Monday, February 28, 2005

Is America the Problem in Iraq?

On February 18th, the Washington Post published a fawning article by Evelyn Nieves on the plans of the "anti-war" movement to renew their efforts to force an unconditional American withdrawal from Iraq:

Peace groups have been relatively quiet in recent months, especially after President Bush's reelection. But antiwar leaders say they are on the verge of reemerging. Leaders of dozens of peace groups plan to meet in St. Louis this weekend to plot strategies for a new push against the war, from ad campaigns to long-term, grass-roots organizing. They plan to use March 19 and 20, the anniversary weekend of the war's start, as the beginning of an all-out effort to convince the public that the best course for Americans and Iraqis is for the war to end and the troops to come home.

Of course, everyone wants the war to end and our troops to come home. The question is whether unconditional withdrawal is the best course of action. To quote further from the article:

Leaders of the largest antiwar groups say that garnering massive support for the withdrawal of troops will require a massive education effort. While groups will still organize rallies marking important benchmarks, they say, the large public protests seen before the war are giving way to a more focused energy. The new strategy might be called think nationally, act locally.

"It's not enough for us to say, 'Come to us'; we have to go to the people," Bennis said. "We have to convince people that the U.S. troops are the problem, not the solution. As long as they're there, they're providing the largest direct target and the largest indirect target. But it doesn't mean that pulling out the troops is the end of our obligation. We owe a huge debt to Iraq. We owe reparations."

(emphasis added-DD)

There it is, in a nutshell. America is the problem. The same common thread found in every "anti-war" movement since Vietnam. The genocidal Baathist totalitarian party-state that murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and ran the country's economy and society into the ground is not the problem. The murderous Baathist-Wahhabist terror alliance that has killed thousands of Iraqis over the last two years and done everything possible to sabotage the country's reconstruction is not the problem. It is the Americans who overthrew that totalitarian regime and are risking their lives to fight the terrorists who are the problem.

The idea that if the US leaves Iraq the Sunni terrorist insurgency will pack up their AKs and shut down the car bomb factories is absurd. No doubt there are individual insurgents who are simply fighting because they are opposed to the American presence. The core elements of the insurgency are motivated by far broader objectives, however. The Baathists are obviously hoping that they can terrorize their way back into power. The Iraqi Islamists are fighting to make Iraq into a Taliban-style Wahhabist state, while the foreign jihadists such as Zarqawi are determined to prevent Iraq from building an "apostate" government based on the "infidel" principle of democracy.

Yet, there is more to the Sunni insurgency than mere political or ideological objectives. There is also an irrational, tribal quality that cannot be appeased or bargained with. Steven Vincent, who has traveled in post-Saddam Iraq, explains:

(T)he Sunni counter-liberation is not based in a clear-eyed assessment of needs, goals or realistic objectives: rather, driven by fear, tribalism and grandiosity, it is a plunge into the suicidal vortex of the shame-honor dynamic, increasingly fueled by religious fantasy. And while not all Sunnis are infected with this malignant narcissism, the more radical leaders are--and these men will never negotiate, never surrender and never allow their fellow Sunnis to submit to a Shia-dominated government no matter how many postponements of elections take place. For their own precious honor--and that of their families, clans and tribes--they would rather kill and be killed. If they can't run Iraq--then Iraq will cease to exist.

If America were to withdraw from Iraq in the face of terrorist violence, the insurgency would not be weakened, it would be immeasurably strengthened. Having defeated the most powerful nation in the world, the hard-core insurgent leaders would soon rule unchallenged within the Sunni community. The logical next step, as one Sunni approvingly told Iraqi blogger Zeyad, would be "fighting the Shia back into submission (as in 1991)". No one can claim ignorance of what the consequences of this would be.

How, then, does the "anti-war" movement recommend we stay engaged in Iraq? By paying "reparations". Apparently, the billions of dollars spent trying to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure that Saddam allowed to deteriorate do not count, let alone the loss of nearly 1,500 American lives. The idea implicit in paying "reparations", of course, is that America did something wrong when it liberated 25 million people from one of the most barbarous regimes of the late 20th century. Judging by recent events, there are at least 8 million Iraqis who, regardless of their feelings towards the American military presence in their country, are delighted that we rid them of Saddam.

In a February 23rd column for the International Herald Tribune, left-of-center Bush critic Roger Cohen related a recent conversation with Iraq's Minister of Human Rights:

We owe our freedom to Americans," the minister says.

"The real occupation is not theirs, but the one we suffered for 35 years by the group of thugs who brutalized my nation."

It is hard to argue with Amin. He wields the weapon of truth with directness.

At the end, Cohen is forced to conclude that:

This war was falsely portrayed, poorly planned, and hurt by hubris. But it was the right war.

After America unilaterally ended its military involvement in Southeast Asia in the early 1970's, the result was a Communist "peace" that claimed the lives of an estimated 2 million Cambodians and Vietnamese. If the "anti-war" movement gets its way again, the only peace Iraq will see is the peace of the grave. The US should withdraw our forces from Iraq, but only when a democratically elected Iraqi government capable of handling its own security affairs asks us to do so.

War is indeed terrible. The longer we stay in Iraq, the more young Americans will be killed and maimed, a prospect that should give anyone pause. It is entirely natural to want this to stop. However, as I've argued before at length, the ultimate costs of abandoning Iraq would be disastrous. It would confirm forever the notion that America is a weak, decadent society unable to take casualties. It would hand the jihadist movement a victory that would sustain it for a generation. It would destroy the all too fragile process of democratic change that has begun to emerge in the Middle East. Finally, it would condemn the Iraqi people to a return to the nightmare of totalitarianism, with horrific consequences.


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