Thursday, October 19, 2006

Success? Failure? How long have you got?

Babble on.

Some folks are somewhat smugly noting Jonathan Kay's lack of smugness. Why? Because Kay has published a piece in the National Post recanting his earlier support of the war in Iraq.

Kay makes three points to support his decision to issue a public mea culpa:

As I saw things in early 2003, there were three good reasons for deposing Saddam Hussein, any one of which, by itself, was sufficient to justify his ouster: (1) Saddam was a maniac who had weapons of mass destruction; (2) The creation of a democracy in the heart of the Muslim Middle East would transform the region by firing a fatal crack into the monolith of Arab tyranny; and (3) Putting the wrecking ball to Saddam's dungeons would end the wanton slaughter of Iraq's long-suffering people.

Turns out I was zero for three.

The first zero became obvious in the early months of the American occupation: The WMDs simply weren't there.

The second zero is playing out on the streets as you read this: Rival sectarian militias, rogue Iraqi security units, foreign Jihadis and coalition soldiers locked in an endless war of all-against-all. Amidst the carnage, millions of brave Iraqis have voted in national elections. But the forms and pageantry of democracy can't disguise the fact that the tolerant, pluralistic government everyone wanted remains a pipe dream: While Iraq's legislature serves as an arena for squabbling amongst the country's three main groups, the real spoils are hashed out on the streets by their various militias. Far from setting off a freedom epidemic in the Middle East, Iraq's tragedy has created Exhibit A for every Arab tyrant looking to justify his hold on power.

And then, last week, the third and final zero: a new study of 1,849 randomly selected, geographically representative Iraqi families conducted by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

These 1,849 families had collectively suffered a staggering 547 violent deaths since the American invasion, a number almost eight times higher than one would expect based on pre-invasion death rates. If you extrapolate that increase to the whole of Iraq, you come up with a total of about 600,000 violent deaths.

As critics of the John Hopkins study have noted, extrapolation is an imperfect business. So let's assume the real total is half that -- that a mere 100,000 per year died violently in the three years following the invasion. This reduced total would still be stunning enough to undermine the humanitarian argument for war. Consider: During his quarter-century of absolute power in Iraq, Saddam killed about a million innocents through aggressive war, internal slaughters, political pogroms and assorted acts of torture and brutality. Do the math and you find that, as horrible as Saddam was, his killing machine chewed up humanity at less than half the rate of the bloody insurgency unwittingly spawned by America's invasion.


Jonathan Kay is, by all accounts, a fairly bright man, so I'm wondering why he chose these three particular points and these three specifics to support those points. Because you can make at least as good a case against each of those points as he makes for them.

Everyone opposed to the war likes to talk about WMD's. There was undoubtedly bad intelligence out there - French, Russian, British, and yes, American - about Saddam's purported stockpiles and production capabilities. Heck, even Saddam's own generals were reportedly surprised he didn't have them when push came to shove and they were facing the considerable might of the U.S. Army in the field. And he was certainly working to acquire WMD capacity despite the U.N. sanctions. So to me, second-guessing the coalition's decision to invade, given the intelligence they had, is like second-guessing the cop who sees a known violent criminal reach into his coat when told to freeze, and drops him, only to find out he only had a cell-phone in there. One of the best life lessons I've ever learned is that leaders make the best decisions they can with the information available to them at the time, and accept the consequences of those decisions. So I think Kay's first point is overblown Monday-morning quarterbacking.

The newest anti-war prop is the Lancet study. Call me a cynic, but the last study was a farce. The current study is receiving some informed criticism as well. Besides, when the first study was released less than a month before the U.S. Presidential election, and the current one was released less than a month before the Congressional mid-terms, my Spidey-sense starts tingling.

But all this talk about numbers obscures a more subjective criticism, which is that those who accord peace a higher relative value than freedom or justice will think one more death is too many, and no amount of talking with them will convince them otherwise. Some, both within Iraq and without, would argue that when the goal is a free and just society, a simple ledger can't tally the true results.

That's why the fact that the Lancet study seems to be what pushed Kay over the edge is so surprising to me.

Because to my way of thinking, the linchpin of any reasonable argument against the war is Kay's third supposed failure: it hasn't produced the free and just democracy supporters of the war hoped it would.

That's certainly true, as long as you append the statement with these two words: to date.

From the West's point of view, the Cold War was a failure until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Or, to put it in different terms that might make my point more clearly, the Russian Revolution was a success from 1918 to 1991. So to all who would declare any major geo-political event an unqualified success or failure, I have a question: what's your time frame?

Kay and other "misguided hawks" see Iraq in decline and have given up hope. They're like the investor who buys a stock at $50, sees it drop to $30 and decide to cut their losses and sell. Others see the drop as temporary, and have faith the stock will rebound and yield the profits they'd expected.

To me, the question is not whether Iraq is a success or a failure, it's whether Iraq is more like Apple Computers or Bre X - one eventually pulled out of the dive, and one cratered.

Whether Jon Kay is willing to admit it or not, his flip-flop is less about concrete facts, and more about his tolerance for risk and his own time horizon. The jury on Iraq remains out, and will remain out until the allies and the Iraqis themselves stop working on the problems facing that country.

Both the I-told-you-so's and the boy-was-I-ever-wrong's are premature.

Babble off.

27 Comments:

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Olaf said...

Damian,

Thoughtful commentary. There's also some reactions to Kays mea culpa in the Post today.

I supported the Iraq war at the time, but no longer do. I'm firmly in Kay's camp, personally. I recognize your call for patience as fair, but is a call for patience right in every war? You notably compared Iraq to the Cold War, and not Vietnam.

I now think that Iraq was a bad idea, not because so many have died, but because I can't conceive of a situation where this war will create the stable democracy envisioned; especially considering that the many Iraqi's seem much more concerned with killing each other than voting.

I found the ouster of Saddam a laudable goal at the time, and still think it could be justified if we have reason to believe that Iraq will turn into a stable democracy earlier than if Saddam was left in power, and an uprising against him had brewed from within Iraq. It's obviously impossible to speculate, but my gut feeling, based on current circumstances, is that Iraq may be worse off, and less likely to become a stable democracy, with their sectarian divisions exposed. Maybe it's just week-kneed pesimism, but that's my take.

 
At 12:26 PM, Blogger Nightingale said...

Hi Damian:

"it hasn't produced the free and just democracy supporters of the war hoped it would."

Is this even possible? Can free and just democracy be "created" by invasion and violence?

I think that most who opposed this war in the first place doubt that, as well as doubting all the reasons which came before this one (freedom and democracy arose as justifications rather late in the game). This business of waiting long enough for some semblance of sanity to take hold in Iraq doesn't make sense to me.

If (hopefully *when*) it does happen, it won't be *because* of all the bombs, murders, suicide attacks, and retaliation - it will be in spite of it. You can't bring freedom and democracy to the party if you're not invited in the first place.

If you were American, would you enlist to go fight there? Would the objectives (whatever they are this week) be worth your life? And, if you were Iraqi, would you see your children sacrificed in the name of such objectives?

I guess I'm asking if you had a more personal stake in this mess, would you still say this is the way to promote so-called "freedom and democracy"?

 
At 1:14 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Is this even possible? Can free and just democracy be "created" by invasion and violence?

Why don't you ask the populations of post-invasion territories like Jamaica, St. Helena, Gibraltar, Canada, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Germany, Austria, Grenada and Panama, for starters.

There are plenty of countries whose democracy is a direct result of a foreign power invading, governing, and liberating the native population. The mere fact that they were invaded does not render Iraqis or Afghans unfit for nonviolent civil governance.

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger Jaeger said...

The mere fact that they were invaded does not render Iraqis or Afghans unfit for nonviolent civil governance.

No, but if you believe for other reasons Iraqis are unfit for nonviolent civil governance it would be logical to oppose the war, on the assumption that they would just end up with another barbaric Saddam-like leader after.

Joe Settler essentially makes that argument here:
http://joesettler.blogspot.com/2006/09/why-is-us-still-in-iraq.html
The US is fighting a losing battle trying to help a people that wants, or more accurately, needs to be subjugated and managed with a heavy hand. Saddam’s style of rule was unfortunately right when it comes to Arabs.

Whether one agrees or disagrees, it is logically consistent and you can debate it.

I suspect that people like Paul Wells genuinely agree with Joe Settler, but the modern enlightened liberal can't bring himself to put it in such plain terms.

So instead, he dismisses anyone who thinks Iraqis will eventually establish a civilized government with snark, and not being a part of the "reality-based community".

Okay, if we accept the proposition from Paul Wells and Joe Settler that any attempt at civilized government by Arabs is not fit for discussion in the "reality-based community" what other policy options do we need to reconsider after adopting this world view. For example, should we allow immigration from such places?

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Kateland, aka TZH said...

I really don't have much of a point to make but I can't believe Jaeger reads Joe Settler - I thought I was one of the few in NA who do so.

Except what about the Kurds? They have built a rather successful and relatively stable community. But then again, they aren't Arabs so culturally it's a whole different ballgame.

 
At 2:55 PM, Blogger Ben said...

nightingale, you ask, "Can free and just democracy be "created" by invasion and violence?"

What about Japan? It was violently invaded by the U.S., and the democracy it has today is a result of that. Same could be said for Germany and South Korea.

I never found the reasons for invading Iraq compelling, but I won't condemn it. I find it hard to believe that the world would really be a better place now if Saddam were still in charge of Iraq. If you were an Iraqi longing for a free society (as many do), would you prefer to live under Saddam's regime, or in the apparently more violent situation that exists now? I'd say there is more hope for the future now. The hope is small, but under Saddam it was nonexistent.

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Nightingale, this is what I meant when I said "...those who accord peace a higher relative value than freedom or justice will think one more death is too many, and no amount of talking with them will convince them otherwise."

"Live Free or Die" isn't just a bumper sticker for some people. They believe certain things are worth sacrificing, up to and including one's life, to achieve.

You see the casualty numbers - whichever ones you believe - and can't understand how they can be justified. Limited physical safety under tyranny may be more attractive to you, but it isn't to a great number of people.

I don't expect everyone to make the same calculation there, because it deals with values.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger Biggie Rection said...

I think the mere suggestion that arabs can't run a civilized democratic society is a ridiculous one. Funny that someone who is an "enlightened liberal" would even suggest such a thing. These people have never had freedom, and it scares them naturally.

I noticed someone pulled the comparison to Vietnam. I fail to see the link, aside from the fact that Vietnam was a loss for the US. It was different in a multitude of ways - the VC is about the greatest similarity, and thats' just their irregular fighting style. the NVA and VC both used conventional warfare as well, and the US was defending a state from invasion. Perhaps you refer to the political opposition.

Like it or not, that war - like this war was the RIGHT thing to do. Perhaps history will chalk this war up to another loss, but thats not to say we did wrong going in there.

The WMD farce is always laughable. the fact that people are so sure there is nothing there, when for all we know its buried under the sand someplace in those miles and miles of desert. Weapons inspectors have been saying for years that you'de have to comb the desert to find WMDs if he had them. It'd be interesting to see reactions from detractors if they happened to find some WMDs.

Regardless of that even, Hussein refused to disclose the location where he destroyed his weapons. That mere fact alone would indicate a high likelihood that he in fact had them.

On a moral ground - Invading Iraq was just and right. Strategic? Tough to say... although the sit back and let saddam stomp all over the world method didn't seem to work to well (see Gulf War, Operation Desert Fox).

 
At 3:58 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Actually Ben, Japan was mostly uninvaded (except for a few outlying islands), which is why I left it off the list. They were occupied, certainly, but they surrendered to get into that state. The other territories had soldiers wading ashore Tripoli-style.

Whatever his other charms, Joe Settler's notion that Arabs require a heavy hand borders on ridiculous. There is not one human being on the planet who comes out of his or her mother's womb with a working knowledge of the various forms of representative government and the civil rights and responsibilities of their citizens.

That knowledge is gained through education and study and it is no different for anyone of any ethnicity or culture.

I have worked alongside practicing Muslim expats from Libya and Pakistan who were somehow able to figure out the complexities of constitutional monarchy and managed to get through the day without killing off the kufr in the next cube.

I have no doubt that Iraqis and Afghans can do likewise, if they (and we) are prepared to make an honest, concerted effort at stabilising their countries and rooting out the extremism that aims to keep them in shackles.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger Jaeger said...

Whatever his other charms, Joe Settler's notion that Arabs require a heavy hand borders on ridiculous.

I don't actually agree with Joe. I brought up his post to point out that you can believe the idea that civilized government in Iraq was always a ridiculous idea that no one in the "reality-based community" would consider - as long as you also believe Arabs are by nature incapable of being civilized.

I don't believe that - and certainly the Iraqi Kurds are demonstrating exactly the kind of civilized, democratic governemnt and good relations with the West that we hope the rest of Iraq eventually achieves.

But people like Paul Wells never come out and explain why they think civilized goverment and good relations with the West are unachievable in Iraq - even though the Kurds are doing it.

I have to believe they share Joe Settler's opinion of Arabs - but leave that opinion unsaid.

 
At 5:21 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

No worries Jaeger, I did not think you and Joe Settler were in some kind of mind-meld on the Arabs & democracy issue. I wasn't aiming the blunderbuss at you, just the idea.

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger AwaWiYe said...

The problem in Iraq is that the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi'a would each prefer to be governed civilly by their own people and not those of either of the other major cultures.

 
At 5:35 PM, Blogger GenX at 40 said...

Isn't the real problem that a free and democratic nation cannot be created by invasion and violence when that nation does not see itself as a nation. Like the former Yugoslavia, Iraq ia a construct and, as Kateland points out, one with strong bits like the Kurds. But the other bits have had the top taken off the pressure cooker by the invasion as events have proven. That has unleashed a second and somewhat unrelated event of violence within the people which the US plays something of a role as a catalyst and another as a scapegoat...not to mention a target. But that second event exposes Iraq not to be a nation in the throws of nation creation but not a nation at all

 
At 5:35 PM, Blogger Nightingale said...

In order:

C. Taylor:
Please clarify how you subscribe the success of a democracy to invasion. I ask b/c you have included Canada in your list, and I've never heard it put that our democracy is in place because someone invaded us. Unless you're talking about the invasion of Canada by white people...in which case, I think you'd be hard pressed to say we "liberated" anyone.

Ben: We do not know that hope for a better future was "nonexistant" for Iraq without violence, and what's more, it wasn't our place to decide. If I'm living under a dictator, I may not like it, but it should be me and mine who ask for help, after weighing the costs. This is just paternalism, but with bombs.

Damian: Yes I know we are dealing with values. You didn't answer my questions. I know they are hypothetical, but they are at the crux of anti-war sentiment for many (certainly for me).

I don't see how one can support a war that one wouldn't fight or send a loved one to fight. And how easy it is to believe that you know what's right for another nation, but they are the ones dying for your convictions (or Bush's corruption). What's missing is any attempt to see this as anything but military calculus. It's fine for you to subscribe to your live free or die stickers, but you're insisting, at gun point, that others buy what you're selling. That's not freedom.

Aren't ya glad you set me up with power to comment? :)

 
At 5:56 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Nightingale, we were invaded in 1759. From 1535 to 1759, Canada was a French colony. Representative democracy was not a feature of the French colonial system at that point; it was very much imported by the English in successive years.

And the success of democracy is not "subscribed" to the invasion; democratic success depends on the investiture of the governed population. But there is no question that British civil (and military, a.k.a. Governor-General) governance following the 1759 invasion gave us the foundations of the constitutional monarchy that we have today.

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Nightingale, by way of answering on behalf of Damian, let me ask you this: do you or a loved one personally supervise law enforcement, courts or a corrections facility in your municipality?

To use your logic: I don't see how one can support a justice system that one wouldn't enforce oneself or send a loved one to enforce. You know what's right, but others are dying for your convictions.

Incidentally, Damian has served his country and if he were eligible to do so again, I am sure he would.

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger Kateland, aka TZH said...

And who thought I would now attempt to defend the honour of Joe Settler? But the point he was making was not that Arabs were genetically incapable of creating free societies but their cultural/religious ethos made it impossible to do so on the scale of nationhood.

While it is easy to point to the Arab in the cuticle next door and say, see he didn't manage to kill the kafir one should never forget that the nature of immigrant is to be the "other" which makes it innately a difference experience.

But what of the 9/11 Saudis? They lived among us for years and still they never bought into our notions of a free and just society but instead sought to make a blow for the destruction of what we valued most - our individual free lives.

Or what of some many of the other Arabs who come regularly to us to be educated and then return to their homelands but take nothing of our notions of freedom, justice or equity home with them?

Joe Settler lives in the heart of Yesha, surrounded by people who believe his blood and death is the entrance price to be paid for admittance to heaven and regularly dream of making it their reality.

He has far more experience of living among Arabs than any of us commenting. While I don't want to believe Joe is right, I cannot discount what he says, and I can only pray he is wrong.

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger Nightingale said...

C. Taylor: Gimme a break. Please. Did the brits set up the french with their own democracy too? There is no cause and effect there (as I suspected there wasn't). Multiple factors brought us to where we are today. In fact, it's the lack of war on our soil that contributes to the peace and stability we live in - not some brit aggression in, what was it, 1759.

As for Damian, no need to answer for him - I know all about his service, and I respect him and his views in light of that. That's why I bother to ask him.

And if you think that citizen-sanctioned law enforcement is comparable to foreign invasion...then you've gone beyond ridiculous. The difference is the essence of my arguement. We (Canadians) ask for law enforcement. We support it as a public institution and it works b/c of that. Our cops didn't descend on us with guns and bombs and tell us that we need them.

Much as I disagree with Damian, at least he generally has a logical thought process. You really oughta let him talk.

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger GenX at 40 said...

Isn't it more likely that Joe lives surrounded by people who think he took their birthright and are willing to slit throats and blow up schools to get it back? I make no more point as to whether this true than Kate does about their prospects in the next life but if that is the case, it is not very dissimilar than the 1700's highland scot who was quite content to kill their neighbour over a field or, as my forefather's did, brick up some MacDonalds into a cave, set a fire outside and see if any of them survive the roasting larder.

I think some of this "people that needs to be subjugated" stuff has much to do with own pinning of civilization's gold star upon ourselves and consider ourselves somehow different not remembering we are a few years from Sarajevo's bombardment, a few decades from the Nazis and a few generations from the US civil war. We have little in the West to be proud of when it come to killing our own in inconceivable ways or for inconceivable reasons. Our relationship to peace through power, such as it is, is something developed within the lifespan of the still living.

The point of that is only that it is far more useful to look to the politics on the ground than any cultural superiority or inferiority to explain what has gone on in Iraq. Culture mixed with questionable education and strong religiosity certainly can be manipulated for poltical purposes, like perhaps in Ireland, but that does not make it the root. The root is far more likely tyrants, large and small, holding on to their own bit of turf and seeking out more. The invasion of Iraq merely exposed and allowed for that to play out, as it naturally would with all the dictators placed and supported by or propped in response to the West over the decades. Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia largely maintain desperate populations throughout the Middle East through the anti-Semetic boogieman of the land-thief for internal reasons - being the aim of deflecting and explaining away to those populations why their lives are as miserable as they are while their leaders are not.

Would you or I as representatives of our culture act differently in similar personal circumstances of living under tyranny? I don't know.

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:58 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Nightingale: If I were to look at Iraq after 247 years of combined American and demoractic Iraqi rule, I am pretty sure it would look as good (or better) than Quebec does today. You may want to consider that "Brit aggression" got us the nice, peaceful land we have and kept it peaceful for most of its history.

Likewise there is more going on in Iraq than simple aggression. Multiple factors, as you might say, are at play. There is reconstruction and education in civil governance as well as fighting, but obviously fighting is in the forefront now.

As for law enforcement, obviously you have never been up close and personal with organised crime. If you were, then you would know that police do indeed descend -- uninvited -- on premises with guns drawn, they are deadly serious, and they do not often know who is friend and who is foe when they enter. Occasionally their intelligence is faulty. Occasionally innocent people pay the price.

Clearly the Iraqi people did not petition the United States to show up and police their neighbourhood. But the few times they made the attempt on their own, Saddam put them down handily. How were the Iraqis supposed to get themselves out of their predicament?

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger Nightingale said...

C. Taylor,
I've heard the Iraq mess compared to many things, but never business as usual at the OPP.

You're no Rick Mercer, but I wouldn't boo ya off the stage at Comedy Central.

BTW: The funniest part was how you, with presumably a straight face, cast the Iraqi populace as "organized crime". I love it.

 
At 11:24 PM, Blogger Jaeger said...

Kateland said: And who thought I would now attempt to defend the honour of Joe Settler?

Actually, I don't think Joe's honour needs to be defended. I agree Joe's outlook is shaped by his experience of living in the West Bank, and is not to be dismissed.

And if he'd restricted his comments to Palestinians, I think I'd agree with him. I don't expect to see anything civilized emerge there in my lifetime.

But he said "Arabs", and just before that Muslims. I think we agree the Kurds in Iraq demonstrate a pretty strong counterexample, suggesting he's painting too broad a brush when he paints Muslims that way.

And there are passably civilized Arab countries - Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Jordan and Tunisia come to mind - none of them exactly shining examples, but I'd be quite happy if Iraq ended up similar to any of them.

But at the moment much of Iraq resembles Gaza or Yemen more than what we were hoping for, so we would be wrong to just dismiss Joe out of hand - which is why I read him.

 
At 11:41 PM, Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Nightingale, I think it's pretty clear that I referenced Saddam specifically. But smear away -- I'm done with the likes of you.

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

If you were American, would you enlist to go fight there? Would the objectives (whatever they are this week) be worth your life? And, if you were Iraqi, would you see your children sacrificed in the name of such objectives?

If I were a young American, Nightingale, I probably would. As a young Canadian, I signed up to fight wherever my country told me to - not that I ever had to, but I've been down that road from a decision-making point of view. As someone with a wife (who hasn't seen me in uniform in almost fifteen years) and kids (who think daddy has always sold insurance) to support, probably not. The decisions I'd make with my own life are different than those I'd make with the lives of those I love, and I can't escape my obligations to them - I wouldn't even if I could.

I doubt you understand the pull I feel, though. Read this. My dad has already talked me out of joining the Reserves for the sole purpose of volunteering for Afghanistan once - my head fights my heart on this every day, I mean EVERY day. Once a person has made the decision to run towards the sound of the guns at some point in their life, it's very difficult to leave the job to someone else - especially since I have friends on the front lines.

As far as sacrificing a child - do you have kids? No parent that I know of would willingly sacrifice a child; the question is almost nonsensical from that standpoint. But if my son or daughter, as an adult, were to decide to fight for something he or she believed in to that degree and were killed in the process...I would be wrecked emotionally, but I would understand their decision.

And btw, I'm disappointed with the way you've chosen to interact with Chris Taylor here. Looking through the thread, you're the one who decided to start with the insults, not him. Chris was trying to engage with you, and you decided to go the comedy-club route instead, which to my mind says more about you than it does about him. Hint: I've met the man, and as a rule, he's more reasonable than I am. He's certainly more polite. I'd suggest you re-read what you've already written in that light.

As far as whether democracy can be imposed by the force of a foreign occupation, I can't believe nobody has cited the Indian example. There was racism and exploitation, but at the end of the day, Indians came out able to govern themselves and abide by the rule of law. They have their problems, to be sure, as do we all, but on the whole that experiment in forced liberty and democracy has worked out well so far.

The problem in Iraq is that the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi'a would each prefer to be governed civilly by their own people and not those of either of the other major cultures.

I'm increasingly of this opinion as well, Awawiye.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why some peoples can figure out how to peacefully coexist within a country, and some can't. Multi-ethnic, multi-religious India can make it work, but Yugoslavia can't. Belgium can, but Iraq can't. Canada can, but Rwanda can't. I've heard it said that the best way for a third-world country to prosper would be to invent a time-machine, go back a couple hundred years, and get themselves subjugated good and hard by the British until the middle of the 20th century. But Zimbabwe and Pakistan are at least two examples of how wrong that simplistic and facetious solution really is.

Even the breakups are better some places than others: the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, the slow evolution from British Empire to Commonwealth.

It's pretty obvious to me that the Bush Administration didn't have a good grasp of the situation they were getting themselves into in Iraq, and as a result have made mistakes - possibly fatal ones to the bigger effort. But that doesn't make the attempt wrong in and of itself.

 
At 6:10 PM, Blogger Nightingale said...

Hi Damian,

Well I'm certainly chastized. In my defense, given the range of responses Chris's statements invited, I truly thought calling him funny *was* being polite. I promise not to pick on your friends again - that would be a bad guest.

When I said "sacrifice your children" I meant in the way that Iraqi parents are - not as soldiers but as so-called collateral damage. And the question isn't nonsensical. I was trying to get you to demonstrate empathy for someone outside the North American war machine. You relate to them (the "sound of the guns" bit affirms that) but you don't seem to confer any empathy for Iraqi parents or civilians of any kind. I can put myself in their shoes, and the price you are demanding of them is unbearable to me. If the bombs were falling on my house, I wouldn't see the "honour" in this mission at all.

Maybe one drawback of serving robs people of that ability - to see the perspective of the so-called enemy. Maybe it's necessary to win. Of course that's from someone who would never put my own or anyone else's life on the line without asking many serious questions. I'd never fight "wherever my country told me to". That's not to say I wouldn't fight - I would. But the war would have to be absolutely necessary and the last possible resort in the first place.

I think the "I told you so's" are coming, and when they do, no amount of "they meant well's" are going to excuse anyone on the wrong side of this travesty. But now I'm going...I don't want to inflict any more hurt feelings.

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger Joe Settler said...

Whew. Who knew I was going to start getting quoted all around the Internet. I wouldn’t have written things so black and white, and perhaps might have made certain statements clearer or less generalized. That’ll teach me.

I want to clarify a few points.

I don’t believe that Arabs are predisposed to requiring certain types of governments to control their behavior. I think that their cultural/religious/political history and situation has them currently lock-stepped into this bad direction that keeps dragging them down further.

There is the point, that pretty much every major Arab and Islamic country on this particular side of the Middle East is a tyranny of one sort or another (including Jordan btw), which by definition requires an external enemy for the regime to exploit to maintain their control, usually it’s Israel, but it needn’t always be, just that Jews are the easiest target.

Some require more hatred, some less, but the boycott of Israeli products is official in pretty much every Arab state including Kuwait, Qatar and so on (even if it unofficially overlooked when they need something that happens to be made in Israel – then the labeling companies do good business).

Furthermore, I am sure that much of what is going on specifically in Iraq has the not-so-invisible hand of Iran guiding/supplying it, just like it does for Hizbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in reoccupied Israel.

Iran has a vested interest in both keeping the US otherwise occupied in Iraq and in democracy failing to take off there to prevent the US from taking active intervention in overthrowing Iran.

As for my opinion of Arabs, you’d all probably be quite mistaken, as I interact quite amiably with a number of my Arab neighbors nearly every day.
That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that they represent an opposing position that makes most of them my political (and as a result, potentially mortal) enemy.

On the other hand, just because some of their relatives blow themselves up, or shoot at passing cars, doesn’t mean they all do - though it makes sense to recognize that any number of internal or external compulsions can easily convert my friendly plumber into a suicide bomber (as has been known to happen).

Personally, I find Arab society (and individuals) to generally be warm and friendly, but one that is unfortunately awash with a religious/political outlook that simply spoils the good and locks them into negative behavior patterns (honor killings, violent internecine warfare, subjugation of women, despotism, etc.).

If you do look at my neighbors like Syria, Jordan (remember Black September), Egypt, the PA, and even Lebanon – unless the local rulers do maintain a heavy hand, things do tend to become a free-for-all degenerating the society back down to their tribal and religious affiliations where anyone then shoots or blows up whomever they want.

I originally thought the US would succeed in Iraq, but religious and political factionalism and Iran’s interference is constantly making that less and less likely. I think the US needs to go after the roots drivers of Islamic fundamentalism and remove them (I can’t decide whether Saudi Arabia or Iran is the preferred first target).

In the meantime, I have relatives fighting in Iraq in the US military and it is scary to see the losses the US is facing daily because it has let itself stop moving forward in the war against Islamic terror.

 

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