The Corner

None of Our Business

I was delighted to see that opinion on the right continues to shift away from support for our nation-building misadventures in Mesopotamia and Bactria; from Peggy Noonan’s column:

The problem with Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, is not only that after 10 years our efforts have turned out of be—polite word—inconclusive. We are spending money we don’t have for aims we cannot even articulate.

But one of the reasons we get sucked into this sort of thing is our indiscriminate view of America’s role in the world, an inability to wake up from the Cold War, when we faced an empire-seeking global hegemony. If our foreign policy is based on “a kind of bullying dreaminess about the world,” as Noonan puts it, then we end up constantly sticking our noses in other people’s business. This overly expansive foreign policy starts out peacefully, but eventually leads to ridiculous mistakes like Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the nation-building phases of our initially justifiable invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

An example of this struck me in today’s WaPo:

President Obama on Thursday voiced “deep concern” over the widening violence in Sudan as his top envoy prepared to travel to the region this month to help resolve a political and military crisis that threatens to upend one of the United States’ principal priorities in Africa: the peaceful division of Sudan into two states.

Why would the division of Sudan be any priority of ours, let alone a “principal” one? Look, I’m all for the south Sudanese; I was weaned on the very kind of stories they’ve been living through for years (actually since the Arab invasion of Nubia in 642) and I’d be delighted to see them push the invaders back to Mecca where they came from. But it should go without saying that this is not a vital national interest of the United States. Working with, say, Nigerian intelligence to identify people plotting to attack us? — that’s a principal priority of ours in Africa. Killing Somali pirates? You betcha. Training the militaries in Chad and Niger to fight Islamic militants? Maybe, though even that’s a little iffy. But trying to determine where the boundaries should be between North Sudan and South Sudan, Darfur and Kordofan? Who cares? How about we just not have a Sudan policy for a few years and see if anyone notices?


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