I heard a Memorial Day episode of Tom Ashbrook's NPR "On Point" program on Monday that had Andrew Bacevich on, discussing our policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those who aren't familiar with Bacevich, let's just say that his scholarship and his experience demand our respect. He served in two wars, retired as a colonel, lost a son in Iraq, and has been a scholar of American military policy in several places, including West Point and now Boston University. His book, The Limits of Power, is an important piece of work that levels a withering criticism of US military policy over the last few years, the essence of which is contained in its subtitle (the End of American Exceptionalism).
Bacevich suggests that President Obama has made important changes to American policy, in reducing our commitment in Iraq, shutting down Guantanamo (assuming the chickenshits in the Senate will let him do that) and so forth, but he says that Obama's own policy suffers from a failure to conceive a strategy that is consistent with what we can achieve on the middle east and takes into account root causes of the enmity toward the US that we have seen explode in that region over the last decade or more.
He is careful to emphasize that he's not trying to suggest that we caused or should feel guilty for the attacks of September 11th, 2001, but that we should think carefully about where the anger that causes them comes from, and should take the sources of that anger into account as we form a strategic response that governs our middle east policy.
Bacevich rejects the strategic assumptions of the Bush administration as wildly unrealistic and anchored in flawed assessments of the real situation, but he does say that the anger we are seeing in the middle east is in significant measure a function of our intemperance in trying to make the rest of the world fit and acquiesce to our own thirst for oil and our insistence that the societies in the middle east function in ways that we approve of, regardless of whether those ways are satisfactory to those people in them who must live with the consequences of our choices for them (hint: they're not).
In that sense, depite his condemnation of Bush's policy, Bacevich's critique raises an interesting question. Bush was fond of saying (and every member of the right-wing Greek chorus that sang us into war was fond of echoing) that "they hate us for our freedom". It occurs to me that while taken as it was offered (i.e., that "those people" hate freedom per se), the assertion that they "hate us for our freedom" is nonsensical on its face, it may be closer to the truth than I have given it credit for in the past. If our "freedom" is freedom to consume absurd amounts of oil and monkey around with their societies with reckless abandon in order to continue that profligacy, then the people who have attacked us may indeed hate us for our freedom, because that freedom has direct and unhappy impacts on their lives. If that's true, then in an odd way, even though what he proposed to do about it was disastrous, Bush's base assertion was right.