Winning the war was hard. Winning the peace will be harder, as most reasonable people agree. Building a liberal democracy takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and not a little bloodshed before all the kinks get worked out
Even if the chronic nay-sayers are right, and we can’t build a beautiful shining monument to freedom and democracy in Iraq, the odds are still about 1000 to 1 that whatever the end result is, it will be much better than what was there. I’m OK with that.
The anti-war community had only two chances to reverse popular backing for the war. It lay in two questions:
1. Does the Baathist regime have some claim to legitimacy that reasonable people would recognize?
2. If the answer to Question 1 is “no,” does it serve American interests to depose that regime, sufficiently so to be worth the cost in blood and treasure?
Since the answers to both questions were unfavorable to the anti-war forces, they’ve done their best to muddy the waters with murky but ominous prognostications based on inappropriate comparisons. But this wasn’t Vietnam.
As for “winning the peace,” that’s more the job of the Iraqis than of the American expeditionary force. We’ll help, but they have to do the heavy lifting — and they have to keep doing it after we’ve packed up our cannons and gone home.
It’s all over but the shouting. If only there were a little less shouting!
Terrorism is like the political analog of AIDs. It mutates so fast that the different strains fool the immune system. I mean, we can’t possibly act against the “Islamic Brotherhood of Martyrs” when the real culprits are the “Islamist Jihad Brigade,” now can we?
I used to think peace-niks were like a gullible immune system, but now I wonder if they are not a pathogen themselves.
Whilst the protesters are being shot on the streets of Mosul, the hospitals being looted of medical equipment and the shameful ransacking of Iraq’s wondrous cultural history is being completed in full view of the US armed forces it’s a little early for triumphalism.
Why not wait until a freely elected, representative government enjoying popular support throughout the diverse ethnic regions of Iraq is elected?
Hold off on the crowing until US troops are withdrawn from the country and the Shiite majority in the South are peacefully brought into a government which reflects their views without repression. Restain your natural urge to cry victory over all who opposed military action until Kurdish separatists in the North are reconciled to being trapped in a nation for which they hold no loyalty.
Temper your jubilation until those who fear that the current action is merely a foretaste of years of strife and conflict for the myriad and long suffering peoples of the region are proved wrong. Until the feared outpouring of terrorist atrocities and the consequent expansion of militarist solutions fails to occur.
Could you not even wait till they fit the prosthetic arms on that little boy who has bravely paid the price of freedom? Jeff, perhaps you could calculate the odds of those limbs growing back whilst your playing bookmaker?
Hell No! Why should we wait, we didn’t in Afghanistan. Fine, pass me a flag. I guess pulling a statue down and building a nation are synonymous in the New World Order…
Of cousre we can’t “win the peace”.
Because, you see, the only way to “win” is to make Iraqi into Switzerland, and do it instantly.
We’ve already “lost”. Clever, huh?
You know, the sad part is that people like Matt I think genuinely believe what they write. So, they live in a world where the fact that people are no longer walking around in danger of being picked up and shot for fairly random reasons is simply a minor irrelevancy.
Reading this sort of thing here and elsewhere (and having had “Dean” admonish me for equating freedom/democracy w/ US nat’l interests), I’ve had to wonder: If these people were around in 1989, what was their reaction?
Are these the sorts of people who lamented that, while, yes, gulags were shutting down, but Soviet book sales were going down, too? Or that Soviet authors and painters would no longer enjoy state subsidies? That, for all that East Germany and Czechoslovakia would now be free, that, hey, their systems DID have more paid vacations and access to health care and weren’t “elbow societies”?
I’ve seen too much of this at too many weblogs over the last few weeks to even have my dander raised anymore.
Matt – I thought Dean argued against your points quite well, but you remain undeterred. Good to see you come back to earth and be a tad less confrontational.
Rest assured that I view individual tragedies like Ali the 12 year old boy with alarm just like any other feeling human being – but it doesn’t stop me, although it apparently did you, from making the quite reasonable prediction that the prospects for Iraqi children growing up free are now quite good, as opposed to zero like before.
Re: “Calling victory now simply ignores the reality that the hard work has just begun.” I see – so defeating the other side on the battlefield isn’t enough to declare victory on the battlefield anymore? Have you notified Webster’s that “victory” now means “preventing looting and chaos and guarding museums and writing a constitution and holding the first free election”?
The fact is that Iraqis now don’t have to fear anybody except the terrorist imports from Syria, Iran, Jordan, and other places. Kinda like us. This is a victory in no uncertain terms. It is a slap in the face for the families of all those who died in the war to not recognize that militarily at least, we won.
The rest of our effort is almost entirely political and diplomatic. We’ve already seen the kind of messes the U.N. creates in these situations, and the U.S. often gets cold feet too, partly due to political pressure at home from folks who say “spend money at home, not on Iraq” – is that going to be you Matt? What if it turns into another Beirut, which is excatly what Syria and Iran and all their terrorist friends are planning? You still on board?
Yes this is the hard part, but it is a political endeavor, not a military one, and is a completely separate undertaking – we aren’t obligated to do the political stuff at all, but we will, because it is ultimately in our best interests, and because it’s what we (used to) do, until the U.N. decided it was smarter and better at it than we. Not much evidence to support that conclusion, eh? So if you’re serious about wanting the best for Iraqis, I assume you’ll start campaigning against U.N. involvement then? If not, why not?
I regretted the outspoken aspect of my first post almost as soon as I hit send. Although in my defence I
Wow, where to begin:
I see that Dean has replied, but I already typed this out, so …
Well, you and I will just have to agree to disagree on the following:
I’d say U.S. troops would be a good thing for the region, and that the U.S. is, while far from perfect, better at nation-and-infrastructure-building than anybody else. Especially the U.N. Reassuring Arabs by relying on the U.N. is not much of an advantage in my book. Arabs sorely need new models for how to run a government and a nation. The U.S. is more qualified than any nation in the history of the planet to do such things. These are simply facts. If you don’t trust our President to do it right, that is up to you, but that doesn’t change the facts of history. When we put our mind to a task, we get it done.
And the Middle East has been a bloody mess for decades now Matt – yours is a tough case to make, if you want to convince me that our “destabilization” there has wrought anything worse now or in the future for Iraq. “Destabilization” is only bad if “stable” is good; this is most emphatically not the case in the M.E. for the last 50+ years, since the day Israel came into existence. Iraq has been a hell-hole for 35 years of Baath rule – at least now there is freedom for most. And your “this is exactly why I was against the war in the first place” argument is best left kept to yourself – it doesn’t really make sense to say “let’s not get rid of a known thug because the cleanup will be messy”. Yes, it will be messy, but Iraq was a strategic goal, and so it was worth it.
This post is riddled with errors. The worst is the idea that the nuclear find was new… the IAEA had been over it many times. To get this wrong is a big mistake, although I can’t blame the author when the newsmedia got it wrong in the first place. Now you can basically see how gullible people are, they read the papers but the papers are wrong. I feel bad for people who are so misinformed.
WARNING! LENGTHY POST ALERT
The answer for Iraq as for all nations who want to join the Constitutional democracy movement is more communications.
Get the phone system back up and get those uncensored Internet channels operating.
This will do as much to change the culture as anything else we could do. It will take time. Roughly two years. Maybe five.
You’re making the same mistake that you accuse the other side of making. Is it wrong to trumpet the inevitable success of US attempts to convert Iraq into a wealthy, free society? Sure. It’s also wrong to piss and moan that we’ll never be able to succeed in the effort.
These things take time to resolve. The problem with your position is that it assumes inevitable failure – or at least a high probability of failure – without waiting for things to develop. Claiming that were just plain screwed at this point is NOT helpful, and I’d argue that it’s potentially dangerous and self-defeating.
Pollyanna claims that Iraq will blossom into a free society in six months are also dangerous. It COULD happen, but probably won’t, and saying that it will just gives the nay-sayers more ammo.
The contradiction in your position is that you admonish triumphalists for the same thing you are guilty of: making predictions based on insufficient information, before things have a chance to shake out.
The problem with your position is that defeatist attitudes are more likely to be self-fulfilling. If failure is inevitable, there’s no point in putting forth our best efforts; any setback is proof of failure and another reason not to try. The other side of the coin has better dynamics – if success is expected, setbacks are signs that our methods need to be adjusted, not stopped.
I see where your coming from but respectfully disagree, I responded to Dean, Jeff (and Stephen’s original article) to my mind ill considered triumphalism so obviously my ‘wake up call’ may seem overly, er, Cassandraesque. My dismay at the policy choices of the administration may have given my post a more defeatist tone than was my intention.
Yet I’ve also outlined a potential escape route , one that won’t allow the radicals and terrorists to win. I’d submit this is a more postive response on my part than swinging my support in behind an aggressive approach which for the reasons recounted (at painful length) above I consider inherently flawed.
Or in other words, if your’re in a hole, stop digging.
Matt, obviously opposed to the former-war, states: “…it’s a little early for triumphalism.
Why not wait until a freely elected, representative government enjoying popular support throughout the diverse ethnic regions of Iraq is elected?”
So our apparent options were do nothing (nothing other than watch Saddam do whatever he wanted) or do something, but only if we could achieve success of Panglossian proportion?
The disturbing part is that Matt probably thinks himself something of a progressive/liberal kinda guy. But his actual position is nothing if not pure paleoconservative (ala Peter Hitchens) and negative reactionary to any form of change.
Or maybe he just liked Saddam and his fascist tyranny.
First rule of holes:
When you are in one. Stop digging.
‘Matt’ sees DANGER in crisis, ‘Jeff’ and ‘Dean’ see OPPORTUNITY.
I’m on the opportunity side. Can the M.E. get worse? Sure. Can it also improve? Yes! Which will it do? Now comes the excitement – and sometimes the tragedy – of a people [or peoples] constructing something themselves. It’s called freedom.
All this pontification on the moral justification of Iraq begets one thing. Doubt. Though I believe dissent is what makes us American, anti-war crowds aren’t dissenting because of political ramifications of the projection of American power, but because they doubt American motivations. Examples follow.
Take the “No blood for oil” slogan pervading the culture. They don’t realize that taking Iraqi for ourselves would precipitate a retaliatory response from OPEC. WE DON’T DARE! Fighting for a single jewel just isn’t worth risking the whole gold mine.
There’s all this talk about “Disarming Iraq: Ali style”, and I agree, care should always be taken to protect children. I’d like to point out several facts (sorry, they’re incontrovertible). Each time we use a “smart bomb” instead of a “daisy cutter”, a child or two is saved (give or take one due to probability). We spent an INCREDIBLE amount of energy making sure Ali isn’t a regular occurence. I can’t say the same for the Baathist regime (or for that matter, the Russian military in Chechnya). There’re plenty of folks out there willing to play “pluck the boys arms like a daisy, and blame it on the daisycutter”. There’s so much complaining about what we took from the boy, that we overlook that we’re THE ONLY NATION to give them back or more. (Prosthetics or in metaphor, the point is clear. The fact there are any human shields prove that we at least care, be it for the wrong reasons or not, and that we are willing to sacrifice to repay innocents for their suffering. Would Palestinians do that for the Israeli familes of their victims? Never! Case sealed in blood!)
Just as we are too kind to criminals in our system (think O.J.), we worry too much about the rights of terrorists to Risk civilians in a game of Revenge. For Al- Qaeda, the die is cast. We’re still rolling. Pray that we roll high.
As Abbas was captured, and Italy tries to nab him, we have to ask ourselves this question: How to we value a terrorists life? I must agree with den Beste (denbeste.nu) that the best measure for his worth as a human being be on HIS measure of others. He valued Klinghoffer life less than a bit of “trouble” the old cripple could possibly stir. For such a decision, he can be worth no more than he valued Klinghoffer. So should I face the same jury for making such an evaluation. Irritatingly not, as the buck has to stop somewhere.
We spend so much time worrying about the single life, no matter what, that we risking losing the many. Has Spock’s word faded into the past? We’re so hesitant to sacrifice a two of hearts, that we risk losing the whole deck. It’s funny how we don’t dare use such philosophy to regret engaging Hitler. It all comes down to one point: the willingness of the one. If it means dying to free my country, then HELL YES, I would do so proudly.
Nothing could be worse to an Arab parent than wathing his/her child die in VAIN. Whatever happens to Ali, pray that as his parents look down from above, that they have something to proud of.
Should Ali survive, don’t you find it heartwarming that however much we harm him, we’re perfectly willing to make a home for him here?
Your local source of power,
Has anyone noticed how, according to most Western journalists, Arabs are always “seething?” The streets of Baghdad “seethe” with anger at the U.S. Ramallah “seethes,” Cairo “seethes,” and, well, damn, the whole Arab world just “seethes” at us.
What is the deal with that?
That’s okay. Asian regions are always “teeming.”
I wish I could share your optimism, but I just can’t. Pretty soon and I mean very soon, the Iraqis are going to want us out of their country. I just don’t think that the country will stay intact. There are too many forces preventing it from doing it. We have the Iranians, the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Syrians, the Kuwaitis, the Turks, and the US all wanting to have a say in their future. I really think that no government installed by us will be accepted. They will be seen as puppets for the United States in the eyes of the Iraqis and in the eyes of practically everyone in the world. The Iraqis are too suspicious and skeptical about our motives. We came saying that we are going to give them a better life, but we still haven’t even given them electricity. I’m praying for our troops; I’m afraid that this will end up as our own West Bank. I wish we hadn’t done this.