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What Next? The Foreign Policy Agenda Beyond Iraq

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
May 5, 2003
Weekly Standard


A GROUP OF foreign policy thinkers led by Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge spent much of the 1890s arguing that America needed to build up its navy and take a leading role on the world stage. The most influential expression of their views was Alfred Thayer Mahan's book "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History." Teddy Roosevelt and his friends were winning the intellectual argument, but they did not really win the policy argument until the battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor in 1898. It was the Spanish-American War that heralded America's arrival as a Great Power.

Another group of foreign policy seers, led by Winston Churchill and George Kennan, spent much of the late 1940s arguing that America had to take a leading role in combating the spread of communism. Their arguments won a respectful hearing as evidence of Communist expansionism piled up in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere. But a hard-line version of "containment" became formal U.S. government policy only with Harry Truman's approval of the Cold War strategy document known as NSC 68 in April 1950. A military buildup did not start until after the commencement of the Korean War two months later.

It is too early to gain much historical perspective on the Second Gulf War, but its significance may well be similar to that of the Spanish-American War and the Korean War: conflicts that led the United States to expand its power and to "operationalize" what until then had been mere theories of foreign policy. It may be argued, with some justice, that it was really 9/11 that was the seminal event here, the moment that propelled America out of the "strategic pause" of the 1990s. But any U.S. government would have invaded Afghanistan following the heinous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It is doubtful, by contrast, that a Gore administration would have followed up with the invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration launched this supremely successful war because it was following an ambitious foreign policy blueprint. Its version of "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History" and NSC 68 is known as the National Security Strategy of the United States. This document, which was released on September 17, 2002, builds on more than a decade of hard work by many thinkers associated with this administration (and this magazine). It has become known mainly for announcing a policy of "preemption," but this is only part of a much broader, neo-Wilsonian vision of foreign policy it capably lays out.

The broad goal of the strategy is to create "conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty." While this has long been standard rhetoric for any U.S. government, the National Security Strategy is particularly uncompromising on this point. Echoing one of President Bush's speeches, it says, "Freedom is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity; the birthright of every person— in every civilization." The strategy is so emphatic because the administration embraces the theory of a "democratic peace"— the notion that liberal democracies are unlikely to use weapons of mass destruction, sponsor terrorism, and undertake other activities that threaten their neighbors and the United States. Therefore, the United States has a vital stake in fostering the spread of representative government.

While this is a long-term objective, the National Security Strategy places emphasis in the short term on defending America from the danger that "lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology." Traditional theories of containment and deterrence are insufficient to deal with the shadowy foes we now confront. The United States is forced to act, and sometimes to act preemptively, to deny terrorists "new home bases" and to deny our enemies weapons of mass destruction: "America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed." Like its predecessors, the Bush team pledges to "preserve the peace" by cooperating with other great powers such as China and Russia through "long-standing alliances" like NATO and the United Nations, as well as through "coalitions of the willing." But while allies are all well and good, the National Security Strategy leaves little doubt that, in the end, the United States must use its overwhelming power to keep the peace. The strategy includes this unapologetic declaration of American hegemony: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."

It is obvious that America's two post-9/11 wars— Afghanistan and Iraq— fall squarely under the National Security Strategy. The Afghan War was fought primarily to deny terrorists a home base. The Iraq War was fought primarily to deny our enemies weapons of mass destruction. But it is not at all obvious what the administration should do next to implement its ambitious strategy. This is, in fact, a subject of much debate within the administration and without. Since the fall of Baghdad, the press has been consumed by feverish speculation over whether Syria or Iran is "next"— a suspicion fueled by the warnings from leading administration figures to Damascus and Tehran not to hinder the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The question of what's next should not be considered in a narrowly military context, however, since JDAMs are only one tool in the arsenal of democracy. The question thus becomes: What's next not only for American military power but also for American diplomacy in the post-Gulf War II world?

Many voices in the foreign policy community, indeed many voices in the administration, suggest that we must return as quickly as possible to President Bush's pre-9/11 foreign policy, the policy of speaking humbly and acting cautiously. They warn that, however successful the war in Iraq has been, it has engendered too much resentment of American power in the Middle East, in Europe— everywhere, really. They suggest that we should turn Iraq over to the United Nations as soon as possible; end the dangerous talk of "preemption"; make up with France, Germany, and other erstwhile allies; and in general act as a kinder, gentler empire.

This advice has an obvious attraction. Victory in the Second Gulf War has not come cheap. It has cost the lives of more than 125 American soldiers. It will cost untold billions of dollars. And— hardest to quantify— it has cost George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, and other senior policymakers incalculable psychic energy, the cost of pushing through a policy opposed by much of the world and even by much of their own State Department. There will be a great temptation now to rest on our laurels, to downsize the foreign policy agenda, and to turn back to domestic concerns— the neglect of which, as George W. Bush well remembers, cost his father a second term.

A short pause to rest, regroup, and recharge is fine, even necessary. But turning away from the world's dangers for long would be a mistake, possibly a fatal one. The war against Islamist terrorism and against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is not over. Two battles have been won, but that is not enough. World War II was not finished after El Alamein and Midway, or even after D-Day and Iwo Jima. Much remained to be done before the monstrous evils of fascism and Nazism were defeated. So it is today. In a world where North Korea may already have nuclear weapons, and Iran is less than two years away from having them; in a world where al Qaeda continues to plot, and states like Syria continue to support transnational terrorist groups; in a world where U.S. security depends on alliances with shaky dictatorships like Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia— in such a world, much remains to be done before Americans can feel safe.

If we revert to our pre-9/11 passivity, if we return to the 1990s policy of pretending globalization will solve all our problems, if we place our faith once again in accommodation and "stability," then we may awake before long to a disaster worse than 9/11. The horrors of the day are now receding into memory; if you do not wander down to Ground Zero, September 11, 2001, can seem almost as distant as December 7, 1941. It is for that very reason that we must keep our gaze resolutely focused on Ground Zero and our mind fully engaged to imagine worse horrors that may yet transpire. We must never forget, never forgive— and never flag in our determination to prevent a recurrence.

THE FIRST PRIORITY lies in Iraq. We must not repeat the mistake of the First Gulf War, when we confused battlefield victory with long-term political success. Today our armed forces have won a triumph, but an inept political strategy can easily leave the fruits of victory to rot on the vine. The administration must— must— carry out President Bush's plainly stated policy of democratizing Iraq. It must do this not just to secure its own credibility but also to vindicate American actions and American principles. The United States defied several members of the U.N. Security Council and much world opinion when it led a coalition to overthrow the Iraqi tyrant. It now bears the responsibility to demonstrate that the reorientation of U.S. Middle East policy— away from collusion with the region's fascist regimes and toward promotion of freedom and opportunity— is for real, and is for the ultimate good of the region's people.

Unfortunately this viewpoint is not popular within the State Department, the CIA, or even among many at the Pentagon— the very people who will have to implement the policy on the ground. All those bureaucracies prefer promoting "stability" to the hard work of making democracy flourish in barren soil. Their most powerful argument is that, if we stick around too long, we will become resented by the Iraqis. Soon, they suggest, those who greeted us as liberators will be staging suicide bombings of American headquarters. To avoid the taint of being imperial occupiers, better that we should hand off power as soon as possible to the United Nations or some other organization.

That is a temptation to be resisted. The U.N.'s record in running Kosovo, Bosnia, Cambodia, and other international protectorates inspires little confidence. As Stephen Schwartz has argued in these pages, the U.N. and its fellow multilaterals, the E.U. and OSCE, have not managed to keep electricity turned on regularly in Kosovo's capital, much less to energize genuine democracy. This does not matter too much in a backwater of the Balkans. It would matter enormously in the heart of the Middle East. If the United States were to turn Iraq over to international bureaucrats— instead of to Iraqis, as the president has promised— the rebuilding of Iraq would be set back immeasurably. Before long, the Iraqis would start to wonder how much they had truly gained from their liberation. Nothing could be better calculated to engender resentment of America than such an outcome. By contrast, if an Anglo-American occupation can leave Iraq even half as well off in 2013 as Germany and Japan were 10 years after the end of World War II, this will cement long-term links of affection between our countries. We will know our policy is a success if, in 50 years' time, a democratic Iraq embraces pacifism so resolutely that it refuses to support U.S. military actions around the world.

That does not mean, of course, that Americans should run Iraq indefinitely. Formal empire is passe, and Americans have little enthusiasm for it. Promoting liberal democracies with U.S. security guarantees is more our style. In Iraq, that means purging the Baathists, providing humanitarian relief, starting to rebuild, and then setting up a process to produce a representative local government. Under such a process, the next leader will almost certainly be a Shiite, since Shiites make up a majority of Iraq's population. The State Department and CIA will have to abandon their old policy of supporting Sunni strongmen. And the Pentagon will have to resist the temptation to lean too heavily on sundry warlords and thuggish militias, as it did in Afghanistan.

This means using American troops to secure all of Iraq. It will be insufficient to set up a peacekeeping force whose authority extends only to the capital. It will be unacceptable to say that peacekeeping is not a job for the U.S. military. Since the United States is committed to a "unitary" Iraq, it will have to commit sufficient force to make this a reality. This probably will not require the 200,000 troops suggested by Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki, but it will require a long-term commitment of at least 60,000 to 75,000 soldiers, the number estimated by Joint Staff planners. It is obviously important to build up an indigenous Iraqi army, really a constabulary force, to keep order on its own. But it would be a grave mistake to look for an early "exit strategy." Only U.S. troops can guarantee Iraq's peaceful development in such a rough neighborhood. Their stay will have to be measured in years, not months.

AS IRAQ LIBERALIZES, the next task will be to spur the liberalization of its neighbors. How to achieve this goal is now the subject of intense debate. The familiar cry is already going up from Europe, the United Nations, the Arab world, and National Public Radio: Restart the "peace process" between Israelis and Palestinians. Alas, there is no reason to imagine that "Oslo II" will turn out any better than the original. Indeed it's hard to see how any Israeli government could make Yasser Arafat a more generous offer than the one he rejected at Camp David in 2000. If he turned down 98 percent of the West Bank then, what could Israel possibly offer him now? The way to achieve peace with the Palestinians— as President Bush has recognized— is to change their government and liberalize their society. This is not a process that can be completed overnight, and it will not be helped by premature Israeli concessions that appear to reward terrorism. By hanging tough, Israel seems to be defeating the suicide bombers and even forcing introspection and reform in the Palestinian Authority. U.S. intervention now would set back this overdue process.

Just as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, so in the rest of the Middle East: The problem isn't the existence of Israel, the only democracy in the region. The problem is the existence of so many nondemocratic regimes. Progress requires liberalization. Democratization alone is not enough, since, as Algeria shows, elections may bring to power Islamist radicals committed to "one man, one vote, one time." In Iraq, nothing would be more disastrous than to allow foreign-backed religious extremists bent on establishing a theocracy to take power through the ballot box. Secretary Rumsfeld reiterated the other day that "an Iranian-type government . . . isn't going to happen." Still, the United States should be doing much more to promote Shiites committed to a pluralist state (yes, they do exist). It is vital to implement the rule of law, freedom of speech, property rights, and other guarantees that can act as a safeguard against majoritarian oppression. That should not temper our commitment to democracy; it merely means that we are committed to liberalism, too.

The United States should push reform even among allies like Egypt and the Gulf sheikhdoms, because alliances built with unpopular strongmen are unlikely to last. But the United States must be careful to avoid a repeat of the fiasco of Iran in 1979, when we abandoned a friendly dictator and got an unfriendly one instead. With careful attention, it is possible to get the transition process right, as the Reagan administration proved when it nudged Ferdinand Marcos out of office and helped pave the way for democracy in the Philippines.

Democracy promotion is a tricky business among our allies; it should be more straightforward among our enemies. Saudi Arabia presents the toughest case because it is both friend and foe. For too long we have turned a blind eye to the Saudis' abundant financial support for virulently anti-American mullahs and outright terrorists because we needed their oil. That dependency will be somewhat lessened once free Iraq returns its oil fields to full production. But in any case we cannot afford to trade the lives of 3,000 Americans for cheap oil. We must make it plain to the Saudis that they, like everyone else, must choose sides in the war on terror. As President Bush said nine days after 9/11, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." The presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops on their border should be a powerful inducement to the Saudis to make the right choice. If the U.S. armed forces made such short work of a hardened goon like Saddam Hussein, imagine what they could do to the soft and sybaritic Saudi royal family. It is a threat best left unstated, but one that should inform the new relationship between Riyadh and Washington.

The same might be said of our relationships with Syria and Iran. Both regimes have been put on notice by Operation Iraqi Freedom: This is what happens if you scheme to acquire weapons of mass destruction or sponsor terrorism. Just in case Damascus didn't get the message, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and other leading administration figures have been warning Damascus to stop hindering the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This has led to speculation that the U.S. military could take a "left turn" from Iraq and head into Syria. Powell's reply to this suggestion was not designed to be reassuring: "There is no war plan right now to go attack someone else," he said. Right now. With that statement, Powell was sending a powerful message. It will not have escaped Damascus and Tehran that the U.S. armed forces could easily do to them what they did to Saddam Hussein's regime. There is good reason to hope that the implicit U.S. threat will never have to be carried out. Both Bashar Assad and Ayatollah Ali Khameini may be scared into better behavior, and in the case of Iran there is at least a decent chance that a homegrown democracy movement will overthrow the mullahs. We must do everything in our power to help these and other democrats in the Muslim world, as once we helped the democrats of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

BUT WHILE we can hope for democratic revolutions, hope is not a durable foundation for national policy. Critics of the Second Gulf War have been disappointed not to see the "Arab street" rising in favor of Saddam's tyranny; supporters of the war may be disappointed not to see the Arab street rise in favor of freedom, either. Oppression runs deep in the Arab world, and, as the case of Iraq showed, it may take outside intervention to break the Arabs' chains. Nevertheless, we are not likely to go to war simply for Arab or Persian freedom; it will take a threat to our own security to send our troops marching. Thus, to avoid a visit from the 3rd Infantry Division, Iran and Syria do not have to democratize. They simply must refrain from crossing certain red lines laid out in the National Security Strategy: They must stop trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and stop supporting international terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and al Qaeda. Two dangers loom especially large: that Iran and Syria will try to turn Iraq into Lebanon redux by staging terrorist attacks on U.S. forces; and that Iran will develop nuclear weapons in a couple of years. Neither eventuality is one that an American president could tolerate. Either action should be regarded as a casus belli.

The one place where forcible disarmament of an enemy state may not be an option is North Korea. Kim Jong Il has built such a formidable military apparatus that he has, in effect, deterred us from attacking him. It is possible that Operation Iraqi Freedom may in turn deter him from attacking us, or from selling his nukes to those who would attack us. It is striking in this regard that, contrary to the widespread expectation that he would take advantage of a distracted America to stir up trouble, Kim was not seen or heard from while U.S. forces were marching on Baghdad. Perhaps he was cowering in a bunker somewhere, wondering whether a satellite-guided bomb could pierce its layers of concrete. But as the National Security Strategy implies, deterrence may not work against a madman who fills Olympic-size stadiums with zombies who worship at his feet. Safety for North Korea's neighbors lies only in the extinction of this monstrous regime. But even South Korea is wary of pursuing that goal for fear of the cost of picking up the pieces.

The most immediate threat is posed by Pyongyang's nuclear program— a threat severe enough that even the Clinton administration seriously contemplated preemptive military action in 1993. Given the devastation that would result from a second Korean War, military action must remain a last resort. Better that the United States should first apply all its diplomatic and economic muscle on North Korea's patrons in Russia and China to force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear designs. This strategy— combined with the persuasive effect of America's quick victory in Iraq— may already be bearing fruit: North Korea has finally agreed to bargain with Chinese and U.S. representatives over its nuclear program. If those negotiations fail, the United States could institute a quarantine of North Korea, as John F. Kennedy did with Cuba in 1962, to prevent its nuclear weapons from leaving the country. While the United States easily could seal the North's air and sea lanes, cutting off land routes would require the cooperation of Russia and China. This is shaping up as a test of whether America's putative allies are willing to work with us against a common threat.

So far, our would-be friends are getting at best a mixed grade. It is striking that while China, Russia, France, and the rest insist that America act multilaterally in the Middle East, they insist on U.S. unilateralism when it comes to North Korea. The United States would love to get cooperation from other countries to punish North Korea for walking away from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The U.N. refused to oblige. But China did start to turn the screws by briefly shutting off the flow of oil to North Korea. A little more such pressure could go a long way.

THIS BRINGS US to the subject of alliances, and their uses. The Bush administration is accused of being recklessly unilateralist. The charge is untrue. The administration has tried hard to rally support from international organizations and allies; it even spent months in fruitless dickering at the United Nations with French representatives who were not bargaining in good faith. But at the end of the day the security of the world rests on the shoulders of America, not of France or the U.N. The policy of Republican and Democratic administrations alike has been: with allies if we can, alone if we must.

NATO, at first blush, holds some promise in this regard, since it is a military alliance with fellow democracies. But even though France does not participate in the military structure of NATO, it is doubtful that the alliance can be an effective military instrument absent some major changes. For a start, it would have to stop functioning on the basis of unanimity; as the Kosovo war showed, targeting by committee works poorly. Even if NATO were to adopt some kind of super-majority voting procedure, it would still have to develop useful power-projection capabilities. The rapid deployment force, agreed to at the Prague summit last year under U.S. prodding, would be a nice start if it ever became operational. But even this force would be at best a marginal addition to U.S. military capabilities. NATO could make a more meaningful contribution if it agreed to take a larger role in policing and reconstruction in places like Iraq. Its agreement to take over peacekeeping in Afghanistan in June is a good start, but it has not been easy for an alliance originally created to oppose Soviet expansion in Europe to adopt such "out of area" missions.

Various schemes have been bandied about for security alliances that might better serve U.S. interests in the future. How about a community of democracies? Or an Anglosphere made up of English-speaking countries? Or a league of anti-Islamist countries that would include India, Israel, and Turkey? Or an Asian NATO designed to contain China and North Korea? Perhaps soon there will be talk of recreating the Baghdad Pact, Britain's failed attempt in the 1950s to knit together an alliance of friendly Middle Eastern countries centered around Hashemite Iraq. All these ideas have their attractions, and it would be good if America's chattering classes, instead of simply berating the Bush administration for not working miracles within our existing alliances, debated how to create new frameworks of security.

But in the end, it may not be worthwhile for the administration to spend a lot of time and trouble to create new alliances that might prove no more viable than those 1950s curiosities, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). The late 1940s, when NATO was born, were conducive to building a long-term alliance because the United States could focus on one threat— the Soviet Union. Today, by contrast, we face multiple threats all over the world. We need one set of countries to deal with Iran; another set to deal with North Korea; a third set for al Qaeda. "Alliances of the willing" may be the most flexible, and perhaps the only workable, approach.

This requires putting attention where it should have been all along— on cultivating relationships with individual countries, not with abstract entities like the United Nations. It is often said that the Second Gulf War has done irreparable damage to U.S. relations with France and Germany. We will see. Already there are indications that they may come crawling back. Not having cooked the dinner, they want a double helping of dessert. Uncle Sam should be a stern parent, and resist their importuning.

It is debatable whether we can or should punish France and Germany for their obstructionism; but we certainly should not reward their support for the evil Saddam Hussein regime with oil and rebuilding contracts in post-Saddam Iraq. If they want to contribute to the reconstruction effort, we should accept their help; but we should make no concessions to get it. Their current behavior, tying a permanent lifting of U.N. sanctions to a larger political role for the U.N. in running Iraq, amounts to blackmail, and needs to be resisted strongly.

America can cultivate truer friends in the "new Europe" of the East. It helps that Britain, America's closest ally, is also the only European country with any substantial military expeditionary capability. The United States should look to cement these relationships by extending trade deals and military bases to key European allies so that they do not become entirely dependent on the Berlin-Paris axis operating through the European Union bureaucracy. A centralized E.U. will be an Atlanticist's nightmare, for it will give clout to France, Germany, and their lapdog Belgium over those nations that are more sympathetic to America. For too long, Washington has looked benignly on European integration; we should awaken to the potential danger before a Brussels bureaucracy robs us of our remaining allies on the continent.

Our major concern at the moment should not be that Gulf War II has alienated France and Germany; we should worry more about Russia and especially Turkey. Our frayed relations with Turkey are the worst consequence of the war, and both sides must work diligently to patch up this relationship. We cannot hope to promote democracy in the Middle East if we are estranged from the only Muslim democracy in the region. Meanwhile, we have a common interest with Russia in combating Islamist terrorism; that mutual interest should come to the fore now that Russia's old client, Saddam Hussein, is gone from the scene.

IMPORTANT as allies are, they matter less in a world in which America wields unrivaled power. Our primary goal should be to preserve and extend what Charles Krauthammer called the "unipolar moment." That moment has now stretched into a decade and shows no sign of waning. This confounds the confident prediction of academic theorists that any hegemon will call into being an opposing coalition. It happened to Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany. It hasn't happened to America. Why not? The reason should be obvious to anyone without a Ph.D.: America isn't like the empires of old. It does not seek to enslave other peoples and steal their lands. It spreads freedom and opportunity. The American security umbrella, which shields a large chunk of the world, offers protection not only to the United States but to all democratic governments. The fundamental reason why you won't see France, Germany, Russia, and other jealous states ganging up on America militarily is that they know America presents no security threat to them. Whether they admit it or not, we actually serve their security interests by dispatching potential threats like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Some of our allies even acknowledge their reliance upon us. Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi recently said, "The United States is the only ally providing Tokyo with deterrent power against any foreign country that could threaten regional security, such as North Korea, and the Japanese people should never forget it."

Having seen that the world is not ganging up on America, some political scientists posit that "soft" balancing is going on instead. By this they mean that other nations seek to use their diplomatic, cultural, and economic influence to contain U.S. power. There is some evidence of this phenomenon— witness the recent debate over Iraq at the United Nations, where France, Germany, Russia, and China combined against us. The limits of this strategy were also revealed at the U.N. All those states blocked an eighteenth resolution on Iraq— and Britain and America acted anyway. "Soft power" is an interesting concept for academic discussion; it is not a serious threat to American security.

The greatest threat to American power comes not from without but from within: Only if we lose our confidence and our resolve, at this moment of supreme opportunity and imminent danger, will our security be imperiled. To preserve and extend the Pax Americana, we will need to increase our defense spending. We already have the most magnificent military in history, but it is stretched thin by all the assignments thrown its way. The army is deployed in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sinai, South Korea, Afghanistan, and now Iraq. The Marines are filling some of the gap, but they're stretched thin, too. And successful as the armed forces have been in Iraq, it's alarming to see how old a lot of their equipment is— many helicopters date back to the Vietnam War, and the B-52 bombers are even older than that.

Carrying out all of our current global missions will require reversing the military downsizing of the 1990s. In 1991, the United States had more than 2 million active-duty soldiers; today we're down to 1.4 million, a decline of 30 percent. The army went from 18 active-duty divisions to 10; the navy from more than 550 ships to fewer than 315; the air force from 25 fighter wings to 13. We need to return to our 1990 strength, which will require boosting defense spending by more than $100 billion a year. Add billions more for homeland security, which, despite impressive advances, still needs to be beefed up, especially to safeguard our vulnerable ports. That sounds like a lot of money, but even with recent increases we're still spending under 3.5 percent of our vast GDP on defense, considerably less than during the Cold War. That's a small price to pay to police the globe.

Even after 9/11, some Americans might shrink from this task. But Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that the mission is achievable. Iraq should not be seen as an aberration, but rather as another important step in a larger campaign to make the world safe for democracy. Sophisticates may laugh at Woodrow Wilson's objective, but it was the right one; the problem was that he was unable to mobilize American society to achieve it. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush have been more successful in pursuing this noble vision. We have already vanquished Nazism and communism; only one of the twentieth century's evil ideologies— fascism, this time in its Islamist variant— remains to be defeated for liberalism to breathe easier. Victory is almost in sight. We ought not return to passivity now.

Max Boot, a contributing editor, is the Olin senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power."

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