Fraters book review

Chad the Elder checks out Codeville’s Advice to War Presidents:

After eight years of wavering and inconsistent foreign policy under President Bush (quasi-isolationist to neoconservative to realist) and nine months of a “one world, one dream” hand-holding and Kumbaya-singing approach to diplomacy under President Obama, the United States desperately needs to get back to statecraft basics. At least that’s the clearly delivered and well-articulated argument put forward by Angelo Codevilla in his book Advice to War Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft.

The book is a primer for statesmen and especially presidents to follow in order to return the country to a more pragmatic approach to foreign affairs. Codevilla doesn’t propose a specific label to cover what he proposes, but it might be called “common sense statecraft.” To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, Codevilla wants the United States to “speak clearly, carry a big stick, and don’t be afraid to swing it hard when you must” when dealing with other countries.

Codevilla’s advice sounds like an eminently sensible approach, although I question the wisdom of attempting to deal with terrorism by aggressively going about defeating it. Terrorism is a symptom, therefore it cannot be treated as if it is the disease. The present terrorist threat can be completely ended by a) withdrawing from the Middle East, and b) expelling all nationals from Middle Eastern countries and refusing entry to them. And that’s simply not going to happen for political reasons, so we’ll continue with the same strategy that hasn’t worked for the USA or Israel in four decades, namely, killing a few terrorists here and there while constantly generating new ones through collateral damage.

But the core strategy is very sound. If you’re going to engage in military conflict, first make sure you are in line with both the national interest and the will of the people, then go to war with a vengeance. And then bring the troops home as soon as they finish killing people and breaking things. No more nation-building, democracy-constructing, globo-policing, or Korean border fence-sitting nonsense.