One of the most effective ways to dispute a critic is to demand that the critic offer a solution for solving the problem and then attach the solution. This tactic turns the discussion away from the problem, focusing instead on the shortcomings in the critic’s solution. That is certainly the mode of political debate in the United States these days. And it avoids the more serious discussion about many issues important to America and, in the case of our international policies, the world. Many such issues exist but these days, the Iraq War is the one that has me by the throat. In the same manner that I previously wrote about my fundamental beliefs, here’s my take on the war.
First off, I will say that war is a highly emotional issue for me because of Vietnam. Five months of combat in a war that I thought wrong left a permanent mark on my soul, one that does not readily accept sending young men and women into any war but a Just War. Just War is defined variously but common to all is the idea that must meet stringent criteria of honest efforts to avoid war, of trustworthy leaders and clear objectives that cannot be achieved without war. Self-defense from an unprovoked attack is by far the most common Just War. War on any other basis is a dereliction of leadership, a crime against the people leaders have sworn to serve and the forces they command. I am not a pacifist. I wish I were so strong that I could turn the other cheek when attacked but I cannot passively accept aggression that seeks to destroy the freedom that I have been so fortunate to enjoy in my life. I recognize that the time may come when an honest person can legitimately use force.
Iraq meets none of the Just War criteria. Iraq did not threaten the United States or any other nation in 2003. Whatever threat Iraq may have once posed was long since past. International inspectors were in Iraq, documenting its lack of weapons of mass destruction. There was no need to rush to war. BushCheney and his armchair warriors distorted intelligence, lied and, with the assistance of a weak and complicit press, terrorized the American people into a war of aggression. BushCheney’s failure to anticipate nationalist opposition or the difficulty of occupying an Arab nation rent with longstanding ethnic and sectarian divisions led America into the Big Muddy with no plan to get out. Nothing speaks to his complete misunderstanding of his war than BushCheney’s triumphant “Mission Accomplished” public relations event. He thought it was over. That message was clear, irregardless of his later claim that he only meant the first phase. But the invasion was, in fact, just beginning. Tens of thousands of dead later, the war continues with no end in sight.
So what, you say, we’re in it now. America has no choice. We cannot withdraw without condemning Iraq to a bloody civil war. Maybe, maybe not. I believe America launched the civil war in Iraq when we invaded with insufficient troops to secure the country, its institutions, resources and infrastructure. America could not control the forces it unleashed. Civil war is now a fact that, for all their sacrifice and bravery, American troops cannot combat or end. The Iraqi people will have to come to terms with each other as best they can. The process may be bloody and ugly but only an Iraqi solution, however imperfect, will in the end bring peace and stability to that nation. The American presence only exacerbates and elongates the process, creating more death and destruction for the Iraqi people. The longer the US seeks to control and direct Iraq, the bloodier and nastier the final outcome will be.
My solution is immediate withdrawal. I would call a cease fire, pull American and other foreign forces back to major bases for redeployment out of the country. Republicans call it “cut and run”, a victory for the terrorists. I call it reality. BushCheney has no plan for resolving the conflict in Iraq other that to continue doing what created this mess in the first place. The political process supposed to unite the nation newly freed from Saddam Hussein’s yoke has been manipulated to meet American needs, not the conciliation and compromise Iraqis need to address centuries of hostility and persecution. As long as the US maintains a military presence and controls the political process in Iraq, that reconciliation and compromise will not take place. That has been clearly evident throughout 2005; the Shi’as and Kurds have used the political process to consolidate control and marginalize the Sunnis whose position has hardened into a full scale insurgency that promises to fester indefinitely.
Leaving Iraqis to sort out their own differences is a risky strategy. Aside from civil war, it creates the possibility of failed or hostile states that can be used by Islamic fundamentalists as bases for attacks on other nations, including the United States. But that is a risk I am willing to take. In the long run, I believe Iraqis, who primarily want electricity, clean water and personal security, will reject and expel these fundamentalist warriors. I also believe that the US, can work cooperatively with other nations to minimize and neutralize such threats, especially if we are not grinding up our forces in Iraq.
In the end, what I am suggesting for American policy in Iraq applies to all American foreign policy. Rather than the superpower straddling the world, America should begin to act like the member of the word community. It would be a change from 60 years of attempts to control the world in our image with overt and covert military operations that have tarnished this nation’s reputation severely. This change would move America into the 21st Century world, a world we cannot afford to dominate, a world increasingly resistant to domination. America still has much to offer the world. Cooperation and mutual assistance against common threats would make far more effective use of our talents and resources than
So I support a complete and immediate withdrawal from Iraq. This does no dishonor to the men and women who served there. Their sacrifices are real and must be recognized. The dishonor accrues to BushCheney and his minions who chose to ask the utimate sacrifice for the most specious of reasons.