Feature

The prudent alternative to regime change

Steve ChapmanChicago Tribune

“Containment” was the core of American foreign policy for a half-century, said Steve Chapman, and it proved to be a highly successful strategy. By erecting strong defenses and firmly and patiently opposing the aggressive intentions of the Soviet Union, the Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan administrations kept the communists from realizing their dream of world domination. Eventually, the Soviet Union collapsed, bankrupt in every sense of the word. “The key to containment was finding affordable means to constrain and weaken the enemy, without bleeding ourselves down in wars we didn’t have to fight.” But when he faced the threat of Islamic terrorism, President Bush turned containment into “a dirty word,” offering up instead a policy of “pre-emptive war” and “regime change.” After 9/11, he said, merely containing a regime like Saddam Hussein’s was too dangerous. So the U.S. launched a war that has lasted five years, produced no clear-cut results, and has already cost $600 billion. Whoever succeeds Bush will have to decide whether to face future challenges with the folly of pre-emptive war or the proven wisdom of containment.   

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