As a 13 year old boy, one in flesh with the American spirit that reigned, I eagerly supported the sanguine efforts of the United States government to do something finally about radical Islam and its connections to terror. Eleven years, two presidents, four secretaries of state, and several Iraqi governors later, we are still in that country next to Iran. The situation there is now the worst it has been since Saddam Hussein was at the peak of his powers and killing Kurds by the thousands. Soon Iraq will be an Islamic state more radical, although less technologically advanced, than Iran and we have nobody but ourselves to blame.
Contrary to what libertarian and liberal conspiracy theorists will say about oil, America invaded Iraq with the intention of being there for a year or so and then continuing on a tour of the Middle East, replacing terrorist-friendly regimes with democratic states. Iran, Lybia, Syria, and Pakistan were all potential candidates for improvement. Since that time we have not moved on to the next project and Deo volente never will. American democracy was supposed to be self-evidently superior to the existing system. The Iraqis would see this and stabilize their own government by removing hostile forces within their country. Freedom and prosperity, the two great prongs of American culture, would prove irresistible. And then it failed.
Bush's policy failed, partially due to his inability to apply and enforce Donald Rumsfeld's ideas more forcefully. By 2006 President Bush had to implement his "surge" to regain control. It seemed to work, at least enough to enable America to leave Iraq a democracy and save face. Then the current cretin took office and through nothing but negligence has permitted the situation to devolve into a catastrophe mired in death. No one person is to blame, even if I think the current president bears the brunt of the responsibility for the current level of trouble. The entire endeavor is the result of our American view that we are always right.
When I lived in England, among the few patriotic people I met, I learned a valuable lesson in understanding international affairs, namely that people can support their countries and disagree with their policies or even support their countries for irrational reasons. Margaret Thatcher put it best: England was founded by history and America by philosophy. What does it mean to be English? To have been born in England. What does it mean to be an American? To believe that every human being is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of temporal happiness. To have opposed imperialism in 19th century England would have put one at odds with the public's material happiness. To have opposed the Iraqi invasion for any reason in 2003 would have put one at risk of being called un-American. To be American one must support American principles and seek to apply them everywhere.
Now in fairness, most who opposed the Iraqi invasion in 2003 were hipster peaceniks crying for the days of free love and Woodstock. A few though were wise enough to know that America was wholly unsuited to effect a major regime and paradigm change in the heart of the Islamic world. Our military was ill equipped and ill trained for the occupation period. The neo-conservatives who planned the new government and who administered the war had no understanding or appreciation for religion other than as some sort of cultural artifact and it showed. And lastly, we Americans are not very good at making mild militaristic changes. No country is or ever has been. Either fish or cut bait. Either invade a country and make it a satellite state or leave it alone. High on patriotic fever we thought we could do something no other nation could ever do. Why? Because we must always be right.
I wonder at times if our Israeli policy is not a fruit of the same tree. The creation of the state of Israel seems to have wrought nothing positive. I still support Israel as a country for the lack of better options. It is the lone pro-Western state in the middle of an anti-Western powder keg, but what happens when someone lights a match? Zionism was an ideologically and religiously predicated movement, in part supported today by American Evangelicals eager to usher in the end times. It was not in America's best interest or in the best interest of Jewish people. It was a mistake yet we must live with it and make the best of it.
Today I am bereft of political ideology. I no longer identify as a conservative or a neo-conservative. Liberalism is still odious in my sight. Monarchism is impractical right now. The Tea Party movement has many positives, but the centrist Republican party's refusal to integrate it means the Tea Party will remain the haven of political Luddites, conspiracy theorists, and 1920s styled isolationists—the sort Richard Hofstadter analyzed in his essay Paranoid Style. I usually pull the lever for Republicans in local races, although not always. I doubt I will be able to vote in the 2016 national elections though. We were always right, and now we are dead in the wrong.