It is becoming increasingly clear that the United States will not make any more major attempts to rebuild failed states. All that we are likely to see in the future are some mopping up operations such as whacking the Iranians and maybe the Somali Islamic Courts. The American left and many around the world will no doubt rejoice at this outcome even though it is not good for anyone except the new-age autocrats around the world.
The situation we faced was quite similar to the situation Britain faced after the Napoleonic Wars. They used their window to expand the British Empire and establish the constitutional rule of law to which much of the world embraces, or at the least pays lip service, to this day. They accelerated their campaigns to eliminate slavery and piracy around the world and began developing many regions of the world economically. As their window came to end with American growth, French recovery, German unification, and Russian expansion they fell back to doing their best to keep the world stable by maintaining the balance of power.
Our historic window of opportunity to better the world opened up in 1990. The first President Bush, though he did not have much time to do anything, seemed to think it was the perfect opportunity to declare success and freeze the world in place. President Clinton frittered away 8 years on micro issues, bombing the Serbs whenever the chance arose, and navel-gazing at the bubble economy. The second President Bush originally did not plan anything more than Clinton except for some sort of closer union amongst the American nations. 9/11 changed this for a time, but for whatever reason (*cough* Powell *cough*) the immense momentum of April 2003 was never followed up. To keep the left and their anti-American friends around the globe happy, we forswore anymore regime changes. This has simply given the initiative to the Jihadists who have taken as much advantage of it as they can. Certainly the visceral opposition of the American left and media played a role in ensuring no further attempts were made after Bush’s cabinet was reshuffled (eliminating some of the deadweight) following the 2004 election.
Whatever the cause (and I do put some of the blame on Bush), we are now in a position where the strength shown by overthrowing Saddam has turned into a grave weakness as now no dictator even remotely fears that we will do it again. Combined with the rise of the Beijing-Moscow Axis as an alternate source of support instead of the U.S., we will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to ever reform another failed state into a functioning nation. As we have recently found, oppressive dictators around the world are increasingly ignoring us and our calls for increased freedom, human rights, and transparency. They are turning to Russia and China for reform-free support and investment thereby preventing any peaceful reformations. In short, our window for helping people around the world improve their lives is over. We are now returning to the balance of power and realist foreign policy of the past. I only hope the left is happy with this result. They have succeeded in limiting Bush’s policies while limiting the freedom, hopes, and aspirations of billions around the globe. An equal trade in their book I’m sure.