October 21, 2014, Cairo, Egypt— Lawrence Wilkerson, the former army colonel who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State of Colin Powell, says that the United States is headed for defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an interview with the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, he argues that American overreliance on military strategy and the rise of other nations like China will make the United States a “middling power” within a few decades. “We don’t have really smart plans, strategies,” Wilkerson explains. “So we resort increasingly to the one thing that seems to work, temporarily at least—it hardly ever works in the long run—the military. That’s how empires disappear. By around 2050, we are going to be a middling power.”Wilkerson blames Washington’s “stupidity and incompetence and our own arrogance” for impending defeats in “two long, interminable wars.” President Barack Obama, he says, “inherited a great deal of the foreign policy mess” from the George W. Bush administration that Wilkerson served as a State Department official from 2001 to 2005.
While the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan started out as an understandable reaction to the September 11 attacks, Wilkerson says, “it morphed into being an occupation, a nation-building effort in a place that is the graveyard of empires, and became the over-commitment of American power. We haven’t changed a damn thing. The Taliban are waiting us out. They know we’re leaving.”
The invasion of Iraq eighteen months later, Wilkerson adds, destroyed the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and together with the Afghan occupation helped spur the spread of radical Islamic groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that pose a global threat. Says Wilkerson: “[Osama] bin Laden didn’t create this, Al-Qaeda didn’t create this. We did. With our irrational response to the attack on 9/11.”
Wilkerson’s comments appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the Cairo Review, which features “Special Report: Afghanistan’s Fate.”
To read the full interview with Lawrence Wilkerson and “Special Report: Afghanistan’s Fate” go to www.thecairoreview.com.
The Cairo Review of Global Affairs is the quarterly journal of AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). The journal is also available online at www.thecairoreview.com.
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