Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The script........

A line that Lex wrote the other day got me to thinking. Thinking again about the fiasco in Iraq and how it is tying my beloved country down for what will be a good number of years.

Lex was writing to criticize Hillary Clinton for daring to complain about the legacy that he will bequeath to his sucessor. Something that she believes will be her. (I don't-I firmly believe it she can't win-too many people really hate her).

Here is what Lex wrote:

Hat’s off: It was a difficult challenge to convince majorities of American voters who once solidly supported the effort that the whole enterprise was a cocked hat belonging solely and entirely to George W. Bush and that it, like him, ought to be abandoned. After all, he’d led a unified national and coalition campaign which swiftly defeated the largest army in the Arab world, deposed a ruthless and dangerous tyranny, liberated 25 million minds, sponsored three national elections in a part of the world where such things had been thought impossible and enearthed the first tender seedlings of democratic institutions in a part of the world that more than anything else desperately requires enlightened government. No mean feat, either way.

The thing that troubles me is that results matter-not just intent-and based on that GWB has failed miserably in his role as the "decider". Also, and while I hate to agree with Hillary, it is quite clear whoever succeeds Bush will have this mess on their hands-to the continuing detriment of the United States.

Why does that bother me? Because if you look at Lex's assertions more closely we accomplished none of the things he lists. However the President-the one who 58% of Americans wish would just go away-basically sticks to this line of thought and ignores the factual evidence to the contrary. In fact, he asserts that pointing out the failed results is somehow a disloyal act:

Her comment quickly reverberated at the White House, where a spokesman issued a statement denouncing Clinton for a “partisan attack that sends the wrong message to our troops, our enemies and the Iraqi people.

I'm confused. If democracy is so damned important to have in Iraq, then should they not see the world's longest running democracy having meaningful debate about issues of life or death importance to the nation? However if you believe that democracy will take years to get right in Iraq than stability should be the better priority. Even the founding fathers of the United States understood that not every civilization is not ready for democracy right away. That was why the built protections into the Constitution to save the public from theselves (such as no direct election of Senators-something that took 120 years to change).

"Led a unified national and coalition campaign which swiftly defeated the largest army in the Arab world"-Hardly. Most of the major European powers opted out-with good reason, they had already been burned with things like this. The partcipants in the "Coalition of the coerced" were in it because they basically faced a choice of missing out if this thing worked, since most of them needed or wanted something from the United States (Entry into NATO, aid, trade-you name it). Unlike his father, it was striking that none of the major Arab nations contributed troops and the nation that should have helped-Turkey-was neither required or desired. Who out of the G-7, besides the US and Britain actually stepped up to the plate really? And how may of them are still there? (I'll bet you a beer Britian will be gone as soon as Tony Blair goes.)

"Deposed a ruthless and dangerous tyranny, liberated 25 million minds,"-true, insofar as it goes. However as it turned out those 25 million minds simply traded one tyranny for another. The lack of security in the country is the key thing that prevents development of Iraq. Also they are still saddle with the yoke that is Islam around their necks.

"Sponsored three national elections in a part of the world where such things had been thought impossible and enearthed the first tender seedlings of democratic institutions in a part of the world that more than anything else desperately requires enlightened government." -Those elections proved exactly what? That given the chance, Arabs can be just as stupid and elect bad people as anyone else. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of Iraqis would glady have traded their purple fingers for reliable electricity, the ability to go out with out fear of a violent end, and some sort of economic security.

Much as I hate to do it, I have to agree with Lee Kwan Yeu when he recently wrote that the Americans got the order wrong in setting up Iraq. He points out that rather than create a beacon of light, the Americans may very well have let the genie out of the bottle:

With Sunni control of Iraq removed, Shiite Iran is no longer checked from extending its influence westward. And by allowing the emergence of the first Shiite-dominated Arab state, the United States has stirred the political aspirations of the 150 million or so Shiites living in Sunni countries elsewhere in the region.
The United States has long relied on its traditional Sunni Arab allies, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia,to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict in check. Now the power of the Sunni bloc may no longer be able to counter an Iran that supports militias such as Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. The new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, found it necessary to publicly support the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon during the fighting this past summer.

Yeu goes on to write (sadly the rest of the article is behind a pay portal) that the first priorty in Iraq should not have neen democracy-supresssion thereof is something he knows a thing or two about-but economics and infrastructure. He's probably right about that, but that too would have required a long term occupation. Something I dare say no American, Bush included, really thought that they would have to do.

Hwoever Yeu points out that it takes time to condition the populace to democracy-again, something he knows about since he's never allowed Singapore to have one-and that if you can divert the attention of folks to material pleasures they might forget about killing each other. He's probably right about that-its the formula the UAE and other gulf states have used very effectively for the past 20 years.

The problem with the Singaporean approach though, is that the Iraqis are burdened by religion. Singapore's Chinese majority is not. Islam is the rock that gets in the way every time.

However Lex's prose is the basic script that the Kagans, Cheney's and Rices of the world want us to stick with-no matter how much it costs in American blood and treasure. 65% of America no longer believes it however. And a lot of polticians, on both sides of the aisle, are waking up to that fact. Something has to change.

I think that in the end Iraq will emerge in better shape-after a lot of bloodshed.
Blood shed they are going to have whether the US is there or not. And it will have a strongman back at the helm eventually. It may or may not be a friend of the United States-that I tend to doubt. The Arab countries have a bad track record of biting the hand that feeds them. The real question is can the United States emerge better for the experience? I'm not sure it can. And as I have said over and over again-this should be about American interests first and foremost. They are the only ones I care about.

Which is why this script desperately needs a rewrite.


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