Ivan Eland: In the case of al-Qaeda, focusing on Islam is just a way of avoiding a much-needed introspective examination of U.S. foreign policy to see if unneeded, and often counterproductive, U.S. interventions in the Muslim world could be eliminated.
Ivan Eland: American history vindicates the old saying that “truth is the first casualty of war,” but the passage of time should allow a republic to undertake a more honest and dispassionate examination of historical events. It rarely does, with truth being swept under the rug in favor of assuming uncaused indignities.
Ivan Eland: Weapons purchases are often welfare projects doled out to congressional districts and states with political clout. In fact, unlike in the commercial market, defense contractors don’t give subcontracts to the best subcontractors but spread them around the country to build political support, so that it is very difficult to kill weapons programs.
Ivan Eland: Missile defense is an expensive relic of the Cold War, which the U.S. can no longer afford given its huge budget deficits and high debt levels. Keeping the program alive are Republicans who want to preserve this white elephant to realize the grandiose “Star Wars” dream of their hero, Ronald Reagan.
Ivan Eland: Extending the U.S. nuclear shield to the much more unstable and violent region of the Middle East seems supremely foolhardy. The U.S. could more easily get dragged into an unplanned and unneeded future nuclear exchange there than in any other area of the world.
Ivan Eland: The problem is that the U.S. goal in Afghanistan—although President Obama has reduced it from George W. Bush’s instituting democracy to merely stabilizing the country—is still too ambitious.
Ivan Eland: Although Bush can’t change his domestic catastrophes, such as the federal response to Hurricane Katrina or the horrendous financial crisis and the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, if Iraq and Afghanistan eventually reach some stability, he may be regarded as the man who threw out the despotic regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.
Ivan Eland: If it weren’t for the latest salacious bureau-gossip, the book would be rather boring—and tragic. Boring, not because the issues are uninteresting or because Woodward is a bad writer, but because the author records a dysfunctional White House internal decision-making process in which meeting after meeting features the same reasonable questions about the U.S. war in Afghanistan but in which nobody ever has very good answers to them.