Sunday, September 16, 2007

Deconstructing the war in Iraq

As a patriot and staunch supporter of our troops I can no longer sit idly by as the current President and Congress of the United States continues to put those young men & women in harm’s way.

Now, since we invaded Iraq over four years ago debating the rationale for the war is somewhat a moot point. But what’s not moot is the wisdom of keeping the troops there. A recent opinion poll in Iraq showed that 85-87% of Iraqis want us to pull out our armed forces in a year and 47% want us gone now. According to a March 2007 poll of 2000 Iraqis conducted by the BBC , 51% of the population consider attacks on coalition forces "acceptable," up from 17% in 2004 and 35% in 2006; 64% described their family's economic situation as being somewhat or very bad, up from 30% in 2005; 88% described the availability of electricity as being either somewhat or very bad, up from 65% in 2004; 69% described the availability of clean water as somewhat or very bad, up from 48% in 2004; 88% described the availability of fuel for cooking and driving as being somewhat or very bad; 58% described reconstruction efforts in the area in which they live as either somewhat or very ineffective, and 9% described them as being totally nonexistent. So I ask, why are we still maintaining a military presence in Iraq?

When the so-called escalation/surge reaches its goal fully 180,000 troops will be stationed in Iraq, a country of 437,000 square miles, roughly the size of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico combined. During the Vietnam War, our largest troop commitment was 1.2 million in a country with 362,000 square miles, roughly the size of Montana and Wyoming combined. Only 189,000 are deployed now in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Even the post-surge troop levels will be inadequate. In 1998 U.S. Marine General Anthony Zinni estimated a full-scale invasion of Iraq would require 400,000 soldiers and Army Chief Of Staff General Eric Shinseki stated before a Senate Armed Services Committee in February of 2003 that an invasion force should number “several hundred thousand.” Our leaders in Washington are trying a nation building experiment on two fronts with a skeleton crew.

Historically nation building is successful barely 25% of the time and never if the U.S. is making the attempt, and prolonged occupation has an even more dismal track record. Even Rudyard Kipling warned of the dangers of such a practice in his poem “The White Man’s Burden”. This is the French concept of “Noblesse Obglige”, literally means nobility obligates. Via such a theory our station as a civilized and affluent nation obliges us to help the impoverished nations. It is the whole Spider Manesque, “with great power comes great responsibility” thing.

To this I say, “Bullshit!” It is neither this nation’s duty nor its responsibility to install democracy around the globe. Nor is it our duty to wade into a humanitarian nightmare like a knight on a white horse and save humanity. We are not the arbiters of morality for the entire globe. If this were the case we’d be occupying Sudan/Darfur, the same country that incidentally/allegedly sold uranium to Iraq.

Now, there are those on both sides of the isle that would have us prolong our military presence in Iraq indefinitely. Some on the left contend it is our moral obligation to stay since we were dumb enough to invade in the first place. Some on the right, especially Bush’s supporters, contend that the power vacuum created by our departure would create chaos and lead to the slaughter of innocents as well as open the door for a terrorist regime or other occupying force.

They’re both wrong.

Our primary moral obligation lay in protecting our sovereignty as a nation. And since Iraq and the surrounding nations pose little threat to our nation status our troops need not be there. So far our government has spent over $400 billion on the war with $50 billion more coming from Congress. This in addition to the potentially $600 billion tab to rehabilitate the wounded. The total cost from four years of occupation is potentially $1,000,000,000,000 with 3,700 dead and 8,100 wounded. This exorbitant cost with little to show in the way of accomplished objectives (I know Sadam Hussein is now in our custody) seems to be prohibitively steep, especially when you consider the zero level threat Iraq poses to our sovereignty.

By far the most numerous and vociferous supporters of a continuation of the War in Iraq are from the Republican Party and their supporters, most of whom fancy themselves right wingers. One of their theories in support of the U.S. staying to prevent a power vacuum is the parallel analogy of our departure from Vietnam and the subsequent genocide in Cambodia as a direct consequence of a “cut and run” policy. This analogy is specious. The Khmer Rouge rose to power in the late 1960’s, due in no small part to Richard Nixon’s decision to suspend economic aid to Cambodia in 1973 and the flawed bombing campaign between 1965-73 that targeted rural areas and fostered resentment among the peasants who constituted the bulk of Khmer Rouge membership. Additionally, the Cambodian Civil War started in 1967 and contributed greatly to the ascendancy of Pol Pot and his Khmer Empire. The seeds for the Killing Fields were planted well before our withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975 and to suggest otherwise is a display of historical ignorance.

The war supporters from the right also contend that withdrawal from Iraq will lead to the ascendancy of a terrorist state the likes of which has never been seen. This contention is plausible but unlikely. The most likely scenario following our troop withdrawal would be years of civil war between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. Iran would undoubtedly stoke the fires of acrimony and possibly install a puppet regime after the fog of war lifted, thus taking advantage of their economic superiority and military strength. Iran would then become the dominant force in the Middle East. But this scenario hardly portends to the destruction of our nation. Yes, terrorism in this country would escalate but not at the expense of our independence. Even if Iraq were to become a haven for terrorists that dry parcel would still not be the den of evil that Indonesia, Pakistan, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Libya, and Russia have become. We ally ourselves with Pakistan, the very nation who sold nuclear technology to North Korea and ignore their long established dalliances in state sponsored terror, we turn a blind eye to China’s subjugation of its own people and Tibet, we conveniently forget that the 9/11 conspirators were all Saudi nationals, and we continue relations with Russia despite their interference in foreign elections and Putin’s dissolution of Russian Parliament. But somehow in the eyes of many Iraq still constitutes now and forever the clearest and most present danger to our nation status.

I cannot in clear conscience support a doomed foreign policy and a flawed war effort. The troops on the ground in Iraq are impossibly brave men and women fighting a war that their leaders in Washington seem utterly incapable of planning for or executing properly. If you leave our best and bravest their for the foreseeable future give them the resources necessary to be successful; escalate our troop count in the region by at least 250,000, finish the job in Iraq before even contemplating war with Iran, give the soldiers the proper equipment and logistical support necessary, and stop trying to fight the war from half a globe away. If those in Washington aren’t prepared to do all those things then we need to bring our troops home…now.