Everybody in the whole world (except the Anglophone centre and right) predicted disaster, more-or-less of the kind that occurred. Hippies did. Gaullists did. Andean peasants, Buchananite reactionaries, John Paul II, Al Gore, the career US military, pulp novelists, realist IR professors and pissy arts students all saw this one coming. I know it’s kind of embarrassing for the English-speaking right to admit that they didn’t have the foreign policy chops of the Berkeley Women Studies’ department, but them’s the facts. ~Pithlord

This is, unfortunately, only too true.  It will be one of the consequences of the Iraq war that most of the American right’s reputation as being wise and serious about foreign policy will be–or at least should be–ruined for decades.  After a while, all those Nazi analogies began to take the place of real thought and analysis, and there seemed to be no ability to discern and judge the nature of real, present-day threats.  It was simply an accepted prejudice on much of the center and right that Hussein was a major threat and “we” had to do something about him.  That is what “responsible” people believed.  My view is that anyone whom people in Washington consider “responsible” should probably be locked up for the good of all.     

Pithlord is responding to part of a statement from Andrew Cunningham that comes at the end of his post about the collapsing population of Russia and the surging presence of Islam in Russia.  Andy is making a lot of sense that this large-scale demographic crisis and Islam’s role in filling the vacuum are among the major problems faced by the West (and certainly by Europe) today, but then ends the post with this more or less complete non sequitur:

If you’re wondering why we’re in Afghanistan or why we (Canadians) should be in Iraq, it is more than anything because we need to counter the notion that all this is feeding on…that the West will risk nothing in defence of its supposed “ideals”. Even if one were to concede (in hindsight) that the Iraq invasion wasn’t the best thing to do in 2003, it is crucial not to give up now. The establishment, there and in Afghanistan, of moderate, prosperous and democratic Islamic societies is still possible, and one of our last best hopes for a “sustainable” world.

I would first of all have to challenge the claim that the establishment of “moderate, prosperous and democratic Islamic societies” in Iraq and Afghanistan is possible.  Not whether it might be desirable (it very well might be, save for the democratic bit), but whether it is possible.  Nothing that I see today or understand about these two countries gives me any expectation of any such thing being possible.  As always it has been incumbent on the people saying this to demonstrate it with something more than the elaborate arm-waving that is the typical assertion, “Freedom and democracy are universal.”  (I don’t accuse Andy of holding such a simplistic view of the matter, but I await an argument that explains how such a thing is possible that does not rely on such stunningly false assumptions.)

Second, what do either Afghanistan and Iraq have to do with the defense of our “ideals,” real or imaginary?  Afghanistan can be reasonably justified as a necessary and proper retaliation for an attack on American soil, and America’s allies have aided America significantly in that retaliation, but this is very plainly an act of self-defense or retaliation against a physical threat.  “We” are, I’m sorry, no more defending our “ideals” in Paktia province than “we” were defending them at Midway.  Our “ideals” can only be threatened by those who pervert them or who, here at home, reject them outright.  That is, unless we believe that our liberty is diminished when it is diminished somewhere else, in which case what goes on in Afghanistan does somehow impact our “ideals”–this seems to me to be plainly untrue.  In Afghanistan, with some plausibility, we can say that we are defending our country, and that our allies are aiding us in this defense.  In Iraq, it is difficult to conceive of the war there as a defense of any kind of anything, since it was an openly aggressive war.  Were the British defending their ideals in 1899?  No, they were attacking the Afrikaner republics.  Were the Japanese defending their ideals in 1937?  No, they were invading China (though they did cook up an incident that provided a pretext for calling the invasion self-defense).   

Third, if the dangers are to be found on the one hand in the failure of Western peoples to reproduce themselves and maintain their populations and and on the other in the incursions of Islam into the Western world, what do the missions in Afghanistan or Iraq do that combats either of these trends?  They commit Western nations to send young men (and, praise be to egalitarianism, young women) to risk their lives and, in some cases, lose their lives, draining away still more of the native Western population, while at the same time doing nothing to prevent the spread of Islam or the migration of Muslims to the West.  Indeed, by causing such disruption at the heart of the Islamic world, the Iraq war is probably helping in the long term to encourage still more migration out of the Islamic world to points west and north. 

The message that Iraq in particular sends is that we assume two things: a) every political community should be organised in more or less the same way as our own and b) we are apparently more concerned with dominating and/or reorganising someone else’s political community than we are in securing the basic reproduction of our own peoples and the integrity of the historic religious and cultural identity of our civilisation.  In having recourse to the sword (and democratisation and nation-building) as the supposed means of our deliverance, we are acknowledging that we are in every other sense too weak to resist the eventual extinction of our peoples and the moral and religious collapse of our civilisation.  This need not be the case, and I think the reserves of our civilisation in these areas go deeper than some may suppose, but the continued focus of our attention on reorganising and reforming another civilisation rather than ensuring the vitality and preserving the old identity of our own seems to me to arrange our priorities horribly poorly.   The attempt to reform and reorganise the politics and culture of the Islamic world also happens to be a fool’s errand.