Peace in Our Time?
A new diplomatic road map for the Middle East seems likely to mire the American empire in familiar territory
The war on terror was sold as a war scarier than all the rest. Even now, it’s tempting to see America’s foreign-policy blunders in the early twenty-first century as aberrations born of panic, fear, and ignorance. The shock of September 11, the emergence of mysterious antagonists, and the Bush administration’s catastrophic retaliation seem to constitute a distinct historical era: a time capsule of unique horror, but one that came with its own sell-by date. Not only were invasion, torture, and increased domestic security newly justifiable; the standard official rationale for them held that they were just temporary measures. But America has been evolving into the fully militarized nation of 2013 for sixty years. Former New York Times reporter David Rohde has pitched the argument of his new book, Beyond War, squarely in the center of this historical paradox: that America can easily reverse course, even as his own reporting suggests a deep dependence on war- and profit-making that will be difficult to undo.
For example, in revisiting the misguided course of US military actions in the Middle East, Rohde focuses much of his ire on the military contractors. Private security firms such as Blackwater, Northrop Grumman, and DynCorp appeared like sci-fi action figures during the Iraq war, lethal corporate demons sprung straight from Dick Cheney’s wildest dreams. As Rohde explains, however, such outfits were long-standing players in the execution of American foreign policy—meaning that, when it came to the new theaters of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, they were not a Bush-administration