September 10, 2003
One Step Away from Treason
The title of the article is "The Importance of Losing the War." Even for AlterNet, this is a sickening thing to say on the eve of September 11. Once I got past the shock of the title, though, I have to admit that I'm not too surprised.
The thing is, the anti-war campaigners are actively opposed to American military and diplomatic success in the Middle East. Most of them are simply too cowardly to say what the really think: that they hope that the United States fails in a dramatic way. They hope that the United States learns a bloody, painful lesson that makes it a near impossibility for an American leader to ever again send military forces abroad.
The authors of this articles merely had the nerve to say what has been on the mind of a good portion of the loony left (not to mention paleocons and isolationist libertarians).
This isn't merely a defeatist attitude, either. A defeatist would simply say that there is no way to win--for these columnists, and those like them, a true victory is an American military defeat. If we were to truly win--not only having toppled the government of Iraq, but succeeding in the establishment of a new government that stands as a good, liberal example to the rest of the Arab world--then America might be tempted into more incidents of forceful diplomacy. Or so goes the fears of these people.
The main mistake of American policy in Iraq was waging the war at all.
No matter that most Iraqis are happy to have us there, that normal services are returning, that the attacks are slowly subsiding, that the governing council was accepted by other Arab states, that people have a shot at a truly better existence, and that we are daily proving
the potential of this nation of people who were once captive of a brutal regime.
No matter that the world may be a better place for the will and sacrifice of America.
These plans to mass-produce democracies and transform the mentalities of whole peoples have the look of desperate attempts – as grandiose as they are unhinged from reality – to overlook the obvious: First, that people, not excluding Iraqis, do not like to be conquered and occupied by foreign powers and are ready and able to resist; second, that disarmament, which is indeed an essential goal for the new century, can only, except in the rarest of circumstances, be achieved not through war but through the common voluntary will of nations. It is not the character of the occupation, it is occupation itself that in a multitude of ways the Iraqis are rejecting.
Interesting. Complete and utter bullshit, but interesting. Liberalization can be brought through the toppling of corrupt and tyrannical governments followed by the direct assistance in rebuilding not only physical services but governmental ones. Just ask Japan. And Germany.
The next question is whether most Iraqis really consider the coalition to be conquering forces. The assumption is foolish; if most of Iraq was opposed to coalition intervention, the resistance would be much stronger, much deadlier. The authors of the article are seeing failure in our success.
The practical problem of Iraq's future remains. The Iraqi state has been forcibly removed. That state was a horrible one; yet a nation needs a state. The children must go to school; the trains must run; the museums must open; murderers must be put in jail. But the United States, precisely because it is a single foreign state, which like all states has a highly self-interested agenda of its own, is incapable of providing Iraq with a government that serves its own people. The United States therefore must, to begin with, surrender control of the operation to an international force.
Again, this is utterly and completely untrue. The acceptance of the Iraqi ruling council by the Arab League proves that the steps are being taken to provide the Iraqi's with a representative government. There is no magic way to install governments after the toppling of another--not without resorting to the sort of despotic behavior common in the coups seen throughout third world countries. That doesn't mean, though, that the exercise is doomed to failure or that the United States and the world would be better for that failure.
No one disagrees that there are still hurdles to surmount before we can suppose that we have been successful. But we are winning. We will win, if we maintain the will, as a nation, to carry this through. And the fruits of that victory will be great: a step towards stability in a region that has fomented violence that effects the rest of the world.
Neither should we suppose, though, that the victory in Iraq will signal the completion of the war. It is the second, and perhaps, most important step in winning the war between liberal nations and militant theocracies that support and harbor terrorists.
We must, we can, and we will be victorious.
Read the story.
Read about the Arab Leagues acceptance of the Iraqi ruling council.
Update: Not only has InstaPundit graciously linked this post, but has posted comments, links, and email related to this as well. Read his post.
Posted by zombyboy at September 10, 2003 04:36 PM
Please leave us isolationist Libertarians out of this. As long as we're there I hope we are completely successful - and bring liberal democracy to the Arab world.
I know many Libertarians, and I've never heard one hope for anything other than U.S. victory in Iraq.
I'm all for a victory, but then again, I'm a non-isolationist libertarian.
And let us remember that Walter is one of those big-L Libertarians who is clinically sane, and thus he wouldn't say something nutty like AlterNet.
I was against the waging of the war and I am for the winning of the peace. I still don't trust the current batch of clowns in charge to get the job done.
They seem to believe that one must sugar coat the objective of having Iraq (and Afghanistan, remember them?) turn out like Germany or Japan. In fact they've never referred to what we would be doing in Afghanistan and Iraq as anything like the great nation-building projects of post-WWII. If they truly wanted these operations to turn out that well, they would never have engaged in the massive withdrawal from and back-burnering of Afghanistan (now largely "policed" by warlords, yay), and if they were willing to be honest about what we're trying to do in Iraq they wouldn't sheepishly ask for the money to do it 80 billion at a time. They also would have waited until the lights got turned on before they installed the puppet government.
Perhaps that's what the conservative bloggers I've read don't understand about what I've come to be convinced is the sentiment of a large number of anti-war people, and of the author of the article in question: It's not about "winning" or "losing" the war in Iraq. We need to give Iraqis a better Iraq than we found.
There needs to be service after the sale and it needs to mean something. Based on the the Bush Administration's other example of how well they reconstruct a country which has actually caused us damage, we are reluctant to see what they'll do to a country which, in fact, hasn't.
"[T]he United States, precisely because it is a single foreign state, which like all states has a highly self-interested agenda of its own, is incapable of providing Iraq with a government that serves its own people. The United States therefore must, to begin with, surrender control of the operation to an international force."
It's hard to think of a more obvious example of fallacious reasoning than that. Idiots.
Walter--I have to admit that I heard a lot of the isolationist wing of the libertarians hoping that we wouldn't initially become involved, but I haven't heard one who hopes that we fail.
My apologies to the isolationist libertarians out there (but, the rest stands).
Hey! Andy said I'm clinically sane. Same to you!
Ken, You might not have heard the news since the media doesn't think it newsworthy, but Iraqi's are much better off without the Ba'athist party. More clean water and electricity is being supplied in Iraq than before the war. Saddam used the availability of water and electricity as a political tool to favor his friends and to deprive his enemies. For all the havoc there, this is no longer happening. Basrah hadn't had chlorine for water purification for two years before the war. The Iraqi's are lucky that no one came from outside Iraq that had cholera or hundreds of thousands would have died.
Then too, Saddam was killing 30,000 people a month before the war. Life is not perfect in Iraq, but it isn't perfect anywhere. Problems exist, but they are being taken care of. Some problems are more important than others so some needs must wait. At this short a time after the war we are lucky that no one is dying of hunger or exposure.
No matter what mistakes the coalition makes; no matter how many people are disappointed temporarily; no matter how impatient the Iraqi people get with the situation they are in; No matter how uncertain the future appears or how unlikely that the US will be able to bring off a free, secular democratic state; it will still be better than living under Saddam.
Why will the Iraqi people be better off? Because now, they have something they never had before: hope.