In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2006 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767

America's brittle empire

By Niall Ferguson

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | You would have thought 300 million Americans would be enough to rule the world — or at least a couple of medium-sized failed states. The population of Iraq is 27 million, that of Afghanistan 31 million. Yet the same week that the U.S. population officially passed the 300-million mark, we heard two startling admissions that testify to the scale of crisis facing Washington's unspoken empire.

Asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week" program whether the situation in Iraq was comparable to that in Vietnam at the time of the 1968 Tet Offensive — an event popularly (though wrongly) perceived as the beginning of the end for the U.S. defense of South Vietnam — the president conceded the comparison "could be right." And on Thursday, the spokesman for the U.S. military command in Iraq confessed that the Army's latest effort to quell the escalating civil war in central Iraq "has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence" — military-speak for "has totally failed." A year ago, these admissions would have been headline news. Today, people just shrug. That Iraq is Washington's new "quagmire" has become conventional wisdom.

But why should this be so? Less than a century ago, before World War I, the population of Britain was 46 million, barely 2.5% of humanity. And yet the British were able to govern a vast empire that encompassed an additional 375 million people, more than a fifth of the world's population. Why can't 300 million Americans control fewer than 30 million Iraqis? Three years ago, as the United States swept into Iraq, I wrote a book titled "Colossus," which offered a somber prediction, summed up in its subtitle, "The Rise and Fall of the American Empire." My argument was that the United States was unlikely to be as successful or as enduring an imperial power as its British predecessor for three reasons: its financial deficit, its attention deficit and, perhaps most surprisingly, its manpower deficit. Rather cruelly, I compared the American empire to a "strategic couch-potato … consuming on credit, reluctant to go to the front line [and] inclined to lose interest in protracted undertakings."

I wish I'd been proved wrong. Sadly, events in Iraq have borne out that analysis. No Marshall Plan for the Middle East materialized to revive the Iraqi economy. And domestic support for the enterprise proved short-lived. I have spent much of the last month on the road, talking to readers in bookstores and lecture halls from downtown Manhattan to Pasadena to rural Arizona. Practically everyone I have talked to — including many a Republican — yearns for their country to get out of Iraq.

Lack of funds. Ephemeral support. These problems were not hard to predict because they had characterized previous U.S. incursions into foreign lands (the postwar occupations of West Germany and Japan remain the only exceptions that prove the rule). The manpower deficit, however, remains puzzling. Just why is the world's third-most -populous country so short of boots on the ground? The obvious answer is that, considering the size of the U.S. population and the Pentagon's vast budget, the American military is a remarkably small outfit. In 2004, the number of Department of Defense personnel on active duty was 1,427,000, substantially fewer than the country's 2-million-strong prison population. Of those on active duty, barely a fifth were overseas, of whom 171,000 were in Iraq. That works out to 0.06% of the total U.S. population.

The number of troops currently in Iraq is less than 140,000. That's roughly as many soldiers as Britain sent to the same country to defeat an insurgency in 1920 — at a time when the population of Iraq was a 10th of what it is today. The low level of military participation in the United States is, admittedly, something of a national tradition. A hundred years ago, the armed forces accounted for 1.6% of the French population, 1.1% of the German population and 0.9% of the British population — but only 0.1% of the American population. The difference is that today the U.S. is trying to play the kind of role that the European powers played back then. It's an empire, to put it bluntly, with too few legions.

To make matters worse, the Department of Defense has been run since 2001 by a man who fervently believes that less is more. It was Donald Rumsfeld, we now know, who repeatedly dismissed expert advice that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to ensure the stability of postwar Iraq.

In 2003, I argued that this kind of error could be corrected if only U.S. leaders would learn some history. That was naive. Policy about Iraq has never been based on a rational assessment of that country's needs. Rumsfeld's paramount concern appears to have been to win the turf wars between the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs and the State Department — just as Vice President Dick Cheney's was to satisfy the appetites of the GOP base for big tax cuts and cheap victories. Writing in the 1920s, German historian Eckart Kehr argued that the foreign policy of the Kaiser's Germany was the defective product of the "primacy of domestic politics."

I have come to see that U.S. foreign policy suffers from a similar pathology. The primacy of domestic politics — in the form of bureaucratic infighting and electoral manipulation — explains why the Iraq enterprise has, from the outset, been so chronically short-staffed.

The personnel deficit is not just about politics, however. "We're an empire now," a presidential aide told the journalist Ron Suskind in a moment of hubris in 2004, "and when we act, we create our own reality." But maybe the reality is that the U.S. is demographically incapable of acting as a traditional empire. After all, empire is partly about the export of people; about colonists and settlers. The United States, by contrast, is about the import of people, to the tune of roughly 1.5 million newcomers a year; the country expands by importing, not exporting, people.

In short, we seem doomed by domestic politics and demography to re-enact Vietnam in Iraq. The only question is what age the 300-millionth American will be when the last American is airlifted out.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).

Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).

Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University. He is the author of "Empire" (Basic Books, 2003) and "Colossus" (Penguin, 2004). Comment by clicking here.

10/17/06: Failing to stop North Korea from going nuclear may have been the last straw for the onetime guardian of world order
10/03/06: Why Churchill opposed torture
09/27/06: Insanity on a Global Scale
09/19/06: The GOP will hang on
09/13/06: Long Live Royal Bloodlines!
09/05/06: Red-state Republicans and blue-faced liberals are starting to agree: Green is the way
08/29/06: What if the London Bombers Succeeded?
08/15/06: Testing the Limits of the U.N.: Who seriously expects Kofi Annan to stop Al Qaeda terror attacks?
08/08/06: The coming tsunami of trash
07/18/06: Forget the '60s and ‘Make Love, Not War.’ Today's world is facing a Summer of Rage
07/11/06: When will China pull the plug on North Korea?
06/20/06: Hedge funds vs. central bankers: Will inflation, deflation or recession win in the coming months?
06/13/06: Britain's economy is just like America's — minus the entrepreneurs and growth
06/06/06: The X-Men have taken over Washington
05/30/06: Quit protesting, profs!
05/23/06: World markets' wild ride: Economic volatility is back with a vengeance
05/16/06: The Cold Wars are coming
05/09/06: Many commentators are missing dangerous political shift
05/02/06: Put some sugar in your tank
04/25/06: Hu and the dog that didn't bark
04/18/06: Should Americans be less optimistic?
04/11/06: Globalization's second death?
04/04/06: So many ‘special’ friends
03/28/06: Let's get it right about what has gone wrong
03/21/06: Congress is trying to give the world a globotomy
03/14/06: Lame ducks can still bite back
03/07/06: A 19th Century critique of a 21st Century president
02/28/06: The crash of civilizations
02/21/06: Not the president, but close
02/14/06: Want historic trouble? Look south
02/07/06: Greenspan advising Britain? It's housing bubbles, deficits and potential meltdowns all over again
01/31/06: Missing the Cold War
01/24/06: It's a sick, Thick World
01/17/06: Tomorrow's world war today
01/03/06: Scotland, it's over, but keep the accents
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
11/22/05: Ghost of Napoleon haunts Tony Blair
11/22/05: Can it happen in Britain too?
11/15/05: Red plus blue equals purple
11/10/05: The fires of disintegration
11/01/05: Triumph of an über-wonk

© 2006, Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate