Contributor Post Created with Sketch. On the Remnants and Arrogance of Empire

 
An essay commissioned by Peter Robinson on this week’s Ricochet Podcast.

After the devastation of two World Wars in less than a half century, the British Empire began to dismantle itself in the late 1940s. As commentator Mark Steyn has observed it then precipitated an event unheard of in human history – one dominant military power ceding power to another peaceably – not as the result of losing a war, but through sheer exhaustion. The British decided to tend to their knitting at home and left the new dominant power, the United States, to play the role of the world’s policeman.

The map of the Middle East signed by Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot. (British National Archives)

After almost 75 years we’re still at it. But we’re doing it in the world designed by our predecessors. The borders and political divisions we see are largely due to two events: The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 which divided much of the Middle East into spheres of influence between the British and the French and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that created the modern Turkish state. Both of these agreements, the former made at the height of the First World War and the latter after it, were made without regard to the people that were actually living there.

Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot were, as Tarek Osman calls them, “quintessential empire men.” They believed that they could run the Middle East in the best interests of England and France and all would be well. But if anything, all they did was manage to insert their countrymen into the long standing grievances of the region. If there were hatreds boiling over between Turks and Kurds, between Muslims and Jews, between Sunni and Shia, then they also created hatred among Arabs and the West. When the “West” became the target, America became the target, too. Not because we were directly involved with these forays into map making, but because we inherited the British Empire. Not her lands or her armed forces, but her attitude, that somehow if we decided how things were going to be, if we decided the nature of the relationships between countries, or worse, we decided who deserved a country in the first place, then all would be well. That is the arrogance of empire, something we have told ourselves time and time again throughout our history that that is exactly what we did not want to be.

This is an attitude that’s widely held among the American people and one that is held in such contempt by politicians and pundits alike. But it is actually something that resides very deep within us, as a part of our national DNA. We are the remnants of empire. We fought against it, we spilled our blood against it and gained our independence from it. And then we wanted to be left the hell alone.

For the longest time we were reluctant to involve ourselves in other people’s arguments. Although individuals turned themselves into mercenaries, we were determined as a nation to heed our first Commander-in-Chief’s admonishment to avoid entangling alliances. “Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?” asked George Washington. “Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?” Thus we were late to both World Wars and yet, when we got there, did our best to finish the job. Because we knew what the end game was, we knew what was at stake, and we willingly paid the price.

One hundred and forty-seven years after Washington came Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Here was another man of Empire. In September of 1943 he was preparing America to take on the attitudes and ambitions of it. At a speech at Harvard he admonished isolationist America, “The price of greatness is responsibility. If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station, struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affairs, and a factor of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.

“If this has been proved in the past,” he continued, “as it has been, it will become indisputable in the future. The people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility. Although we live in a period so tumultuous that little can be predicted, we may be quite sure that this process will be intensified with every forward step the United States make in wealth and in power.”

This sense of world responsibility did intensify. At least among the powered elite. The rest of the country wanted to get on with their lives. But this attitude that we were responsible for the rest of the world would eventually lead the WWII generation into Korea, and then their sons into the quagmire of Vietnam, and that was the beginning of a great divide that tore the country up and still stirs deep resentments. (A lot of the snide remarks, such as “President Bone Spurs,” have come from a lot of others who took advantage of the era’s deferment rules. Mitt Romney, Joe Biden, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton all did what they could to avoid going to Southeast Asia.) But all the while we tried to convince ourselves that we were acting in our national interest. We had to stop the Communists, both in China and the Soviet Union. We were living by the Domino Theory, that every country that fell to Communism would lead us closer to our own collapse.

But a funny thing happened. The Soviet Union would disappear and the Chinese would get in bed with American business. Saigon fell but the only thing the Vietnamese would take over is the apparel aisle of K-Mart and Target. Almost everything our betters told us would happen simply didn’t.

When the Towers fell in September of 2001 we all knew what had to happen. The gut instincts was the same as it always had been. You bring war to us and you will regret it. And just like 1917 and 1941, the feeling was to go over there, kick some ass and then come home. Only that didn’t happen. We took a detour into Iraq. And then in to some 20 other nations on the continent of Africa. And then into Syria. And increasingly it became more and more apparent to a lot of Americans, that unlike past wars, those that were making the ultimate sacrifice were not the sons and daughters of those that were committing the troops to fight. And the small minority that did go were going as officers, mostly as JAG lawyers and not as grunts. (Shout out to Tom Cotton, who despite his Harvard JD, did his duty with an M-4, not a law book.)

One of the biggest complaints against President Trump is that he has never signed on to the consensus of American foreign policy, the consensus that all of the “experts” and “professionals” have made their reputations on. All of them claim their decisions are based on sound theories and that everything they do is well considered and part of a larger strategy and plan. But the average Americans knows about plans, too. Those are the things that never survive first contact with the enemy and the thing that makes God laugh when you share them out loud. The idea that they can plan the outcomes of other people’s desires is the arrogance of empire.

Colin Powell once noted in 2003 that we Americans “have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace.”

That’s precisely what we’ve always believed in. But here we are, 16 years after those words were spoken, told that to return home and seek our own lives in peace is out of the question.

Some have noted that members of our military are upset with the withdrawal. They are warriors and that is to be expected. But as they say in the Marine Corps, we are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction. Our warriors are willing to die for their country and that is admirable. But for those on the homefront it is also to be expected that we ask exactly why they’ve been asked to make that sacrifice.

With China increasingly dictating the terms of what we can do and what we can say, it’s harder to justify an unending presence in the Middle East. Yes, we need to defend Israel as the only true liberal democracy in the region. But we also have to let these people sort a lot of their own problems out. Because imposing our will and our solutions is, ultimately, not going to work any better than it did for the British or the French 100 years ago. We’re Americans. We don’t believe in empire.

 

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There are 182 comments.

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  1. Boss Mongo Member

    Outstanding, EJ. Thank you.

    • #1
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:02 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  2. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    If you help out Americans, Americans should have your back. Otherwise, the smart money is to screw over the Americans, and stick with someone who won’t shank you. I recall people here being rather upset that we refused to aid South Vietnam, or that Obama screwed up the status of forces agreement in Iraq, which let ISIS run rampant. I would call Obama and the post-Watergate Congress dishonorable.

    I don’t think the withdrawal is necessarily a disaster. However, there is a value in being a reliable ally. People who are friends and willing to fight with us should be supported over those who don’t care about us. (Obviously, screw our enemies) Build our bases in friendly areas where we are welcome.

    • #2
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:13 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  3. Percival Thatcher

    The Soviets didn’t fall; they were pushed.

    • #3
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:21 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  4. Boss Mongo Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    However, there is a value in being a reliable ally. People who are friends and willing to fight with us should be supported over those who don’t care about us.

    Agree, but from the outset, good alliances are transactional in nature. When business is concluded, the transaction is done.

    Plus, I don’t think we’re “walking away” from the Kurds. I’m willing to bet that there is still aid (to include lethal aid) going to the Kurds. And, they’ve the benefit of more than a decade of US training. Okay, we gave you the training; put it to use.

    If we were going to stick with the Kurds no matter what, we’re just setting ourselves up to have a kinetic engagement with a NATO ally. The politics and optics of that would, I think, be much worse than suffering the accusations of fecklessness WRT the Kurds.

    • #4
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:39 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  5. Brian Watt Member

    The vestiges of the Sykes-Picot agreement do continue to plague us. No question. But the extremist Sunni/Shia component and the hatred of Israel, continues to drive a great deal of the turmoil even beyond concocted borders on the map.

    But it seems to me that a large component of America’s more active role in the world, left unsaid above, is that we were the first nuclear power and almost immediately matched by the Soviet Union due to espionage and leaks of classified material, particularly on the H-Bomb. Given that the Soviet Union always posed a threat to Europe, especially after becoming a nuclear power, and that the only way to blunt their ambitions was to emphasize that we would annihilate them if they rolled into West Germany, the Netherlands, Finland or other NATO countries, pushed America out of an isolationist position since ICBMs can easily cross oceans and the Arctic icecap and two oceans no longer offered this country a measure of protection that it had previously enjoyed. Something that Geo. Washington and the other Founders could not have envisioned. Mssrs. Ron and Rand Paul never seem to address this when getting on their isolationist high horse.

    The Domino Theory was more directed at Vietnam and to Communist China at the time – not necessarily to Europe, which embraced socialism and socialist policies all on their own (with a great deal of influence from prominent Marxist intellectuals in their respective governments some of whom were active agents for Stalin and his successors).

    The transition of China from an impoverished, hermetically-sealed, rabidly anti-capitalist state (not terribly different than some previous Chinese dynasties) to an authoritarian state willing to experiment with capitalism didn’t just happen and a large part of the credit for their transformation should be credited to Nixon and Henry Kissinger as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Soviet Union and China or as one might say – it was a good idea at the time…and may yet still be if the entrepreneurial class in China ever gets fed up with their Communist Party overlords. China has essentially transitioned from a poor, doctrinaire communist regime to a fascist regime that gives industry a long leash but still enforces compliance through police and intimidation.

    Given China’s territorial ambitions (and the Soviets) and the lunacy of the Iranian regime, and the fact that world economies are much more entwined than they were in the 18th century or even prior to WWII, I think there is a compelling argument to stay engaged globally and try to steer adversaries to more sane behavior and use whatever tools at our disposal – particularly economic. That doesn’t or shouldn’t involve nation-building, or re-drawing boundaries on maps, or sending in American forces to bring about regime change.

    • #5
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:45 PM PST
    • 17 likes
  6. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Re: The Kurds.

    As I recounted in many other essays we have a long history of treating the Kurds badly – by exactly the people the elite so admire, especially the Bushes. This is one of the few time I agree with Joe Biden. After Saddam fell they should have allowed the Kurds to establish their own country. But we committed to the borders drawn up by the British. Why?

    • #6
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:46 PM PST
    • 19 likes
  7. The Reticulator Member

    I wish you had made that map clickable so we could see the fuller image. But here it is, on Wikipedia.

    • #7
    • October 18, 2019, at 8:10 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. The Reticulator Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Soviets didn’t fall; they were pushed.

    What push did you have in mind?

    So far as I can tell, our part was to quit propping them, as we had been wont to do under previous presidents. Our involvement in Afghanistan, if that’s what you had in mind, helped reveal their own weakness to them.

    • #8
    • October 18, 2019, at 8:17 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Petty Boozswha Member

    I’d like to see Peter Robinson’s response – does this answer the questions you were asking?

    • #9
    • October 18, 2019, at 8:35 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Percival Thatcher

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Soviets didn’t fall; they were pushed.

    What push did you have in mind?

    So far as I can tell, our part was to quit propping them, as we had been wont to do under previous presidents. Our involvement in Afghanistan, if that’s what you had in mind, helped reveal their own weakness to them.

    A thumbnail version:

    In the end we beat them with Levi’s 501 jeans. Seventy-two years of communist indoctrination and propaganda was drowned out by a three-ounce Sony Walkman. A huge totalitarian system…has been brought to its knees because nobody wants to wear Bulgarian shoes. Now they’re lunch, and we’re number one on the planet.

    — P.J. O’Rourke,Thrown Under the Omnibus

    Reagan proposed Star Wars. A lot of delusional eggheads purportedly on our side insisted that you couldn’t hit a bullet with a bullet, but the Soviets knew we bloody could. The speed and power of our computers were doubling every two years. We were innovating faster than they could steal. They knew that they couldn’t keep up.

    • #10
    • October 18, 2019, at 8:53 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  11. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Great response.

    America can only do so much throughout the entire world.

    It’s hard enough trying to figure out who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in some of these situations.

    I like the idea that Trump would rather punish countries with sanctions, if possible.

    EJHill (View Comment):

    This is one of the few time I agree with Joe Biden. After Saddam fell they should have allowed the Kurds to establish their own country. But we committed to the borders drawn up by the British. Why?

    Looking at wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurds

    It appears that almost half of the Kurds live in Turkey and another 25% or so live in Iran. Iraq is #3. Syria is #4.

    Germany is #5, way ahead of every remaining country.

    The United States is #19 as a place for Kurds.

    I think all of the presidents of Iraq since Saddam have been Kurds. So, there is that.

    Perhaps Iraq could eventually split in the way that Sudan and South Sudan did.

    Perhaps the Kurd area of Iraq will be the way Quebec is to Canada or the way Scotland is to the United Kingdom.

    I don’t particular mind the US keeping a small force in Afghanistan for a very long time, but Americans can’t be everywhere for forever. Evil flourishes when other good countries do close to nothing.

    • #11
    • October 19, 2019, at 2:46 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Cato Rand Reagan

    It is an outstanding and thoughtful (and interesting) essay, and a very defensible view of why we should not have been in Syria, or a lot of other places. Wasn’t the commission, though, to justify the president’s recent action in Syria?

    To do that, more is needed than explaining why we shouldn’t have gone. We did go, and that changed the situation. In doing so we voluntarily assumed responsibilities, however unwisely. The essay says nothing to justify the decision to abruptly disregard them.

    • #12
    • October 19, 2019, at 2:50 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  13. MISTER BITCOIN Coolidge

    Winston Churchill is the most important figure of the 20th century according to Thomas Sowell.

    Americans do not believe in empires but we should according to Niall Ferguson and Victor Davis Hanson.

    Iran wants to start a global holy war. It’s naive to think it’s not our problem. Especially with a nuclear Iran.

     

    • #13
    • October 19, 2019, at 2:53 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  14. MISTER BITCOIN Coolidge

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Re: The Kurds.

    As I recounted in many other essays we have a long history of treating the Kurds badly – by exactly the people the elite so admire, especially the Bushes. This is one of the few time I agree with Joe Biden. After Saddam fell they should have allowed the Kurds to establish their own country. But we committed to the borders drawn up by the British. Why?

    Turkey

     

    • #14
    • October 19, 2019, at 2:55 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. OkieSailor Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Soviets didn’t fall; they were pushed.

    Both, actually. Their system was rotten to the core and it’s fall was inevitable as Reagan himself said more than once. But he did help the process along which hastening was a good thing.

    • #15
    • October 19, 2019, at 5:43 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  16. GrannyDude Member

    I love these discussions. 

    When it comes to Reagan and the Soviet Union (well, and all of us on Planet Earth, really) I do think rhetoric matters. That is, it matters if the spirit and language of the country making the Levis and the Walkmen and whatnot is energetic, optimistic, joyfully creative and determined rather than glum, pessimistic and guilt-ridden. 

    I was just saying, at a dinner party last night, that I cut the president—any president—a lot of slack when it comes to the Middle East. For as long as I’ve been alive, it’s been a mess, and efforts to fix it have been met with, at best, small and often temporary improvements. The closest thing to a success story in the region is Israel…and instead of looking to Israel as a model for how a decent, modern, democratic state can be run, Israel is very broadly maligned as the nefarious source of everyone else’s dysfunction.

    So…yeah.

    I have no idea what “we” should or shouldn’t do in the region, other than to back Israel because Israel is decent, modern, democratic, doesn’t throw gay people off buildings or oppress women. 

     

    • #16
    • October 19, 2019, at 6:04 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  17. OkieSailor Member

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    It is an outstanding and thoughtful (and interesting) essay, and a very defensible view of why we should not have been in Syria, or a lot of other places. Wasn’t the commission, though, to justify the president’s recent action in Syria?

    To do that, more is needed than explaining why we shouldn’t have gone. We did go, and that changed the situation. In doing so we voluntarily assumed responsibilities, however unwisely. The essay says nothing to justify the decision to abruptly disregard them.

    If future Presidents are bound by the decisions of past Presidents what is the purpose of elections, at least in the area of foreign policy?
    Also, conditions and situations do change, shouldn’t our elected leaders respond to current conditions?
    I don’t like the prospect of Kurds or anyone else being slaughtered but there doesn’t seem to have been a good choice here. Maybe, Maybe President Trump could have handled the implementation of his policy better but it was his decision to make. Having made and implemented it does that now bind future Presidents to follow his path? Whether this decision and its implementation were correct is a matter to be decided by the voters in 2020. Among other issues, of course.

    • #17
    • October 19, 2019, at 6:06 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    Its my understanding that the Treaty of Lausanne was made from a position of Turkish strength and Western exhaustion; if anything, it was made in response to an ultimately failed attempt by the West to impose unfavorable borders on Turkey a few years earlier. It was to the detriment of the Kurds, the Armenians (already victims of genocide by the Turks) and the Greeks, but was also advantageous to Western interests (by accident) for the duration of the Cold War. Anyway, it was the failed Treaty of Sevres that more closely fits this narrative.

    My knowledge base is a mile wide but only an inch deep, so feel free to provide details that contradict my understanding.

    Relating to the gist of the article, there are some things I agree with and some things I don’t; we were arrogant, and emboldened by the example of our foreign policy successes (and conveniently forgetting the lessons of our failures), we over-committed and over-extended ourselves. Retrenchment is necessary and wise at this point, but the Pax Americana was also necessary and wise in its time, and not an overall mistake. And while we do need to cut back our overseas presence, I’m not certain whether the current course of action in Syria is a good idea or not. In all honesty, my preoccupation with the existential threat posed by our domestic opposition renders this as something of a sideshow for me, and I haven’t been going out of my way to determine where my position should be, but I need specifics regarding costs, risks, and benefits.

    • #18
    • October 19, 2019, at 6:07 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  19. Songwriter Member

    Thanks for the history lesson, EJ. Excellent essay.

    • #19
    • October 19, 2019, at 6:14 AM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Cato Rand Reagan

    OkieSailor (View Comment):

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    It is an outstanding and thoughtful (and interesting) essay, and a very defensible view of why we should not have been in Syria, or a lot of other places. Wasn’t the commission, though, to justify the president’s recent action in Syria?

    To do that, more is needed than explaining why we shouldn’t have gone. We did go, and that changed the situation. In doing so we voluntarily assumed responsibilities, however unwisely. The essay says nothing to justify the decision to abruptly disregard them.

    If future Presidents are bound by the decisions of past Presidents what is the purpose of elections, at least in the area of foreign policy?
    Also, conditions and situations do change, shouldn’t our elected leaders respond to current conditions?
    I don’t like the prospect of Kurds or anyone else being slaughtered but there doesn’t seem to have been a good choice here. Maybe, Maybe President Trump could have handled the implementation of his policy better but it was his decision to make. Having made and implemented it does that now bind future Presidents to follow his path? Whether this decision and its implementation were correct is a matter to be decided by the voters in 2020. Among other issues, of course.

    I do not believe future presidents are bound by the decisions of past presidents (unless they’ve been enshrined in law obviously) but future presidents are stuck with the circumstances they inherit from past presidents. Of course a president can and should react to those circumstances in ways they think best.

    The OP, however, still does not do what it was charged with – defend the current president’s recent decision to withdraw Syria. It merely makes a broad – and pretty good – case for not meddling in the first place. It’s a good piece, just not fully responsive to the question it purports to address.

    • #20
    • October 19, 2019, at 6:57 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    OkieSailor: If future Presidents are bound by the decisions of past Presidents what is the purpose of elections, at least in the area of foreign policy?

    Just so. It is stare decisis writ large.

    There is also a larger domestic component to it. A former Pentagon official (anonymously, of course) was quoted by the Daily Beast as saying, “It’s a struggle for people of a ‘globalist institutional [bent] – people who fought and bled with our partners – to understand.”

    When I watched my son join the Marines I don’t remember him pledging himself to any globalist institution. I’m not sure if you could honestly survey the rank-and-file that you’d find any of our troops say they joined for any other purpose other than protecting their own country and her people.

    People around the world are starting to feel that they are irrelevant to to their governmental institutions. And you see it on both the left and the right, that these institutions will do whatever they damned well please no matter who is elected. Trump seems to be using this as a push back point.

    On of the main thrusts of my essay is to point out that Trump’s questioning of the prevailing theory of American Empire among the elites is deeply rooted in our history. While he’s not wonkish on policy, his general attitude is not that far removed from that of the late Senator from Ohio, Robert A. Taft. During his tenure in the Senate he was referred to as “Mr. Republican” because his views were pretty much the gold standard for the party at the time.

    Today he is dismissed as a crank isolationist, but only, as author Leroy Rieselbach wrote back in 1966, if you define isolationism as “an attitude of opposition to binding commitments by the United States government that would [constantly] create new, or expand existing, obligations to foreign nations.” Taft advocated, in his own words, “a policy of the free hand,” that is, all decisions should be made on the merits of whether or not those actions directly contributed to protecting the American people. Too often the terms “isolationist” or “nationalist” are used as pejoratives intended to dismiss opposition and avoid true debates as to the proper course of action.

    • #21
    • October 19, 2019, at 7:55 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  22. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    I agree with your general point regarding American commitments in the Middle East. However, I have a question and a comment.

    Am I correct in reading the OP that you believe American foreign policy since WW2 to be entirely misbegotten including the establishment of NATO and the commitment to defend Western Europe?

    I think you overstate the degree to which Sykes-Picot and the Lausanne Treaty “were made without regard to the people that were actually living there“. If you look at the Sykes-Picot map in the OP you will see it does not conform to the post WW1 boundaries of the area. Some of this was due to wrangling among the Great Powers but some was also due to the interaction between those Powers and Arab leaders who were not without agency in the matter (we’ll leave aside for the moment how, in those times and circumstances, the people in the area were to be taken account, since they did not matter for Arab leaders, let alone the Great Powers). Specifically, the Hussains, after failing to convince the Great Powers that they represented all the Arab people (an assertion hotly disputed by others, including the Saudis) managed to maneuver themselves into governing the new Jordanian and Iraqi states.

    The issue is even clearer regarding the Lausanne Treaty. That treaty was effectively forced upon the Great Powers by the Turks who completely upset Western plans to dismember their homeland after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks defeated Greek attempts to conquer Asia Minor and intimidated the French into withdrawing from their occupation zone designated under Sykes-Picot! There is no better example of map-drawing that takes into account the people actually living there than the Lausanne Treaty and the establishment of Turkey.

    • #22
    • October 19, 2019, at 8:00 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. Arahant Member

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):
    Specifically, the Hussains, after failing to convince the Great Powers that they represented all the Arab people (an assertion hotly disputed by others, including the Saudis) managed to maneuver themselves into governing the new Jordanian and Iraqi states.

    Do you mean the Hashemite Dynasty?

    • #23
    • October 19, 2019, at 8:22 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):
    Specifically, the Hussains, after failing to convince the Great Powers that they represented all the Arab people (an assertion hotly disputed by others, including the Saudis) managed to maneuver themselves into governing the new Jordanian and Iraqi states.

    Do you mean the Hashemite Dynasty?

    Thanks, yes.

    • #24
    • October 19, 2019, at 8:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Cato Rand: The OP, however, still does not do what it was charged with – defend the current president’s recent decision to withdraw Syria.

    @catorand It does and does not. 

    As I was writing this yesterday the wife looked over my shoulder and asked how far along I was in writing my book. I intended to weave a historical account for the America that tended to its own business, the theories of American interest as embodied by Robert Taft (see #21) and how that fit into the President’s decision and, quite frankly, after her remarks began to think that it was just too damn long. (As a general rule I believe in keeping posts the length of an average newspaper column.) 

    So I decided to make my main thrust an attempt to bolster what the President has been saying for a long time – stop turning other people’s problems into America’s problem – and because the comments here are no less important than the original posting we could hash out the rest of it here. 

    That may be an unsatisfying answer, but it’s the only one I have.

    • #25
    • October 19, 2019, at 8:25 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  26. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Gumby Mark: There is no better example of map-drawing that takes into account the people actually living there than the Lausanne Treaty and the establishment of Turkey.

    I’m not sure the Kurds would agree. The Western Powers only brought one group of people to the table, and by doing that they set up a great deal of our current problems. It was Munich before there was Munich – only negotiate with the strongest party and tell the rest “tough luck.” 

    • #26
    • October 19, 2019, at 8:36 AM PST
    • 1 like
  27. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark: There is no better example of map-drawing that takes into account the people actually living there than the Lausanne Treaty and the establishment of Turkey.

    I’m not sure the Kurds would agree. The Western Powers only brought one group of people to the table, and by doing that they set up a great deal of our current problems. It was Munich before there was Munich – only negotiate with the strongest party and tell the rest “tough luck.”

    But then we (the West) would be doing precisely what you are complaining about – interfering in whatever processes the folks in the Middle East use to resolve their issues because we think we know what is best for them. By 1923 the British and French were not going to go to war with Kemal Attaturk on behalf of the Kurds. Nor is Donald Trump today.

    • #27
    • October 19, 2019, at 8:52 AM PST
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  28. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Gumby Mark: But then we (the West) would be doing precisely what you are complaining about – interfering in whatever processes the folks in the Middle East use to resolve their issues because we think we know what is best for them.

    They were doing it anyway, they just chose to do so in the worst way possible.

    Gumby Mark: By 1923 the British and French were not going to go to war with Kemal Attaturk on behalf of the Kurds.

    Not suggesting they should have.

    • #28
    • October 19, 2019, at 9:17 AM PST
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  29. MarciN Member

    I think there are some legitimate considerations that worry American leaders that are not simply expressions of the will to impose some sort of American power, hegemony, and empire around the world–considerations such as these:

    Protection of sovereignty: One country does not have the right to invade another. All countries share the imperative to respect and enforce each country’s sovereignty.

    Preventing genocide and human trafficking: One ethnic group in a country does not have the right to kill another ethnic group.

    Guarding against the use of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction: This is a global threat. All nations are living under it now.

    Humanitarian disaster relief: This is a global problem because if left untreated, it will result in massive human migration that can easily destabilize entire regions of the world.

    What gets the world into trouble is the area of prevention. We don’t want war. That’s the thing leaders are all trying to prevent. It is understandable that we sometimes lose our way in this pursuit of peace. Doctors deal with the floating line of preventive strategies to avoid surgery all the time. It’s really the same issue.

    Prevention is a big problem for the civilized world. It always has been. When would solving a small problem prevent a bigger problem from occurring? It is very difficult for world leaders to reach agreement on that. It’s good that they are trying.

    • #29
    • October 19, 2019, at 9:54 AM PST
    • 1 like
  30. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    It is an outstanding and thoughtful (and interesting) essay, and a very defensible view of why we should not have been in Syria, or a lot of other places. Wasn’t the commission, though, to justify the president’s recent action in Syria?

    To do that, more is needed than explaining why we shouldn’t have gone. We did go, and that changed the situation. In doing so we voluntarily assumed responsibilities, however unwisely. The essay says nothing to justify the decision to abruptly disregard them.

    I think that there’s a quite simple justification. We went in to defeat ISIS. This was accomplished. Time to get out.

    You can agree or disagree, but this seems a reasonable justification to me.

    The talk of betrayal of the Kurds (not by you in this thread, Cato, but by others) suggests that we promised the Kurds a permanent alliance and a state. We never did so, as far as I know. We had a short-term alliance of convenience with a particular faction in a messy civil war.

    • #30
    • October 19, 2019, at 9:58 AM PST
    • 1 like
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