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The Irrationality of Iraq

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George W. Bush’s ongoing peacekeeping and democracy building mission in Iraq annoys a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but it does make some sense in the context of Wilsonian diplomacy where you accept the concept that it is the job of the great powers of the world to maintain peace and order so that the poorer and more chaotic nations of the world can become civilized and develop more advanced and productive economies.

This idea, which is behind the efforts of many of the efforts of international groups like the UN and the Council on Foreign Relations, assumes that the world will be a better place for everyone if the poor folk of the world are not starving or fleeing from war and violence or spreading trouble by conquering their neighbors. It makes sense if you accept that trouble anywhere in the world can spill over or have fallout and negative consequences for the wealthier and more powerful nations no matter where they are located.

It makes much less sense if you assume that there are more specific limits to national self interest or limits to the amount of money, men and resources you can afford to spend on a missionary foreign policy. As a general rule a liberal foreign policy should at least be somewhat guided by pragmatic self interest because it makes no sense to ruin and bankrupt your own country for the benefit of others.

Spreading peace and promoting economic development makes some sense, so long as the cost is reasonable and the benefits are concrete and likely to be reaped in the foreseeable future. Stable nations with relatively modern and productive economies make good trading partners. If you accept the idea that one of the roles of government is to promote the general welfare (as stated in the Constitution) through maintaining a healthy environment for international trade, then giving a hand up to potential partner nations seems reasonable.

It is also true that if you allow oppression and violence free reign, then the more primitive and troubled nations of the world will spread chaos and poverty in the form of disease and refugees and even invasion and conquest. They can even export violent and destructive ideologies. Improving conditions in these hotspots makes life better for everyone.

All of this informs the decision to become embroiled in Iraq, a country with great economic potential in the heart of the most troubled and unstable region in the world. Stabilize Iraq and you help stabilize the region, allowing economic development and reducing the threat posed to the rest of the world.

The problem with this approach to foreign policy is that the threat posed and the benefits to be reaped in the middle east do not necessarily benefit the United States and certainly not to a degree to justify a cost of a trillion dollars.

Since 9/11 it has become quite clear that the United States is far less threatened by terrorism or other attacks inspired by radical Islam than most other countries of the world. We have a relatively small and largely assimilated Muslim population and we are geographically isolated and relatively easily defended from Muslim invasion, infiltration or immigration. The WTC attack was a remarkable accomplishment of luck and planning and one which is unlikely to ever be duplicated within the United States, especially when there are easier targets like US Embassies and troops overseas, and complacent, humanistic European nations only a few hundred miles from Muslim strongholds.

Radical Islam holds old grudges and resents western values, and the United States both was not party to most of the historical attacks on Islam, and is a far more religious and moral society from an Islamic perspective than the corrupt nations of Europe. Muslims as a group also have a lot more contact with Europeans than with Americans and a lot better access to Europe geographically and because of the large Muslim populations within many European countries. The threat to America is mainly one of isolated acts of terrorism, mainly outside our territory. The threat to Europe is much more immediate and substantial and could be as serious as an eventual Muslim takeover of some European nations.

I know it seems strange. Muslims tried to conquer Europe in the middle ages and again in the 17th century and were turned back decisively. Yet what they could not accomplish with the force of arms in earlier eras they may accomplish with the force of demographics in the next generation or two.

France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and other European countries have large and growing Muslim populations. In most of these countries, the Muslim minority is kept largely isolated and in an economically inferior condition, limited in their employment opportunities and discouraged both by a hostile local population and by their culture from mingling or assimilating with the native society. The rate of immigration is continuing to grow, and under the laws of the European Union there is little which can be done to control the ongoing flood of immigrants as Muslim countries like Turkey are admitted to the EU and follow a policy of granting citizenship to any Muslim who immigrates to them, even if they move on to another European country shortly thereafter.

In addition, Muslim birth rates in Europe are enormously higher than the birth rates of natives. France has a birthrate of only 12/100,000 people which barely maintains the native population. Germany actually has a negative native population growth at 8 births per 100,000 population. In contrast the typical Muslim birthrate in Europe is about 35/100,000 population, outbreeding the native population by almost 5 to 1 in many countries. With the death rate in most of Europe at 10/100,000 population for natives and immigrants and with continued relatively unchecked immigration, the population of Muslims in many countries will constitute a voting block capable of determining the outcome of any national election within two decades and some countries might actually have a Muslim majority by the middle of the century.

Seeing the growing power of Muslim minorities, European politicians have already begun to pander to them, passing laws which grant special privileges in consideration of their religion, going so far as to suggest that within Muslim communities Sharia law should be applied rather than the general laws of the nation itself. Last year in Germany, there was even acourt ruling where the judge ruled that a Muslim husband had the right to beat his wife based on Sharia law and the Koran. This level of concession on such a basic issue as the universality of law and morality is a sign of how thoroughly the European nations are failing to assimilate or even control their immigrant populations and it is only a matter of time before this sort of thinking leads to disastrous results.

So, what do all these problems in European have to do with the War in Iraq? Well, the ultimate long-term goal of a US involvement in Iraq and a more or less permanent presence in the middle east is the stabilization of that region. One of the main results of such a program would be an increase in peace and improvements in the economies of the region, massively reducing the desire of natives to emigrate and also reducing the attraction to the poor and desperate of the region to the more radical forms of Islam. It would mean fewer Muslims moving to Europe and a reduction in the exportation of terrorism.

Those are great objectives in the abstract, but the problem from the point of view of a pragmatic American is that almost all of the benefits of such a program do not accrue to the United States, which does a pretty good job of assimilating minorities and really isn’t all that threatened by terrorism. Most of the benefits of huge US spending in the middle east come to the natives of that region and secondarily to the nations of Europe in the form of reduced terrorism and reduced immigration.

Ironically, the leaders of the European nations most threatened by Islam, already realizing the political advantages of pandering to their Muslim minorities, are notable for their hostility toward the US efforts in Iraq. These are the nations which have not only failed to provide military and financial support for the war, but which have been outspoken in their criticism of US unilateralism in the region. They have lambasted and reviled the United States when the truth is that our costly involvement in the middle east basically amounts to fighting a war largely on their behalf and to their benefit and yet almost entirely at our expense in money and lives lost, even if they find it politically expedient not to acknowledge this reality.

As it has evolved, the Iraq war appears more and more illogical from the point of view of the best interests of the United States. It is too costly and too speculative and doesn’t offer enough of a return on our massive investment to justify our involvement. Yes, there is reason to be concerned with the threat of radical Islam, but it remains a distant threat for the US despite the events of 9/11, although it is a much more real threat to the oblivious socialists of Europe. Looked at objectively, invading the middle east makes about as much sense as France invading Mexico to help with the US immigration problem.

In the long term a full scale conflict between Islam and the United States may be inevitable. In the short term there are better ways to deal with the threat of radical Islam which are less expensive and more productive than a direct confrontation. Future efforts should be mostly diplomatic and economic and should focus on modernizing economies, encouraging capitalism, improving education and opportunity and subtly undermining Islamic culture. And in whatever efforts are made, the Europeans should be required to carry their weight and not abandon their responsibility for their own welfare by relying on the generosity of the United States.

Rather than fighting in the middle east today we could be laying the groundwork for a future in which a great war between Islam and the West could be avoided – not by appeasement as the Europeans have been attempting and certainly not by conquest, but by a gradual process of cultural and economic subversion.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Odd Doc… I thought he already did, of course he used North Korean nuclear equipment, and since he couldn’t pronounce the word nuclar every one was confused…

  • Orrin Hatch is endorsing Matt Millen for president actually.

  • Dave, if Satan ran as a Republican, became President and promptly proceeded to dismantle the nation’s economy and plunge us into a global nuclear war, Orrin Hatch would very probably call him ‘unappreciated’ and ‘a great president’.

  • bliffle


  • Check with Orin Hatch on that, Bliffster. In his speech today he called Bush ‘unappreciated’ and ‘a great president’. And who’s wiser than Orin Hatch, after all.


  • bliffle

    Where, pray tell?

  • I did indeed bring Wilson up, but not as a positive example, just as a way of providing context.

    I think that history will hold a different opinion of Bush than you do, Bliffle. I agree that he is a deeply flawed human being and a failure in many ways as president, but time will prove him right in some areas where he now appears to be a failure.


  • bliffle

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time: I don’t hate GWB, I distrust him. In my judgement he is unreliable and makes bad decisions. Furthermore, he is a weak man who cannot confront his own failures and correct his behaviour. Instead, he tells lies. And he bludgeons people into supporting him and taking the blame.

    He’ll never be any better at decision making.

    I don’t want GWBs errant decisions to have any more effect on my life, or that of my family and friends, than the absolute minimum. He’s a bum.

    Dave Nalle was the one who brought up Wilson in the first paragraph of this article.

  • Pablo

    Biffle comment 21

    The first paragraph is right on. Too bad the shill wont admit to the obvious. I don’t see the hate Davey, I see facts.

  • Bliffle, where do you get the idea that I would ever use ‘wilsonian’ as anything but a perjorative? Wilson’s foreign policy was a disaster. To compare something to it is to offer an insult. That you think anything ‘wilsonian’ could ever be good, from his meddlesome foreign policy to his racist domestic policies suggests profound ignorance on your part.

    Looks to me like you didn’t read past the first sentence of this article either. And BTW, the first paragraph of your comment is paranoid, hate-filled twaddle which doesn’t deserve a response.


  • bliffle

    Good intentions? Nonsense. Just words words words to decorate an invasion designed for base purposes, mainly to elevate GWB to near dictator status. Cheney and company knew that a war footing would give GWB a free hand to violate laws and the constitution and hand out money and create national debts that would keep the nation prisoner to generations of international debt while cash was handed out to the richest and most powerful Americans and a lot of non-American friends.

    All that fine talk about Wilsonianism is just window dressing for plundering the US treasury and citizenry.

    Nalle should be ashamed for supporting it.

  • Well Dan, it sounds like we’re on the same page. All the good intentions in the world and even good results for the countries we interfere with, aren’t justified if they don’t bring us at least some direct benefits to justify the cost. And when the costs runs as high as it has in Iraq we’d have to get some sort of absolutely amazing payback to make it worth the effort. So much more can be achieved with much less money.

    I’d like to see almost all of the troops pulled out of other countries and a complete rethinking of our foreign policy when it comes to the sort of super Monroe Doctrine we’ve been following. Frankly, as a capitalist and libertarian I’d like to see us switch to using alternative methods, including possibly the use of mercenaries like Blackwater for diplomatic security and other purposes. If mercenaries were good enough for Jefferson, they should be okay today.


  • Dan Miller


    I also wonder why we have troops in Iraq, why we put them there in the first place, and how long we will continue to have them there. I’m sure it has a lot to do with our missionary ethic, which makes us want to make parts of the world where things are pretty rotten better, i.e., modeled after systems in the U.S.

    More than fifty years after the armistice in Korea, we still have about thirty-five thousand troops in South Korea. Less than that, but still quite a long time after the end of the last cold war, we still have troops in Europe. How does this benefit the U.S.?

    True, North Korea has an enormous standing (and unlike the rest of the population well fed) army, which could probably crush South Korea at will — just as North Korea almost did half a century ago until the U.S. intervened militarily– and it seems probable that the U.S. still has forces there primarily as a reason to enter the brawl should it happen. The remnants of the USSR could probably do quite a lot of harm to our friends(?) in Europe, and we may well still be there for much the same reason.

    Having our forces in those places probably helps the countries where they are stationed. But what does it do for the U.S.? Of equal importance, why is the U.S. subsidizing the defense of South Korea (and thereby of Japan, from China) and Europe, both of which frequently castigate us (a) for being there and (b) for being the imperialistic war mongers which they seem to think we are? South Korea and much of Europe have gained tremendous economic stature since the Korean Conflict and the end of World War II, and can clearly make do without the military support of the U.S. Although I do not agree with Ruvy’s frequently stated premise that the U.S. is on the verge of bankruptcy and worse because of the war in Iraq, I simply cannot justify our continued presence in Iraq, South Korea, or Europe on a cost – benefit basis.

    I do not suggest that the U.S. fold its tents and slink off the world scene. I do suggest, as you seem to, that substantially more consideration be given to the security and economic interests of the United States in deciding which countries to assist militarily to what extent, and which to leave to their own devices.


  • Yeah, well, I only made it through five letters of this article, and I disagree with it way more than Pablo does.

  • Lumpy

    Some people just place the desire to do good ahead of beancounting and other practicalities. Sometimes they get lucky and it makes them great (teddy roosevelt) others it turns around and fate makes you its crying prison bitch.

  • Lee Richards

    Someone who worked many years as a State Department official at embassies around the world–including the Middle East–and who, after 9/11, worked 18-20 hour days at the Dept. in Washington in counter-terrorism told me during the lead-up to our invasion of Iraq that he knew no one there who thought it was a good idea, because there was no realistically forseeable or predictable long-term positive outcome for us, or any reasonable projection of how or when we could withdraw.

    How stupid, careless, and ignorant were Bush, Rice, Cheney and Rumsfeld not to consider carefully the pitfalls that were obvious and apparent to so many, in and out of the government, and what malfeasence to make up/intentionally misinterpret and distort evidence to support their bad decisions?

    Even Newt Gingrich thinks “we’ve gone off a cliff” there, but John McCain still loves the drums and bugles, and flags waving over the troops.

  • bliffle

    It’s The White Mans Burden.

  • troll

    destabilize the region in order to stabilize it…creative destruction…shock doctrine economics

    …has Phoenix worship become our State religion or something – ?

    Dave – the self destructive irrationality of the US’ invasion has been clear for years – welcome home brother

  • Robert, you were the one who brought up JQA earlier, not me.

    As for the Monroe Doctrine, the first time it was really used was to justify the invasion of Mexico – but that was more like nation plundering than nation building, I suppose.


  • $9 Trillion in debt and growing.

    Bridges falling down into rivers.

    A flood of illegal imigrants swamping hospitals and schools.

    And yet Dave takes issue with the domestic policy of John Quicy Adams? How do we classify the Bush years on this spectrum? Oh, if only we had such troubles!

    Nothing in the Monroe Doctrine speaks to UN peace keeping or nation building.

  • Pablo


    On the subject of hate, perhaps you could show me one comment out of the 300 some odd ones that I have made, where I said that I hate anyone? That includes your friends at the CFR, CIA, NRO, and FED.

    I love how you put words into my mouth, if I hated someone I am perfectly able to say so. I may despise, I may ridicule, or even condemn, but hate aint my bag. As to your hand in hand partner Clavy, as I have said numerous times, I am not paranoid, if I was I would not be writing on here. Surely Clavy if you took your hand out of Dave’s long enough to see clearly, you would see the logic in that. Sigh…….I suspect your far too deeply in love or infatuation to see any logic right now. Believe me Clavy it doesnt last forever.

  • Pablo

    No Dave, I just do not subscribe to the erroneous belief that a few still share that we went into Iraq for either democracy, or the obscene doublespeak of calling war and slaughtering people “peacekeeping”.

    Also the way in which you prefaced your whole article with that statement, which you did not say was a rationale, but you put it out as fact. Hence I did not read the rest of it, as I usually do, and simply made a comment on that ridiculous opening sentence.

    Clavy, Yes you are holding Dave’s hand, are your fingers interlaced? Truly you are adorable. How sweet.

  • Clavos

    Why should I bother reading the rest of the article

    Why indeed, Pablo?

    If you were to acquire some real knowledge, as opposed to paranoid fantasies, you’d be drummed out of the tinfoil brigade, hard up as they are for gofers.

  • It’s providing context, Pablo. It’s explaining the rationale behind the Iraq War so that you understand the motivations of Bush and others like him. I realize you prefer to hate without understanding, but it’s tedious and shallow.


  • Pablo


    Why should I bother reading the rest of the article when the very first sentence is complete bs? I dont think so.

    Clavy are you guys holding hands? How adorable 🙂

  • Actually, just reading the title might have given him a clue.


  • Clavos

    Pablo doesn’t read even first lines well — he knows it all before he even begins.

    No need to read.

  • Pablo, you’d look a lot less foolish if you took the trouble to read past the first line, rather than taking pride in not bothering. This is an article in opposition to the Iraq War – not that you’d be interested in reading any further and learning something.


  • Pablo

    The first sentence says it all Dave.

    “George W. Bush’s ongoing peacekeeping and democracy building mission in Iraq”

    I reach for my barf bag, and then wonder if you really believe in your own bs. Peacekeeping? Huh?

    Democracy? Huh?

    Sure Davey, and there is an easter bunny too bubba.

  • John Quincy Adams certainly had some very sound ideas, at least in foreign policy. His domestic policy was a disaster, on the other hand.

    And of course, two years after the speech you quote he authored the Monroe Doctrine which was subsequently used by multiple presidents as justification for interfering in the affairs of countries from the Carribean to South America to Asia.


  • Dave said:

    “In the short term there are better ways to deal with the threat of radical Islam which are less expensive and more productive than a direct confrontation.”

    In 1821 John Quincy Adams said:

    “America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity.

    She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights.

    She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.

    She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.

    Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.
    But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

    She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

    She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

    She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

    The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….

    She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

    [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.”

    When John Quincy Adams served as U. S. Secretary of State, he delivered this speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on July 4, 1821, in celebration of American Independence Day.