Sunday, February 11, 2007

Today's required reading

No matter what your position on the Iraq war, you should sit down with General William Odom's piece in this morning's Washington Post. General Odom addresses all the reasons commonly cited for which a)this war was a great idea and b)why we must follow through to "victory," whatever that means. The title is fairly telling: "Victory is not an option."

Everyone who reads this is presumably interested in and involved with history and culture, broadly defined. This accounts for why the following are my favorite excerpts from General Odom's piece, because I believe no one making decisions about the Iraq war looked at precedent or the record of democracy in this century, or for that matter the history of the United States, probably the most fertile soil anywhere for a flowering of democracy. Instead, as General Odom outlines, they decided on war based on ideology and a kind of magical thinking.

"First, the assumption that the United States could create a liberal, constitutional democracy in Iraq defies just about everything known by professional students of the topic. Of the more than 40 democracies created since World War II, fewer than 10 can be considered truly "constitutional" -- meaning that their domestic order is protected by a broadly accepted rule of law, and has survived for at least a generation. None is a country with Arabic and Muslim political cultures. None has deep sectarian and ethnic fissures like those in Iraq."

Not only did the people who planned the war ignore precedent, they actively sought to put down and discredit those who DID try to bring the history of the 20th century into the discussion. I personally remember being told on more than one occasion that I must "hate freedom" because I thought this enterprise was a bad idea.

"Strangely, American political scientists whose business it is to know these things have been irresponsibly quiet. In the lead-up to the March 2003 invasion, neoconservative agitators shouted insults at anyone who dared to mention the many findings of academic research on how democracies evolve. They also ignored our own struggles over two centuries to create the democracy Americans enjoy today. Somehow Iraqis are now expected to create a constitutional order in a country with no conditions favoring it."

It is true that history can be an imperfect guide, because it never repeats itself precisely. But I join General Odom in declaring that history would have been a much better guide than theory and hope against hope in the decision for this misbegotten enterprise.


SS97 said...

Interesting article. It's refreshing to see some reasonable arguments for leaving Iraq since most are emotionally based.

I partially attribute the slow successes in Iraq to fighting a politically correct war. I'm not proposing we "make it a wilderness and call it peace," but I'm not sure if we can afford to worry about blowing stuff up, including mosques, if it means killing the insurgents. Cordon off the Sunni Triangle, give the people 72 hours to evacuate and reduce the entire district to rubble with aerial strikes. Send Iraqi troops in to mop up pockets of resistance.

I'd also like to add that from what I hear, the rest of Iraq is doing great. The northern region inhabited by the Kurds has a flourishing economy and a steady local government. The media only covers the Baghdad region.

german said...

i just completed the reading, i found it full of reasons on why we should leave and try to claim a victory on some substance. some of it makes sense other parts of it o think there is a foothold to challenge.

his point about ww1 and us supporting germany could be to the due influx of recent immigrants that would of course support the old homeland, two us finally gave up on the idea of taking canada from britian in the late 1860's probably after they recieved their independence

1) continuing the war does give the us a chance for new strategy. more troops could lead to a new concept. i would suggest that martial law be declared and all the inhabititants would have to turn in the weapons. if not voluntary then by force and search and seizure. this saves american lives and ends violence. if the proper number of forces are deployed. democracy by police state.

2) yes we can stabilize the middle east, they never have been stabile on their own so why can't we. we are capable of taking democracy throughout the region or atleast have nations act peacefully and respectful to other nations

4) they were never really our ally in the first place. if they were truly are ally they would not have been cheering so fervently when the towers came down. they would not be allowing those organizations to have a free hand in their country. if that means going into iran than so be it. they were not a friendly state for sure in 1979-80. with a regime change in iraq, iran and the fairly consistent policy of saudi arabia that would be a wide swath through the middle east and that could bring stability to the region.

i know widen the war is probably not on the plate for discussion but it might be the best path to get the desired results in this situation since i do not see a strategic draw being an acceptable solution to our national security.

moville said...

i shudder to think about cordoning off an entire area, making a wilderness and calling it peace...but it's correct to say that the sunni areas are the difficulty, because they are smack in the middle of the state that the British put together for their convenience, and their convenience alone. but, contrary to what I said before about this, i'm not sure you wouldn't be creating a bigger problem in clearing them out...we all know how happy the Palestinians have been away from their ancestral homes.
on the idea of widening the war, i'm not sure i want to do that...the conflicts are way too deep, and too old, for us to handle. i think the "stability" that the president et al have decried looks pretty good at this point. I think we have to realize that you can't solve all problems, particularly not political/religious problems, with military force. Besides, where will we get the properly trained troops and personnel? there are exactly 6, that is, SIX, arabic-speaking staff at the US embassy in Baghdad. American soldiers' translators in both iraq and afghanistan are unreliable and might be working both sides of the street.
gee, i'm just a font of cheer and optimism tonight, aren't I? A pox on all their houses!

mishdiaz said...

I don't think we should widen the war, but do think that we should give the current change a chance to work. The Iraqis are on notice that if they do not "put up" then we are done over there. I think this is our new exit strategy, even if the White House is not saying so. I did see an interview with the current leader of the Al Anbar province, that they are now allowing their men to join the Iraqi police forces and military, and that they are asking for assistance from the US in "judging between the current government and themselves" to make certain they are treated fairly. This said, they are certainly not beyond subversion. Who knows what they are really thinking and if they are "joining up" sincerely???? Anyway, I think we will know more soon and that changes are in the near future one way or the other..
I certainly hope that they wake up over there. I am very worried about a Cambodia style retaliation over there, and unlike General Odom, I am afraid it may be a huge massacre. The Shia religion is very complex with many factions and they are not afraid to commit genocide against each other. If Iran has the foothold over there, and I think it just has a "toe-hold" right now, I believe they might seize the opportunity to expand their territory. The same for Turkey and Syria. Who knows what could happen over there? I really hate to think about it... makes me shudder too.... literally...
And about the democracy thing, it sure took us a long time to create a constitution that we were comfortable with. Maybe we are expecting too much from these people too quickly? If we could just settle the place down some, well, maybe they could work on the government they want for themselves. But a democracy does not mean they will be the type of democracy we are. Look at Lebanon... they voted Hezbollah into their government and Hezbollah is trying to take the country in that fashion... same with Palestine and Hamas... what is the US going to do with Hamas a bonafide voice in their governement? Now I am off the subject I guess, but what I am trying to say is that I think we can not say exactly what the government in Iraq is going to look like in the future, regardless of the investment we put there. There are too many instances where we involved ourselves and did not get what we planned for. Iran and Iraq both prime (but certainly not the only) examples.