The U.S. has been involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since October 2001 and March 2003, respectively. Undeniably, there have been relative ups and downs in their conditions — both countries have seen periods of relative stability and near anarchy. For a while, both Iraq and Afghanistan seemed to have stable democracies with little violence after President Bush’s surge in Iraq and the ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, of course, appearances were deceiving and both countries have been slipping back into anarchy, with new, almost daily violence and bombings in Iraq, and the Taliban regaining a large new foothold in Afghanistan. But these occurrences should not come as a surprise — it is simply history repeating itself.
Throughout the Cold-War, America continually and covertly supported repressive dictatorships around the world. From Indonesia to Iran and to Chile, America installed and supported repressive governments in the name of anti-Communism. Most if not all were disastrous: America’s direct involvement and support to dictatorships and failed states around the world boiled down to one simple rule — our complete, perhaps willful, ignorance of cultural and societal institutions that are completely foreign to our own.
It is no wonder then, that creating, “American-style” Democracies in Middle-Eastern countries are bound to fail. Both President Bush, in starting the wars, and President Obama, in continuing them, have failed to see the vast unintended consequences of creating top-down institutions that are completely foreign to the people and leaders of both countries.
In Iraq we failed to ignore the long-standing religious and political divisions that pitted the Shi’a against Sunni Muslims and created a government that tried to force them to share power. Instead of vibrant democracy, we created a bloated, inefficient government that refuses to cooperate with itself while violence continues to erupt.
In Afghanistan we trampled over the Taliban while callously forgetting our own support of them during their war with the Soviets, and their long history of dealing with foreign aggression (who included the British, the Soviets and now the U.S.). Once again, we supported a large centralized democracy in a country ruled by decentralized tribal clans. It is again no wonder that the Afghan government is corrupt and unable to control its vast tribal regions that now support a Taliban resurgence.
Both countries are quickly turning into failed states — failures for which the U.S. is directly responsible. It is in fact true that the unintended consequences of invasion and occupation have made our country no safer — in fact, we are less safe than before. Yes, 9/11 was a wake up call to the country, but not one to motivate the “creation” of democracies in foreign countries.
The latest attempted terrorist acts, the Times Square bombing, the Christmas underwear attack and the very recent FedEx bombings are all proof that these wars have amounted to little progress and much regress. It is time that we learn that every country has its own complex socio-cultural institutions and that “Americanization” is a morally and practically bankrupt foreign policy.
The U.S. cannot and should not be a world police and certainly cannot be an aggressor. Not only are we not capable of it, the death and suffering of thousands of people around the world from the time of American colonialism to today is a testament against it. The Third World is strewn with the forgotten foreign policy adventures and failures of the past.
Yes, hindsight of the messes in Iraq and Afghanistan make it so easy to say that involvement in them was a mistake, but American foreign policy must be guided by both the central moral principles of a nation’s self-determination and a Socratic understanding that we cannot possibly know enough, as outsiders, to calculate the unintended consequences of aggression on another nation’s culture and society.

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Gotta go!

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