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July 20, 2007

Obama Says Preventing Genocide Not Enough To Justify US Presence In Iraq... And He's Right

I would strongly caution conservatives on how they argue against Obama and other anti-war partisans on this point. Obama is basically playing Br'er Rabbit here -- "Don't throw me in that briar-patch" -- and conservatives would do well to be careful when dealing with Br'er Rabbit.

First of all, he's absolutely right. Cold-heartedly and cynically right, but quite frankly, that's the sort of "right" I like in foreign policy.

America does not risk thousands of casualties "merely" to prevent genocide. We like to make rhetorical noises about doing so, but we never do. We only risk (and lose) the lives of US troops when there's a strong national security element to the intervention. "Mere" moral concerns are rarely enough. Enough for a very small micro-invasion, perhaps -- as in Haiti -- or enough for a bombing campaign -- as in Serbia -- but moral considerations alone are not enough to justify the loss of US soldiers' lives.

We didn't go to war with Germany to save the Jews from genocide, though some speak as if that's why we did. In fact, evidence of the Holocaust was hidden from the American public precisely because FDR didn't want to give isolationists a pretext to say we were entering a world war "just to save the Jews." We fought the Nazis because they posed a long-term threat to our country, had they been able to conquer Europe and hold it. (Which they would have, had we not intervened.)

Ending the Holocaust was a secondary reason for US involvement in Europe -- a bonus moral justification, if you will (and one only revealed to the public broadly after Europe had already been liberated). But not the primary justification.

I certainly wouldn't trade 100 US soldiers' lives "merely" to spare the lives of 100 foreign civilians. In fact, I wouldn't trade 100 US soldiers' lives to save 10,000 foreign civilians, even if they were more or less true innocents, rather than ungrateful brutes who are partially at war with us (such as, say, the Iraqis). 100 to save 100,000? That sounds more reasonable... and yet I wouldn't be terribly happy about the exchange.

Nevertheless, while genocide alone isn't a compelling enough reason to put so many soldiers' lives at risk, the inevitable consequences of such a genocide would be. Who wins in a genocide? Who wins in an all-against-all civil war?

Well, who, exactly, has been trying to push the country towards exactly that? Al Qaeda and the Sadrist jihadi militias, and their Iranian backers. Once the country descends into civil war, the entire population will be forced to support the only armies capable of protecting them. Which, absent the US military, is only Al Qaeda (and the Sunni insurgent groups which will be compelled by circumstances to rejoin with them) and the Iranian-backed Sadrist militias.

The only people who benefit in a state of violent chaos are the lunatic murderous thugs and the leaders who control them in order to achieve power. The decent people -- those who have an interest in stability and peace -- lose in such a situation, because even though they'd prefer to not have a civil war, they simply don't have an army of their own. They're too busy minding their shops and raising their families to join an army, by and large.

Well, they do have one army in the country that is also interested in peace, order, stability, and prosperity-engendering political moderation. An army not consisting of murderous, largely stupid thugs and economic losers whose only path to wealth lies in killing people, but rather a well-educated, professional army who fights only for justice and peace.

Unfortunately, that army is the US military, the very army Obama and friends wish to withdraw from Iraq.

So the one army that fights not for chaos but for stability, and not for their own power and wealth but the power and wealth of the decent class of Iraqis, is precisely the one army the anti-war partisans wish to withdraw from the field.

There are some who actually pine for an Al Qaeda versus Sardrist bloodbath. Let them all murder each other, the thinking goes.

Alas, Al Qaeda and Sadr will not fight each other much once the US army withdraws from Iraq. Sadr just wants to control the Shiite provinces of Iraq; why bother with the oil-poor deserts which have so little of value? Why bother trying to occupy provinces rich in nothing except Sunni jihadists who will shoot and blow up Shi'ite troops?

And Al Qaeda can't defeat the Shi'ite provinces, so why bother? They'd be content to establish Taliban terrorist rule in the dirt-poor Sunni provinces. They needn't worry about the economy; these people don't work for a living, after all. They get paid to kill by foreign benefactors, and from what they can steal from the local populace.

The likely winner in an Al Qaeda vs. Iran/Sadr battle will be both. Not Al Qaeda, not Iran and their toady Sadr. Both. Just like Hitler and Stalin could agree to take half of Poland each, Al Qaeda and Sadr will be more than willing to take over half of Iraq each. It gets them what they want -- power, and a base from which to attack America. There will be a few flare-ups as Sadr ethnically cleanses the Sunnis from Baghdad and other Shiite-controlled areas, but once that easily-achieved ethnic cleansing/genocide is over, the two joint rulers of Iraq can put aside their differences and focus on the real enemy -- America.

And that is a strong justification for remaining in Iraq. Not to save the Sunnis from ethnic cleansing and genocide, per se -- my heart isn't exactly bleeding for them at this point -- and not to save the Shi'ites from Iranian domination and Sadr's misereable theocracy -- the Shi'ites can go hang as far as I'm concerned, too.

However, there is a reason the Shi'ites and Al Qaeda have been so determined to have a civil war and genocide since Saddam Hussein was deposed. They recognize a genocide and civil war is their only certain way to complete power. And for that reason -- and not the genocide per se -- they must be thwarted.

All arguments about Iraq have to be connected to the American national interest. Not merely the interests of decent Iraqis. Not only is the argument that we must trade US soldiers' lives for Iraqi civilians' lives wrongheaded, it's just bad politics. I don't think the US public is much more exercised about the fate of Iraqis themselves at this point than I am, and I am not awfully worried about them myself. Talking about preventing a genocide merely to prevent a genocide is the sort of airy-fairy appeal-to-emotion unicorns-and-rainbows rhetoric that never much appealed to me, ever, even before the actual war. It was the sort of emotive blather offered up by Andrew Sullivan on a daily basis, widely misunderstood by conservatives to actually constitute a compelling case for war.

We're not in this for the Iraqis. We're in this for ourselves. It turns out that helping the decent Iraqis take control of their country and drive out the thugs is in our interest, but let's not mistake their interests, and only their interests, for our own.

You want to turn a national-security-oriented, patriotic American off from supporting a military action off in a hurry? Then just talk about all the wondrous things we can do for undeserving foreigners if we just sacrifice thousands of US troops and billions in US treasure. That's where I check out myself, and I can't imagine I'm alone in that.

It's the other guys who like to posture and preen about risking US military troops to save barbaric foreigners from their own political dysfunctions, social pathologies, and suicidal embrace of endless intercine warfare as the organizing structure of their primitive cultures. Not us. We're the guys -- or at least are supposed to be the guys -- who are unabashedly on America's side in all fights between the various miscreants of the world. If it's in American's interest to kill some of those miscreants, we do. If it's not, we don't. But we never elevate the interests of barbaric death-cultists above the interests of the American people -- and her brave corps of heavily armed diplomats.

It may be fun to rhetorically skewer the left for its wildly inconsistent stances on foreign policy -- yes, of course they're in favor of idealism when America is acting according to foreign policy realism, and when America embraces idealism, they suddenly are adherents of Kissingerian realpolitik -- but that cuts no ice with the unhinged, America-hating left, which has long ago come to peace with having simultaneously contradictory stances based on churlish but malevolent opposition to anything America does.

But the American public has long accepted the left is not terribly serious on matters of war and peace, and furthermore, noting the hypocrisy of a non-entity like David Corn on these issues is hardly the sort of thing like to change the minds of the average, pragmatic, patriotic and America-first minded American.

The question isn't whether the left is adult or pro-American or even something close to serious on foreign policy. They're not, and the American public knows that. The question is whether we conservatives are those things, and aping the left's selective bleeding-heart rhetoric doesn't do much to convince the public we are.

They expect us to be tougher-minded, and focused, as Clinton said, like a laser on the American interest.

So let's lay off all the outrage over the left's indifference to genocide per se. We're indifferent to it as well, or at least we should be, and we gain no credit in the eyes of the American public when we speak the bear-any-burder-so-long-as-it-does-not-actually-advance-the-American-interest
language of the left.

And if you think the plight of the poor Iraqis cuts much ice with the American public, consider the polls. They must know that genocide is coming, and yet they're not terribly supportive of the war at this point.

Strong arguments can be made for attempting to defeat Al Qaeda -- and Iran -- in Iraq. But I arguments about the well-being of Iraqis are now very weak indeed. If they ever had much appeal, they surely no longer do.


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posted by Ace at 05:01 PM

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