If we had it to do over, would we send an army into Afghanistan to build a nation?
Would we invade Iraq?
While these two wars have cost 5,200 dead, a trillion dollars and a divided America facing an endless war, what have we won?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal needs 40,000 to 80,000 more troops, or we risk "mission failure" in Afghanistan. At present casualty rates -- October was the worst month of the war -- thousands more Americans will die before we see any light at the end of this tunnel, if ever we do.
Pakistan, which aided us in Afghanistan, now has a war of its own to fight. Its army is in a battle in South Waziristan, while the country is wracked by terror bombings, the latest in a Peshawar bazaar that specialized in women's clothing and jewelry and toys for kids. So horrific was the toll even the Taliban and al-Qaida denied any role in it.
The 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are, after almost seven years, to begin pulling out two months after January's election. But a hitch has developed. Iraq's parliament missed the deadline for setting the rules. At issue: Will voters be allowed to choose individual candidates, or will they be allowed only to vote for slates of candidates?
Gen. Ray Odierno implies that postponement of the election may mean postponement of U.S. withdrawals.
Ominously, in August, terrorists bombed the foreign and finance ministries in Baghdad, and last week blew up the Justice Ministry and Baghdad Provincial Governorate. And the Kurds are now claiming their control of oil-rich Kirkuk is non-negotiable, which crosses a red line in Baghdad.
Next door, a terror attack by Jundallah (God's Brigade) in Iran's southern province of Sistan-Baluchistan killed 40, including two senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard.
An enraged Tehran pointed the finger at the United States, as there have been charges the CIA has been in contact with Jundallah as part of President Bush's destabilization program to effect "regime change."
But Barack Obama has been in office for nine months -- and he would never authorize such an attack on the eve of a critical meeting on Iran's nuclear program. Moreover, the State Department condemned the Jundallah bombing as terrorism and offered public condolences to the families of the victims.
But if we didn't authorize this, who did?
Was the timing of this attack coincidental? Were these just freelance secessionists on an operation unrelated to the U.S.-Iran talks? Or is someone trying to torpedo the talks and push Iran and the United States into military collision?
For this was a provocation. And whoever carried it out and whoever authorized or abetted it wishes to dynamite the U.S.-Iran negotiations, abort a rapprochement and put us on a road to war.
Speculation is focusing on the Saudis, the Gulf Arabs and the Israelis, who have been accused, as has the United States, of aiding PJAK, a Kurdish faction that has conducted raids in northern Iran.
If we have any control of these organizations, we should shut them down. With U.S. armies tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America conducting Predator and cross-border attacks in Pakistan, provoking a war with Iran would be an act of madness.
Looking back, how has all this fighting advanced U.S. national interests? We have a "democratic" Iraq that is Shia-dominated and tilting to Iran. We have an open-ended war in Afghanistan that will likely do for Obama what Iraq did for Bush. But we can't pull out, it is said, for if we do, Kabul falls and Afghanistan becomes the sanctuary for an Islamist war to take over Pakistan and its nuclear weapons.
And if that should happen, it would indeed be a crisis.
And so, how has all this intervention availed us?
We ran Saddam out of Kuwait and put U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia. And we got Osama bin Laden's 9-11. We responded by taking down the Taliban and taking over Afghanistan. And we got an eight-year war with no victory and no end in sight. Now Pakistan is burning. We took down Saddam and got a seven-year war and an ungrateful Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Turks, who shared a border with Saddam, have done no fighting. Iran has watched as we destroyed its two greatest enemies, the Taliban and Saddam. China, which has a border with both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has sat back. India, which has a border with Pakistan and fought three wars with that country, has stayed aloof.
The United States, on the other side of the world, plunged in. And now we face an elongated military presence in Iraq, an escalating war in Afghanistan and potential disaster in Pakistan, and are being pushed from behind into a war with Iran.
"America rejects the false comfort of isolationism," said George W. Bush in his 2006 State of the Union. And we did reject that false comfort. And now we can enjoy the fruits of interventionism.