Asked about the Iran-Iraq war that stretched for eight ghastly years after breaking out in 1980, Henry Kissinger is said to have quipped, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.”
The pity is that we have lost that exquisite wisdom concerning our national interest, despite a two-decade road to hell paved by good intentions — at least compassionate intentions — from Kosovo to Kandahar. If that isn’t clear enough from the latest killings of American soldiers stuck like sitting ducks between the Afghan Taliban and other Afghan Islamists, all doubt is removed by Elliott Abrams, the longtime Republican foreign-policy solon who served as a top National Security Council official during the heady days of the Bush “Freedom Agenda.” “Can there be a group anywhere in the world today more disappointed in United States foreign policy than those fighting the Syrian regime?” Abrams, a distinguished public servant whom I admire, asked this week in a post on the Corner.
Yeah: How about the American people?
Our entanglement in Afghanistan is now reduced to pleading with Taliban decapitators to come to the negotiating table while the Afghan forces our soldiers train and the Afghan civilians our soldiers protect kill our men and women — and while officials of the government we prop up echo their clerics’ exhortations to violent jihad until our infidel forces vacate the country.
And Iraq? Destroying the Saddam Hussein regime’s capacity to project power and facilitate terror took just a few weeks, but based on the second Bush inaugural’s mellifluous nonsense that “the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands,” we stuck around another eight years to try to turn the place into a functioning democracy and counterterrorism ally. After more than 4,000 lives were lost and $800 billion expended, we have left behind an Iran-dominated sharia state best known for its internecine Islamic barbarism, its persecution of religious minorities, and its Islamist prime minister, who clings to power despite having lost the last election.
In Gaza and Lebanon, we called for “the success of liberty” through “democratic” elections — democratic in the sense that the third grade holds a referendum to elect a class president, nothing resembling a culture of Western democracy. What we got for our trouble was the installation of Hamas and Hezbollah into positions of governmental power — unreconstructed jihadists now swaddled in the cloak of democratic legitimacy. In Kosovo, we raced to recognize an Islamic government, eviscerating the Westphalian order’s bedrock principle that the borders of a nation — even Serbia — must be respected, while validating ethnic cleansing and the destructive notion that Islamic solidarity takes precedence over national sovereignty. In Libya, we threw overboard a regime that, for all its notorious faults, was lauded by our government as a key ally in the fight against jihadist terror and nuclear proliferation, abetting its replacement by a sharia regime in which anti-American terrorists hold key positions. And in Egypt, we pulled the rug from beneath the pro-American Hosni Mubarak’s feet and ended up with the Muslim Brotherhood — extremists being pulled in a more extreme direction by the electoral success of still more doctrinaire Islamic supremacists. Meanwhile, Coptic Christians flee a country that is no longer even marginally safe for non-Muslims.