Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Mini-debate: Would the Founding Fathers have invaded Iraq?

"Imagine," commented my friend Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, whom I know from Iraq, "the reaction of Hamilton and Madison to a proposal to borrow money from China to invade Mesopotamia for the purpose of bringing democracy to Arabia."   That struck me as really smart,  underscoring the distance between our nation’s recent actions and the ideals ...

MCS/flickr
MCS/flickr

"Imagine," commented my friend Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, whom I know from Iraq, "the reaction of Hamilton and Madison to a proposal to borrow money from China to invade Mesopotamia for the purpose of bringing democracy to Arabia."  

That struck me as really smart,  underscoring the distance between our nation’s recent actions and the ideals on which the nation was founded. But wanting a second opinion, I asked another friend, Eliot Cohen, erstwhile consigliore to Condi Rice. He shot back:

Yup. That would be the Madison who, immediately (and I do mean immediately, literally within a few weeks) after concluding the war that he had foolishly launched  against Great Britain — an exhausting, dispiriting, bankrupting war with the world’s only superpower, in which the White House got burned to the ground, our coasts were blockaded, and our efforts to invade Canada, forsooth, repeatedly crushed, secured another declaration of war from Congress and launched the entire United States Navy across the ocean to settle scores with the Sultan of Morocco, the Dey of Algiers, and the Pasha of Tripoli.  And don’t get me started on Hamilton."

Who do you think has the Founding Fathers right, Yingling (professor of security studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany), or Cohen (professor of strategy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC)?  

"Imagine," commented my friend Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, whom I know from Iraq, "the reaction of Hamilton and Madison to a proposal to borrow money from China to invade Mesopotamia for the purpose of bringing democracy to Arabia."  

That struck me as really smart,  underscoring the distance between our nation’s recent actions and the ideals on which the nation was founded. But wanting a second opinion, I asked another friend, Eliot Cohen, erstwhile consigliore to Condi Rice. He shot back:

Yup. That would be the Madison who, immediately (and I do mean immediately, literally within a few weeks) after concluding the war that he had foolishly launched  against Great Britain — an exhausting, dispiriting, bankrupting war with the world’s only superpower, in which the White House got burned to the ground, our coasts were blockaded, and our efforts to invade Canada, forsooth, repeatedly crushed, secured another declaration of war from Congress and launched the entire United States Navy across the ocean to settle scores with the Sultan of Morocco, the Dey of Algiers, and the Pasha of Tripoli.  And don’t get me started on Hamilton."

Who do you think has the Founding Fathers right, Yingling (professor of security studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany), or Cohen (professor of strategy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC)?  

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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