Sunday, October 31, 2004

Thoughts on the Iraq War:

So far, I’ve had very little to say about it. If you want war opining, there are thousands of other places you may go to. I have mixed feelings. I always was a cautious supporter of the War and looking back in hindsight, the administration obviously made some terrible mistakes.

But what strikes me profoundly is what we are fighting over—if we are fighting to bring a rights based liberal democratic system—I certainly am enthusiastic about this. I think Islam desperately needs this type of government, as do we all. I believe the rights of the Declaration of Independence are universally applicable everywhere, everytime.

But the problem is that, even if *in theory* liberal democracy is universally applicable, in practice a liberal democracy needs a liberal democratic people to support it. And, after seeing what has gone down, I’m not sure if the Iraqi people are such, or can be—at least in the immediate future.

The virulent strain of Islam typified by Bin Laden, or in Iraq, Zarqawi, represents the antithesis of liberal democracy and as such a freedom yearning people would react to him as if he were the devil. And if that were the case in Iraq, if those people understood what freedom means as our revolutionary founders did, I don’t think that Zarqawi—or whoever else is leading the insurgency—could have made the gains that he/they did.

When watching this war progress, sometimes I’m not sure whose side the Iraqi people are on. And if their hearts aren’t in it, I’m not sure if we can bring liberal democracy there.

Perhaps it’s time to just declare victory and get out. We did the right thing; we got rid of a despot and attempted to bring democracy to an illiberal order. But, if after a good faith attempt, we can’t implement the proper system there…if it can’t be done, then it can’t be done.

What might happen? Perhaps a civil war. Should we view this as our fault? No. Saddam Hussein was not a legitimate leader; getting rid of him and giving Iraq the chance for liberal democracy was the right thing to do. The ball is in their court. If they decline liberal democracy and instead opt for a tribalistic Shiite v. Sunni war, with the result either way being an illiberal system, I don’t see how we can take the blame for that. Nor do I think that leaving Hussein in charge would have been a better alternative for the Iraqi people. One way or the other—they would be living under an illiberal order.

Hussein killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of people within his own borders, launched a war with Iran that resulted in one million killed, “1-2 million wounded, and more than 80,000 prisoners. There were approximately 2.5 million refugees, and whole cities were destroyed. The financial cost [was] estimated at a minimum of $200 billion.”

I know it’s horrible to say this—but this nation—Iraq—is used to this kind of death. And unfortunately, much of the non-Western world is no more a pleasant place to live. We all need to thank our Creator, if He exists, that we were born here and not somewhere in one of the many despotic barbaric hellholes that passes for a “nation state” in this world.

If we leave, what if something bad emerges? Like an Islamic theocracy? Well as long as they don’t acquire weapons of mass destruction or provide a training ground for terrorists, then I suppose we will have to live with it. If they do either of the two, then we should send our bombs back in—and send them the message: There are certain things that we won’t tolerate governments doing here: If you do this, we will take you out. And that’s all we should do—just fight another air-war and that’s it—the kind of war that we fought in the first Gulf War, in Bosnia, and in this Gulf War up until the point where we got Hussein out of power.

We may not be good as “building” democratic nations in the highly illiberal Middle East (if such, at this time, can be done at all). But we are sure good at getting rid of rogue governments who happen to be in power, with minimal casualties on our side. And our people seem to support this kind of use of force.

Knowing that that is our strength, we need to rely on that as our position in global politics—we are the guys who can take you out, if you get out of line, if you produce weapons of mass destruction or support or tolerate terrorist training. The rules are few and they are simple—so don’t get out of line.

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