As president, Barack Obama “would reject the Bush Doctrine of preemption and regime change and replace it with a doctrine of prevention and cooperation and, ladies and gentlemen, this is the biggest ticket item that we have in this election,” said Senator Biden on 2 October 2008. Well, as a professor of mine advised: “If you have to tell a lie, speak quickly. It sounds good and folks will focus on the next words before the lie registers.” While it is harsh to say Senator Biden lied, neither he nor the three other candidates will do anything new in the foreign-policy arena”they will defend the Cold War’s carcasses to the last dollar, soldier, and Marine. All four are outspoken devotees of the grand strategy used in the Cold War, and, given our present foreign-policy train wreck, it ought to spur dread that Senator Biden and Governor Palin say they concur with advice from the last five U.S. secretaries of state. The foreign policy the four advocates is unrelenting U.S. interventionism, a Cold War-recipe that helped to destroy the USSR, but now is inapplicable and detrimental to U.S. interests. While both parties” have since 1991 called for “out-of-the-box thinking” and a “new foreign-policy paradigm,” they have acted”witness Iraq, Bosnia, Somalia, and Pakistan”in the tradition they know: intervene in other people’s affairs and wars at all times and in all places.
Because U.S. political leaders are ignorant of history, don”t give a hoot about it, or both, Washington’s post-9/11 Afghan adventure was based on a plan for occupation and nation-building that history had long ago shown to be the road to defeat. Adding poignancy to the coming disaster is the last chance Washington was offered on the eve of war by the eminent British historian, and great friend of America, Sir John Keegan. Writing on 14 and 20 September in London’s Daily Telegraph, Sir John told Washington that Afghanistan was unconquerable and that the only viable option for U.S. military action was a punitive expedition”like that of LG Roberts in 1880″to destroy as much of the Taleban and al-Qaeda as possible. In essence, Keegan advised Washington to get into Afghanistan quickly with overpowering force, kill everyone who needed killing without much concern for collateral damage, and then get out more quickly than it entered. This splendid historically informed advice went unheeded, and seven years on America and its allies are on the edge of defeat in Afghanistan.