I want to start by quoting from a Republican congressman’s speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. He gave this speech in opposition to his own Republican President’s decision to keep troops in Iraq. I quote him because his speech essentially sums up my opinion. This Congressman stated:

“The fundamental question is: What is the United States’ interest in Iraq? It is said we are there to keep the peace. I ask, what peace? It is said we are there to aid the government. I ask, what government? It is said we are there to stabilize the region. I ask, how can the U.S. presence stabilize the region?… The longer we stay in Iraq, the harder it will be for us to leave. We will be trapped by the case we make for having our troops there in the first place.

“What can we expect if we withdraw from Iraq? The same as will happen if we stay. I acknowledge that the level of fighting will increase if we leave. I regretfully acknowledge that many innocent civilians will be hurt. But I firmly believe this will happen in any event.”

These are the opening paragraphs of a speech I gave in February 2008 at the World Affairs Council.

I went on to say:

Who was this Congressman? It sounds as if it could have been antiwar Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. Well, actually, it was a different presidential candidate named John McCain. I cheated in one little way: I substituted “Iraq” for “Lebanon.” The year was not in the 2000s; it was 1983. The President was not George W. Bush; it was Ronald Reagan. McCain had voted against President Reagan’s decision to keep American troops in Lebanon as part of a multinational “peacekeeping” force.

I quote John McCain, not to embarrass him – he’s plenty capable of doing that for himself, such as when he summed up his foreign policy on Iran with a Beach Boys song. Rather, I quote him to point out, with the notable exception of the previous speaker’s talk, how sensible thinking seems to be lost in our mainstream political discussion of foreign policy.


In my speech, I applied Friedrich Hayek’s thinking in his classic 1945 article, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” to foreign policy, something that, as far as I know, Hayek never did.

There’s a transcript of my speech here.