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The War In Iraq and Bush's
The overwhelming issue, whose outcome will determine both Bush's and Rumsfeld's political legacies, is the Iraq War. As Bush recently said in a press conference, "I didn't think it would take this long to win the war in Iraq."
Nor do I disagree with the President's assessment of how things have gone. My sense of what could (indeed, should) have ensued after we'd blown our way into Iraq three years ago and dismantled the Iraqi military in about four days was that Iraqis would welcome us as liberators, that they would work with us to help us identify and capture or kill those who had oppressed and murdered them during Saddam Hussein's reign of terror.
I overwhelmingly thought that within a matter of months, a year at the outside, Iraq would have been "tamed" (as it were), a democratic government established, and relative order restored so that the business of rebuilding a crumbling civil and manufacturing infrastructure could commence and proceed apace.
What I hadn't taken into account is what I've since identified as "tribal consciousness" or "the Arab-Muslim ethos," for want of better terms. As I've said in another context, I've realized that it's about time we stopped expecting Muslims to behave like westerners and faced up to a few significant facts: Islamic jihad is not going away any time soon, nor is it only radical Islamists who are waging it.
In characteristic democratic-westerner style, we Americans discounted the religious, ethnic, and cultural forces that were working against our being able to come in and, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, sort of lead the Iraqis, through the sheer force of our political will and our military might and our "knowing in our hearts that capitalist democracy is the 'correct' political solution," directly to democracy. We were Iraq's get-out-of-jail-free card. Do not bother to pass go, do not bother to collect $200.00.
This is not to say that Iraqis as a people do not desire to live in a free and democratic society. The extraordinary voter turnout for the January 2005 elections in Iraq speaks to that. Indeed, the overwhelming impression I took away from following the events of that election day as they unfolded was a sense of the utter courage of the Iraqi people in the face of what would surely have been for virtually every one of us Americans the debilitating threat of terrorist violence.
Even given that, however, we certainly did not foresee the resistance to the presence of the U.S. military in Iraq, which arguably reflects the need on the part of militant Islamists of every stripe to resist with all possible means the establishment of a western style democracy and the need to fight a war of terror for the purpose of bringing Iraq under the unbending sway of Sharia law in its most fundamental form.
As George H.W. Bush's advisors had
predicted in 1991, taking out Saddam Hussein after having liberated Quwait
would have led to a "power vacuum" in Iraq that would have de-stabilized
the entire Middle East. Something like that is happening now, following
Saddam's ouster at the behest of the elder Bush's son.
But we didn't, and there's nothing we can do about our (in retrospect) seeming short-sightedness now.
We might blame the current apparent
stalemate in Iraq on "mistakes" made by Paul Bremer or Donald
Rumsfeld or the commanding Generals, but their recommendations and the
policies they supported were, in the most important sense, a reflection
of the "gestalt," the mindset, of the current Bush administration.
I would assert that, rather than
their being construed as "mistakes," we should view them as
components in the ongoing process of our waging ultimately successful
war against the forces of Islamist terrorism in its many guises.
The New York Times, in keeping with its long-standing position in favor of leftist, anti-capitalist political positions and in opposition to publishing anything even remotely pro-freedom, pro-capitalist, pro-spiritualist, or pro-individual-initiative, has recently printed information that arguably compromises United States positions with regard to our country's ability to prevent military attacks against our infrastructure, specifically, in this case, our ability to prevent or curtail precisely such an attack on New York City's tunnels. Indeed, it's difficult to characterize the Times's general editorial stance as anything but pro-terrorist and anti-democracy.
But to return to the topic at hand: While you might say "we should learn from our 'mistakes,'" I would say that we should rather recognize that we're engaged in an ongoing war against Islamism, and that every military engagement we pursue against said forces provides us with evidence, in the form of analyzable outcomes, of how we might tweak our tactics so that we might push our interests forward in future encounters with this enemy.
We are engaged in a process here, and to expect us to deliver a "product" (that is, a neat victory) is to misapprehend what is going on and how it must evolve for us to be victorious.
Nor, for that matter, do I think we need to label the outcomes of the various military processes in Iraq "mistakes." First, the war is not over. Many of us baby-boomers were gestating as America's involvement in WWII began, and we were infants when it ended. The sense I gather from reading about what happened between the time I was born (in October, 1942) and my third birthday is that the issue of who would emerge victorious was in doubt almost to the end.
As Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over." And World War II certainly wasn't over until it was over. Indeed, the only reason then-President Truman decided to drop the big one on Japan was that the alternative was to invade Japan with the potential loss of American life in the 100,000 range. (We'd already lost some 400,000 killed by mid-1945.)
Our involvement in World War II was
characterized by innumerable enormously costly "mistakes" and
any number of devastating defeats before we emerged triumphant. Our losses
in Iraq are, by comparison, minimal. Five times as many Americans die
in highway auto accidents every year as have died in the Iraq war to date;
the 9/11 attacks killed more Americans than have died in Iraq, for that
The results of the impending tactical and strategic changes of our military policy in Iraq, like those in the latter stages of World War II, "won't be known until they're known," to paraphrase Yogi.
In the meantime, don't bet against us on this one. And don't bet that Bush's and Rumsfeld's legacies will be tainted by our defeat at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Ain't about to happen, bro, no matter what the lefties try to tell you.