Joe Carter is on the kind of roll that has made Evangelical Outpost huge. In "This I No Longer Believe: 5 Lessons Learned from the Iraq War" he responds to the request of Rod Dreher, in his post at Belief.net - "Once Upon a Time I Believed" - who asked
Keep in mind, these are things you believed then you do not believe now because of the Iraq War. If you were always a smarty-pants it doesnt count here. :-) There is no implication in this question that you must be opposed to, or in support of, either the original Iraq invasion, the conduct of the war, or our continued involvement. Just - how has the Iraq War changed your views.
Rod's and Joe's lists are below the fold
[Note: I really haven't processed this much. The blockquotes are Joe Carter again, while any italics you may find are me again.]
Such exercises can be instructive, particularly when, like with Dreher's short list, the reflections reach for the significant rather than political banality (i.e., trite Bush-bashing). Still, I don’t think Dreher's list goes far enough in separating the long term implications from the naively held delusions.Rod's List:
- Having been absolutely certain that the war was the right thing to have done, and that we would prevail easily, I am no longer confident that I can discern when emotion is affecting my judgment unduly.
- I no longer implicitly trust governmental institutions, including the military -- neither in their honesty nor their competence.
- I no longer believe the Republican Party is superior in foreign policy judgment to the Democrats.
While I agree with this assessment it fails to illuminate the road ahead. Currently, the Republicans are exhibiting a level of foreign policy incompetence that is the birth-right of the Democrats. But will that always be the case or is Bush just exceptionally incompetent? A better observation would be to note that just as 9/11 proved political realism to be obsolete, Iraq has killed neo-con style idealism.
- I no longer have confidence in the ability of our military, or any military, to solve deep cultural and civilizational problems through force alone. I mean, I thought nothing could stand in the way of the strongest military fielded since the days of ancient Rome. No more.
- I have a far greater appreciation for how rare and fragile liberal democracy is, and a corresponding revulsion at the American assumption that it's the natural state of mankind. Which is to say, the war has made me rethink my ideas about human nature, and I'm far more pessimistic now than I ever was.
- I no longer believe that our reaction to the Vietnam War was an anomaly. Instead, I view the reaction to World War II as the true aberration--the one war in which Americans had the will to fight and win (and that was only after we were attacked). During WWII we lost more than 400,000 servicemembers. In Vietnam the number was more than 58,000. In Iraq, we've lost 3,636. These numbers show that our the anti-war sentiment is due not to an intolerance for mass casualties but rather to an ingrained opposition to foreign entanglements. For better or worse, America is at heart an isolationist, semi-pacifist nation.
- I no longer believe that we can fight wars by proxy. During the 50-year long Cold War we preferred to fight out enemies abroad, often indirectly. One of our main priorities, a primary strategic objective, was to prevent the expansion of Soviet-style Communism. Today, politicians and military leaders cannot expect the American people to go to war for such abstract concepts as "national security." The concept of "defending America" is taken in the literal sense of defensive actions necessary to guard the homeland. The American people will now only authorize war after we have been directly attacked on our own soil -- and then the warfare must be proportional and brief, otherwise we will withdraw our support.
- I no longer believe that Arab nations are capable of sustaining liberal democracies. The empirical evidence for this belief is overwhelming: Arab culture is currently unable to sustain democratic forms of government. Some people will decry this belief as racist or xenophobic. But it is simply being realistic. I used to think that Samuel Huntington was an intelligent crank; now I think he's prophetic. As he once noted, the Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous. Thinking that freedom could take root in the blood-soaked soil of Arab culture was a naive assumption. Iraq has disabused me of such notions.
- I no longer believe America cares about genocide. After the crimes of the Holocaust became internationally known, the world vowed it would never happen again. Whatever the phrase "never again" once meant, it no longer has applicability after Iraq. Indeed, we no longer even give lip service to such ideals as preventing ethnic cleansing or the mass slaughter of civilians. The New York Times recently published an editorial saying that it was time to leave Iraq, even though it would likely lead to genocide. Barack Obama agrees, saying that a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there. After Iraq, the use of military force for humanitarian intervention will be all but nonexistent. Darfur, you're on your own.
- I no longer believe we have the will to win against global jihadism. Consider our current situation: we have the majority of our legislators and a significant portion of the American people willing to concede defeat in Iraq even though they realize such a move will empower the jihadists and lead to the murder of more American civilians. Six years into the "Long War" we are ready to withdraw into our own borders. Oddly, we are not maneuvering to "bunker down" for we chafe at even the mildest sacrifices necessary to prevent terrorism. We are opting instead to consider the death of Americans to jihadism as an inevitable cost of living in a free society. We have considered the cost-benefit analysis and have determined that until the attacks reach the levels of Israel, we can bear the cost. (Of course, when it reaches that level, it will be too late.)
Rod notes a couple of points from paleocon Daniel Larison's list:
2. One of my other false beliefs connected to this was that most conservatives were conservatives first and GOP partisans second (if at all), and would therefore be just as outraged by GOP government activism and overreach as they had been in the 1990s. This was the worst sort of naivete on my part, and it was repeatedly shown to be false. ...
5. Yet another false belief was that most conservatives were not nationalists, when obviously the defining feature of most Americans who call themselves conservatives is that they are, in fact, nationalists. Had I been reading more Lukacs in my younger days, I would have already known this.
The other part of my title comes from my belief that evangelicals are more and more pulling away from a general political identification with the Republican Party. It never really should have been there - but appeared to have been; and it definitely seems over now. What do you think about that as well.
- I would start with my belief that the sectarian leaders in Iraq would put subvent their sects interests and place the future of Iraq first. It may yet come - but it hasn't yet
- Coupled with that, that the sectarian leaders would place the peace and safety of the Iraqi people over their own sect's interest and power. In retrospect, why should they be different than anyone else - including us.
- That it would have been easier to establish a representative government in the face of the lethal opposition of Iraq's neighbors - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria.
- That we as a country would be more ethical and moral about our responsibilities to the Iraqi people. We destroyed a government, and disbanded an army, that - however brutal - maintained control of the country; and maintained a national state. We have a human responsibility to stay until there is a government, and army, capable of maintaining control when we leave - or it becomes obvious that it will never happen. That is not yet completely obvious to me, despite my first two points.
- Coupled with that, that we would not repeat the mistake of 1991 and leave the democratic elements in Iraq hanging out to dry by abandoning them again. We seem on the verge of doing that.