Saturday, December 9, 2006

Idealism and the Iraq Conundrum


Much is being made of the recently released Iraq study group findings here in America. This is a blue ribbon panel of mostly ex-statesmen of extremely high repute. Their words portray a bleak assessment of Iraq, describing the situation as "grave" and "deteriorating." It is easy to not see the silver lining in the clouds, especially while it looks like its raining and the rain will never stop. The words "grave" and "deteriorating" could easily describe many situations in the history of our country. Washington's winter predicament at Valley Forge, the cause of Texas freedom after the battle of the Alamo, the Union of the United states after Lee routed the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville and, since this is the 65th anniversary of the Pearl harbor attack, the period from Dec 7, 1941 to the June 1942 battle at Midway, all these were "grave" and "deteriorating" situations that our country has faced. In every instance, and so many more, this was also a time when the American spirit of independence, perserverence and resourcefullness rose to the occaision and led to some of the greatest moments in American history. Which is to say, some of the greatest moments in the history of the world. It is an unfortunate reality that the media is not looking for that certain triumph that is neccessarily born out of "grave" and "deteriorating" situations, but instead wishes to assist the enemies of freedom throughout the world by trying to convince the American people that the hand of certain, inevitable doom is upon us and we are bound to fail. Worse, the media often try to portray America as deserving to fail. But failure is not an American concept.
World War II was a popular war for the American people in that it was easy for the entire country to get mobilized behind the war effort after being directly attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. It also didn't hurt that the American people could easily see it as a war of survival. A battle between the forces of freedom and totalitarianism. The Japanese at least had the (decency?) to attack a military target. How is it that in the wake of an equally costly (in lives) attack against a civilian target on September 11, 2001, the country is so willing to avoid the fight that is necessary. YES NECESSARY!! For this is just as much a war of survival.
In the aftermath of the attack, President Bush vowed to go after the terrorists, and the states who support them, wherever they are found. At the time he had what appeared to be an angry, indignant nation behind him, ready to do anything that was necessary to bring the wrath of the United States against them. After the quick disposal of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein foolishly went out of his way to make himself an enemy of the United States.....again. A plethora of arguments can be made for and against attacking Iraq. Certainly there turned out to be no substantial supply of weapons of mass destruction, but after 9/11 would you be willing to give Saddam's regime the benefit of the doubt? This is a regime that violated 16 UN resolutions since the conclusion of the first gulf war. After destroying his army in the field, we, GENEROUSLY, allowed the government to continue as this was the wish of the members of the coalition that joined us in that engagement. We had every reason to expect, and every right to insist that he follow the terms of the surrender agreement. He had every reason to expect and we had every right to carry out his destruction for failing to live up to the terms. It is as simple as that. That Saddam was being uncooperative with the international community and himself having dealings with certain members Al-Qadea in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was extreme suicidal foolishness on his part. I have no problem with destroying him.
I even have a particular fondness for some of the thinking behind President Bush's actions. The idea of seeding a free and democratic government into the middle east is truly thinking with foresight, despite what his detractors would have you believe. Rather than accept the "reality" of the middle east and look for "practical" and "pragmatic" solutions for dealing with it's ongoing problems, the president chose the bold approach of attempting to alter the reality of the area. (or, as Captain James Tiberius Kirk would say: "He Changed the conditions of the test.") Now that is the kind of thinking that is uniquely American.
I have recently seen a couple of speeches on cable TV by both former President Bill Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. Amazingly they use such similar language in promoting their own personal agendas, as well as in their criticism of President Bush's policies. They both criticize his "idealist" approach preferring to, as they put it "live in reality." Their approach in dealing with Iraq and the middle east (and really everything else as well) is to assess the situation and look for "practical" and "pragmatic" solutions. This has a high minded and intellectual tone to it, and it may even sound reasonable when spoken by charismatic politicians such as these, but it fails to answer the primary question in dealing with the issue of Islamic terrorism: How can you be reasonable with unreasonable people? Those people who seek to undermine freedom in the middle east are themselves idealists. Their ideology is a particularly harsh and fascist brand of Islam. They are fighting a religious war and therefore so are we. Mainstream and supposedly moderate Islam has failed to address or condemn the actions of these groups. Therefore they act with courage and conviction with idealistic principles and, in their minds, with the endorsement of their God. It provides them with an unrestrainable ambition to fight against the "unbelievers" of the world. How are you going to be "practical" and "pragmatic" in dealing with people who will strap a bomb on their own child to blow up an infidel or apostate muslim? The only way to defeat an ideology is to meet it head on with a superior ideology, delivered with just as much courage and conviction as they bring against us. Fortunately we have a superior ideology, for what is America if ideology. That which has made this nation literally the greatest nation ever to exist is not its land, economy or even its fiercely independent people. It's the principle "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
After the unprovolked and undeserved attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon it was our right, and our entire duty to project the full weight of American power against those who dared to strike us. We could have been extremely vindictive and annihilated everything in the middle east. The infernal celebrating and dancing in the streets of Islamic cities could have been stifled in seconds if we had wished. We could have (and still could) destroyed every nation that ever in any way supported the Islamic extemist terrorist groups that brought us to this. Instead, we quickly and efficiently eliminated 2 governments and, in a move that once again shows the uniqueness of the American spirit, we then brought our ideology to that part of the world. And with that ideology, the promise of all the freedoms and individual rights that go along with it. Where we could, by right, annihilate we instead offer....a chance. A fair chance at that. Inserting our ideology into the middle east was not only a bold strategy on the part of this president, it was the right strategy. It takes a leader with ideals and principles to do this as these are the very weapons being drawn agaist us. Now is not the time to get weak and impatient.
So what do we do now to deal with this so called "grave" and "deteriorating" situation? The answer is as blatantly obvious as it is peculiarly unpopular with the American people. WE STAY IN IRAQ..INDEFINITELY!
Our policy should be based on an American presence in Iraq for a minimum of 50 (yes, I said FIFTY) years. We should immediately establish permanent (ie. safe and defendable) military bases with the intention of maintaining our influence in both Iraq and the region for the next half century. I know what you are thinking, this goes against what everyone from the president on down has tried to convey to the American people. However it is the only strategy that will work. We cannot change Iraqi society in the short run, except to make it worse. If we withdraw now, Iraq will sort this conflict out itself. There is no doubt that a Shiite leader will rise to power after enough people have been killed to pacify his opponents. Then what will we have? A fundamentalist Islamic regime that will act as our enemy. What will the American people want to do when a terrorist attack against America is traced back to Iraq, just as the 9/11 attack was directly traced to Afghanistan. You KNOW that it will happen as that would be the exactly correct thing to do if you were part of this Jihadist movement. How could a future president re-invade Iraq after the debacle an American withdrawal will produce? Even though he must. No. Regardless of the current cost of this situation, leaving will make it worse. We must stay.
Here is why staying is the only strategy that can succeed...and why it will succeed. The model, in as much as you can have one, is Japan. After they were vanquished in their failed war against America, we likewise insisted on not dealing with the reality of Japan as it was and had always been. We insisted on changing their reality just as we now find ourselves changing the reality of Iraq after vanquishing that government. We did not allow the Japanese government to continue to operate as it had before the war. The ideals of democracy and a free market economy were set upon them even though, like Iraq, they had no history of such ideals. The lives of Japanese people were thrown into turmoil by rapidly-implemented democratization policies and dramatic social and economic changes. Though we are all aware of how well the Japanese have prospered under this system of government it is often forgotten that this prosperity really did not begin to assert itself until the late 1950's. Things don't change overnight. And here is something to consider: America STILL has military bases there. This is the type of commitment that is likewise required in Iraq. We need to keep a presence there so long that this generation of people that have, and continue to tolerate, political and religious totalitarianism will die off and be replaced by younger generations that will grow up with freedom and democracy. We need to monitor their school systems and government institutions and make sure that anti-western and anti democratic ideology is not tolerated. With force when necessary. Thats what you do when you conquer someone. As an idea it is quite simple. In the world of American political realities, and the general impatience of the modern American public, it may turn out to be impossible.
Why are the American people so impatient? Why doesn't the President make clear that this is the only policy that will work? The United States kept an occupation army in the old Confederacy for 12 years (1865-1877) after the American Civil War! This was in a place that had the same government philosophies, spoke the same language and practiced the same religion. 12 years! We have been in Iraq only 4! How can any so called "practical" and "pragmatic" people expect Iraq to be a stable self-sustaining democracy in this short period of time. It has NEVER happened before and there is NO model for it. This is clearly where President Bush has been at his weakest, for he is trying to placate an American tendency toward Attention Deficit Disorder. Apparently the indignation the country felt after 9/11 has worn off.
If we are to be successful against Islamic extremism and keep the fight out of America, we need to keep a military presence in a forward position in this War On Terror. Iraq is just such a position. Given time, and a constant presence and readiness, this war will cool down as our enemies see that it is us who has the stronger will to persevere and survive. In this manner, time is actually our ally. Sure we should continue to train the Iraqi army and let them take the primary and dangerous role of patrolling their country and keeping the peace. That will only happen if their is a strong American military commitment to back it up. Withdrawal is a foolish policy.
Maintaining an American presence in Iraq may, inevitably, require a greater sacrifice on the part of the American people to support it. So be it. This is a war of survival. Contrary to critics of the President's decision to invade Iraq, this was not an optional campaign. It was the next logical step following the battle for Afghanistan just as certainly as Okinawa was the next logical stage in the war against Japan after the battle for Iwo Jima. Wars are not often defined by single campaigns. The American soldiers seem to understand this. Their dedication and commitment is truly impressive. The American people need to match their dedication and get behind this President, and the soldiers in the field, instead of looking for a quick and easy way out. The fighting won't end until we put an end to our enemies. If we withdraw from Iraq, all we will accomplish is moving the battle elsewhere. Perhaps, with the aid of a weapon of mass destruction, right here.
No Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama, and our esteemed "Iraq Study Group, the only "practical' and "pragmatic" solution that will succeed in the "real" world, is to show the idealists of Islamic extremism that our idealism is superior to their totalitarianism. America is an ideology. Does anybody believe in it any more? Or is everyone too concerned with their own individual pursuits to see what is coming against them?
An unpopular perception of the situation I am sure. But this is how I see it.