Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What, Really, Are We Trying To Do In The Middle East?

And What Would Happen If We Stopped Doing It?
[Part I of a Three-Part Series)

Here's a FAQ (a list of Frequently Asked Questions) about our current military interventions in the Middle East:

Q: Mitt Romney went on TV the other night and explained that if he were President that he'd have a classified timetable for withdrawal from Iraq but that he certainly wouldn't forewarn the enemy like the Democrats are proposing . . . I mean really, how stupid is that? . . . telling the enemy when you're scheduling your defeat? I mean wouldn't the terrorists just hunker down and wait it out if they thought we were leaving?

A: That's a whole bunch of questions, but let me try to begin.

First of all, I don't think it's stupid at all to propose a date for us to leave Iraq. We're not at war. Congress authorized a limited military action aimed at removing the seemingly imminent threat of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Regardless of your political ideology or preference in spin, I think we can all safely agree that when President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished", his mandate was, in fact, complete. Whatever you believe about the politics that got us into Iraq, the "WMD" themselves, or any of the violent aftermath . . . at that point the mission had been carried out. (By the way if you click on the link to the official White House press release, the official administration graphic says "Iraq: Denial and Deception" which I am certain is supposed to refer to Saddam's denials and deceptions but may strike some with a bit of irony . . . )

If you believe that we are at war and that it started with 9/11 then the government should declare it according to the provisions specified within our current Constitution. And when we declare war we will have the opportunity to declare our enemy. If the Bush administration truly wants a war on "terrorism" and anything that can be portrayed as "terroristical" inside or outside our country, then let the President obtain a true declaration of war that clarifies that everyone and everything, everywhere is suspect and justifiably within our gunsites. Let's finish suspending the Bill of Rights and every treaty we have ever signed with any of those evil nation-states that surround our borders. Let us carefully amend our Constitution in ways that empower our righteous leaders to protect us from the new and dangerous realities of our modern world.

Oh wait, I just described the germination of every evil dictatorship in human history . . . no matter, those despots were obviously visionaries. We just got bogged down along the way to greatness and security by those pesky, over-rated relics in our past (the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Ten Commandments, . . .) I digress. Sorry. Okay, back to the question:

Furthermore, if the terrorists just 'hunker down and wait it out' then that would be good for everyone. Less of our young men and women killed (and killing). Thousands less civilians blown up in bombs. More time for peace, introspection, and evaluation.

Finally, your question seems to posit two debatable assumptions that need elucidation:

1)We are in Iraq cleaning up the unfortunate effects of our liberation: 'wiping up' some undesirable terrorist elements that want to fill the power vacuum.

2)If we fight the terrorists 'over there' it helps stop them from coming 'over here.'

While it does appear true that some of the terrorist elements are trying to force their way into power and that the rise of Iraqi terrorism is directly due to our actions, one thing seems certain after four years: 'if we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we are getting'.

Assumption one is basically a pandora's box:

"Did we liberate Iraq?"

"Can we wipe up the terrorist elements like so much liquid into a sponge?"

"If we leave will the 'bad guys' take over?"

"Do the majority of Iraqis want us there?"

"Is our presence in Iraq designed to stop the terrorists, or is it actually the rallying cause behind the rise of terrorism in that country?"

"Is the native resistance growing stronger or losing steam?"

"Are more of the terrorists from in-country or out?"

"Regardless of how few foreign terrorists are involved, do we want to purposefully pursue a proxy war with surrounding nations for any strategic purpose?"

"If all terrorism, US-opposition, and in-country political disputes auto-magically disappeared, do we really have any intention of leaving the country? Even our gigantic, new, expensive, state-of-the-art military bases?"

Assumption two is likewise fairly disingenuous and begs further scrutiny:

"Are all terrorists of every stripe 'in cahoots' with each other?"

"Is 'al Qaeda', even, truly such a monolithic block that if we hit somebody claiming allegiance to their movement in Iraq that it affects the planning and funding of terrorists plots on our own soil?"

"If you were a major, sophisticated terrorist organization based on the destruction of the United States (and not just its colonizing army in your own country), would you be stupid enough to base your operations in a theatre of war like Iraq or even Afghanistan these days?"

Q: OK, OK, whatever. But I'm tired of all these cynical liberals who find it SO easy to criticize and question. The truth is that we need to DO something not just protest and whine. What SHOULD we do?

A: It seems to me that most every proposal on the way forward (and there ARE some interesting proposals out there on the table, despite what Rush/Sean might have you believing . . .) fits in one of the following camps:

1) Dramatically step up the military campaign (not Pres. Bush's "surge" . . . something much more decisive . . . Hiroshima comes to mind . . . take the gloves off)

2) Withdraw and end the military campaign.

3) Keep doing basically the same things we are doing. . . maybe with more troops . . . cement the infrastructure for uncertain ongoing intervention and support . . . and patiently "stay the course" until peace and security slowly, but surely (and inevitably) return.

Right now, #2 seems the only wise and morally justifiable course of action. We'll consider those three options in more detail in Part II of this FAQ. (Preview Question for tomorrow: "But if we declare failure and retreat, won't that embolden our enemies, diminish our standing in the world, and endanger our citizenry both at home and abroad?")


Toadicus Rex said...

You know I can't help but disagree.

First, it absolutely is ludicrous to declare a date for us to leave Iraq. And I don't believe you can consider the mandate complete, unless contrary to American tradition and culture we simply do not help the people "pick up the pieces" and move on. I found it a little disingenuous to state that the Iraq Resolution implies that we will only apply a "limited military action aimed at removing the seemingly imminent threat of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction." That doesn't quite cover the truth, now does it? I wonder what you would say to the Kurds. Or about the support clearly given by Iraq to terrorist organizations. I wonder how many of your readers actually read the content of that resolution.

"Our desire is to help Iraqi citizens find the blessings of liberty within their own culture and their own traditions. The Iraqi people cannot flourish under a dictator that oppresses them and threatens them. Gifted people of Iraq will flourish if and when oppression is lifted.

When Iraq has a government committed to the freedom and well-being of its people, America, along with many other nations, will share a responsibility to help Iraq reform and prosper. And we will meet our responsibilities. That's our pledge to the Iraqi people." (bold added)

The suggestion that we set a date for leaving is tantamount to telling the terrorists when they can expect to come back in, and it is a betrayal of the Iraqi people - we stated that we would assist them in providing the democracy that the vast majority crave, and we would offer our support as they grew more independent.

Second, there is a "new and dangerous reality" in our modern world, but one that has been experienced before. Since you're LDS, you'll appreciate and probably have suspected the relationship between the group calling themselves the "Gadianton's Robbers" from the book of Mormon. My question to you is this: How would the Nephites have "declared war" on this group of people, living in and among them and other nations? Declaring war on the Lamanites had been relatively simple, hadn't it? One nation against another? But what do you do when a mass of combatants essentially residing in all countries declares war on you? Can you simply "declare war against everyone, everything, and everywhere"? This isn't a traditional war, because it isn't a traditional situation.

You can't make the stretch that this is the same as every evil dictatorship in human history. Hitler, for example, only assaulted Jews in his occupied countries; and for those he attacked and controlled he did not attempt a mere surgical removal of that populus. He sought to control and conquer, and did not establish self-rule of the country. Contrast that with today's world. We did attempt a surgical removal. We are assisting the country to rebuild. And they are governing themselves. Frankly I'm a little shocked at the assertion that "Bush is a dictator", since he clearly doesn't even have the authority to establish himself as one here, and I really doubt he could pull it off (even if a majority of Americans wanted, which I for one, do not).

Regardless of the situation, I don't agree with the argument that the terrorists would "hunker down and wait it out" regardless of what we do. We have chose "option 3" of those you selected, and the difference is this; we don't leave until the Iraqis can handle the situation on their own, which means for the terrorists that there is no rest. Stating a deadline is essentially stating a point when that is not the case, i.e. we leave the Iraqi people without the strength to deal with it. And I don't think we'd do option #1.

Third, as far as the pandora's box, it really isn't one.

"Did we liberate Iraq?" - Yep, they have a democracy. Did you not see the purple fingers?

"Can we wipe up the terrorist elements like so much liquid into a sponge?" - No. The word "wipe" is used metaphorically. And yep, when there is an uprising we can go in and clear it out before it spreads.

"If we leave will the 'bad guys' take over?" - Not if we do it right.

"Do the majority of Iraqis want us there?" - Yep. Unless you listen to the liberal media. Try talking to a soldier who's been there.

"Is our presence in Iraq designed to stop the terrorists, or is it actually the rallying cause behind the rise of terrorism in that country?" - This is a big topic. Are we creating the terrorists, or is it something else? Unfortunately I find that argument ridiculous. We didn't create terrorists, just like they didn't create us. Everyone makes their own choices.

"Is the native resistance growing stronger or losing steam?" - Take a look at the graphs showing the number of attacks. Clearly losing steam.

"Are more of the terrorists from in-country or out?" - Out of country. Do you honestly believe the terrorist organizations want us to provide another democracy in Iraq?

"Regardless of how few foreign terrorists are involved, do we want to purposefully pursue a proxy war with surrounding nations for any strategic purpose?" - I don't believe that has happened, come on. Let's not use a slippery slope to describe the situation.

"If all terrorism, US-opposition, and in-country political disputes auto-magically disappeared, do we really have any intention of leaving the country? Even our gigantic, new, expensive, state-of-the-art military bases?" - Nope, probably not. We still have bases in Japan too. Are there benefits for us? Yep. How about them? Yep. We pour money into their economy, and is it likely that another country would attack Japan with our bases there? Not likely. Is that a problem? Regardless, let's not get silly. We haven't removed all terrorism, US-opposition and in-country political disputes from our own country, let alone any others. But I don't remember reading that in the Resolution.

Like I said, I can't see your pandora's box, unless you are insistent on seeing something that isn't there.

Fourth, oh, come on. Of course it does. We have documented evidence of terrorist organizations in Iraq. So how do you establish something from the past like that? We haven't had a major terrorist attack since 9/11 in the US, have we? I don't suggest that we would have if we weren't in Iraq.... but geez, come on. If we kill them there they aren't here, right? Logic? But I'll play.

Essentially all the questions you ask to establish the disinginuity of the second assumption are off point to that assumption; it is irrelevant whether all terrorist organizations are 'in cahoots'. And yep, taking them away from countries providing millions of dollars affects their ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks worldwide. And I don't think they are based there now, but doesn't that establish the whole point of what was done????? I mean, aren't you arguing that we didn't do that?

Doug said...

Hey wow. I missed this comment until just now. I like a lot of your thinking even if we don't [currently?] come to many of the same conclusions.

I'll have to come back to this but here's one comment I feel most strong about:

You answer the question about if the US has any intention of ever leaving Iraq correctly, I believe. You admit that we probably will not leave [perhaps ever lol] and, in fact, just this week a major treaty was signed to that effect with the Iraqi government.

I would much rather have you in charge than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, or any of the guys that have gone up to their podiums in recent years - [with the preponderance of evidence suggesting that they were] fully aware that they were about to lie - and stated that the US has no intention of any permanent bases in Iraq. To my knowledge, the papers signed this week were the first explicit admission that we see great long-term advantage in "semi-permanent" bases in the country.

At that point you can begin an honest discussion of the pros and cons of the state of the American Empire. I used to be strongly in favor of it and now believe it is often unwise, improper, and causes more harm then good. But most frustrating to me is that the biggest proponents of American Empire in government right now are the most prone to lie about it.

If you need me to I can get a long list of times that the State Department, the DoD, President Bush, VP Cheney, Rummsfeld, etc. have specifically and categorically stated that we had no such intentions and then show you all the non-classified, easily obtainable proof that shows that fity-year plus bases have been the plan since before the invasion.

It is impossible to have an honest discussion with people that are able to get the topic dismissed as speculative fantasy until after it is cemented as fact [and the chance for debate has long passed].

Interestingly one of the organizers of the EU has completed a recent memoir where he details that this was his group's modus operandi. They would downplay the very possibility of a European currency, a European governing group, etc. until basically so much was put in place that it was too late to argue against it effectively. That doesn't make him (or his colleagues) evil incarnate, I suppose, but it is a strategy that I believe I am very right to be wary of - and one I find very antagonistic to what I consider the better ideals of our founding fathers.

Toadicus Rex said...

You know, it's interesting. I agree with you on this. I don't like disinformation in general, it's really stepping over the moral gray area between right and wrong and planting a few toes definitely on the wrong side.

I don't know if this is being done with intention to deceive the American people, or whether this is politics of disinformation. Regardless of that fact, i think it weakens us to lie about what we're going to do...