Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Why is the U.S. in Iraq?

As part of the War on Terror.

How does that help?

Our military can battle them there rather than have them blow up our citizenry at home.

Why would the terrorists do that? Wouldn't they just attack elsewhere if the U.S. invaded in force and took over the country?

Not if we kept our occupation force to a bare minimum and made our goal the construction of an Arab Muslim democracy.

Why would the terrorists battle the creation of an Arab Muslim democracy?

The terrorists fear democracy, for it is politically enables far more people than terrorism does, thus it is more attractive to the population as a whole, and the desire for terror would be vastly reduced. It's called "draining the swamp." The terrorists must battle us to stop the democratic ideal from being realized.

How does keeping our occupying forces to a bare minimum help?

Aside from suicide attacks, terrorists are not especially brave. If our forces appeared too strong, they would flee Iraq and attack elsewhere -- the Zarqawi letter of February 2004 confirms this. Our very weakness on the ground in Iraq is what will tempt the terrorists to attack us. Then we can destroy them in an attrition war very much to our advantage -- as long as we have the willpower to sustain it.

Why Iraq and not concentrate on Afghanistan? Or even the West Bank?

Afghanistan is too remote. Iraq is a nearly landlocked country, surrounded by other Arab dictatorships. In Jenin, Palestinian terrorists fled to the hills at the first appearance of superior troops and relied on booby traps to attrit the Israeli army. (The fake massacre story was to cover the fact that the terrorists fled and left their undefended - and unharmed - women and children behind.) These terrorists are thus hard to catch, have a home-ground advantage, and a totally sympathetic media not expected to be present in Iraq. Most of the Iraqi populace welcomes the absence of Saddam's heavy hand and looks forward to the prospect of becoming a Westernized democracy.

The deal for Iraqis, then, is that they have a chance -- only a chance -- to become a democracy, in exchange for us using their country as a shooting gallery?


Why would the Iraqis accept this?

I think they would only accept this if they are determined not to have any more Saddams. But if they don't accept this, we'll just kill as many terrorists as we can for a while, and then move on, elsewhere. The Iraqis will have had their chance.

When does this War on Terror end?

When it's over.

What do you mean, "The Iraqis will have had their chance"? The U.S. and its allies governed postwar Germany and Japan for years before we released the reigns.

We won't just lecture about democracy to Iraqis and assume responsibility for five or ten years; they are not the enemy, and we want to maintain momentum in the fight against terrorism. Iraqis must be self-motivated. We can visit them and talk to them, ask them questions about their thoughts, inform them of the transitional arrangements, but we can't really tell them why Western democracy succeeds unless they ask.

And if Iraqis did ask, what would you reply?

I would say that the creation of Western democracy has spanned nearly five hundred years, beginning with the horrible strife of the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which bloodied or impoverished all Western Europe and fractured Germany. England mostly ended its religious war early on by permitting private Catholic worship and The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 permitted each kingdom, big or small, to impose their own version of the Christian religion by force. France massacred or expelled the Huguenots and the Holy Roman Empire instituted "faith according to the prince." Louis XIV's wars of conquest afterward were essentially secular. Then shattered Europe was occupied with rebuilding and security and put off religious strife for the future. Gradually or suddenly, toleration of non-dominant religions became the norm. The establishment of the English colony of Pennsylvania and Frederick the Great's reign in Prussia elevated religious toleration to a high principle: Any religion was permissible without favor, as long as public peace was maintained; armed religious strife would not be tolerated and would be suppressed by the state. Religious strife was therefore limited to speech and print; freedom of the press was thus a necessary part of this process.

That doesn't quite explain the success of Western democracy, especially the United States.

England's Glorious Revolution entrenched a corrupt upper-class parliamentary supremacy that feared a resumption of the religious wars. England's Colonies served as a captive market and a kind of safety valve for England's religious dissenters, impoverished souls, prisoners, delinquents, and politically oppressed. The King was a very distant dictator whose authority was loosely administered through governors whose power the king checked with local assemblies. Every colonist now lived on a comparatively empty continent with the freedom to pursue his own happiness as best he saw fit, with almost no government regulation. The American Revolution essentially consisted of the Colonies reasserting powers the King had tried to take away from them, and delegating the minimum amount of remaining authority to a limited federal government. The success of American democracy has inspired and challenged other nations ever since.


Rulers of many other nations see the United States as a challenge because it attracts their own populace. Why should a subject or citizen remain in Jiddah or Marseille or Sverdlovsk or Xi'an rather than chuck it all for the United States? Such a drain -- usually, the most productive part of the populace -- diminishes the power of the entire nation. Either rulers must offer the populace a better deal, or sharpen nationalism, or throw in their lot with America, or do something to make staying in the country more attractive than leaving it – or they risk a revolution that will remove them from power.

Won't this just increase Iraqis' feelings of Arab inferiority? You haven't mentioned Islam or the Arabs even once!

(Sigh.) We should try to make clear that Americans were very lucky: George III had all the authority of a Sunday school teacher compared to Saddam! And we had help from a France eager to diminish British power, yet too weak to impose its will upon us. Americans could never have thrown off the yoke of any King otherwise, and would never have attempted it had they remained in their home country. We Americans should realize and even acknowledge that, in this sense, our forefathers were not brave men. Consequently, Iraqis have little to be ashamed or guilty of for having been oppressed for so many generations.

You mean for having been subjects. Shame and guilt are instruments of oppression as well as religion. Frank Herbert wrote in one of his novels, "dictators create good, obedient subjects by making them feel guilty [and worthless]. The shame of failure [or even the desire to hide it] creates this guilt. Consequently, the effective oppressor creates many chances for failure in the populace."

Yes! For Arabs, these feelings are complicated by centuries of suppressed pride, suddenly released by lifting of the Ottoman yoke in the twentieth century.

What are you getting at?

Establishing - or re-establishing - a democracy is hard work. It was the right thing to do during the Cold War, when we had to provide an alternative in Europe to Soviet Russia. We should be more modest and humble here...

What??? Why? (And you yourself are anything but modest and humble!)

(Just because I'm less ignorant than some doesn't mean I know enough not to be modest and humble! Quite the reverse.) This is a War on Terror, a war on the idea of terror as a worthy pursuit, not a war against States. And unlike the Axis states, the Arab world seems to be more a collection of tribes and family groups presided by a local dictator than a "real" nation. We lack key local knowledge and even linguistic skills. So we must rely, to some extent, upon Arab states as allies. They won't cooperate unless we accommodate some of their demands as well.

I hadn't heard of this.

You have, but probably forgot. Don't you remember, our Jewish soldiers had to hide their faith in Saudi Arabia? That the President couldn't even have a Thanksgiving dinner and prayer with the troops on Saudi soil?

Oh. Yes.

It goes beyond that. The cooperation extends even to the investigative level in the U.S. For example, not just Israelis, but no native Arabic-speaking Jewish or Christian Americans have been recruited as FBI translators for the War on Terror. That is another price we must pay.

That's just a rumor -- though one that hasn't yet been refuted, I admit. But what does that have to do with allied Arab states?

They are all dictatorships to one extent or another. Some are more favorably inclined to democracy than others, but all of these value Arab "pride" most. Don't you remember, during the Iran-Iraq war, how Arab students always used to tell us, "We are glad we don't live under Saddam, but we are glad the Arabs have such a "strong man" as our champion?"

I remember. What does "Arab pride" have to do with matters right now?

Our Arab allies tell us - and some of our own analysts agree - that most Iraqis will eventually reject a democracy "imposed" on them; they must generate their democracy themselves...

Didn't we hear the same thing before we invaded Iraq?

You did, but with Saddam in power, Iraqis had no chance...

You mean the Iraqis will have to fight for democracy? Violently? In the streets?

I'm sure it will come to that, but in an organized way. Otherwise, we would not be buying weapons off the streets of Baghdad.

And you think you'll earn Iraqis' gratitude this way?

We Americans put too much faith in gratitude. The fond feeling the French had for us twice saving them faded in the 1960's. The Germans want to forget their debts to us for freedom and unification... Both want - desperately - to believe the U.S. today is just as bad as they were in their imperial days -- to lessen their collective feelings of guilt and moral inferiority, and to justify their refusal to stand side-by-side with the United States...

Don't change the subject again! We're talking about Iraq!

So am I. Gratitude goes even less far in the Arab world. Arabs today have, at best, selective memories; at worst, they believe their own lies, and, by the noise of repetition, impress it into others. Who today remembers that a hundred years ago the Ottomans offered to let the Zionists purchase Mesopotamia -- all of it? Do you think the Arabs would have considered it "moderate" if the Zionists had only purchased half, and thus treat the Zionists with gratitude?

No, of course not! But aren't all the Arab states artificial creations of the British, anyway? What's your point?

That the Iraqis must feel that they created their own democracy, not one imposed by an "empire". That they feel pride in the truth. In the end, they may feel angry with us, but if they succeed, they will be a real, confident, country, one that will stand up for democratic values, like El Salvador is today -- not wilted lettuces like France and Germany. We want an Iraq that won't tolerate terrorists in its midst.

El Salvador?

You've forgotten about El Salvador, haven't you? All you remember is that, in the 1980's, they had a nasty civil war, right?

Yes. I don't know what's happened there since.

Well, with U.S. help the Salvadoran Army wiped out the Communists and the government suppressed the right-wing death squads, while enforcing democratic elections -- it was actually illegal not to vote! And today, they are our most devoted allies in Iraq, the best fighters, with the highest fighting spirit. Their soldiers, when they run out of ammunition, charge into battle wielding nothing but knives -- and win! They appreciate best what is at stake.

I see. France and Germany became free-riding junkies. But this means Iraq could fail!

That's right. The State Department does not want to create the impression that democracy in Iraq is certain to win.


Because the State Department deals with everyone and wants everyone to be happy, or at least have hope. The Saudis, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Baathists, even the Islamists all see an opportunity to achieve power in postwar Iraq. So we have something to offer everyone, even our enemies.

And turn Iraq into a huge, multi-national battleground? This is crazy!

If each party has hope that their plans will succeed in Iraq, they will be less motivated to attempt extreme measures aimed at the U.S. itself. We still don't know what happened to Saddam's WMDs, let alone those of the Iranians and Al Qaeda.

The U.S. could still be attacked.

But with Iraq in flux, the enemy won't be desperate. And if the Iraqis win out and do become a full democracy, it's checkmate for all the dictatorships and autocrats. No Arab will see why their country can't be prosperous and free like Iraq! The energies of the terrorists and all of Arab society may finally focus inward, on political reform.

And if Iraq fails?

We are setting things up with the U.N. and the G.C. so the U.S. doesn't get the blame. After June 30th, we will be present in Iraq as the country's suzerain -- and that relationship will continue indefinitely if the January elections fail.


After June 30th, the coalition no longer has the final say on internal matters. And if democracy fails, if the January elections are a disaster, Iraq will become a series of little dictatorships at the local level while the U.S.-led coalition retains control of inter-provincial matters and foreign affairs -- all approved by the U.N. Security Council. Iraq will have effectively disintegrated -- but the U.S. will no longer be formally responsible for its internal security.

So between July 1st and the January elections is when the political process really takes place?

Yes. And the President is counting on it being a relatively benign period, as the various hopeful factions compete peacefully for the favors of the electorate. No sense in soiling what may soon is your own nest and losing public support.

And with Iraq at peace, even temporarily, Iraq will appear to be a success and the re-election of George Bush will become certain!

(Smile.) You got it!

Be sure to read the anniversary update to this post: Why is the U.S. STILL in Iraq?


Anonymous said...

Solomon, Scott from Oregon says: Your brain's got serious glow-worm wriggly things in it that I could spend about two hours zoning over in mesmerization....

Solomon2 said...
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