Election 2010: Making the Wars Go Away

post to UNC Press Blog, 29 October 2010

You’d think the problems created by recent military interventions would have figured at least a little bit in this election. We have an occupation in Iraq limping to a conclusion, with the political system devised by American proconsuls in paralysis and Wikileaks providing a jarring reminder that pacification is not clean and neat. It leads to civilian deaths, it opens a field to sectarian hatred, and it brutalizes all concerned.

The war in Afghanistan is a witches’ brew bubbling harder despite more troops and a new strategy. U.S.-led forces suffer steady losses against a determined Taliban. These forces are not only proving unpopular in Afghanistan; their mission is not popular with their own publics. The Karzai regime is playing elaborate but unhelpful survival games, while regional powers push their own–often divergent–agendas. U.S. objectives are fuzzy to the point of incoherence. A lot to worry about here.

Such a budget of bad news should get at least someone in this election campaign sounding off. What we have gotten instead is a silence, which is all the more striking when considered in long-term historical perspective. The public and political leaders have until recent decades responded energetically to American forces in overseas messes. The pacification of the Philippines proved highly controversial and figured in the 1900 presidential election. The stalemate in Korea stirred up a groundswell of anger that helped defeat the Democrats in 1952. Vietnam roiled the wars of American politics, with Nixon’s secret plan to end that war helping in his 1968 presidential victory. Read More »

American Democracy and the Challenge of Globalization

post to UNC Press Blog, 14 October 2010

The midterm election campaign now approaching the home stretch has brought with it striking but fairly empty calls to action–from the Tea Party frenzy over fiscal virtue to a president exhorting his base with the banal promise of “moving America forward.” But this and all the other lamentable features of our democracy, it is worth stressing, are nothing new. … Read More »