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Volume 6, Issue 27: July 6, 2004

  1. Iraq’s Insurgency and Ours
  2. Winning the Battle, but Losing the War in Iraq
  3. “Mr. Republican” vs. GOP Foreign Policy

1) Iraq’s Insurgency and Ours
Pundits and policymakers would benefit from understanding two parallels between the Iraq of today and the United States of the American Revolution, according to historian William Marina, research fellow at the Independent Institute.

One false parallel being drawn is the notion that Iraqi insurgents and their sympathizers are like the American Revolutionaries, representing a very small minority. The misunderstanding has arisen from a letter in which John Adams is thought to have said that one-third of the American colonialists supported the rebels, one-third were loyal to Britain, and one-third were indifferent. This inference is false, Marina argues; Adams was actually referring to the French Revolution.

To their great dismay, many British also underestimated the size of the opposition. In reality, the Stamp Act of 1765, violations of the Standing Army Act of 1768, the Boston Massacre in 1770, the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and the Intolerable Acts of 1774 led the colonists to sympathize increasingly with the rebels. Similarly, American leaders miscalculated when they thought that Iraqis would ignore the "collateral damage" of the war and occupation and make the U.S. troops feel welcomed in post-Saddam Iraq.

A second parallel is that militias have played a key role both in Iraq today and in the United States of the revolutionary era. "For despite the popular picture of George Washington and his forces, it was ultimately the popular militia that truly defeated the organized British army," writes Marina. "Americans in Iraq are similarly hunkered down and facing a hostile and armed populace. Even for well-equipped armies, confrontation inevitably means killing many among the civilian population who sustain these unconventional forces. And the vicious cycle is that such violence only reinforces the 'loss of legitimacy' that feeds continued insurgence."

Marina concludes by suggesting that a third parallel may be in the offering: "The sooner the Iraqis can start their own Constitutional Convention, forging a system that is truly 'of and for' their people, one with 'legitimacy' and capable of gaining the consent of the governed, the sooner insurgency, death, and destruction will end in Iraq."

See "The American Revolution and Iraq," by William Marina (7/2/04)

For more on the American Revolution, see:

Gerald Gunderson's review of Theodore Draper's A STRUGGLE FOR POWER: The American Revolution (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 1997)


Joyce Appleby's and Hans Eicholz's talks at the Independent Policy Forum, "The American Revolution and the Legacy of Liberty" (9/7/00):

See the new book, RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins, Jr.


2) Winning the Battle, but Losing the War in Iraq
Winning the Battle, But Losing the War in Iraq

The U.S. may be winning the battle but losing the war against the guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. In this week’s op-ed, “Morning in Iraq?” Eland questions former U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer’s parting pronouncement last week that the transfer of power to the Iraqis will launch Iraq on the road to peace, prosperity, and democracy.

Citing recent polls showing that 60 percent of Americans now disapprove of President Bush’s Iraq policy, Eland notes, “the Iraqi insurgents must be pleased that in the age of 24-hour news, the Iraq War became unpopular in the United States much faster than the years needed to drain away American public support for the Vietnam conflict. Why would the Iraqi insurgents stop fighting when they are winning? Military experts say that the United States is winning tactically (specific battles), but losing operationally, strategically, and on the level of grand strategy. This abysmal state of affairs replicates the U.S. experience in Vietnam, in which the United States won every battle and lost the war because the American public eventually became tired, disillusioned and exasperated with it.”

“The Iraqi insurgents have patterned their insurgency after the effective Palestinian uprising against the Israelis in the occupied territories,” says Eland. “They have also learned lessons from the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The guerrillas will keep up their hit-and-run attacks until the stronger power becomes exhausted and leaves. In other words, if the guerrillas don’t lose decisively, they’ll eventually win.”

Even more distressing, says Eland, significant segments of the Iraqi people appear to be assisting and supplying the insurgents. “Although the Bush administration likes to blame the violence on rogue elements (foreign terrorists and former Saddam supporters), the Iraqi people don’t seem to be turning in these people to the occupation forces…Ominously, during the last few months, Saddam loyalists seem to have been playing less of a role in the insurgency, at the same time that participation has spread to ordinary Iraqis. Even President Bush has admitted that the U.S. occupation is unpopular with the Iraqi people.”

See "Morning in Iraq?" by Ivan Eland (7/6/04)

Center on Peace & Liberty

Information on Ivan Eland's forthcoming book, THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed


3) “Mr. Republican” vs. GOP Foreign Policy
Although Republicans largely supported President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, the Republican Party has not always been dominated by foreign-policy hawks and interventionists. (Indeed, during his 2000 presidential campaign, Bush himself extolled the virtues of a "humble" foreign policy and criticized "nation-building" as impractical.) Before the United States entered World War II, in fact, many opponents of the GOP criticized the party for the strong "isolationist" sentiments emanating from within its ranks.

After the war, those criticisms were often directed at Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, the most articulate congressional advocate of a non-interventionist U.S. foreign policy and a man whose leadership role within the GOP earned him the nickname, "Mr. Republican." Some observers today, both inside and outside of the party, argue that Taft's foreign policy vision was visionary and merits a second look.

"Taft's foreign-policy views were neither naive nor nostalgic," writes political scientist Michael T. Hays, of Colgate University, in the spring issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW. "To the contrary, his critique of internationalism deserved to be taken seriously and was vindicated subsequently on many points."

First and foremost for Taft, U.S. foreign policy should aim "to protect the liberty of the people of the United States"; secondarily, he held, it should maintain peace.

Unlike today's neoconservative hawks, Taft adamantly opposed risking war to advance a moral crusade in far away lands. Although he viewed liberty as the birthright of people everywhere, Taft opposed using U.S. troops to take what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the "four freedoms" to all corners of the world. U.S. interventionism, Taft feared, would lead to support for repressive regimes. Writes Hays:

"The common thread that gave overall coherence to Taft's foreign policy was a consistent libertarianism. His devotion to liberty extended to other nations as well as to the United States. His ideal for the international system was a spontaneous social order governed by the rule of law, and he clearly saw the principle of self-determination as foundational to such a system.

"Although the world's failure to adopt such a system eventually led him to reject the United Nations as a constraint on American freedom of action, that failure did not diminish his fundamental libertarianism. He was prescient in warning that foreign investment would lead to exploitation and imperialism, creating resentments that eventually might threaten U.S. national security. And where Eisenhower and his successors shored up ruthless dictators to ensure regime stability, Taft viewed the world as 'big enough to contain all kinds of different ways of life' without threat to U.S. interests.

"Although he would neither lead a crusade to liberate foreign nations nor commit U.S. troops to foreign conflicts in which American liberty was not threatened directly, he almost surely would have been appalled to find U.S. foreign policies linked in any way to the development of state terrorism and to the widespread denial of legal due process and fundamental political rights in developing nations."

"The Republican Road Not Taken: The Foreign-Policy Vision of Robert A. Taft," by Michael T. Hays (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 2004)

Also see:

"Camelot and the Bushies: Some Disturbing Parallels," By Robert Higgs (3/7/03)

Joseph R. Stromberg's review of JAMES BURNHAM AND THE STRUGGLE FOR THE WORLD by Daniel Kelly (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2003)

"New Deal Nemesis: The 'Old Right' Jeffersonians," by Sheldon Richman (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 1996)


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