Sunday, February 06, 2005

The future of Iraq

First, this note. I will be blogging after the Super Bowl about the FCC and where we're at a year after "Janet." Ahead of time, I thank Jeff Jarvis for all his work in this area, which assists my own research. Now on to today's topic.

Juan Cole, a professor at my esteemed institute of higher education, the University of Michigan, and National Review's Jonah Goldberg, are battling it out in the blogosphere over Iraq. Goldberg wrote this article, to which Cole posted a response on his own website, with the main part reproduced here and also here.

Now, this is an area where I think both left and right have some work to do. I studied Middle Eastern politics under Ron Stockton, another esteemed professor and authority at U-M's Dearborn campus, and so therefore have some idea of what I'm talking about, I believe.

We can't run. Ted Kennedy and the Kos crew are wrong on leaving, because, honestly, it's hard to set a timetable on such an issue. We don't know when it will get better, and the only way to start figuring out how to leave is to do a comprehensive training of Iraqi soldiers and policemen, in Jordan or Egypt, a country where they can be safe during their training. Furthermore, we need to arm them for real. Too many police are getting killed because their attackers have better weapons. That has to stop. How do we expect people to keep volunteering for a dangerous job if they can't defend themselves?

We may not be liked, and our presence may be despised, but our undermanned soldiers are the only thing stopping total anarchy from breaking out. Government institutions in the Mideast are totally alien to what we believe in the U.S. They have been ruled by religious leaders, murderous thugs, and kings for centuries. They know what democracy can bring them, but they have no idea how to really run it. The idea of a Constitution and respect for the RULE of law, not the WHIMS of a ruler, is in short supply.

Once these elections are concluded, a workshop would likely be a good idea. Give them books, let them mingle with other elected leaders, conduct forums where they can ask questions and get an idea of what they need to do. It can't be us telling them what's good, they have to ask and search and find it themselves, or it will never take. We are trying to bring democracy to people who haven't ever experienced it. Even our founding fathers had some sort of experience with the rule of law and representative government.

So, in short, we can't run, we can't leave, not until there is a more solid foundation underneath the future government. Sorry, Teddy, it's rough, and I know it, because I have friends there, but they are committed to it and seeing it through, and we here should be too. When the soldiers start rebelling, then we should start worrying.

Now to Jonah. Mr. Goldberg says, and I quote, "A foreign policy realist might have said, 'Oops, no WMDs' — and then bugged out. We called Saddam's bluff, which was our perfect right given the stakes, but it's not in our interests to stay. That's realism. And it's funny to hear Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore et al. keep invoking it. Bush decided to stay partly out of a different realist analysis of our national interest: A democratic Middle East, he believes, is the best chance for stopping the production of terrorists. "

Okay, all well and good. However, it is no small matter that we did indeed go to war, made our case to the world, and insisted upon the premise that WMD's existed in the nation of Iraq, that one Saddam Hussein was getting ready to unleash holy hell on his neighbors and the world. The problem is, we were really dead wrong. Incredibly wrong. No slam dunk....more like an airball.

While I supported the war, I did so based on the fact that I know Iraqis, in fact watched many of them passionately argue to Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) at a town hall that I covered, and know of their suffering. These people almost begged to be armed so they could fight Saddam and his henchmen. I was concerned after Colin Powell's infamous U.N. presentation, but my main concern was to see these people free.

That's not the case we made. We made a case based on our safety, something most of the world wouldn't agree with. Our coalition was a joke compared to the first Gulf War coalition. We sent in less troops because Donald Rumsfeld wanted a test of his theorem that high-tech=less soldiers needed. We pissed off the world. We didn't secure arms warehouses. We didn't secure borders. We disbanded the Iraqi Army, a group that left alone could have handled security in the outer provinces while we handled the key areas, such as Baghdad. By disbanding the army, we created an insurgent army, who then teamed up with outsiders such as Zarqawi for the purpose of regaining the power they once had.

In short, Jonah, you damn right it matters what we said when we went in. And we didn't even apologize to those who opposed it. Standing firm may gain you respect, but sometimes it takes a bigger man to say "I was wrong" or "I'm sorry." Those words may have gotten us the support we needed to stabilize a nation that is in desperate need of it. We have discovered a hard lesson: we really CAN'T do it all alone. The word of the United States has been gold in the world for over 200 years, because we have almost always been able to back up our words with deeds.

In this case, much of the world distrusts our leadership, and while that may not upset Mr. Goldberg or his compatriots on the right, one day that sort of thing will matter. We are too globally connected to afford pissing off everyone. I wrote about our economic dependences last year in this posting and what that means to us. Our security isn't just military, it's economic, and all the tax cuts in the world won't save our economy if the world freezes us out. We can't run from Iraq, but the president and his party can't run from the consequences of their own political failures either.


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