “West” as the aggressor or their benefactor.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 11/12/2002

The example of the Greek independence struggle is most illuminating. It is true that the administration decided not to take the Greek side officially. The reason was that the Ottoman Empire (most specifically the city of Izmir) was crucial to the era's trade. Shut out of the Indian market, Turkey was the place the US got the opium it needed for the Chinese trade. The importance of the Meditteranean trade was the reason behind the Barbary wars. The American elite at the time treated American relationship with the Ottoman empire in the same manner it currently treats American relations with Saudi-Arabia, as a Faustian bargain! John Quincy Adams offered Monroe a principled way out. It is known as the Monroe doctrine. It promises that the US will not interfere in European affairs (it speaks specifically about Greece)if the Holly Alliance (which American feared) will not interfer in American (Latin American) Affairs. Yes, the British navy saved Bolivar and friends but the doctrine was a useful cover. Individual Americans provided important private aid to the Greeks and other Christians (Bulgarians and Armenians) with whom they had close regional ties. In short, the Greek example has little to do with choosing democracy at home but a lot to do with choosing American commercial interest at home.
Judith Apter Klinghoffer

Thomas Gallatin - 11/11/2002

Dr. Appleby, who to my knowledge is not an specialist on the history of American foreign policy, nevertheless correctly exposes the fallacy of any claim of the bungling Bush Administration to "conservatism". Moreover, her call for a return to America leading by example is persuasive. Her analysis is nonetheless faulty, at least in this reproduced piece, because it ignores the drastic differences between the isolated U.S. republic of the 1820s and our globalized world today.

In no way, shape, or form, however, do the unrealistic hopes of Appleby confer any legitimacy upon the incoherent incompetency of the "missile defense war on the axis of evil" (or whatever the latest dyslexic spin from Washington may be). The effective and AMERICAN way to deal with the thorny challenges of Islamic fundamentalism, weapons of mass destruction, and global environmental collapse is multilaterally (as at least Colin Powell realizes well), and certainly not by America foolishly trying to adopt the hapless style, the clumsy tactics, and the moral bankruptcy of Ariel Sharon.