Matthew Parris has an absolutely brilliant piece in The Times of London on how to be an honest critic of the war. He deftly skewers many of the common anti-war arguments with some very convincing logic. However, he then offers this:
Don’t, in summary, dress up moral doubt in the garb of wordlywise punditry. Give warning, by all means, of the huge gamble that allied plans represent, but if all you are talking is the probabilities, say so, and prepare to be vindicated or mocked by the outcomes. We are very quick to aver that Tony Blair will be discredited and humiliated if the war goes wrong. Will we be discredited and humiliated if the war goes right? If the basis of our objection was that the war would fail, that should follow.
I do not think that the war, if there is a war, will fail. I can easily envisage the publication soon of some chilling facts about Saddam’s armoury, a French and German scamper back into the fold, a tough UN second resolution, a short and successful war, a handover to a better government, a discreet change of tune in the biddable part of the Arab world, and egg all over the peaceniks’ faces.
I am not afraid that this war will fail. I am afraid that it will succeed.
I am afraid that it will prove to be the first in an indefinite series of American interventions. I am afraid that it is the beginning of a new empire: an empire that I am afraid Britain may have little choice but to join.
It is not unreasonable to fear such a scenario, however it’s an argument that displays a certain lack of understanding of the American character.
Americans have had a long streak of isolationism throughout American history. We’re not the type to forge empires because we were once a people who lived under the thumb of one. The critique of Pax Americana tends to forget that simple fact.
Indeed, in those times when America was arguably acting in an imperial manor, we tended to do a rather slipshod job of it. In the Spanish-American War, the cries of "imperialism" were also heard from the Old World, we rather quickly allowed our new-found possessions to go their own merry way. We maintained the Phillipines as a protectorate, but later granted them their independence without the kind of bloody revolutions that signaled the death-knell of European colonialism. Likewise, at the end of World War II we could have easily set ourselves up as the dominators of Europe. Instead, we gave them their Marshall Plan aid and let them pick their own governments as they pleased. (Even allowing the Communists to maintain a significant foothold in Franco-German politics.)
Those are not the actions of nation that seeks to dominate others. Rather, they are the actions of a nation that will reluctantly answer the call to conflict, and quickly try to extricate itself as soon as is possible. It’s that facet of the American cultural psyche that leads me to believe that we’re not going to create any empire anytime soon. Despite the Project for a New American Century’s bold pronouncements, we’re not a nation that has the spirit or the desire to grab and maintain an empire.
(Thanks to InstaPundit for pointing out the link…)