Strike before being struck is the rallying cry of this form of foreign policy and Kaplan and Kristol would be in complete agreement. Secondly, the alleged harboring of the Al-Quaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the 9/11 bombings, provided an additional justification which was also in line with the preemptive argument offered by Kaplan and Kristol. The Al-Quaeda were, according to the thinking of these two writers and the leaders of the Bush administration, obviously using Iraq as a platform for engaging in further attacks against the U.S. And the American government had a moral responsibility to be preemptive in its efforts to protect the American people by unilaterally invading Iraq. The potential for a possible attack similar to the events of 9/11 was there so the United States was morally justified in taking preemptive action. Finally, but not until after it was categorically established that Iraq did not have the weapons of mass destruction that intelligence reports alleged they had, the purpose behind the invasion of Iraq was altered to prepare the Iraqi people for democracy. Through this process, the Bush administration would be implementing the foreign policy initiative proclaimed by Kaplan and Kristol as the solution to minimizing the possibility of further war in the Middle East. Democratizing Iraq would be a step toward worldwide democratization which, in the end, would result in world peace.
This foreign policy approach advocated by Kaplan and Kristol and put into place by the younger Bush administration fails for a variety of reasons. It is morally depraved in that it attempts to justify unilateral military actions based upon perceived possibilities. As in the case of the War in Iraq, the possibility that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction was used a justification; the possibility that Al-Quaeda was being harbored inside Iraq and was planning further bombing attacks was used as a justification; and, the possibility that Iraq was a potential threat to the region was used as a justification. There was no attack upon American soil or American citizens. There was no indisputable evidence that Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction or even that there was any form of military build-up and there was no clear evidence that Osama Bin-Laden or any other Al-Quaeda members were being harbored inside Iraq. Yet, the United States found a way to justify its unilateral invasion based upon the argument of preemption.
The approach also fails in regard to forcing the concept of democratic rule upon the Iraqi people. As has been demonstrated in the years since the original invasion, the Iraqi people are likely not equipped or ready for maintaining their own democratic government. Although time may prove otherwise, the initial indications are that once the American military presence has been lessened the fragile nature of the Iraqi government will be exposed and that a return to the conditions present in Iraq prior to the American invasion will reappear.
The fact that imposing democracy on the Iraqi people required military involvement highlights another problem with the Kaplan and Kristol approach. If the goal is to spread democracy throughout the world, then the U.S. government is destined to be engaged in endless conflicts for many, many years. Even if one ignores the moral issues involved in the United States attempting to impose its will upon smaller nations, the question must be asked how long the American citizens will tolerate the financial and human cost involved in such process. In light of the public reaction to the prolonged presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is difficult to imagine that the American tax payers will tolerate the exercise of the foreign policy that dictates that there be more Iraq and Afghanistan situations.
In the wake of the end of the Cold War, there was worldwide hope that a new era in international cooperation was being ushered in. There was a feeling that with the fall of the Soviet Union as a nation and Communism as a political and economic possibility that the rest of the world would view the success of the nations in Western Europe and North America in adopting democracy and capitalism as their guiding philosophies and that, by doing so, the nations that had not adopted such philosophies would eventually do so. A new period of international cooperation was expected and, for awhile, the approach appeared to be working. Conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda were resolved with no outside military intervention. Unfortunately, however, the Bush administration decided that allowing other nations to determine their own fate was a process that was far too slow and ineffective and that the approach advocated by Kaplan and Kristol was the preferred one.
The United States' invasion of Iraq marked a remarkable change in foreign policy. Suddenly the United States was engaged in an effort to reshape the world map and to spread democracy throughout the world by military intervention instead of by example. In the process, however, the United States faces the strong likelihood that it runs the chance of alienating its traditional allies. Few of America's allies have been supportive of America's position in regard to Iraq and, even fewer, have been supportive of America's involvement in Afghanistan. This is not a trend. Non-military intervention is the preferred course adopted by most developed countries and America's decision to adopt an alternative path has not been viewed positively by its Allies. The path advocated by Kaplan and Kristol disregards the opinions of America's allies and such arrogance comes at a price. Insisting that America is right and acting indifferent to the opinions of others will eventually cause hostility toward the U.S. And this is an issue that the country must consider if it decides to continue on the course of action that it took by invading Iraq.
In essence, the Kaplan and Kristol approach envisions a world where the United States is obeyed rather than respected. A world where the United States buy its friends and punishes its enemies; where power makes right and not the moral strength of one's position; where double standards become the rule and not the exception. Hopefully, the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan will convince the American people that the philosophies advocated by Kaplan and Kristol are misdirected and that the government's actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are an improper exercise of American foreign policy.