FrontPage Magazine carries an important piece by Daniel Pipes about what our purposes should be in Iraq. Pipes draws on a forthcoming book by Samuel Huntington, called Who Are We: The Challenges to America’s National Identity. In this book, Huntington describes the three broad visions available to America in its dealings with the world. They are the cosmopolitan, the imperial, and the nationalist. In the cosmopolitan vision, the world reshapes America (for the better, its adherents would say). In the imperial vision, America reshapes the world. In the national vision, America neither becomes the world nor reshapes it. America simply remains America.
With respect to Iraq, cosmopolitans reject the war as arrogant. Imperialists, who are calling the shots, “see a unique opportunity not just to rehabilitate that country but to spread American ways through the Middle East.” Nationalists fall somewhere in between — “they sympathize with the imperial vision but worry about its practicalities and consequences. As patriots, they take pride in American accomplishments and hope U.S. influence will spread. But they have two worries: that the outside world is not ready to Americanize and Americans are unwilling to spend the blood and treasure to carry off an imperial mission.”
Pipes, like Huntington, is a nationalist. He believes the U.S. goal in Iraq should be more narrowly restricted to protecting American interests. Although he hopes the Iraqi population benefits from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and can make a fresh start, he rejects the rehabilitation of Iraq as the standard by which to judge the American venture there. In Pipes view, “the U.S. goal cannot be a free Iraq, but an Iraq that does not endanger Americans.”
My view is that a free Iraq is a goal worth pursuing, now that we have intervened to ensure that Iraq will not endanger America (had Iraq not represented a danger, though, a free Iraq would not have been worth intervening for). A free Iraq is in our national interests and is a good in and of itself. However, this goal is only worth pursuing up to a point — the point at which we should conclude that the goal is unrealistic given its cost. I don’t think we’re at that point yet, but that’s where we may be heading.
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