The build-democracy phase of American policy may be ending, its objectives only partially met. What will happen now isn't clear in the least. Two hundred nations -- a minority of them freely functioning democracies -- is a large handful for the U.S. with the limitations imposed by economic turmoil. Before America's withdrawal, Richard Nixon, in the midst of "Vietnam-izing" the Vietnam War, declared with some explicitness that the United States couldn't be expected to police the world.
Indeed -- the job being too big, the circumstances too variable. Obama's withdrawal order to our forces in Iraq might have been put off for a short while, until an agreement was reached -- the big sticking point -- on immunity from Iraqi justice for Americans training Iraqi troops. That the Iraqis weren't willing to yield on so unexceptionable a point shows they think the dance has lasted long enough. They don't want us any longer, the no-good ingrates. Or maybe...
Maybe we have learned -- and are still learning -- a lesson from the Iraqis about the limits of reform projects. Americans themselves don't always enjoy projects of reform and uplift, as instituted by their duly elected government. The world is wild, quarrelsome and not especially submissive to sweet reason. A workable foreign policy is shaped around realities of this sort much more than it can ever be founded on hopes for the reformation of non-American others.
William Murchison, author and commentator, writes from Dallas. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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