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November 19, 2006

Bad Thoughts On Iraq

Note: I wrote this pre-election. I threw it into draft because it seemed too defeatist to write before the elections. Lefties who charge I withheld my true feelings -- well, I did, and the reason for that is that whatever I think about Iraq, I'm pretty sure the Democrats' various plans are worse than the Republican ones.

And, as I wrote in the beginning of this, "I waver on this." Some days I see reason for hope, other days I think, "Let them all go to hell together, hand in hand and knife on throat."

Anyway, this is what I wrote. The references to scorpions and frogs have to do with the old parable about the scorpion riding on the frog's back across a river, then stinging the frog when they're midway across. When the frog cries, "Now we'll both die! Why would you do that?," the scorpion answers, "Because it's my nature."

...

I waver on this. As much as part of me wants to say we have to win this, and that defeat will be disasterous, another part of me says there's no damn winning this at all in any clear sense, and that, at this point, I could care less if the Sunni terrorists and the Iranian-friendly Shiites and Al-Sadr simply kill each other until the country is stabilized through violent depopulation.

Win what, exactly?, I wonder at this point.


I'm not really certain I have a rooting interest in this anymore. Yes, I root for America. But root for America to champion... who? The Shiites? I'm rather less enthused about their right of self-determination as I once was. 2800 brave American soldiers gave their lives to free them from Saddam's oppression, and many more were maimed, and we spent billions of dollars to bring them quickly into postwar prosperity, and they've repaid us by aligning with the Sadrists.

As scorpions will do.

If such a bloodletting in inevitable, and US troops will not be put into the middle of an outright civil war, fighting enemies on all sides (and there I do draw the line: they cannot be put in such a position), then it's time to bring our troops home so that they may recover and train for the next war, which will be far more vicious, and which is now entirely inevitable.

And the outcome of that war is in a great deal of doubt, given that America's lack of stomach for a long, nasty conflict is now proven. We'd hoped to disprove it for the Islamists to see; alas, we've done the opposite.

Leave the Kurds alone and I guess I'm happy at this point. Perhaps a "strategic redoployment" to Kurdistan is the way things will go. An American protectorate in a stable, decent Kurdistan is a partial victory, with plenty of troops barracked there in relative safety, always ready, if necessary, to pound Iran. Or re-pound Iraq proper.

Yes, a victory would reverse all this.

But--

I think at this point a withdrawal, and a defeat, is more of a when than an if.

In all honesty, I think the political parties are now simply negotiating about the time-frame for a withdrawal. When the public decides it no longer wishes to fight a war, that's pretty much the end of things. The withdrawal might be slower (Bush's preference) or quicker (Murtha's), but if the public really has decided it's willing to accept defeat, then it already is defeated.

And if defeat is already decided, I can't say that it's necessarily better that it should be quicker than slower. Either we should recommit to winning this thing -- less nation-building, more bombing, and more troops -- or we should cut off all aid to our Iraqi "allies."

Except the Kurds, again.

I'm not saying that's the preferable course. I don't know about what's preferable. But I know that no government can long defy the will of the public, something terrific in most cases, but sometimes works against democracies. Like when the public, by and large, tires of a war and decides to give up on it, choosing to pretend they can ignore the threat and turn the clock back to 1995.

It's hard to argue in favor of victory when, due to the public's apparent decision to concede defeat, such a victory is impossible.

It was the nation building, I think, where it all went wrong. "You break it, you bought it," Colin Powell announced, and the Administration agreed.

But why should that have been the case? Why is it necessary for America do more than act in its security interests, and then leave a nation to its own devices?

We didn't rebuild Iraq after the Gulf War. We'd "broken" Iraq pretty nicely, but saw no need to enter hostile territory to rebuild.

Had we discovered the quantities of WMD we were searching for, simply removing them, and leaving Iraq to rebuild itself, would have been an option. Perhaps not the best option, but an option -- we could have simply declared we achieved our most important goals and left the nation building to the Iraqi people themselves.

Other countries can manage to rebuild after an invasion without our help, after all. It's happened lots of times throughout history. Uncle Sam isn't always there to help pick up the pieces.

But the fact that we didn't find them meant that all of Bush's eggs were put into one basket -- rebuilding Iraq into a functioning state, democratic and decent. Bush did offer serveral rationales to invade Iraq -- but after WMD's could not be found, the "build Iraq into a prosperous, stable, pro-American democracy" became the only rationale that could possibly be satisfied.

I don't know. As much as I've come to despise the Sunnis, I'm not a particular fan of the Shiites either, and I wonder precisely what has been gained by giving them their own country. Their gratitude is... well, I guess it's at about the level one should have expected from Arab Muslims.

Whether a withdrawal actually results in "defeat," I don't know. It might just result in, say, the Shiites viciously slaughtering the Sunnis, which would be, for me, a humanitarian catastrophe on the scale of... well, of my Domino's Pizza arriving cold and after forty minutes last week.

Maybe the do just need to slaughter each other for a while until one group is truly, viciously defeated. Ethnically cleansed. Mass-murdered.

All things the US can of course not permit under its watch, but which, perhaps, the mindset of the Middle East requires and will not allow itself to be denied.

And maybe after that there will be a move towards decency. It took Britain hundreds of years to proceed from the Magna Carta to true political decency, and, you know, political decency seems to be a particular gift of the Anglo-Saxon tradition. It might take the Arab Muslims much longer.

If the war is lost, it was lost not by the troops, nor the generals, nor even the "strategy." If it is lost, it was lost because of a fundamental miscalculation of the current Arab Muslim psyche -- that Arab Muslims would rather work in tandem with the infidel to better their own lot in life and improve their children's futures than murder us for the insult of trying to help them.

That calculation seems to have been well off -- they'd prefer to slit our throats, even if that means slitting their own in the process.

We thought the scorpion would appreciate that it is better to ride upon the back of a frog than to die, but we were wrong.

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posted by Ace at 09:42 PM

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