Magazine article Ideas on Liberty
Another Century of War?
Another Century of War? by Gabriel Kolko New Press * 2002 * 160 pages * $15.95 paperback
Most libertarians, or believers in the free market, probably met Professor Gabriel Kolko through reading his 1963 revisionist interpretation of American economic history from 1900 to 1916, The Triumph of Conservatism. Since then, Kolko has been primarily a historian of war and American foreign policy, his 1994 magnum opus being Century of War: Politics, Conflicts, and Society since 1914. The publisher of that work suggested he continue the theme by commenting on the events of September 11, 2001.
Kolko states the purpose of his book: "In the following pages I outline some of the causes for the events of September 11 and why America's foreign policies not only have failed to exploit communism's demise but have become both more destabilizing and counterproductive. I also try to answer the crucial question posed in my title: Will there be another century of war?"
His theme is that the United States has become the single most important arms exporter, thereby contributing to much of the disorder in the world. Further, contrary to America's claims of bringing stability by its interventions, especially since 1947 in the Middle East, it has caused death, destruction, and turmoil. For Kolko, America has become the sole rogue superpower, no longer restrained by the possibility of the Soviet Union's counterpunch.
Kolko notes that much changed since September 11. With terrorism becoming the worldwide target of the U.S. government, the result may be perpetual war: "Bush had campaigned in 2000 as a critic of 'big government,' but after September 11 he became an 'imperial' president with new, draconian powers over civil liberties."
In regard to U.S. policies in the Middle East, Kolko argues that the CIA set up a Vietnam-type trap for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia, the U.S. government armed and supplied Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviets. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, bin Laden offered to repel Iraq, but this offer was refused. Instead, the American coalition, with financial support from Saudi Arabia, pushed Hussein back within his borders, while leaving American troops in Saudi Arabia. …