Cynicism and crankiness are, I suppose, sure signs of old age, and at 58 I surely qualify for elder-hood. But even accepting this reality, I continue to be bewildered by the men and women who are produced by our educational system and find their way into both political parties and then into foreign policy decision-making positions. They seem, almost uniformly, to bring prestigious graduate degrees but no commonsense or historical knowledge to their posts. In recent weeks, these shortcomings have been quite evident.
Egypt: What should have been accepted in early 2011 as irrefutable fact is that there is no significant number of secular democrats in Egypt who will lead that ancient country into the Obama-McCain-and-Clinton-promised democracy. Notwithstanding, CNN and BBC interviews with several score English-speaking, pro-secularism Egyptians in Tahrir Square, these people will have little or no voice in a nation of 85 million, the overwhelming majority of whom are devout and conservative Muslims. Likewise, the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist groups in Egyptian politics was perfectly predictable as they are the only well-organized groups in Egypt aside from the army and the remnants of Mubarak’s regime. Finally, Mubarak was the scourge of the Brotherhood and the Salafists — both enemies of the West — and the largely effective protector of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Community. Thus, there is no surprise in the fact that without Mubarak the Islamists’ power is rising and the Copts are being routinely killed and their churches destroyed. All of this is what could and should have been anticipated by U.S. political leaders and foreign-policy experts if they had any contact points with Egyptian reality over the past 40 years. They did not, however, and they described to the American people what would happen in post-Mubarak Egypt based on their aspirations for the Egyptian people — which is to make them just like us — and not on any knowledge of the character, beliefs, and aspirations of the Egyptian people themselves. Only the U.S. school and university systems could have produced such daft and divorced-from-reality politicians and officials.
Libya: In the ocean of falsehoods proffered by U.S. and NATO political leaders about the non-war in Libya one stands out. Since the start of the Libyan uprising, these leaders have told their electorates that Gaddafi was without popular support in Libya and that his fighters were mostly non-Libyans, mercenaries whom he hired from elsewhere in Africa. Now there is no doubt that some of Gaddafi’s forces are hired guns from outside Libya, but it seems increasingly clear that he has had a significant number of Libyans who are willing to fight to the death for him. At least since Machiavelli wrote on the subject of mercenaries 500 years ago, it has been apparent that mercenaries are the worst of all possible military options for any political leader. Mercenaries fight only for money. If they win a war they pose a danger to the person who hired them, in that they are then positioned to take his power and wreath. In a war that goes badly, on the other hand, mercenaries will pull out of the fight — money not being worth losing your life — or go over to the side that looks likely to win. Given this truism — and the fight-to-the-death approach of pro-Gaddafi forces — it seems that our policymakers have chosen sides in Libya between groups of Libyans, and not between all democracy-loving Libyans and Gaddafi, his sons, and some non-Libyan mercenaries. This misreading of the situation by Western political leaders — along with their willful blindness to the sturdy Islamism of the most effective anti-Gaddafi fighters — ensures that stability in Libya is just as unlikely as the secular democracy imagined for it by in the reality-proof predictions of Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy. One wonders if any part of the U.S. school system requires its students to read and learn from The Prince. At almost 100 pages in length, however, perhaps Machiavelli’s book it is to be big a task for American teachers to teach and American students to read.
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan: Our so-called friends in these three governments continue to disappoint the Republican and Democratic leaders produced by our educational system. The Iraq regime has been found to be supporting Syria, even as it prepares to slaughter Sunnis after U.S. forces depart. Karzai’s Afghan regime has been found to be systematically torturing Taliban prisoners and other foes, even as our jejune generals seek to reconcile Afghanistan’s contending forces and train a huge Afghan army and security service that would give Karzai the tool with which to rule arbitrarily without elections. (The training program will fail so this last is only a theoretical concern.) The Pakistani regime has been found to be pursuing its own national interests — by supporting the Haqqani organization, for example — in an effort to cope with the mess in Afghanistan that Washington and NATO have signaled they will leave behind as they depart without winning the war they started. All three cases show the astounding ignorance of our political leaders. Taught at U.S. schools and universities that all nations share the universalist foreign-policy goals of the United States, these would-be-masters-of the-world seem unable to discern even dimly that no two nations have identical national interests. Our leaders’ failure to accept this trite but nonetheless deadly accurate piece of common wisdom has lead to the perfectly predictable disasters for the United States that we now see unfolding in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The reading of a few memoirs and diaries written by field-grade British officers who served in the three countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries would have afforded our bipartisan political leaders and their advisers and generals a far better grounding for conducting U.S. affairs in each country then all of the Ivy League degrees they have accrued.
Dr. Ron Paul often and correctly argues that America’s Founders intended to defend the United States by a durable policy of non-intervention. Such a policy would make sure we did not become involved in wars or other conflicts where no genuine U.S. interest was at risk and in places where we did not know the topography, the culture, the language, or the character of the people. For me, the Founders wisdom on this issue is obvious and makes me a staunch non-interventionist. If more support for the Founders’ position is needed, one need only look to the pathetic U.S. educational system and the political leaders and foreign-policy experts it produces.