Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Why don't they get it...

The people who oppose our efforts in Iraq give many reasons for doing so: There were no WMD; we didn't and don't have a plan; no blood for oil; the president is the devil...and on and on.

What I would like to point out to these people are the options that were available to us in March 2003.

First, a little background:

In March 2003, the sanctions regime had failed. Ignored and circumvented even by nations on the Security Council, the sanctions would shortly have been lifted were that action not obviated by Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The UNSCOM inspectors had been kicked out of Iraq in '98 after years of playing the shell game with Saddam. There was no way to know what he did or did not have. Further, the U.N. had wearied of this babysitting. Because of pressure from the French and Russians and Chinese, who saw business opportunities with Saddam, the U.N. wanted to just leave Iraq alone.

So. In early 2003 our options were these:

1. Try to keep the sanctions in place and get UNSCOM back in there until we could be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that he didn't have WMD or a program for their development.

2. Negotiate with Saddam through the offices of European and other Arab countries.

3. Try to keep Saddam bottled up ourselves

4. Remove him.

Option #1 was not within the realm of the possible. Certain powerful members of the U.N. wanted to be done with Iraq. This was due to their business considerations and some anti-American feeling at Turtle Bay.

Option #2 was a non-starter because of Iraqi intransigence and the gullibility of European negotiators (witness their uselessness in Bosnia and their current efforts with Iran).

Option #3 would have been a public relations nightmare and wouldn't have stopped the sort of weapons acquisition and technology transfers that we feared.

Sadly, in the era of trans-national Islamic terrorism and the proliferation of WMD technology, option #4 was the only really viable solution. But of course, #4 brought with it a mountainous pile of problems.

Iraq was never a country the way we understand it. It was cobbled together after World War 1 by the victorious colonial powers (mostly Britain) and put under one flag three areas and three disparate groups of people who would not likely, willingly associate with one another. During its history it has been held together only by the kind of force that people like Saddam bring to bear.

When we conquered Germany and Japan, despite the destruction, there were homogenous populations with unified cultural backgrounds. It was not terribly difficult to rebuild stable governments in those countries.

While we had no problems with the destruction of Iraq's armed forces, all we could do - literally - was hope that the people would be so glad to be rid of Saddam that they'd just do what we told them to. This was optimism rather than a plan. We should have anticipated the worst case scenario, namely, that once the boot was off the throat of the three groups - Sunni, Shia and Kurd - Iraq would tear itself apart in sectarian and civil war. Actually the majority of the country did welcome us as liberators…at first.

Having conquered it, our options for the future of the nation of Iraq were these:

1. Let the three groups create three new nations, or attach themselves to other surrounding nations.

2. Install someone of our choosing who, while likely as brutal as Saddam, would be our ‘friend’.

3. Have the U.N. run it.

4. Attempt to set up a representative, pluralistic, democratic republic based loosely on our model, which guarantees human rights and civil liberties, but with changes enough to satisfy the sensibilities of an Islamic group of people.

#1 was not ever an option. #2 - installing a puppet regime would not likely have guaranteed the kind of security we are looking for (e.g. Witness the situation in Pakistan). #3 is a bad joke. Again, we find that the most difficult option was the only really viable one.

So, now we are trying to set up a country with four constituent groups: The Sunnis who feel they’ve nothing to gain in any government and nothing to lose by resisting it. The Shia, many of whom would like to set up a theocracy akin to Iran’s. The Kurds, who are doing quite well thank you very much and just want to be left alone. And, the remaining Baathists and foreign Jihadis who are hell bent on preventing an American success by fomenting civil and sectarian war in Iraq.

I think that, considering what we are up against, we have done an almost miraculously good job and every American should be 100% behind the efforts of the President, our men and women in uniform and most especially, the Iraqi people - to create a stable democratic republic. It is in our best interests any way you look at it.

While there have been blunders, that is no reason to give up and withdraw. There is no book on how to do this. Should we not have disbanded the army? Maybe, but that would have meant troubles with the Kurds who suffered at their hands. Should we have double or triple the number of personnel we have there now? Perhaps, but that would only give the terrorists more targets while possibly further alienating the populace. There is no doubt that we are in a tough place. But a successful outcome is possible. If it succeeds, it may well be the death knell for Islamo-fascist extremism. Further, authoritarianism throughout the Middle East will be put on notice that democracy can work and it’s time to change.

At the end of the day, though, what must be remembered is this: There were no other viable options.


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