The War in Iraq
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Pick up any newspaper or point your web browser to any major or minor news publication and questions like these will be all over them. A lot of Americans feel that the War on Terror and our presence in Iraq has lasted too long. Are they correct? Should we pull out and call it quits? Should we have another repeat of the Vietnam War? Believe it or not, that's how a lot of people view this war, as another Vietnam. They feel that we are out there, putting the American nose into something that shouldn't be picked. But they are not entirely true.
[I] feel that the war in Iraq was a justifiable one and that it was something that was needed. Saddam Hussein was a dictator who ruled with an iron fist and if someone opposed him or he didn't like anyone, he found a way to "eliminate" them. He was starting to become a threat not only to himself, but to his neighboring countries. Back in the early 1990's, he was a threat to Kuwait and we helped quell that conflict, but because the American public did not want the troops or the president to go any further, they held back for one reason or the other.
The War in Iraq has sparked an abundance of criticism since its start in March of 2003. Now, four year later, the criticism has only intensified. The fact of the matter is that upon invasion of Iraq four years ago, the reasons were justifiable based on the evidence at hand. Our American troops, some 3,386 of our armed service members have given their lives for a cause that they felt was just, according to an Associated Press count that was conducted on Friday, May 11, 2007 (Associated Press, 2007). The devastating number is a cruel reminder as to how dangerous a war can be in general, but even more so when guerrilla warfare is present. In general, the majority of surveys conducted nationwide, showed that the public feel that the war has gone on a much greater period of time than anticipated, and now want the American troops to come home. The question at hand is how to withdraw the troops, safely, without leaving the country of Iraq with devastating effects. Officials may speculate amongst themselves and debate the matter in full intensity, but no answer has ever been reached.
As the months go on, more and more evidence is apparent to the general public as to why we have staked our stay in Iraq so long.
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Among these reasons is the fact that President George W. Bush said point blank that America was not into nation rebuilding, but now it seems as if that is our main reason for staying in Iraq. Sadaam Hussein was taken out of his position, where he caused such an enormous threat to the United States and Iraq's neighboring countries, and executed. Top key Al-Qaeda members have been either captured or killed, and the country now has elected officials, and now progress in the country slowing advancing. Critics may say that the War in Iraq has not put the country in any better state than it was in, has made it worse in some cases, but that all is simply not true. Women and children now have the ability to get an education, families are earning incomes now to better support their dependants, and residents are now getting the right to vote. Even before the United States invaded Iraq for the welfare of the Iraqi people, bloodshed was seen all too often. As with any war or major conflict, time will only tell what will come of all the bloodshed. There is no telling whether or not a Civil War may result from the United States pulling out of Iraq too soon, but if so, it is their battle to overcome. When the United States had their Civil War between the North and the South in the 1800's, only the United States was involved, not other countries. We fought our battle and both sides lost lives defending what they felt to be true (many, many more than the War in Iraq, I might add), and in the end, now we see that it was beneficial for the American way of life (Codevilla, 2005).
Some critics say that we are only still in Iraq for reasons that deal with Iraq's oil industry. According to an interview that was conducted with a Chairman from Chevron/Texaco, Iraq's supply has rapidly decreased in productivity since the war began (O'Reilly, 2007). Under the dictatorship of Sadaam Hussein, billions of dollars worth of oil was being produced, now only a very small percentage is being produced, due to the blowing up of the oil fields. The United States is not benefiting from their oil industry as some might otherwise think.
Upon examination of various debates that are currently underway in Congress to withdraw troops, I feel that it is not feasible to pull out all troops suddenly from the country (Associated Press, 2007). By considering a deliberate pullout, "This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops," Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House (Associated Press, 2007). A slow, lengthy withdrawal seems to be the best solution for the matter at hand. How Iraqis, in general, will react to the withdrawal process should be a top priority. By slowly withdrawing the troops, gives the Iraqis time to adjust to a life that will not have the protection of the United States armed forced members around the corner, as the majority of them have been accustomed to over the past four years. There is no telling if violence will increase by the insurgents or decrease because of the American troops leaving the country, but the main reasoning for us invading has been resolved and now, we, our military, must clean up to the best of their ability and withdraw in the most adjustable fashion as possible, so the Iraqi government can pick up with what has been taught to them and defend their country. Yes, there will be flaws and uncertainties but there has not been a single government in the history of civilization that hasn't taken decades, sometimes centuries, to perfect. Even after years and years of methodically correcting short comings of the new founded government, there will still be flaws. No one government is perfect and only time will allow the room for growth and corrections.
Off topic for a bit now, in contrast to the above mentioned arguments, here is the big question and/or issue to be addressed, the 800-pound gorilla in the corner, if you will. Why are we Still in Iraq? Here is a little truth that most people don't know; real apes max out at around 400 pounds. But this is the important thing: even if you could magically supersize a 400-pound gorilla into an 800-pound one, you wouldn't want to because the larger variety wouldn't be twice as scary. In fact, it would have trouble holding up its own body mass. This result from a fundamental rule that applies to animals, skyscrapers, organizations, and even Free Countries: Scaling up is more than a matter of sizing up.
Back on topic, our 800-pund gorilla is really: Why are we still in Iraq? There were many important reasons to topple Saddam, terrorism being one of them. The root causes of terrorism, I think, are the lack of capitalism, the lack of democracy, and of course, the lack of modern education. What have stood in the way of those things have primarily been the regimes of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. We only have at least one of them out of the way.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, describes war as a large-scale conflict involving two or more groups of people. (Source)) So it makes sense that we are still occupying Iraq, because by all accounts, there is still conflict and until that ceases to exist I feel we should be there indefinitely. The Wikipedia site also states the factors leading to war are often complicated and due to a range of issues, where disputes arise over issues, such as territory, sovereignty, resources, or ideology. This is clearly a case of ideological beliefs.
Some hostilities, such as an insurgency or a civil war, may persist for long periods of time with only a low level of military activity. (Turchin, 2005) In some cases there is no negotiation of any official treaty, but fighting may trail off and eventually stop after the political demands of the belligerent groups have been reconciled, a political settlement has been negotiated, or combatants are gradually killed or decide the conflict is futile. (Van Creveld, 2000)
So give our opponents their capitalism, democracy and modern education. Let them fight for those three-story houses, trophy wives, and those fucking Lamborghinis. To quote maybe one of the coolest fictional races of cyborgs in the universe, "Resistance is Futile." (20th Century Fox, 2001)
20th Century Fox. (2001, Augest 29). The Borg. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Star Trek: http://www.startrek.com/home/borg/quotes
Associated Press. (2007, May 1). Bush Vetos Troop Withdrawal Bill. Retrieved May 2007, 2007, from CBS News: http:www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/01/ap/preswho/main2751238.shtml
Associated Press. (2007, May 11). Iraqi President: Us Troops Should Stay. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/11/ap/europe/main2792533.shtml
Associated Press. (2007, May 13). US Military Deaths In Iraq At 3393. Retrieved May 2007, 2007, from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/13/ap/middleeast/main2796174.shtml
Codevilla, A. M. (2005). No Victory, No Peace. Rowman and Littlefield.
O'Reilly, B. (2007, May 15). Top 10 Pros and Cons. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from US Iraq Pro Con: http:www.usiraqprocon.org/top10.htm
Source), V. (. (n.d.). War. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War
Turchin, P. (2005). War and Peace and War: Life Cycles of Imperial Nations. New York, NY: Pi Press.
Van Creveld, M. (2000). The Art of War: War and Military Thought. London: Wellington House.
For quite some time I've been trying to collect my thoughts on the war in Iraq. To simplify the question -- are you for the war, or against it? -- is to oversimplify the question. The issue deserves deeper discussion. In fact, it demands deeper discussion.
There are a few things that need to be understood from the beginning. Saddam Hussein is a brutal, despicable monster. The world will be a better place without him. Moreover, it is doubtful that anything short of war will dislodge him.
In the weeks before the war began, I often saw posters stating, in bold letters, "WAR IS NOT AN OPTION." It struck me as absurd: of course war is an option.
I'm not a pacifist. I live with a woman who would quite possibly be dead were it not for a war. My wife, a survivor of Cambodia's killing fields, was freed from a world of servitude and death by an invading foreign army. War isn't an option? Oh, yes, it is.
But is it the best option? That depends.
There are thoughtful people who are opposed to this war, but it seems that the most visible are the least thoughtful. A popular chant among antiwar activists has been "No blood for oil!" But this war isn't about oil. Nor is it about imperialism -- at least, not imperialism in the conventional sense, whereby the imperial power appropriates the wealth of the subjugated country. Among the war's proponents, this is seen as a war of liberation.
So, Hussein is evil, war is a viable option for removing him, and antiwar protestors are simply chanting nonsense... well, then, war it is, right?
No. Not this war.
Setting aside moral questions for the moment, consider a purely pragmatic axiom: a war is only good if you can win it. To win it, you must know your objective. When is the war over? When do you declare victory and go home?
I do not believe that George Bush has an attainable objective. I don't think he will know when to go home. And I don't think he understands how many lives will be lost, even if the result is -- in his eyes -- a resounding victory.
A war of liberation is only a success if the population is genuinely liberated. Replacing one despotic regime with another is not liberation; it's just alteration.
Getting rid of Hussein would be a wonderful thing. The main problem, however, is that Bush has approached the crisis in a way that has turned much of the world against us. Moreover, it seems doubtful that anyone in the Bush administration has a clue what to do once Hussein is gone. It also seems obvious that the administration is badly underestimating the potential for lingering guerrilla activity even after the war has "ended."
But aside from the claims of altruistic concerns for the Iraqi people, Bush also maintained that Hussein posed a grave threat to U.S. security. Al Qaeda poses a grave risk to U.S. security; that's undeniable. But Hussein? That is pure speculation, and not very convincing speculation at that. The administration has provided no solid evidence linking Hussein to Al-Queda. And there is a very real difference between Al Qaeda and Hussein: Hussein is not a fundamentalist. Al Qaeda is an organization of fanatics, driven by religious fervor. They live in a fantasy world; devoted to a heavenly kingdom, they have no fear of consequences in the here and now. Hussein, by contrast, is a garden-variety despot, a man who has used his power to enrich himself. The fanatics of Al Qaeda have nothing to lose. Hussein has everything to lose: his wealth, his palaces, his cult of personality. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction, useless against Al Qaeda, would have likely been quite effective in containing Hussein.
Now that the war has been underway for (at this writing) a week, the administration is backpedaling furiously, denying that they ever claimed that victory would come swiftly. And yet virtually every article written within the last few days has featured American soldiers, expressing shock at the ferocity of the resistance they've encountered.
This is simply incredible: why on Earth did anyone believe that the Iraqis would not fight back? And even more incredible than the belief that they would not fight back, many in the administration seemed to think that the arrival of U.S. troops would persuade the population to rise up and overthrow Saddam. This belief demonstrates an ignorance of history that is absolutely breathtaking. Here, I feel compelled to make a few comparisons to Cambodia. The question at hand is, under what circumstances will a population rise up to overthrow a brutal regime?
There has probably been no regime in modern history that was more hated by its subjects than the Khmer Rouge. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia in December 1978, they were hailed as liberators... in spite of the fact that Vietnam was, to most Cambodians, the country's historic enemy.
And yet, despite the genuine gratitude of the population, the Vietnamese soon found themselves bogged down in a guerrilla war. Certainly, some of that had to do with the policies pursued by the Vietnamese. The main factor, however, was simply that they were Vietnamese. The people hated the Khmer Rouge... but the Khmer Rouge were at least Khmer. The Vietnamese were perceived as opportunists, bent on an imperial conquest.
Imperialism... we've heard that somewhere before, haven't we?
The US will face this same problem once Hussein is gone. People may be grateful, but they won't be so grateful that they won't shoot the first American who overstays his welcome. And the welcome mat doesn't stay out for long.
But to return to the broader question: under what circumstances will people rebel against a dictatorship? People almost never do that. They don't want to be shot, they don't want to be starved, they don't want to be tortured. But I believe that most people are passive in this sense: they want to be left alone. Quite sensibly, they don't want to have to fight with their bare hands against soldiers armed with AK-47s.
Analysts who predict these types of uprisings are blinded by their ideology. Consider General Vo Nguyen Giap in Vietnam: for all his military brilliance, he miscalculated badly with the Tet offensive. He truly believed that peasants in the south would "rise up" and fight alongside his forces once they saw that the Americans were not invincible. They didn't. In the broader strategic sense, Tet was still a success because it broke the Americans' will to fight. But Giap actually believed that it was going to be a battlefield victory, in part because he believed that it would incite a spontaneous rebellion.
And on the subject of the Tet offensive, it's worth reminding ourselves of what should have been an obvious lesson: although the guerrillas lost every battle, eventually losing every bit of territory that they seized during Tet, and wasting the lives of thousands of their soldiers in the process, Tet was still a success. How many people will die in Iraq before the Bush administration relearns a thirty-five-year-old lesson? Remember the primary axiom of guerrilla warfare: a guerrilla army wins simply by not losing.
It seems obvious that the Bush administration underestimated the willingness of the Iraqis to fight for Hussein. After all, why would they fight for a despicable tyrant? Maybe the only reason they need is that he is their tyrant. They fought for him against the Iranians. One would expect that, given the terrible state of the country, the Iraqis would hate Hussein deeply. But how much of Iraq's misery do they blame on Hussein? During the Iran-Iraq war, he could blame the country's woes on the Iranians. After the fiasco of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, he got a new scapegoat: the U.S.
One would think that this would have been considered by the Bush administration. Maybe the Iraqis hate Hussein, but they hate the U.S., too. A few commentators have written about the fear of the U.S. of being drawn into urban warfare, and they've invoked Stalingrad as an example of the horrors of such close combat. Stalingrad provides an excellent historical example here, and not just because it demonstrates the horrible toll of house-to-house fighting. In defending Stalingrad, the Russians were defending the regime of Josef Stalin. They fought against overwhelming odds, successfully... and they did it to preserve a totalitarian dictatorship that was every bit as brutal as the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Before dragging the U.S. into a supposed war for democracy in Iraq, wouldn't it have been wise to show that we're actually capable of implementing democracy in a country that lacks a democratic tradition? In Afghanistan, for example? Does anyone in the Bush administration remember Afghanistan? The Taliban are gone, and that is truly cause for celebration... but the country isn't really a functioning democracy yet, is it? Bush might claim that he has sown the seeds for democracy. I don't think I'd put it quite that way. It's a little more like spitting the seeds of an apple that you've just eaten onto the bare dirt, and then claiming that you've planted the field.
And while we're on the subject of the memory of the Bush administration... it would seem that Bush remembers the first Gulf War. But does he remember Vietnam? Does he remember that this country went in professing lofty goals, and ending up destroying entire villages in order to save them? Does he remember that this country was soundly defeated by one of the poorest nations on the face of the Earth? If he did, surely he would have thought twice about his adventure in Iraq.
If Bush has any understanding of building -- or maintaining -- alliances, he hasn't shown it. It's as if he believes that an "ally" is someone who does what they're told to do.
The Bush administration has boisterously proclaimed that they have no need for the approval of the international community in matters of national security. What Bush doesn't seem to understand is that by flouting the international community, he is actively undermining national security. Every time the U.S. arrogantly acts on its own, Bush strengthens the hand of the hardliners and fanatics who oppose U.S. policy everywhere, and weakens the position of moderates and allies.
Bush seems to think that it doesn't matter what other nations think of us. It does. Is it better to be surrounded by friends, or enemies? Arrogance will only buy us an unending supply of ill will. He wonders why the world hates us, and then eschews diplomacy in favor of a policy of brute force.
Do I think the U.S. will win this war? I think that the U.S. will capture Baghdad. But what then? Are the Iraqis going to suddenly love us?
I'm reminded of a moment in Thomas Friedman's book From Beirut to Jerusalem. An Israeli taxi driver, speaking of the Palestinian intifada, offered his solution to the conflict: "We should take our clubs and hit them over the head, and hit them and hit them and hit them, until they finally stop hating us." There, in a nutshell, is the Bush administration's foreign policy.
Bruce Sharp, March 28, 2003
Other articles on Iraq and the Bush administration:
My Exasperated Unendorsement for President (May 2004)
Saigon Lesson Plan (October 2005)
Residual Talking Points (November 2005)
Jagged Rocks (June 2006)
Starting from Zero (April 2007)
And while we're on the subject of neo-conservatives:
Andy? Is That You? (October 2006)