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The Myopia of Interventionists

American hawks couldn't see further in the future. They weren't even perceiving the present correctly.

Andrew Bacevich recalls Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement about American indispensability, and notes how poorly it has held up over the last twenty-one years:

Back then, it was Albright’s claim to American indispensability that stuck in my craw. Yet as a testimony to ruling class hubris, the assertion of indispensability pales in comparison to Albright’s insistence that “we see further into the future.”

In fact, from February 1998 down to the present, events have time and again caught Albright’s “we” napping.

Albright’s statement is even more damning for her and her fellow interventionists when we consider that the context of her remarks was a discussion of the supposed threat from Iraq. The full sentence went like this: “We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.” Albright was making a general claim about our supposed superiority to other nations when it came to looking into the future, but she was also specifically warning against a “danger” from Iraq that she claimed threatened “all of us.” She answered one of Matt Lauer’s questions with this assertion:

I think that we know what we have to do, and that is help enforce the UN Security Council resolutions, which demand that Saddam Hussein abide by those resolutions, and get rid of his weapons of mass destruction, and allow the inspectors to have unfettered and unconditional access.

Albright’s rhetoric from 1998 is a grim reminder that policymakers from both parties accepted the existence of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” as a given and never seriously questioned a policy aimed at eliminating something that did not exist. American hawks couldn’t see further in the future. They weren’t even perceiving the present correctly, and tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Iraqis would suffer because they insisted that they saw something that wasn’t there.

A little more than five years after she uttered these words, the same wild threat inflation that Albright was engaged in led to the invasion of Iraq, the greatest blunder and one of the worst crimes in the history of modern U.S. foreign policy. Not only did Albright and other later war supporters not see what was coming, but their deluded belief in being able to anticipate future threats caused them to buy into and promote a bogus case for a war that was completely unnecessary and should never have been fought.



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