Saturday, October 01, 2005

A Good Question About Iraq

In earlier comments, Sam asked a good question, which I'll paraphrase as, "You're not for pulling out of Iraq but, given that our current leaders will keep following a plan that keeps failing, what do you want?"

I don't have a good answer, to be honest. All of my training and everything that I've learned, which has pretty much all been about theatre, fiction and journalism, has left me unqualified.

Ideally, I'd want international support and if I were in charge, I'd personally kiss the butt of every world leader who we insulted in our run up to this war in order to get some help. Turning Iraq into a global construction project, instead of an American occupation would not solve all problems but it would help a lot. I'd specifically beg for help from Europe, because those countries have the means and from the middle east because countries like Saudi Arabia not only have the means but have legitimate security interests.

But, part of Sam's question involves, "What would Bush do?" and Bush won't apologize and he won't admit mistakes and he basically won't do anything that would need to be done to organize real global support. Honestly, to get that support, we'd have to not only admit our mistake but we'd have to bribe countries with foreign aid and trade pacts and we'd have to give up the notion that Iraq will be made in a manner which we find useful and no other, we'd have to give up control. Bush won't do that.

It's a tough question. Without the fact that Bush is in charge and he is who he is, I have at least one answer. But, dealing with the reality of Bush, I honestly have none. He's going to pursue his strategy to the bitter end and given the balance of power, it could even work, after much cost and much time because, in the end, with only the troops we have there now, we probably can beat back, or make irrelevant, most of the rag-tag insurgency, just based on the simple laws of power. Yet we lost the Viet Nam war but we never lost a battle in the Viet Nam war. We can win lots of battles. We can even keep the insurgents from power for as long as we're there, but can we win?

We don't even know what "winning" is. Defeating the insurgents so badly that, even if they exist for decades after we leave is a kind of winning, I guess, and we can probably do that, though not without cost, as we've already learned.

I think this meandering post makes clear what I've already admitted: I can't answer Sam's question to my satisfaction, or to anyone's. I implied that I have no good answer because I have no expertise in military tactics and nation building. But that might not be the reason that I have no answer. I am pretty good, after all, at reading, thinking and imagining and I fear that if I went to Stanford to study international affairs that, with all I'd learn, I'd still return without an answer.

I do know that we started this and that millions of people, as real as any of us, are dealing with the aftermath and that we owe those people our continued efforts. If it were simply a matter of us losing, I'd deal with the loss and say, "Let's pull out." But I can't say that, because we made the situation.

But I don't believe in the slightest that Bush has a plan to make the best of things. So I circle back to fantasy land... Iraq's new history, its post-Saddam era, should be a global project, it's the only way to make the best out of what we've done and it even has the potential, with a lot of skill and luck, to make it all seem worth it, looking back, decades from now. But Bush won't do that. So... I guess we have to get rid of Bush and the people who think like him.


At 4:09 PM , Blogger Ideasculptor said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with this dilemma. I hate the idea of just pulling out arbitrarily, but I just don't have the knowledge necessary to formulate an alternative plan with an confidence that it would work.

A multinational coalition that isn't just a puppet of US interests is obviously a good start, but only if it would be treated differently than the US forces that are there now, and I am not yet convinced that it would be. And no matter what kind of force we install there, I'm not, at all, convinced that the 'democracy' we install there is going to be a marked improvement over what they'll get if we just withdraw now. Sure, it might look better in the short term, but it sure seems likely that it will tend toward civil strife, corruption, and oppression in the long term. If so, and we don't take it upon ourselves to force a government upon them (and clearly, we won't. We'll bail at the first politically correct opportunity), then I just don't see how our presence is better than the alternative. If our exit will inevtiably lead to some kind of civil war and balkanization of the country, no matter what the circumstances, then why spend the lives, money, effort, or political capital merely to delay the inevitable? Or is there a scenario in which it isn't inevitable?


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