Degrade and Destroy

David Bromwich

America has now officially embarked on a long war in the Middle East, a war so taxing that officials judge it ill-advised to predict a termination in fifteen years or fifty. If one regards the entanglement as a product of American mistakes – a judgment shared by many observers – the causes in arrogance and ideology go a long way back. Among the culprits are Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and the triumvirate of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Tony Blair (an honorary American in this context). Wilson promoted the idea of the United States as the country whose mission was to make the world safe for democracy. Truman launched the national security state with mobilisation in peacetime. Two terms of Reagan effaced the conscience of Vietnam and closed with ‘victory in the Cold War’. In the years between the fall of communism and the Iraq war, that victory was rubbed in by the eastward expansion of Nato, an event whose reverberations are now being felt elsewhere.

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