American intervention has broken pottery all over the Middle East. Every time the U.S. attempts to repair its last accident, it increases and spreads the mess. It is time for a different approach. One in which Washington does not attempt to micromanage the affairs of other nations. In which Washington practices humility. This would not be isolationism. America, and especially Americans, should be engaged in the world. Economic and cultural ties benefit all. Political cooperation can help meet global problems. Humanitarian needs are varied and manifold. Military action sometimes is necessary, but only rarely -- certainly far less often than presumed by Washington.
Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Baghdad to ask the Iraqi government to stop helping Iran support Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Kerry received an embarrassing rebuff--so much for the Bush administration's celebrated victory over Saddam Hussein. This time ten years ago the grand Iraqi cakewalk had begun. American military forces were racing toward victory. The world was going to be transformed. But not in the way President George W. Bush and his top officials imagined. Invading Iraq turned out to be one of Washington's greatest strategic mistakes. Yet even now many of the Iraq War's architects are clamoring for more wars. America needs peace. War should be a true last resort, not just another policy option for frustrated social engineers and impatient internationalists. Wars are sometimes tragically necessary. But not in Iraq.
Colin Powell and Robert McNamara exemplify the ever-loyal, unquestioning subordinate. McNamara self-righteously invoked Dean Acheson's quiet departure from the New Deal as his model, but Acheson's silence did not assure him a place at the World Bank. If McNamara had denounced the war, would it have made a difference? What if the very popular Colin Powell had expended some of his political capital and denounced the dubious rationalization for war against Iraq? Perhaps their dramatic gestures would have been wasted. But Archibald Cox's forceful stand against Nixon in October 1973 is instructive, showing that public resistance to a superior can make a difference.