"Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets."
- Max Boot
Max Boot is my favorite neoconservative. He is completely unfamiliar with the concept of shame and like the rest of his clan he won't ever flinch when it comes time to put somebody else's life on the line. Anyone whose conscience survives initiation into that club soon gets voted out.
Where Max really shines is as a polemicist. He's a good writer. He can turn a juicy phrase like few others. That one above, his juiciest ever—and I know writers, I know he looked at it and thought to himself, "damn, I am good ..."—went into a piece he wrote for the Weekly Standard not long after September 11.
"The Case for American Empire" was, well, the case for American empire.
Many have suggested that the September 11 attack on America was payback for U.S. imperialism. If only we had not gone around sticking our noses where they did not belong, perhaps we would not now be contemplating a crater in lower Manhattan. The solution is obvious: The United States must become a kinder, gentler nation, must eschew quixotic missions abroad, must become, in Pat Buchanan's phrase, "a republic, not an empire." In fact this analysis is exactly backward: The September 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition; the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation ... [t]he question is whether, having now been attacked, we will act as a great power should.
Boot isn't exactly the kind of man Stephen Colbert applauded in his tribute to George W. Bush—he's not a man who "believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday." He's flexible. When he looks at Libya today, Boot doesn't think that the US should do the same thing there as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday; he thinks we should do the same thing better.
[W]e must not limit our war aims to simply toppling Gadhafi. We made that mistake in Iraq and Afghanistan. By not paying attention to what comes after the deposal of a dictator, we inadvertently created conditions for a long-term insurgency. In Libya it is imperative that the U.S. and our allies make plans now to insert a stabilization force after Gadhafi's downfall to help the National Transitional Council gain control of the country.
There's nothing in the piece to top "jodhpurs and pith helmets." How could there be? Boot is in the awful predicament of a man who knows that he long ago wrote the most memorable thing he'll ever have written. But the gall of it is right up there with anything he said in connection with those other invasions even though he's given up on empire and the heartache shows.
Needless to say, no one wants to see U.S. troops in another ground war - especially at a time of shrinking budgets and declining force size. The bulk of any such force in Libya should be provided by the Europeans since Libya is on their doorstep. But we can't simply wash our hands of the place. The sooner we defeat Gadhafi's forces and stabilize the country, the sooner we can achieve our objectives.
Er ... yes. If one's objective is to defeat Gadhafi and stabilize "the place," then the sooner one does that the sooner it will have been done, and the sooner we can apply the lessons of Libya to whatever troubled land cries out to us next.
Naturally, Boot's unblemished record of well-spoken idiocy has earned him a series of generous sinecures from varied and prestigious Institutes and Councils.