Tuesday, May 27, 2008
When an infant touches a hot stove, it learns a lifelong lesson: don't touch a hot stove. The infant might grow into a thoroughly irresponsible person, might acquire a nasty heroin habit or provoke a barroom brawl with Mike Tyson. But never again will he or she touch a hot stove.
When it invaded Iraq in 2003, the United States touched a hot stove. Politicians seem to have less capacity to learn than babies. Many of those involved in this ill-fated operation had some connection, however remote, to the Vietnam War, the last seriously hot stove that the United States touched. And yet, the U.S. leaders that fought in Vietnam as well as the ones who ran in the opposite direction all stood around the burning hot stove that was Iraq and bear-hugged it."
If what is shaping up to be the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history has an upside it is: that this war should definitively, permanently settle a handful of critical questions about American conduct in the world," FPIF research fellow Miriam Pemberton writes in the introduction of a new book, Lessons from Iraq. "
This book is an effort to fix some points. Nail a few things down. Declare some policies and practices off limits to American policymakers."
Here are some of those lessons. Don't politicize intelligence. Don't torture. Don't privatize security operations. Don't leap into preventive wars. Don't militarize the world. It's a long list.
Get a copy of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, edited by Pemberton and FPIF contributor William Hartung, and read about the other lessons from Chalmers Johnson, Frances FitzGerald, Michael Klare, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, Hans Blix, Norman Solomon, Phyllis Bennis, C. K. Williams, and many others. And put these Lessons from Iraq book events in Rockville, MD and Washington, DC in your June calendar.
The book is not a primer on how to do war better. It doesn't give pointers on how best to touch a hot stove. Rather, it suggests ways of inscribing in the national DNA of the United States the painful lessons of the Iraq War - so that we don't all get burned again.