During the latter part of the 18th century, two revolutions erupted, one in 1776 and the other in 1789. Both were conducted in the name of liberty, but they were fundamentally different.
After evicting the British with relatively minor bloodshed, the new United States of America settled down to cultivating its own garden. The French, after massacring the upper classes, set about remaking Europe in their new image, and blood flowed freely until 1815.
In our own time, America followed a defensive policy of containment throughout the 45-year Cold War. Since the Soviet collapse, America has become more aggressive, particularly with regard to small, weak states, about intervening to bring about "regime change." Serbia is but a recent example.
Remaking the world through regime change has in a few short years captured U.S. foreign policy. Today neoconservatives boldly articulate a policy of deracinating the Islamic religion by using force to reconstruct, socially and politically, the entire Middle East.
The American Revolution is dead, but the French Revolution has been reborn.
The United States has adopted the posture of the French Revolution without thought or debate. As the U.S. prepares to invade and conquer Iraq, only one U.S. senator, the 84-year-old Robert Byrd (D., WV), insists that the Constitution be followed and a declaration of war be declared. Only Senator Byrd demands that the new Homeland Security Czar, who has the power to set aside constitutional protections, be accountable to Senate confirmation like all other important executive branch and federal judicial appointments.
For insisting that the U.S. Constitution be followed, Senator Byrd is denounced as an "obstructionist."
We may as well be clear about it: the U.S. Constitution is an obstruction to the U.S. remaking the world by might and not by example.
A complaint about Islam is that the religious beliefs of Muslims inspire aggression toward the outside world. How does this differ from the newly found aggressiveness of the United States? Islam is at least an established religion with a body of thought. What body of thought comprises the basis for our invading other countries to bring about "regime change" in our image?
This doctrine cannot be found in the Founding Fathers and signifies a complete break from the American tradition.
It is possible that Iraqis, recognizing the hopelessness of a military encounter with the U.S., will depose Saddam Hussein and preemptively surrender, thereby defusing the excuse for launching the neoconservative war of regime change in the Middle East. But this would not cleanse neoconservatives of the conceit and violence of the French Revolution virus, which would soon find another target.
Where will this policy end? Will overthrowing Muslim states dampen a resurgent Islam's ardor, or will it free mullahs from secular rulers to unleash fiercer waves of terrorism against the U.S. and Israel?
It is possible that the U.S. policy of forcible regime change will do the impossible and unite the Muslims. Could the U.S. pursue this policy if nuclear-armed Pakistan is radicalized by it? If we set about to deracinate Islam and fail, we will have set up Israel for a second holocaust.
What will be the response of Russia, China, India and Europe to an aggressive and interventionist United States?
What will be the response of the United States' own multicultural population? Will several million Muslims view the assault on their home countries with equanimity? Would not black Muslims be hostile to a war against Islam?
Why would 35 million Hispanics think it is a good thing to begin a Middle Eastern war?
It is reckless to start a war without thinking through these questions. Thus far, all we have had from Washington are reasons we should get rid of Saddam Hussein.
Paul Craig Roberts is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.
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