After this latest misadventure, it's time perhaps to reassess what has gone wrong since the end of the Cold War. Part of it is that the USA forgot about postwar reconstruction.
Sure, the Cold War did not have definable fronts -- although Korea, Hungary, Cuba, Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, the horn of Africa, Nicaragua and El Salvador might reasonably pass for battlefields. At the end of the Cold War, which -- pay attention, conservatives -- did not occur on Ronald Reagan's watch, all that was left was a gulf between the wealthy capitalist First World and everyone else.
In an impoverished Russia and Eastern Europe the joke went: "What's worse than Communism? Post-Communism." And an impoverished Third World, a variety of would-be leaders -- including one Osama bin Laden -- observed how local elites were enriching themselves through the sale to the First World of non-renewable resources, which are the patrimony of entire societies.
If 9/11 had not existed, someone would have invented it.
Why? Because we won the war and forgot to win the peace as well, as the USA did after World War II.
Osama and Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez and others have in common that they are irate that the First World continues to wage economic war on their people.
Sixty years ago, this past June 5, Secretary of State George C. Marshall delivered the commencement address at Harvard and in his speech outlined the need for an economic recovery plan to lift Europe out of the ruins of World War II. "It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace," Marshall said.
By the time the European Recovery Program (the official name of the Marshall Plan) began to wind down in 1951, the United States had sent $12 billion to 17 countries and Europe was beginning to recover. In 2006 dollars, that sum would amount to $119.7 billion, or about an average $29 billion a year -- about a third of a year's cost of U.S. military occupation of Iraq.
Our present development assistance does not exceed $13 billion a year and almost half goes to Israel and a quarter more to Egypt. Meanwhile, Africa has become a basket case, disparities are growing in Latin America and in fast-developing, resource hungry Asia the life of each individual continues to be far too cheap.
Moreover, now we have the means and the technology to eradicate the most serious depredations on human dignity, such as hunger. We may not know exactly how to turn every nation into Ohio -- not necessarily a worthy goal -- but the most abject forms of poverty need not exist.
The benefits of doing so are manifold. Greater prosperity brings liberalization of governance and greater public participation in peaceful, constructive ways. Prosperous nations cooperate with one another.
Is there any reason why we should not launch a new Marshall Plan, this time for the world?