Reihan makes an important point:
If the strategic footprint of the U.S. shrinks after a decade of expansion after the 2001 terror attacks, U.S. influence expanded deep into the heart of Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere other countries, including countries we consider unsavory, will pick up the strategic slack. This was a central part of the Nixon-Kissinger strategy during the détente era: Vietnamization was part of a broader concept of relying on proxy states, like Iran under the Shah, to contain Soviet expansion rather than to rely solely on American power. These archrealists also believed that this was a step on the road to a multipolar world. Basically, I think we’re going to see more interventions like the movement of Saudi troops into Bahrain, and there’s not much we can do about it.
I think the basic underlying division today among foreign policy elites is simply between those who have internalized America's relative decline and the limits of hard power revealed in the last decade ... and those who haven't. And what's remarkable to me about those who haven't is that, in inveighing on Libya, they don't even mention the Iraq and Afghanistan precedents, or reduce them to an aside. You can read Leon Wieseltier's screed and find not one mention of the past ten years, as if they had not happened, as if he had not endorsed both, as if we have gone from 1994 to 2011 with nothing in between. And so he can write a sentence like the following:
Why is Obama so disinclined to use the power at his disposal?
Really: is the amnesia and lack of intellectual responsibility that deep? The same could be said for Wolfowitz's 2003 replay. These people have simply wiped the last ten years off the map, or reduced it to this:
After the Iraq War, we are all mindful of the risks inherent in any military action. The caution of a Robert Gates is understandable, although it’s wrong to assume every U.S. operation must go astray. If we can’t establish a no-fly zone over Libya and stop Qaddafi’s drive toward Benghazi, we really are tapped out as a world power. It’s the least we can do to tip the fight against a dictator with American blood on his hands.
Now unpack this for a minute. The point, it seems, of going to war with Libya is to prove that America is still a world-power and to get revenge on Qaddafi. Have they learned nothing?
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