We Hosed Iraq, Let's Face Up To It
I am a bit of a laggard when it comes to realizing the obvious. I wasn’t thinking about Iraq the other day, when the obvious hit me. We can’t win. Ok that is a little harsh, let me qualify that: we can’t win with force. I absolutely believe that.
What is our current strategy? It is to sit on Iraq until the insurgents go away. No really it is. We try to find them, and get them before they get us. How successful have foreign occupations with limited native support been? Let me think… Afghanistan by the Soviets, Vietnam, Palestine... I could go on.
But I am being dishonest right? There have been many successful military occupations right? Well, not so much. Only two tricks seem to do the job—having a massive size differential (think China and Tibet) or being ruthless (think Japan occupying China).
When I go through and think of the most recent military occupations, I think the occupation of Congo/Zaire by half a dozen African countries. I think of Iraq invading Kuwait. I think of the Falkland Islands by the Argentines. I think of Lebanon by Israel. And which of these invasions remain to this day? None of them.
The lesson of those passed
Let me explain why I think a military solution is impossible. If we had a million troops in Iraq, and a bottomless war chest, we could probably guarantee safety. We could probably restore order. And what would happen to Iraq as soon as we left? All the insurgents that couldn’t step outside would come out. Right now we have a massive force in Iraq. Just massive. And yet we can’t stop insurgents from killing our troops, let alone Iraqi civilians. Why do we think sitting there for longer will stabilize the country, when our presence, so far, has only increased the killings.
Now, many people claim that leaving Iraq would make the sacrifice of all those who died there for nothing. Not so! The deaths which have occurred in Iraq, civilian and military, are terrible. From an analytical perspective they are a sunk cost. Regardless of what we have invested already, do we want to lose more, or cut our losses? Logic dictates we cut our losses.
More importantly, I think, the deaths of the soldiers over in Iraq, if we left, would represent an invaluable lesson to us. A lesson that could save many more future soldiers, children not yet out of diapers, and those yet unborn. If we learn to think before we act, and to defend, not retaliate, the death of all those soldiers will stand for something, a lesson far more value than the lesson we’ll have learned if we stay. That lesson is, if at first force doesn’t work, keep trying.
Many people must support us though, given the huge number of voters that went out for elections right? Well, maybe. Unfortunately this huge number doesn’t seem to be swelling into the Iraqi police or security guard ranks. I think actions are the best indicators of thought and belief. By this standard, Iraqis want democracy, and they want the US out.
The Chaos to Follow
Another common complaint against leaving is that we will plunge the country into further chaos. I think that is right, we will. But it isn’t because we are leaving, it is because we went. Sooner or later we’ll have to leave. Maybe in 5 years, maybe in 10. We can’t outlive the insurgents, we can’t annihilate American resentment by force. Sooner or later we’ll have to leave, and when we do, the very same violence and bloodshed will occur. Who knows, when our best statistical methods determine 655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead as a direct result of this war, can it really get much worse?
This Needs to End
I don’t understand why congress has abdicated its responsibility to declare war. Perhaps it is fear of failure, and the inevitable blame that would follow. Perhaps if is something else. But whatever the reason, if history has shown us anything it is that concentrating too much power in any individual, save a very select few, has dangerous consequences. There are many now, not just President Bush, who have a dangerous level of power. This needs to stop. For democracy to work, the people’s wishes must be carried out. The people want out of Iraq. If for no other reason, that ought to be enough.