Thursday, April 29, 2004

Post-WWII Borders

I know that Britain made some huge errors at the end of WWII, and the US has made many bad mistakes in the region since then. I understand and acknowledge those issues.

However, I think that while you can hold up some glaring examples, by and large if an Iraqi citizen is going about his or her business and not doing anything wrong (looting, blowing up pipelines, shooting at them), the US military will leave them alone. It serves them no purpose to deliberately antagonize the population. The last thing they need is more enemies. It is counterproductive to the goal. They know it, and the Bush administration knows it.

Keep in mind that most of the big European countries and Russia that opposed the invasion had a hand in Saddam's checkbook in direct violation of the UN embargo Oil-For-Food policy. Many had a strong financial interest in keeping Saddam in power. When the law (International Law in this case) becomes corrupt and is wrong, it is right to buck it. If that were not true, we'd still have slavery here in the US and Apartheid would still flourish in South Africa.

I understand the US's role in Saddam's power as well. And by 1990 he was so well entrenched and guarded and wielded so much power (and not just due to US support either, but by France and Germany and Russia) it had become impossible for the Iraqis to kick him out. The US thought they could after the first Gulf war and pulled back, figuring it would be better for Iraqis to do it themselves (which would be true if it were possible) but Saddam showed that his hold on power was overwhelming. World opinion at the time was that we should back off. It did not work, and with horrifically tragic results.

The World's best intelligence agencies all believed that Saddam was a threat to the region. Not Iraq. Saddam Hussein. Saddam himself nurtured this belief. He acted as though he had something to hide (probably ego and bravado played a big part in this). So the realistic choices were to A) Wait and see if he did something, B) remove him from power or C) try to contain him economically and militarily, which worked out to be essentially equivalent to A. After 9/11, we were much less willing to do A. Long before 9/11, the Clinton administration itself called for regime change in Iraq. But at the time it was politically impossible. After 9/11, it was still politically difficult.

So, based on the intelligence it had, (faulty or not) the Bush administration decided it was imperative to remove Saddam from power and that now was the best opportunity. Sure, it played up the noble side of freeing the Iraqi people even though that wasn't reason enough before. I don't fault any country for choosing its battles -- where and when to fight and where and when not to. But I never bought that as the primary reason for doing it. It doesn't mean it was a bad reason, it just wasn't enough. Who does not play up their simple noble reasons while downplaying the less noble or comprehensible ones? The perceived threat plus that, plus the best political opportunity to try to correct the 1991 mistake was enough for Bush, Jr. So the invasion happened. The question is, with all that behind us now and unchangeable, what do we do now?

Saddam Hussein is out of power. Most Iraqis believe that is a good thing. Most Iraqis want a free and independent Iraq. George Bush wants a free and independent Iraq. I want a free and Independent Iraq. And by independent that also means "not occupied". There are 25 Million Iraqis, and out of them 1 or maybe 2 million Islamists (not Islamics, Islamists --- big difference). As long as the Islamists and other anti-American/anti-west elements continue to fight against the US mission -- which is a free and independent Iraq -- it makes it difficult for the US to pull out. Right now the US military is the closest thing to viable law enforcement Iraq has (which is admittedly not ideal -- but that's the way these things go). Many people are working hard to change that, and many other people are working hard to make sure that doesn't happen. That second group of people ain't the Americans, and it's not even most Iraqis.

The best means of causing America to fail here is by forcing it to stay for an extended period of time, making it look like Bush didn't mean he wanted to free Iraq and get out and shifting sentiment against the US. This is what the Islamists want, because it is their only real chance of gaining power. They want the US to stay too long, or get out before they've been effectively neutralized. If the US leaves before that point, the Islamists can subdue the population by terror and force. If the US stays too long, they will gain more and more support from the general population. It's obviously not an ideal situation, but -- show me one! The balance between these timeframes is very important, and is likely the cause of any heavy-handedness you see. Would I have crushed the guy's taxi? I'd like to think not, but then again, I'm not there. It's too easy for me to sit back and tell them what they should have done in one isolated incident that I was shown. In the bigger context of the general mayhem and looting, was it the right thing to do? Maybe it was. In the face of such an overwhelming scene, perhaps one example is more effective than 1,000 arrests.

Here's the Bush administration's theory in a nutshell (and this addresses the list of other countries we're not invading if our cause is so noble, as well as trying to effect change in the most peaceful and self-determined way possible):

Iraq is a pretty well educated nation, highly capable, and with the natural resources it needs to be a strong and viable free country. If it successfully becomes a free independent nation, like Turkey -- what do you think will happen in Iran? Iran is also a well educated nation, and the younger population especially is pretty well fed up with the Islamist government. That government does not have anything close to the overwhelming power that the Hussein regime had in Iraq. The theory is is that it will accelerate an internal revolution (which is what has to happen for change to occur) in Iran.

If there are three strong, independent, and free Arab nations in the middle east, other Arab populations in nations Saudi Arabia and Syria are going to have to seriously question their leadership. And the middle east will change itself, no other invasions necessary. If it works, a LOT of people will be much better off.

As for Israel and the Palestinians… that goes back to the big mistakes Great Britain made at the end (well, actually during) WWII. But, those decisions were made, and now we have what we have 60 years later. The only thing I have to say is that had the Palestinians gone the way of Ghandi instead of Arafat, they'd have won their cause long ago. The west has a very difficult time siding with people who blow up random innocent people as their primary tactic for affecting change. You do understand that allowing that tactic to work logically leads to dire consequences for civilization everywhere. The world will be ruled by those who are willing to prey on innocents and control people with mankind's natural sympathy for others and fear for their own lives.

That pretty much sums up my point of view on the subject. I understand that it's possible to present a well-articulated argument against what was done and what is being done. Most of the people I know who agree with those arguments, however, don't seem to believe there can be any such articulation of a counter-argument. They blame it all on flag-waving and bible thumping, neither of which do I particularly associate myself with. I positively hate it when someone comes out with a stupid argument for the invasion. It doesn't help. I want to slap a lot of Fox News people upside the head.

I consider myself largely a Libertarian. Idealistically, Libertarians believe in practically no foreign policy -- live and let live. However, I also know that like most ideals, it is realistically impractical to try to adhere to 100% -- we don't live in a vaccuum.

Here's an Iraqi blog I like to read:

I think the guy has a pretty good handle on the situation. Of course, that's just my opinion ;-)