Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category

First appeared in RURAL RANTS          

America has just now experienced a totally new and shocking approach to presidential politics.  By the time it was over, the Republican candidate had offended just about every group that existed as a potential voting bloc against him.  That list included African Americans, Mexicans, Asians, Latinos, immigrants in general, Muslims, women, POWs and the disabled, to mention just a few.

His manner, vocabulary and attitudes were mean-spirited, crass and completely unapologetic.  The Democrats, basking in his essentially unacceptable demeanor, figured they had the contest won.  Probably the one thing that made that unlikely was their own candidate.  If they had wanted to choose a weak candidate, they couldn’t have done better than the one they chose.  With her approval ratings among the lowest on record, it was going to be an uphill climb for the Democrats.

The first group to turn on the Republican candidate was made up of a number of more traditional conservative Republican politicians.  They either pilloried him for his baseness or refused to endorse his candidacy.

Nevertheless, he persisted in his indiscriminate attack on all those groups that conventional wisdom said were absolutely critical to any candidate who wanted to gain the Presidency.  How could that be?  How could an essentially intelligent man so callously attack the people and groups he would need if he wanted to win the election?

It is difficult if not impossible to believe that he didn’t know what he was doing.  Quite the opposite.  It is far more likely that he had identified the only group that could bring him an election victory and that all the groups that conventional wisdom recommended were exactly those that he did not need.  In fact, he needed to attack them if he was going to guarantee the support of his only important, potential support group – angry, disenfranchised, white, working class Americans who were preoccupied with inevitable, coming, demographic change   And so he did.

It is generally said that he is a reasonably nice guy and that the face he showed the electorate does not accurately reflect his true personality.  If that is true, it lends more credence to the observation that his pre-election personality and behavior were part of his realization that it was the tactic required to win over the one critical group he needed in order to prevail in the election.

And that was very likely the realization that determined how he would run his campaign.  He knew how unhappy and marginalized white, working class America really was.  They had not benefited, as a group, from the economic revival and job growth being touted by the administration in office.  Quite the opposite.  The newly created jobs were a far cry from the good old days of work in the factories where they made enough in good wages and benefits to live solidly middle class lives and even educate their children.  Instead, they got low wages without benefits at places like Walmart.  He and his followers would “make America great again” without identifying the year in America’s past to which we would be returning, but it clearly would be in the pre-Walmart era. How often has a return to the past worked?

Part of the dynamic that brought this unusual tactic to the electoral process was the depth of disenchantment within the white, working class.  He may not have realized it at the time, or may have simply decided he had no choice but to take the risk, but what he found was that no matter how ugly his statements about POWs, Muslims, Mexicans, Black Americans, women and everyone else he attacked and offended, his white Americans would all simply suck it up and take it.  Those attacks had nothing but a positive effect on the white, working class group he was courting.  Not only did they accept this mean-spirited behavior, they actually supported it.

The final and perhaps most fascinating part of this story is that when the actual election came around, the Republican candidate got the vote of not only white working class Americans, but of many women both white and black, and of Mexicans and Latinos as well.  They also picked up Sanders supporters who shared their views on economic fairness.

The overriding issue, clearly, was the state of the economy and the strong belief of his supporters that they were being excluded by the power centers in both the Democratic and Republican parties from their fair share of prosperity.  Given an inevitably changed demographic future, that should cause panic in the Democrat and Republican parties alike.

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Originally published in the The Rutland Herald and the Barre Times-Argus

It’s difficult to look at our ongoing national political contest and not think that our system is in the unprecedented process of being turned upside down.    One of our major parties has been taken over by a leader and a very large group of dissidents who are pushing it in directions never before seen.    Racism, misogyny, sexism, immigration, civil rights and the endorsement of violence, are only among the most prominent areas that have seen changes in attitude during this election cycle.

During the Cold War, largely because of its preoccupation with Soviet-sponsored “revolution” around the world, the United States’ intelligence community put together profiles of countries likely to be vulnerable to revolution. They were monitored because ongoing developments gave a good idea of the extent to which any given country was either entering a revolutionary state, or maintaining a non-revolutionary status quo.

The primary indicators for revolution were: a large gap between the wealthy and the less affluent, an absent or shrinking middle class and the disaffection of large portions of society with those who held power and used it. Looking at contemporary America in those terms, one could assume that the U.S. is entering some sort of revolutionary phase.

Let’s take a look at current realities in our country, in addition to those outlined above, that might precipitate coming change:

— The richest 1 percent of the American population owns over 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The top 1 percent earn 24 percent of total national income, while those 15 percent (46.2 million people) who live below the poverty line earn 3.4 percent.

— The net loser, apart from the poor, is a disappearing American middle class. During the decade from 2000 to 2010, Americans in the middle of the pay scale saw income go down 7 percent, while the richest 40 percent actually gained wealth. Additionally, 14 million Americans are unemployed and 8.8 million are part-time employees.

— The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has given extraordinary and unprecedented political power to the rich and to corporations, in effect, removing that power from ordinary voters.

— Republican and Democratic administrations have refused to prosecute the most senior members of the U.S. banking community for their role in the recession and financial crisis of 2008, despite clear evidence of law-breaking.

— We have a totally dysfunctional Congress (approval rating in the teens) that cannot work across party lines.

In addition to that, we are faced with some realities that could lead to violence in such a revolutionary environment, augmented by the Republican candidate’s continuing allegation that, should he drop in the polls the election is “rigged.”

— We have a Republican presidential candidate who has attempted to subtly encourage violence within his followers and in the “Second Amendment people.”

— We have a powerful and effective NRA fighting any and every move, however nonthreatening, to our Second Amendment rights to exercise any control, however sensible, over the type and sale of weapons.

— We have more weapons in circulation per capita than any country in the world, and absolutely no ability to further limit either their type or distribution.

— We have increasing racism against blacks and now, Muslims, along with increased violence and ambivalence within police departments about how to handle it.

Most importantly, however, particularly when coupled with our extensive gun ownership, we have an extraordinary rise in the numbers of “militia groups” and their membership.

According to USA Today, the “Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 1,360 anti-government groups in 2012, an eightfold increase over 2008, when it recorded 149 such groups. The explosive growth began four years ago, sparked by the election of President Obama and anger about the poor economy.”

It is generally acknowledged that these groups share a common belief in the imminent rise of a tyrannical government in the U.S., which they believe must be confronted through armed force. Militia News believes that “Tyranny Will Rule If Hillary Clinton Takes The Oval Office,” that “Violence In The Face Of Tyranny Is Often Necessary.” It continues on about “manufactured civil unrest,” “the approaching endpoint of Democracy,” “Liberty fading,” and a “Corrupted FBI.”

In a recent interview on Vermont Public Radio, the interviewee, a young, educated, white, married father of two from the South, when asked what effect the election of the Democratic candidate would have on the country, replied that there would surely be a revolution. He went on to say that he was in the process of joining a militia group.

Violence and racism are increasing. The public is being given permission during this campaign to blame immigrants and minorities for whatever problems white people are facing. This could preface major trouble ahead as Americans pursue the new revolution.    

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald           

If you believe that the Orlando attack was the last one we will experience, you are horribly wrong.

As a result of the nature and magnitude of that attack, we are faced here in America with a complicated choice. That attack and the subsequent endless media evaluations of what “really happened” and what it “really means” will simply hasten the inevitable compulsion that our government will feel to take charge of the situation, driven as it is by public opinion.  How it reacts will color the future of this country for decades to come.

In 1775, Benjamin Franklin correctly said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”.

These words appear in a letter written by Franklin on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor. That letter was part of a power struggle between the governor and the assembly over funding for security on the frontier.  It has made its way into today’s vocabulary and taken on a far more significant meaning.

In reality, “safe” countries are not free and “free” countries are not safe.  The more permissive (free, democratic, etc.), as our country is, the less safe it will be.  Only through undemocratic, draconian measures, can terrorism be controlled and safety maintained.  It is up to us to decide whether or not we are better off in the aggregate for the loss of our liberties, remembering that once surrendered, they are difficult to reacquire.  Will a sense of safety, however illusory, be worth that loss?  Or are we better off maintaining our constitutional freedoms, recognizing that they will be accompanied by at least partially manageable uncertainties about our safety?

Our choice is stark because, if we truly want to try to be safe, many of our constitutional freedoms will go by the wayside.  An active, competent and aggressive internal security organization like the FBI, if charged with reestablishing real safety in this vast country will have to seek powers and authorities that it now does not have.  Those powers and authorities will severely limit if not demolish many of the constitutional freedoms to which we are now accustomed.

Finally, given the reality of internet self-radicalization programs designed to appeal to any and all Americans who are thinking of becoming terrorists, there is no guarantee that we can succeed at this endeavor.

To do this difficult job correctly any internal security service like the FBI will have to have freedom to institute and use phone, mail and internet intercepts.  They will need to reintroduce profiling, or the detention, questioning, arrest, and/or search of people solely on the basis of the person’s race or ethnicity.  They will have to be able to hold people in custody in ways that are not compatible with today’s individual liberties.  We will see surveillance, provocation and entrapment operations run against any and all targets presumed to be hostile. Restrictions on “probable cause” will disappear.  The list goes on and on.

These and other similar activities will be necessary as long as hostile terrorist organizations exist here and abroad.  Even if we had the financial and military ability and the will to wipe out ISIS, which we certainly do not, the remnants will remain and they surely will be targeted against America.  As long as there are disaffected Americans, whether native or immigrant, we will be at risk.

Military action against terrorism abroad is unlikely to succeed.  Terrorism is mostly a law enforcement and intelligence problem. Military activity against it results, as we have already seen in the Middle East, in increased hostility toward the United States.

So, we are faced with a choice.  Do we want to surrender many of our basic personal liberties and change this country into something it has never before been in the hope that in doing so we will somehow increase our security?  Or do we want to work within our existing laws, customs and constitutional guarantees in the knowledge that where we may very well be able to inhibit terrorist activity here at home, Orlando will not be the last  attack we suffer?

The tragedy of picking safety over liberty is that it provides no guarantees.  In addition, once relinquished, liberty is difficult to reestablish.

In 2013 in America, 505 people were killed accidentally by firearms and another 11,208 were killed intentionally by another person.  In 2013, 32,719 people were killed in vehicle crashes.  In that same year, 21 people were killed by terrorists in the USA.

It would appear that we have for more compelling issues here than terrorism.

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From this perch in Vermont, it is fascinating to watch the mainstream Democratic Party try to deal with Bernie Sanders and his candidacy.  Clearly, those Democrats don’t know who Bernie is, how he functions or what his real goals are.   Perhaps they are not about to make public any such knowledge, fearful that such admissions might irreparably damage their already damaged candidate of choice, Hilary Clinton.


Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat, is contemptuous of Democratic Party ideals and has an agenda. He is, by his own claim, a Social Democrat, presumably in the European mode.  As mayor of Burlington, Vt. he pushed for the election of members of his own Progressive Party to the City Council.   He has just contributed to the election campaign of a current Progressive candidate for election to that Council.  It is Progressive Party candidates he supports, not a Democratic Party candidates, despite the fact that he is running on the national stage to be Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.


What does all this mean?  It means, quite simply, that Bernie Sanders has little interest in the Democratic Party other than to use it to accomplish his own Progressive political goals.  In the beginning of his campaign, he probably saw his candidacy as a wedge he could use to move the Clinton candidacy to the left, and he certainly has already accomplished much in that regard.  Further, his stated campaign goals are to create a single-payer healthcare system and increase Social Security benefits.  According to  the non-partisan, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center that could double the national debt.


More recently, Sanders’ success in the State Primaries and caucuses seems to have convinced him that he has a real shot at becoming the Democratic Party candidate and may have resulted in his recent inclination to go after Clinton in a more Trump-like fashion.


Trump’s rude, ugly and tough approach to his rivalry with Clinton could represent an important message for Sanders.  If we believe what has already been written about Mr. Sanders, such an approach would seem to be in character for him.  In an August 25, 2015 article on him by Paul Heinz in Seven Days, a widely read Burlington weekly publication, he is described as follows:  ”According to some who have worked closely with Sanders over the years, “grumpy grandpa” doesn’t even begin to describe it. They characterize the senator as rude, short-tempered and, occasionally, downright hostile. Though Sanders has spent much of his life fighting for working Vermonters, they say he mistreats the people working for him”.

“As a supervisor, he was unbelievably abusive,” says one former campaign staffer, who claims to have endured frequent verbal assaults. The double standard was clear: “He did things that, if he found out that another supervisor was doing in a workplace, he would go after them. You can’t treat employees that way.”

Sanders’ strategy shows that he believes he has a reasonable shot at beating Clinton at the Democratic Convention.  He has done well in recent primaries and has focused a great deal of energy in recent days on convincing Democratic Superdelegates currently pledged to Clinton that they should switch their votes to him at the Convention. Clinton has recently been slipping in polls measuring a future presidential race with Donald Trump.  That fact may prove to be a powerful ally in Sanders’ ongoing attempt to recruit those Superdelegates, particularly as polls have Sanders doing better than Clinton against Trump.

The Clinton Camp must be concerned about the Sanders candidacy.  The issue of the Superdelegates has to be unsettling for them.  Even if the Sanders’ ploy doesn’t work, the aftermath of a possible Sanders defeat at the convention has already gotten their attention.  It is fascinating to listen to national leaders of the Democratic Party reflect on his competition with Clinton, saying that in the end, Sanders will convince his supporters to support Clinton.  And they say this in the face of poll results that indicate that something in the neighborhood of 40% of Sanders supporters say they will not support Clinton if she becomes the candidate.  Can she win without them?

There is no valid reason for mainline Democrats to believe that Sanders will avidly support Clinton, or, for that matter, much of anything that those Democrats would like to see supported.  Sanders is not a Democrat, never has been.  His goal, if he cannot win the candidacy, appears to be to force radical change in the existing Democratic Party, moving it as far toward “Social Democracy” as possible.  That is not a goal that is compatible with mainstream Democratic philosophy.

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald on December 10,2015

There is one basic reality in the Middle East. The region contains a number of “countries” that were created out of whole cloth during the 19th and early 20th centuries by European colonial powers to suit their own purposes. The artificiality of those “countries” makes for a very unstable region.

Those “countries” are not in any sense internally cohesive, and many contain the seeds of their own disintegration. Historically, those “countries” have been governed repressively simply because the tribal, sectarian and national mixtures of residents are sufficiently volatile to require relatively strict repression for the maintenance of cohesion and public order.

The divisions that exist within those “countries” go back decades, centuries and millennia. Internal conflicts now exist where central, often repressive control has disappeared, as in Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Where open conflict has not broken out, some form of repression continues in force, as in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt (for the moment) and the Gulf States.

The American compulsion to export democracy and concomitant peace to that world has been proven incredibly naïve, largely because the only elements in the region that matter — tribal, sectarian and national — have no experience with democracy and are largely unprepared for and do not seek its introduction.

And in the midst of this instability, we find ourselves required to deal with ISIS. Some Americans believe that we are capable of “beating” ISIS and its allies and support boots on the ground. That may or may not be, but that is not the real issue. The real issue is, what comes after the defeat of that enemy?

An examination of Iraq shows that tribally, Iraq has approximately 150 groups; Nationally, 72-75 percent Arabs (Palestinians, marsh Arabs, Bedouins), 20-22 percent Kurds (Feylis, Yazidis, Shabaks and Kakais), 2 percent Assyrians, 2 percent Turkmen and 1 percent Armenians, Circassians, Persians, Sabians, Baha’is, Afro-Iraqis and Doms; and most important, the sectarian split between Sunni (35 percent) and Shia Muslims (65 percent).

An absence of conflict between all these groups has existed only when Iraq has been governed repressively, and that most emphatically includes the period, 2003-2011, when American troops supplied the muscle. Now that we have largely left, Iraq is settling into a period of internal conflicts between inimical groups.

Let’s assume that we send American troops into Syria and that those troops ultimately “beat” ISIS. What happens then? Syria is not populated by a cohesive or happy bunch. Nationalities present in Syria include Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, Greeks, Kurds, Mandeans, Turkmen and Turks. Religions include Alawite, Christian, Druze, Mandean, Salafi, Shia, Sunni and Yazidi. There are tribes aplenty, particularly Bedouin.

On the issue of religion, it is worth noting that the Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam, who have repressively governed Syria for decades, represent about 12 percent of the population, while their rivals, the Sunnis, comprise around 75 percent. This situation is opposite to the one in Iraq where a minority of Sunnis governed repressively over a majority of Shia. The ongoing result in Iraq has been internecine warfare featuring the Shia who clearly seek retribution for decades of mistreatment by the Sunnis. It is not at all unlikely that the same would happen in Syria if the minority Alawites were to lose power to the majority Sunnis.

The way things now stand, with a majority of our 2016 presidential candidates favoring military intervention in Syria, it would seem that American boots on the ground in a struggle against ISIS, even if successful, could have some very unpleasant long-term results.

First, If we destroy ISIS, many of those “volunteers” now fighting with ISIS will more than likely go home and become self-motivated terrorists. The only likely difference between them and folks like the San Bernardino pair is that the new ones will be better trained and motivated and far harder to neutralize.

Then, assuming we are successful, who will govern? Russia, Hezbollah and Iran want Assad. We seem to want anyone but Assad. If we decide to impose a solution, it will be up to us to police it in a hostile and highly unsettled environment, which our boots on the ground will have created. The tribal, sectarian and national frictions that exist in Syria have been there and may remain forever. In short, the success of an American invasion, if we hope to change anything, will depend on our willingness to accept that there will be no predictable end to our occupation.

American boots on the ground is insanity. It’s simple: We can’t afford it. Let it be carried out by the neighbors, with our direct support, but without our direct involvement.


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Originally published in Rural Ruminations

Current events in Egypt represent a perfect example of contemporary Middle East reality.  Irrespective of these dynamics in Egypt, the practical question for us Americans is whether or not the White House and the Congress are able to understand those realities and create viable foreign policy for the region.  This is extremely important because, with both minor and major differences, events in Egypt are likely to repeat throughout the Middle East in the post Arab Spring era.

The root issue here is that there is virtually no practical experience in the Middle East with the conduct of democracy.  Our media currently rant and rave about the fact that Egypt’s President Morsi is “the first democratically elected President of Egypt”, implying that that designation is somehow vitally important.

And so he is the first.

The problem for Morsi and Eqypt is that “democratic elections” have little if anything to do with the ultimate pursuit of democracy in any given country.  For democratic elections to result in democratic practices, any given country has to already have the critical underpinnings of democracy which are: the active, unfettered participation of the people, as citizens in political and civic life; national and regional tolerance of pluralism; free and fair elections; the general and equal right to vote (one person, one vote); the rule of law – unbiased courts; a guarantee of basic human rights to every individual person vis a vis the state and its authorities as well as any social groups (especially religious institutions) and other persons; separation of powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial; freedom of speech, opinion, press and religion; and, finally, good governance (focus on public interest and absence of corruption).

When those critical preconditions do not exist, there is no reason to expect a successful transition to liberal democracy.  How many such preconditions do you think exist in the Middle East?

In post-Mubarak Egypt there are only two entities that have any experience with leadership and governance – the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Neither of those organizations represents anything “democratic”.  Further, today’s events indicate that there are vast numbers of Egyptians who support neither. They are the good folks on Tahrir Square.  The only thing they support is the fact that without the ongoing intervention of the military, they would have no hope of deposing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.  A poll on July 3 indicated that 83% of Egyptians approved of the intervention of their military in the domestic affairs of their country!

Despite that, they know that they do not like governance by the Egyptian military – they tossed them out when the military assumed power after the downfall of Mubarak.  And they are perhaps even more nervous about the Muslim Brotherhood who seem to them not to have sufficiently taken into account their (democratic/secular?) goals in the process of governing Egypt for the past year.

The problem is that there is no cohesion within this “Tahrir” group.  What do they stand for?  Who are their leaders?  Do they agree on anything?  Just what do they want for the future of Egypt, of the Middle East and Islam?

And the fact is that we have no answer to those questions.  If Egypt is to move forward toward Democracy, they will have to find a way to democratic, secular coalitions that spring from the “Tahrir” movement.  So far, there has been no indication of cohesion other than that they oppose the only two groups that represent the theoretical ability to govern that country – the Brotherhood and the military.

And that’s not good enough.  Successful democratic governance cannot successfully rely on opposition to familiar former repressive governments.  It has to have positive motivation from its own ideals.  Without that, any so-called democratic movement is bound to fail.

So, where does that leave us?  You could say we are up a creek without a paddle. The fact is that there is almost nothing we can do to alter the dynamics of politics in Egypt and most of the rest of the Middle East. What will happen there will happen there.  There will almost certainly be a longish period of instability, but there will be little we can do to alter that.

Given our precarious economic situation and our discontent with our own foreign military interventions, it seems unlikely that we will successfully change anything.

Perhaps the best thing for us is to sit back and see where the Egyptians decide to go.  Ultimately, there will be self-determination.  It won’t be pretty, but there won’t be much we can do to change things.


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Originally published in The Valley News

By Haviland Smith
More than two years have passed since a Tunisian man immolated himself and launched what became known as the Arab Spring.  While the changes set in motion by the various uprisings in the Arab world remain works in progress, it might still be revealing to examine the role played by U.S. involvement and foreign policy in shaping events.
It is difficult to convincingly dispute that the Arab Spring was not a direct result of the Bush administration’s catalytic invasion of Iraq. While that war destabilized the region and opened the door to change, it came nowhere close to fulfilling the neoconservative goal that was one of the motives for that invasion: establishing democracy in Iraq, which would then spread to other countries in the Arab world and create a far more friendly environment for Israel. As attractive an idea as it was, it essentially ignored everything that history has taught us about the Middle East and Islam: The belief that democracy will flourish in that region remains little more than an illusion.
But while it is highly unlikely that liberal democracy as practiced in the west will find a home in the Islamic world, it is certainly possible that, under the right conditions, our ideal of democracy ultimately could mitigate some of the more egregious excesses that Westerners tend to see in fundamentalist interpretations and applications of Islam.
Our major problem in the Middle East is that we are absolute captives of our own pre-9/11 foreign policy. During that period, we supported virtually every repressive regime in Islam. Our preoccupation with maintaining stability even led us to covertly interfere with and intervene in countries — Iran, for example — where liberalization looked to be taking hold.
In the process of implementing our policies, we stationed American troops on some of the holiest ground in Islam in direct contravention of Islamic practice, belief and law. In fact, some of our troops remain stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, in the eyes of most Muslims, we were trouble-making meddlers in the Palestine issue, blindly supporting Israel in every respect, even when it meant we were violating international law. In the process, we have left unsolved a regionally critical problem that has now festered for over 60 years.
Finally, we invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq in what was viewed by Muslims as a continuation of the Crusades of the 11th through 13th centuries. In doing so, we began to turn Muslim populations against us in favor of those elements in Islam that we have often found most objectionable.
When the Arab Spring finally arrived, the ill-will we had sown in the region relegated us to the sidelines, with no meaningful role to play. Worse, our support of repressive governments in the Middle East had been a major contributor to the fact that very few groups in the Islamic world had viable experience with governance. Despite their own protestations to the contrary, none were in any way democratic, and none were prepared or equipped to govern democratically.
Groups in the Arab world that do have governing experience include a few non-democratic monarchies, some powerful military establishments and a number of fundamentalist Islamic organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, hardly what we said we were looking for to govern in the region. In fact, through our previous foreign policy of supporting despotic regimes, we had left the area virtually bereft of the potential for any kind of democratic or enlightened rule.
Since 9/11, our combat troops, our network of jails, our “enhanced interrogation” techniques, our drone program and our clear contempt for Arabs as mirrored in our foreign policy have all worked to our disadvantage because they have turned even Arabs who once admired us into our sworn enemies.
Rather than witnessing the establishment of democracy in the Middle East, we are more likely to see the region remain under the sway of the sectarian, royal and military governments with which Arab countries are familiar.
It should be obvious to policymakers at this point that the U.S. would be best off withdrawing combat troops as soon as possible and suspending all other military activities in the region, with the possible exception of special-forces operations and the deployment of intelligence assets in counterterrorism operations. We should focus our efforts on staying involved culturally, diplomatically and economically.
Ten years after the invasion of Iraq and after spending trillions of dollars and setting off a conflict that costs tens of thousands of deaths and casualties, there remains little hope of replacing yesterday’s despots with anything other than today’s. That can’t have been good policy.

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