Again, the reason for remembering such U.S. undertakings at this moment is not to reopen arguments about their wisdom, but to underscore the point that the United States has been practicing the craft of regime change for a long time. And that such changes inevitably are the beginnings of long and sometimes melancholy entanglements.
We are in the process of acquiring yet another in Liberia. That one arises from historic ties, supplemented by President Bush's post-9/11 conclusion that ``weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states.''
The Economist of London, which was founded in 1843, when British imperialism was flourishing, is
neither squeamish about the fact of empire nor tainted by anti-Americanism. But as an anxious friend The Economist notes:
In less than two years the United States has occupied two Muslim countries with a combined population of more than 50 million. Afghanistan ``remains a failed or nonexistent state'' where ``the government's writ does not extend much beyond Kabul'' and ``local warlords, deep into the heroin trade, wield the real power.'' In Iraq, where a U.S. general says the current condition is ``war, however you describe it,'' there are 161,000 occupying troops, of which 148,000 are American. The largest contingent of the other 13,000 are British and the other 18 participating nations have sent on average a few hundred.
It might be time to pause in pushing the American project that was implicit in Woodrow Wilson's assertion that America's flag is ``the flag not only of America but of humanity.'' Wilson was echoing Lincoln's belief that our nation is ``dedicated to a proposition'' that is ``an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times.'' But the belief that the American model of civic life could be a blessing to everyone is as old as Benjamin Franklin's proclamation that America's ``cause is esteemed the cause of all mankind.''
Franklin did not say, but probably was wise enough to think: ``Eventually. Maybe.''