Trouble is, all the rhetoric about root causes is wrong. It should not be taken seriously. It isn’t poverty, disease, and political instability that cause terrorism; if it were, all of sub‐Saharan Africa would be awash in terrorism. The 9/11 hijackers came from middle‐ and upper‐middle class families, not impoverished or diseased ones.
Much as it hurts to say it, our enemies by and large don’t hate us because they’re poor, or because they’re hopeless; they hate us because they believe that we are hostile to them. As a recent report from the Government Accountability Office put things, “U.S. foreign policy is the major root cause behind anti‐American sentiments among Muslim populations and…this point needs to be better researched, absorbed, and acted upon by government officials.” Mucking about in Chad isn’t going to help our position in the war on terror, and could well serve to make it worse by strengthening Muslims’ beliefs about American foreign policy.
Moreover, the Somalia example doesn’t demonstrate what Goldberg thinks it does. Although the news remains far from conclusive about the implications of recent events in that country, attempting to build a coherent state in Somalia is going to do little to eliminate any threat that may exist there. Attacking threats rarely involves paving roads or establishing new judicial standards. It may be the case that the now‐ruling factions in Somalia are too cozy with Islamic terrorists. We may even need to go in and kill some people. But sending Goldberg’s “souped‐up version of the Peace Corps” is a sure‐fire recipe for disaster.
And it is here where Goldberg veers wildly off course into the mushiest liberal idealism. He acknowledges that we can’t go it alone, and proposes his “League of Democracies” in order to take up the nation‐building cause. Trouble is, there are only a few democracies with military and constabulary forces which could make any meaningful contribution in failed states. The even bigger trouble is, none of them seem to want to. France, India, Japan, and Germany didn’t seem too inclined to accompany us into Iraq, and Russia and China would not be members of the League of Democracies. So that leaves America and England.
But the article is a sign of a much deeper problem than just one commentator’s views on failed states. Since the invasion of Iraq, Republicans have been on a reckless binge in foreign policy. Aspirations of empire even came into vogue, with pro‐empire pundits invading the pages not just of the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal, but making appearances even on the pages of this esteemed magazine. This tendency is a worrying sign for American conservatism — and the country itself.
As a hangover cure to this foreign‐policy bender, we offer George Will’s remarks about nation building, given in an address to the recent dinner for Cato’s Milton Friedman Award: