Washington Post Op-Ed columnist Charles Krauthammer is one of the most compelling minds in newsprint.
His caution and his craft bring a medical precision to political debate. A former liberal and speech-writer for Vice President Walter Mondale, Krauthammer shared his conversion from liberalism following his reading of Harvard Professor Charles Murray Read’s work Losing Ground, which documented then denounced the United States welfare system. Murray’s research convinced Krauthammer to reject government intervention and favorfree market reforms to bring back people from poverty and restore
Still a liberal on social issues (he remains pro-choice), Krauthammer remains a viable and reliable conservative voice on just about everything else. His views on American foreign policy, however, have veered away from the “Mr. Conservative” polemics of Republican Robert Taft, and even the careful advances of Dwight David Eisenhower.
An early champion of the Bush Administration, Krauthammer coined the “Bush Doctrine” because of the President’s insistence on forging democratic regimes for our benefit. Krauthammer recently praised former President Bush for “keeping us safe”. Reviewing the United States’ military’s extended stay in Iraq, and ongoing presence in Afghanistan, Krauthammer’s vision of a robust foreign policy based on American preeminence and dominance is waning.
Like many Bush supporters, I celebrated the invasion of Iraq following reports that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The drive to eradicate unwieldy, violent dictators in the Middle East appealed to me, and many voters, because eradicating the roots of terrorist cells like the wisest course of action for preventing future attacks on Americans soil.
Such Wilsonian aspirations were both stirring and popular in those early days of the Bush Administration. Even former Clinton diplomats praised President Bush for removing Saddam Hussein from power. “He was a weapon of mass destruction.” The Washington Post later reported that American forces a large cache of chemical agents. The Wikileaks cables also vindicated President Bush, with reports that American military were still looking for WMD. Bush was right, according to Krauthammer.
Following years of Middle East fighting, though, the Krauthammer dogma of throwing everything military at Islamic terror no longer has the grand and grandiose appeal of years before.
Indeed, President Bush’s Second Inaugural claimed that the peace of our democracy depended on democracy flourishing in other countries. The idealism of expanding American limited government, chasing freedom rainbows in the vapid and dry deserts of Asia moved voters. However, the same civil rights activist who welcomed Bush’s military intentions, Natan Sharanksy, also criticized the rapid zeal to hold elections in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. A free society, according to Sharansky, must be based on more than open elections. The rule of law, the respect for human rights (including freedom of speech, the press, and religion) must be inculcated. Can native peoples learn about their own cultures and share their values with their children, too?
The answer to those four questions remained “sometimes” to “No!” during the fraught American ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Krauthammer’s conviction of a robust, intervention foreign policy has fallen apart. His mixed neo-conservative idealism is now a nightmare from which the United States military must free itself, an ideology which the Republican Party is breaking from, and which voters across the political spectrum reject in greater turns.
The United States cannot go about the world putting out every tribal disturbance. During Bush’s Presidency, intelligence regarding radioactive explosives in Niger was flawed, and American reconnaissance missed the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, then throughout the Arab World. The ethnic, religious, and blood-bathed tribal rivalries exploding throughout North Africa all the way to Central Asia, including the protracted civil wars in Egypt and Syria, are beyond the control of any policy expert or President to contain, let alone control.
Bush’s wars in Iraq may or may not have sparked the spirit of uprising in oppressed and indigenous communities throughout the Arab World, yet the cost of policing the world, plus ruinous domestic policies of expanding home ownership, helped propel nationwide financial meltdowns, which threw the entire world into an unprecedented and stagnating economic slowdown. The Arab world was rife with corruption and despotism for decades, yet safety within a predictable poverty was tolerable. With the explosion of communications technology, matched with an unsettled yet educated Arab populace, a revolt against political oppression was inevitable.
The same forces which have propelled political anarchy throughout the Middle East resist American diplomacy. US Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has repeatedly pressed for ending foreign aid to other countries, including Israel (“They do not need our help”) and Egypt (“We cannot help them”). Despite their deep division, US Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have joined with Paul on this issue. Krauthammer contends that their agreement on anything cannot be good.
Bush’s interventions have not created popular democracy envisioned by the Framers, realized after decades of peaceful political schism. The Arab turmoils roiling the Middle East defy political calculation, and their culture after-shocks are as unpredictable as the sudden revolts unpredicted by American intelligence. Thankfully, for the good of this country and the Republican Party, Krauthammer’s neo-conservatism is coming to an end.