The Suicide Strategy of the West

Americans, it has been observed, have little or no strategic sense.  Strategy, as any schoolboy used to know, comes from a Greek word meaning “generalship” in the broad sense of the art of “projecting and directing” (OED) a campaign as opposed to the tactical abilities needed to marshal men on the battlefield.  The American can-do approach makes us great tacticians, whether in business, in scholarship, or in foreign policy.  Show us whom to kill, what dissertation topic to tackle, or what regime to topple, and we can do the job effectively, but ask us to consider all the consequences of a war, grasp an historical period in its fullness, or develop a long-range plan for dealing with the Islamic world, and too many of us act like the spoiled corporate executives whose concern for the company is limited to the quarterly earnings statements that determine their compensation.

Donald Rumsfeld, to take only one example, appears to be a superb tactician, both in business and in the Department of Defense, but his hopeless ignorance of history and foreign affairs, combined with his apparent inability to think beyond the end of the fighting, has not served us especially well in Iraq.  When the insurgency sputters out, as it will inevitably, and Iraqi politicians can go into the bazaar and pretend to believe one another’s lies long enough to form a makeshift government, the problems we...

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