Monday, July 30, 2007
❄ Iraq: Not a Hard Problem
The only ones for whom Iraq poses a hard problem are those who fear being held accountable for their recklessness and deceit. Victory—anything we can call victory— at any price. Other people—US soldiers, Iraqis, US taxpayers—will pay that price. We will be glorified by history.
There are four reasons why the United States must acknowledge its helplessness in Iraq. It is a step forward to define the Iraq problem as a political problem. But US personnel, whether military, contactors, or civilian officials, cannot be effective participants in an internal Iraqi political arena. They suffer four handicaps. They do not speak or read the language. They are transients, without a permanent stake. They have brought desperate poverty to a country which was not poor. And they have brought chaos to a society which, however reprobate its practitioners of internal repression were, was not in chaos before they invaded.
Transients, who cannot carry on an ordinary conversation, and have imposed poverty, chaos, destruction, and death.
The correct thing at this juncture, as it was earlier, is to openly acknowledge the wretchedness of a partisan ambition, and promptly leave. In the United States there should be a thorough and open airing how it was that this disaster was wrought.
To move in this way we will need some orientations which will not come comfortably. We must, for example, reject outright the argument that since Iraq is such a mess the US military must remain there to fix it. Neither the US military, nor contractors nor civilian officials, are the right people, with the right skills, for that job.
We must reject the argument that we will be abandoning Iraqis who have worked for the United States and who will be vulnerable to revenge. Instead, we must accept those employees, and their families, who wish to come to the United States.
We must reject the argument that Iran, or Israel, requires that the United States maintain an armed presence in the Middle East coupled to governments on the ground. The United States must remain free to defend itself, and its genuine allies, but relying on means that are readily moved, advanced, and withdrawn. Israel, in this accounting, has not proven itself an ally which aligns its vital interests with those of the United States.
We must reject the argument that the United States owes the Iraqi people the continued presence of its military. The United States has incurred deep moral and practical obligations. It can find other means to discharge these, such as putting money into neutral hands. If Washington wants to repair its shattered relations in the region, it could also pay compensation to Lebanon for the destruction and human toll taken there by Israel, in collusion with the United States, in 2006. [The Lebanon War is almost never mentioned in the United States when Iraq policy is discussed, unfortunate evidence of our ignorance and provincialism.]
We must reject the argument that withdrawing from Iraq will embolden Al Qaeda and jihadists everywhere to yet more violence. It now is well-established that the prime recruiting agents for Al Qaeda and its look-alikes have been Dick Cheney and George Bush. The needed strengthening of the Civic Script around the world requires that the substantial and elaborate capabilities of the United States be committed to projects which win the respect of serious people, and do not inflame those in search of a cause.
We must expose those who are at work yet one more time to reset the goal posts. Remember: originally it was to find Saddams nuclear weapons, then it was to remove Saddam, and there was the fictional Iraq-Al Qaeda link, so the goal was to “fight the War on Terrorism, a point Bush returns to even in 2007. Now we hear other goals: achieve stability; give the Iraqi government time; let the surge be fully tried, into 2009 or later; and avoid harassment of the camion columns headed south to Kuwait. It will be a hard logistical problem to withdraw safely, but thats what militaries should be able to do.
We must reject the argument that Iran is an implacable enemy of the United States, which must be resisted as a prime determinant of foreign and foreign military policy. If there is an Iran problem, it will be confronted with a clearer mind if the United States is not bogged down in Iraq.
We must reject the argument let bygones be bygones. We must not absolve Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice, Wolfowitz and their coterie from close scrutiny, and examination under oath, in order to achieve an evidence-based account of this tragedy and the methods and mechanisms by which it was put into motion. This is a rational and necessary aim because the Congress was so systematically refused what it required to exercise oversight. Recall that Congress was tricked into giving an open-ended authorization of war against Iraq five months before war was actually begun, a period during which rational men and women could have found the means to prevent this war had reason not been shouldered aside by the White House. We also must attempt a reliable account of the role of Israel in influencing United States policy. We must acknowledge that there has been, and remains, an effort to undermine the Constitution, and document what was done so that firm lines can be drawn against future assaults. Later historians, with yet more access to memories and transactions, may alter this account, but we must begin with what we can. And there will be some specialists in politics who should ask, not to punish but to expose, how it was that the Republican majority in the House and Senate, and then as a minority, and many among the Democrats, failed to exercise their obligation to protect and defend the Constitution. All of this should be done in the clear light of day.
So this is a straightforward argument. The United States is not suited to the tasks in Iraq. Its officers and enlisted men do not speak the language. Even if they rely on English-speaking Iraqis they cannot make the necessary careful judgments of what is said by the people they meet. And they are the agents on the ground of the Cheney-Bush team which is responsible for Iraqs poverty and chaos.
Im not going to make the routine apologetics about rejecting violence and its many agents and appearances in Iraq, nor do I think we need celebrate the brave fighting men and women of the US military. But, except perhaps at the highest levels, its not their fault. I feel deep pain for them. The fault lies with Cheney-Bush et al. Nor will I launch into a geopolitical exegesis of relations among Middle Eastern states and the Cheney-Bush intoxication with oil. All such rhetorical excursions detract from the main point: the only sober policy is to get out as quickly as possible.
[Bruces Blog: 2007.07.30 Post: B– Short Link: P=26 Front Door Index: http://blog.learnworld.com Permalink: http://www.learnworld.com/BRUCE/uncategorized/❄-iraq-not-a-hard-problem/]