Thursday, October 21, 2004

Snapshot of my 2003-04 views on the War on Terror, part 3

Snapshot of my 2003-04 views on the War on Terror, part 3


Note: This is actually something I posted in another thread, but I hope to get some discussion going on its own merit. Enjoy.

I understand why so many folks recoil at the damage and the deaths accompanying the removal of the Saddam regime. That's fine. I don't think we should draw pleasure from the cost of war. Remember, though, many years ago, the surviving nations of WWII promised that the United Nations would not repeat the mistakes of the League of Nations. The vow was made that Hitler's historical descendants would be stopped, not enabled.

In all the outcry against the war and the on-going US-led rebuilding mission, I haven't heard yet a better alternative for dealing with Saddam. We spent 12 years exhausting the alternatives.

Economic pressure? The US and the UN applied 12 years of sanctions and embargoes as a non-military punitive measure to pressure Saddam into compliance. Perversely, Saddam actually seemed to get wealthier while the Iraqi people bore the brunt of the sanctions.

Diplomatic pressure? The UN and so-called world community collectively frowned on Iraq for so long, we all forgot we were frowning. There was no indication Saddam was overly bothered by harsh diplomatic language from the same folks who failed to take him out of power even after he was defeated badly in a war. Nations, like France, that valued their business ties with Saddam more than the UN mission, certainly didn't help persuade Saddam about the value of the international will opposing him.

Military pressure? Both blame and praise falls on the US for trying to apply the only kind of pressure someone like Saddam responds to. Praise for the gesture and commitment, blame for inadequacy. The Southern and Northern no-fly zones were a unilateral US compromise as a belated effort to protect Iraqis AFTER Saddam had put down his people's uprising. We failed to help the Shiites, but at least we helped the Kurds in the North. Poor military performance by the UN in the 90s, in situations such as Somalia and the Balkans, encouraged Saddam's resistance. Then, when Clinton delivered his harshest declaration of punitive response in 1998, the greatest order of Clintonian American military response was evidenced as some bombing - which Saddam understandably shrugged off.

Internal change? We hoped sanctions would weaken Saddam's grip on power, especially in terms of his military-security apparatus, and we called for Iraqis to revolt against his oppression. They heeded our call, and we all know how that turned out. We sacrificed too many Iraqi lives to Saddam's violent will to power in order to avoid war.

Inspections? From the beginning, Saddam was non-compliant and the inspection process exposed as ineffective against Iraqi resistance. While WMD was found and destroyed, Saddam subverted the inspection process in an effort to retain his WMD capability. In 1995, Saddam's sons-in-law revealed the large chemical weapons cache that Saddam had successfully hidden through 4 years of inspections (they were killed for their betrayal, of course - with no UN punitive response). Given the critical shortcomings revealed in the existing inspection relationship, the call for Iraqi cooperation was intensified. Saddam responded with more defiance, which culminated in US action in Dec, 1998. The inspections under Rez 1441, the last chance for Saddam to prove his compliance, were no more satisfying.

Note: While present evidence suggests (though not yet proven) that Iraq's WMD programs had actually ended at some point - perhap after Operation Desert Fox in Dec, 98 - Saddam denied CONCLUSIVE proof of such to the UN, even through the US-led invasion. Given Saddam's substantial history of successful deception and WMD use and intent, less-than-conclusive proof was unacceptable. (An interesting article on this topic can be found in the 06Oct03 Time magazine, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Ware.)

By the close of 1998, all punitive and enforcement measures against Saddam short of active military-led regime change had been exhausted. In 1998, President Clinton set the bar for US policy towards Iraq: Saddam was non-compliant with the post-Gulf War UN resolutions, was an intolerable regional (and by extension, international) destabilizer and security threat, and was an oppressive tyrant; the threat of existing AND future Iraqi WMD; the need for regime change in Iraq to a non-threatening democratic state; the precedent for unilateral US military action (the no-fly zones and Op Desert Fox) to enforce the UN resolutions.

Note: While Clinton and Bush Jr shared the same end-state goals for Iraq with much the same rationale, the fundamental differences from Bush Jr to Clinton's Iraq policy were the characterization of imminent and immediate threat, the relationship to al Qaeda, and the policy shift from internal regime change to US-led regime change. (By 1998, of course, internal regime change in Iraq had already been attempted with tragic results.)

After 1998, barring full compliance from Saddam, the only two alternatives left were for the UN and US to withdraw from Iraq or military-led regime change. The third option (apparently preferred by most anti-war protestors) was to maintain a knowingly failed and, worse, harmful policy: continued sanctions hurting the Iraqi people, indefinite useless inspections, indefinite regional military presence causing Arab resentment, and a Saddam waiting patiently for the UN to leave so he could resume his empire dreams. To continue the status quo really was no option at all, especially as 9/11 showed the climate of the Middle East had reached a critical point. (The 11th hour French proposal - indefinite inspections backed by indefinite massive American military presence - was equally unreasonable.) So, the US's only reasonable options after 9/11 were either for the UN to leave Iraq, defeated by Saddam, or - President Bush Jr's choice - institute regime change to restore the UN's credibility - and as the necessary 1st step towards building a new Iraq and reforming the Middle East.

Note: Much of bin Laden's anti-American rhetoric was based upon the US-led military presence in and around Iraq, beginning with the Gulf War, and the UN resolutions against Iraq. It didn't matter that the US military presence enforcing the no-fly zone was relatively small and non-intrusive in the Middle East - it worked for propaganda purposes. It's no coincidence that secular Saddam's own rhetoric had taken a decidely religious bent. While continuing the pre-9/11 status quo in Iraq was no longer a viable option, the US and UN departing Iraq would have been immediately claimed as a success of al Qaeda's 9/11 'foreign policy', which definitely would have been unacceptable.

The lasting effect of the UN mission in Iraq was that via the UN's inability to deal with Saddam's non-compliance and continued defiance over 12 years, the most definitive mission ever conducted by the UN instead exposed the so-called international community's impotence against a lone, determined unapologetic tyrant. Of course, the US, as a world power and the member most committed to upholding the will of the UN, was guilty of a failure of leadership by allowing the UN through the 90s to waste ALL the dynamic influence we earned in the Gulf War. This weakness of the international community also empowered the rise of the al Qaeda phenomenon.

That's some context for the build-up to the US-led war in Iraq.

As for the war itself, it was a matter of fulfilling our commitment as a world leader. After 12 years of the UN's failure, nothing short of the greatest possible military threat could move Saddam to compliance. Bush Jr actually was scrupulous in the build-up, aside from the alarmism, which his admin is paying for now, and remarkably poor skills as a diplomat and salesperson, which is one reason why I'm not voting for him in 2004. To his credit, Bush Jr returned to the UN for a new resolution, which Clinton didn't do in 1998, and he gave Saddam one last chance to resolve the situation peacefully by FULLY complying in a timely manner or failing that, to step down on his own power - a request legitimized by our expanded military presence. To our great chagrin, Saddam stayed defiant to the end, even in the face of the American military threat (encouraged, no doubt, by the world-wide protests defending Saddam). So, as a leader, yes - the US made a painful, tough decision and went to war. If the international community had backed down to Saddam again after Rez 1441, the UN's mission and future would have been irretrievable, rendered as extinct as the League of Nations. Operation Iraqi Freedom was an act of redemption for the UN, and the beginning - hopefully - of a vigilant and robust international community.

Unfortunately, there was no way around Saddam's willingness to sacrifice thousands of his own people to protect his regime. In the end, the US must bear the moral burden of protecting the viability and future of the international community. We can only hope a better future for Iraq and the Iraqi people, a stabilized Middle East and the security of the globalizing world will go some way towards justifying the risks Bush Jr has undertaken. I hope more nations come around soon as far as supporting the mission, but if they don't, well, leaders have traditionally carried the heaviest burdens for the greater good. The rest of the world has to realize, though, even the US isn't omnipotent, despite our post-WWII successes. We can only do so much for the world and carry so much of the burden, for only so long.


Any Poli Sci major, huh? Perhaps, if said Poli Sci major was ignorant of history and limited in his scope of the field.

History does show that a lack of commitment to ADEQUATE intervention is a losing situation, eg Somalia and Vietnam. Cases such as Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, North Korea, Gulf War I (to the extent of freeing Kuwait and protecting Saudi Arabia, anyway), the Taliban, the Balkans and Panama show that US intervention as a "world police force" can be effective. Of course, each "policing" action requires different levels of commitment, all the way up to the massive nation-building we engaged in Japan, Germany, and today, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The better argument is to question the extent of American will and, more significantly, resources to intervene and/or nation-build. A better argument against the viability of a "world police force" is the "world" aspect, ie, a challenge to fellow nations regarding a fairer distribution of the responsibility of an international peace-keeping body, like the UN. You're right - it's unfair that organizations such as the UN and NATO were supposed to alleviate our burden of "policing" the world, but instead, the burden has inevitably returned in bulk to the US.

So, let me get this straight - starving the Iraqi people would be your alternate suggestion to create a climate for a successful insurrection against Saddam? Beyond its motivational purpose, the goal of the sanctions was not to hurt the Iraqi people, it was to weaken the basis of Saddam's power (not food distro, btw) - his extensive military-security apparatus. Now, conventional thinking is that a military - as an economic non-producer - is very expensive to maintain and a nation economically shattered therefore loses its ability to sustain a large military. The idea is that a weakened Iraqi military meant a weakened Saddam. Somehow, of course, Saddam didn't seem to be hurt at all by the sanctions - I guess a tyrant learns a thing or two about power retention in hard times after 30-plus years at the top. Even if starving the Iraqi people would have been effective, I don't think the US or UN was willing to use starvation as a sanctioned weapon.

Don't underestimate how seriously we viewed Saddam's historically proven threat, his continued belligerence even after his defeat in the Gulf War, and how wary we were of his deceptions. Remember, he actually fooled us into supporting him for a while, until we were made graphically aware of the extent of his brutality. The sad irony is that, as our inspectors have finally been given the opportunity to piece together the truth behind Saddam's lies, it seems increasingly apparent that Saddam's own history of deception likely led to the eventual invasion of his country.

Even putting aside Clinton's presidential decision in 1998 that Saddam had used up his last chance to come clean - WMD or no-WMD "smoking gun" - the premise of action is that the world community could no longer afford ANY uncertainty as far as Saddam as a WMD threat. Understand, the nature of Saddam's "cooperation" with inspectors in 2003 was no different than the nature of his "cooperation" from 1991-1995 preceding the 1995 incident with Saddam's sons-in-law or his "cooperation" leading up to Clinton's 1998 action. The same assertions of WMD lists and their destruction, the same discrepancies in paperwork, the same cat and mouse games characterized each stage of the inspection history. (According to the Time mag article, the cat and mouse games before Iraqi Freedom were actually hiding conventional weapons research such as anti-Stealth technology, though inspectors had to assume it was WMD research.) By 1998 and the subsequent 5 years of status quo, Saddam had used up all of his leeway, and he didn't have much to start with after the Gulf War. With Rez 1441, Saddam was compelled to prove once and for all, with absolute certainty, he had changed his ways and come clean. For whatever reason, Saddam couldn't meet those conditions. (Keep in mind: Bush Jr felt enough obligation to the UN to seek a new resolution, whereas Clinton - ever the calculating lawyer - felt he had a strong enough case against Saddam to authorize Operation Desert Fox WITHOUT going to the UN.) It's tragic for us and for the Iraqis, but it seems that Saddam was caught in the end by the same ethos of deception that he had used so effectively as a cornerstone of his regime.

Hans Blix recently stated that he NOW believes Saddam had cleaned up his WMD stash as early as 1996, but maintained the appearance of WMD capability to protect himself. (From his own people, from the US, from his neighbors - who knows what a tyrant fears?) Even if that's true, the US and UN could not afford to take the chance that Saddam's WMD capability was for-show only; more to the point, it's not a chance Saddam was allowed to take, not in 1991, and certainly not in 2003.

The world paid dearly once for agreeing to such shell games with another intolerable tyrant. At least with Hitler, the Allied excuse was Hitler's lack of a Saddam-type track record to predict the consequences of lenient enforcement. One of the chief premises of the UN was that the League of Nations' failure to stop Nazi Germany before WWII and the Holocaust would NOT be repeated.

As far as the US profiting from Iraqi oil, as critics of the 87-billion dollar rebuilding package like to point out, we would sure like to see those oil profits start paying off - it hasn't happened yet. As far as France, if you prefer to excuse France undermining the enforcement of the UN resolutions, then you also will excuse that their chief stipulation for approving a UN resolution for greater internationalization of the Iraq mission is a large(r) stake in the rebuilding of Iraq. It seems that France's track record shows a greater concern for making money from Iraq than issues like UN credibility, democracy in Iraq, regional stability and security, or even its own histrionic opposition to war.

As you point out, the US HAS paid a high price - in terms of lives, in terms of popularity, and I'll add in terms of money and resources - in order to secure a better future for Iraq, the Middle East and the global community. And yet, STILL, no matter how much the US has invested and will continue to invest into the rebuilding of Iraq as a democratic, economically viable state, stubborn folks continue to insist that the US only went into Iraq to steal their oil. Wow, is that the state of poli sci education these days?

I agree about the international relations debacle. If it was a good mission, then why the public backlash? A few factors. One, Bush Jr is one of the worst diplomats ever, both publicly, and obviously, in "backrooms" diplomacy. Rumsfeld is arrogant and annoying, and Powell is solid, but not enough of a diplomatic genius to compensate for his president. Cheney is . . . creaky. Rice is a smart lady, but it's not her job to be a chief diplomat. Two, selling a "war of choice" (Tom Friedman's phrasing) - even a necessary, justifiable choice - as a "war of necessity" to the American public will get punished, and rightfully so. Three, the appearance of impropriety, particularly with Cheney's Halliburton connection. Four, lack of time as dictated by the strictly enforced conditions of Rez 1441 and the sustainability - politically, strategically and resource cost - of the military build-up (without which, the inspectors don't even return) around Iraq. Compounding Bush Jr's inherent poor diplomacy, the lack of time did not allow the US to build up a sufficient diplomatic and public relations base for the war. Five (or One-A), Bush Jr ain't no Clinton. Prez Clinton would have sold the war successfully under these same conditions, especially since he, in fact, publicly supported the war (for reasons I've already explained). Simply, Clinton is as slick a salesperson as there is (an important skill in any leader of the free world during difficult times) - and Bush Jr is not.

You're right to feel concerned. Certainly, Bush Jr did not follow the safe path, in terms of the mission or public relations, but what is deemed as "necessary" to the leader of the free world's scale of responsibility may not seem so necessary to average schmoes like us. Will our mission in Iraq, and by extension, the broader war on terror, succeed? If it does, Bush Jr will be remembered as the visionary catalyst of an era of peace. If the mission fails, well, there will be very bad consequences - use your imagination.

Bush Jr has dedicated the US as world leader to a gamble - likely a necessary gamble in light of 9/11's revelations - with the future of the global community at stake. It's a gamble, simply, we can't afford to lose or back out on.

BTW, I'm not a poli sci major, but I am a former enlisted US Army soldier, which I humbly believe affords me intellectual equivalency with at least the low end of the "ANY" category of poli sci majors. Seriously, Absynth, thanks for the response. I respect your viewpoint and look forward to continued discussion about critical issues. Such discussion helps all of us, I believe.

PS-FYI: I've spoken to Iraqis, too, both in the US at Columbia (my school in NYC) before the war, and over satellite feed with students in Iraq for a TV show soon after "major combat operations" ended.The Iraqi ex-pats in the US (INC types, naturally), were strident in their call for US-led regime change and hammered home the point that it was the US's moral responsibility to take Saddam out of power. They painted a very rosy picture of a pluralistic Iraq free of Saddam, by the way, so if you want to blame someone for the US's overly optimistic predictions for rebuilding Iraq, blame the INC. As for the Baghdad University students, there was a variety of opinions. Most of them, understandably were NOT happy about the US-led invasion (one student's 15-year-old cousin was killed), but were happy that Saddam was gone and accepted that a US invasion was a necessary means to an end. One said she opposed the 2003 invasion, but also thought we should have taken Saddam out of power in 1991. Most expected a better life eventually in a post-Saddam Iraq, and looked forward to new possibilities. Three overriding concerns were that the US establish security in Iraq, Iraqis self-determine their future and a more general, but deep-seated, worry that the Americans take the best interests of the future of Iraq to heart, and act in those best interests. Do Iraqis like being an occupied country? Of course not - they are a proud people with a great culture. Americans don't enjoy being occupiers either, which partly explains why we were 12 years late in taking Saddam out of power. In this case, our reflexive anti-colonialism should help us in our very difficult mission in Iraq. Bottom-line, it would behoove the American people to be pragmatic about the importance of success at this stage of the mission. Whether you opposed the war or not (and I hope that I've offered at the very least a reasonable rationale for the war) - RIGHT NOW - there's a vital job for us to do in Iraq . . . at least until the protestors fulfill their wish for the US to abandon the Iraqi people prematurely.


Originally posted by Genjuro!

As I said before, maybe this war will be good for Iraq, but I can't agree with the global concept of US foreign policy. I can't agree with a preventive war that allows a foreign nation to act at will in other's domestic issues. There's no justification. No WMD, no 9/11 links, just geopolitical and economical reasons, and the sense of opportunity (Saddam evilness).

This very statement highlights how much of the UN's actual enforcement has become associated with the US, and why the US must take charge as a leader today. Saddam's "material breach" and flouting of the UN's legitimacy was on-going - that's established. I've outlined the alternatives to continuing the failed, harmful policy of the enforcement of the UN resolutions. Why were other nations so willing to maintain the US-ended failed, harmful policy of enforcement? Simple - they had no personal investment in the UN's mission, no real intention to take responsibility for enforcement of the UN resolutions. The US took on the responsibility - I think other nations just assumed we would - and we almost exclusively paid the material and political cost of actual enforcement of the UN resolutions. France, in fact, had MORE to gain by protecting Saddam's regime than protecting the viability of the UN, and acted to obstruct enforcement of Rez 1441 accordingly.

The resistance of some nations in the UN, and sadly their peoples, to contribute to the mission in Iraq today only proves to me how little they actually care for the future of Iraq and its people, and in the face of such selfish callousness, how poignant is America's dedication to a better future for Iraq.

Genjuro, the Iraq mission was the definitive mission of the UN, much like the Germany mission once was for the League of Nations. Just review the long and well-documented history of the mission to enforce post-Gulf War UN policy on Saddam, how the US has worked diligently to exhaust alternative means to defend the UN against Saddam's continued defiance - review the broader human and material cost of the US's efforts, to include 9/11 - and then tell me about justification. Whether or not he had WMD, Saddam was as equally non-compliant in 2003 as he was in 1998, 1995, and 1991. Believe me, the US - really the UN - had rock-solid justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom. With Saddam's record, when he continued the same deceptions under Rez 1441, the only choice was to assume he was hiding WMD. That was the rule of law he broke. After years of exhausting the alternative enforcement measures, regime change was the necessary penalty for Saddam breaking the rule too often, too long. Saddam was and would be dangerous, and surrendering to him would have killed the UN, even on the unlikely chance he would choose not to resume his WMD programs. Regime change was justified, and if anything, years late.

Even if 9/11 hadn't happened, the only remaining courses of action for the UN were regime change, give up the Iraq mission (and any legitimacy for the UN) or indefinitely continuing a failed, harmful, costly policy. Which was the responsible path to take? Punish the Iraqi people indefinitely because of their unrepentant leader, just to appease the failed policy of a selfish UN council? Or, end the idiocy, act to change the failed policy, change the Iraqi leadership and give the Iraqi people a real future? Heck, it even took the impetus of 9/11 for us to break out of the 5-year quaqmire of the UN's impotence, even after Clinton had declared Saddam was in "material breach" at the close of 1998. Perhaps, what you are really telling me is that non-Americans have no concept of acting responsibly as a world leader. Well, we do, because we've learned the hard way through many years the necessity in real-world affairs of committed, dynamic leadership. Perhaps, ONLY the US at this point in our history is capable of making the truly necessary decisions. I hope not, but that seems increasingly the case.

And who are the US to jugde if the democratic government of Allende is doing right or not? Who cares if the present relations between Chile and the US are good? Does it help the mothers of all those dissappeared children? How many people were executed or have dissappeared? 30,000? Who are the US to decide that this can be done because some economic policy?

Genjuro, how much do you know about Allende? Look past the propaganda and find out what his government was really like, what was really happening in Chile under his rule. Keep the Cold War in mind, and most of all, keep the Cuban Missile Crisis in mind - and how that little crisis almost led to WWIII. Why exactly do you think the US was so vigilant to protect the Western Hemisphere from Soviet influence after CMC? As far as Allende, we supported factions opposing him, but we definitely did not engineer Pinochet's reign of terror. We certainly didn't invade Chile and install Pinochet - there's plenty of evidence that with or without our help, Allende's days were numbered. It's unfortunate that Chile had to go through such a dark period with both Allende and Pinochet before emerging - with our help - as today's Chile, which the US truly supports.

Who are we to decide? What gives us the right? You're kidding me, right? Are you so ignorant of the post-WWII history of the world? Which nation has been constantly called upon to respond to and adjudicate every major crisis in the world? Which nation has poured blood and paid the price for the preservation of stability and democracy in so many parts of the world, for so many people? Which nation had the most invested into the success of the UN, and has been most hurt by its failure, and is sacrificing the most to preserve its purpose today?

I guarantee you, as a member of a civilized nation, your hopes and goals are owed either directly or indirectly to the visionaries and sacrifices of American intervention. Most of the positive developments in the world today are either directly caused by US involvement or can find their origins traced to some aspect of US foreign policy, development or intervention - most of all, our abiding values of democracy, progressivism, plurality and economic prosperity.

Have we been perfect or always right? Not in the real world, not possible given the extraordinary challenges we haved face, are facing and will face. It has been an immense undertaking, and we've made mistakes and hard decisions, but we've done pretty well for the world. Our scope of responsibility remains as broad today, and I stand by our record of achievement.

I can understand why so many people around the world can't understand our "right" because while the US has been working continually around the world for decades to make the world a better place for everyone, their own nations have been entirely focused on their own interests - knowing that, of course, they could call on the US for help. It's unfortunate so many folks don't appreciate what we have earned and given to them, but that's just one of many burdens we must bear.

What is the US national interest for the world? A stable, prosperous world with people living in a practical (globalized) peace. Why is that the US national interest? Because, we, more than any other country, have paid the price for and invested into a better world. More than any other nation since WWII, by influence, by tradition, by practice, by investment, the US is responsible for the welfare of the world.

The sad irony is our concerted efforts to share global responsibility after our victory in the Cold War - our hopes for sharing the burden of leadership with other nations - likely cost us 9/11. We marketed the UN as THE answer, and we invested our resources into internationalization and globalization . . . look what our fellow world-walkers have done with that responsibility. They still foisted on us the burden of the world, and shirked the responsibilities when the time of necessity came. Despite the UN's failure, Bush Jr is STILL trying to save the UN. It's disappointing how many so-called national leaders have instead chosen selfishness over responsibility. As Americans, we DON'T want to shoulder so much of the world's burden but we accept the unavoidable truth: a leader does what must be done, and America is the only reliable world leader available today.

If you truly want the US to be involved less in the world, then petition your own government and appeal to your people in Spain to become a true leader, come join America at the front in grappling with critical global duties, and share our burden. The more others shoulder the load, the less the US has to. That's what we want and how you can get what you want. Join us.


a good war? (post #39)

Originally posted by ill subliminal!
um, this is kind of what happens during war. no one fights a good war.

I agree, although Liberia may in the broadest sense be considered a "good war" because Charles Taylor surrendered without a fight. (The success of Op Iraqi Freedom just may have helped motivate THAT decision.) Anyway, that's an academic discussion about the inter-play of military and diplomacy.

But yes, in the usual interpretation, war is by nature inhumane and brutal, and the most moral goal in a war is to end it. The noble warrior (the kind that runs rampant in the US military, btw) strives to bring as much civility as possible to war - which can be like spitting on a bon-fire. To our credit, by building up such a large military-tech advantage with such a good quality of soldier, and our focus on developing precision weaponry, the US has gone a long way to reducing the level of death, damage and brutality in the wars we fight. Why does the US spend so much money on its military? Because the better the quality of our military, the less unnecessary death and destruction we need to cause and absorb. The idea is that by having such a large military advantage, we can defeat (overwhelm) our enemies in as short a time as possible with as few casualties as possible - and leave more lives and resources with which to rebuild, post-war. Precision weapons help us to fight as "surgically" as possible, too (eg, Compare WWII images of bombed-out, burned-out Dresden, Berlin, etc, to the images of Baghdad after the precision-guided "shock and awe" bombing). In fact, the ideal victory of a military is to defeat the enemy psychologically without actually resorting to a physical fight (yer basic Sun Tzu), such as when Kruschev backed down from Kennedy's use of military threat during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Indeed, in Op Iraqi Freedom, many Iraqi soldiers chose not to fight our guys and gals, thus saving many Iraqi and American lives.

Yes, there has been substantial death, injuries and destruction in Iraq. I'm not all trying to minimize anyone's death or the deep effect of war on the lives of the Iraqis and Americans involved. Whenever I hear news of another American soldier's death, it hurts. But, in context with past less-tech, more-evenly fought wars, the toll of Op Iraqi Freedom - even factoring the casualties accrued since "major combat ops" turned into "low intensity conflict" - is much lower. For example, after combining the casualties from all three categories (friendly, enemy, non-combatant), it still adds up to only a fraction of the casualties incurred on the 1st day of the Battle of the Somme, WWI-type.

As far as the purpose of war? Well, other than destroying lives and gross consumption of just about everything it touches, war is mankind's ultimate agent of change - historically tested, tried and true. There's a practical reason why mankind's history tends to be epochally marked by our wars. Big changes across the board tend to happen when wars happen.

We can only hope that because of our military's performance in Iraq, we'll be able to win the next war without actually fighting it. So, what is a good war? The way I learned it in the Army, it's the war where the good guys win, nobody dies, and everybody gets to go home. Unfortunately, because Saddam wouldn't just step away when we gave him the chance, that didn't happen in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Thanks, Minstrel. Good answer and a fair argument. As Americans, we should be sensitive to the different perceptions that exist around our involvement throughout the world.

I would differ in that while US actions invariably fall into the action-reaction cycle, as mistaken as it is to believe we're automatically righteous, it's equally arrogant for Americans to think that the ills of the world are only reactions to our actions. That's a weakness in our thinking that many anti-Americans exploit in their propaganda. The US is powerful, but we're not omnipotent. Influence isn't the same as control. The world shapes our actions as much or more than we shape the world. In the context of the situation we entered as a world power in the Middle East, given the history of the region - especially Euro colonialism, we've done better than most.

As a world power, I don't think of the US as ideological Crusaders (or Jihad warriors, whatever your bent). We're not angels, after all, and we don't elect our leaders to run our nation as the world's charity. We're human, as human as communists, fascists and terrorists - the fundamentals still apply. I don't believe a world power can or should operate from ideology alone. As a former soldier, I would be offended if any of my buddies died in Seven Samurai fashion with no tangible benefit for the American people (WWI is not one of my favorite wars). I firmly believe a soldier's death should make his country and his people stronger, and a better world for his children. The real world dictates pragmatism, whether strategically, politically or economically (if the three can actually be separated) but I do think the US tries to bring principled positions into the pragmatic play necessary to a world power. As any social liberal knows, real humanitarian achievement is tied as much to security and a strong economic base as to the ideological foundation. Our pragmatic efforts to bring long-term regional stability and democracy to the ME, for example, even if driven as much by strategic and economic concerns, involves humanitarian concerns. Certainly, US intervention is far better than the vampirism of the Europeans, which by the way, is still evident today by their crass efforts to grab bigger profit-stakes in Iraq's future.

Bad things happen for many reasons in a complicated world, and it's our decision to make as a leading world power whether we should pay the cost of becoming involved in any given situation. Al Qaeda, after all, found its pre-al Qaeda roots in regional discontent long before focusing on the US, post-Gulf War, and promotes an independent worldview of which terrorizing Americans is only a means to an end. I'm not sure if the US can be blamed from a moral standpoint for shouldering the responsibility of upholding the UN's enforcement viability in Iraq or defending its ally, Israel, even though those positive policies carry negative consequences. That's the real world. Once we get involved, we will influence the situation and become a player in what happens from then on.

I agree. It's fair to enumerate the negative reasons and consequences of US actions with the positive ones, and the opposite is also true. Doing so is a must in order to render a fair pragmatic evaluation of the situation, and to identify what needs to be changed and what needs to be endured. I agree that rebuilding Iraq isn't by itself enough to fix what's broke in the ME. It's just a part of a greater solution. To Bush Jr's credit, he's taken decisive action towards a real-world solution. As we've learned from Clinton's foreign policy legacy, when you're a world power, avoidance of or inadequate action can also carry a heavy price.

On the ideological grounds of my upbringing, I can empathize when folks find snap-shots of US actions disagreeable. I find, however, that many of the folks who criticize strongest don't do much as far as investing themselves towards real-world solutions. From my exposure to the pragmatic side of world affairs as a soldier, I have to appreciate that fallible humans operating with real world priorities in a shifting, complicated environment is rarely a pretty process. We can only hope to inject principles where we can, maintain our strength and leverage as a nation, adjust the mission when we need to and hope in the long-term and big picture, our influence will lead to tangibly better circumstances for ourselves and for the people we affect.

Of course, whatever our involvement in Chile may or may not have been 30 years ago during the Cold War for whatever reason we may or may not have become involved in Chile, and whether or not US influence has been better for Chile in the long-term, doesn't change the importance for both the American and Iraqi peoples of success in our mission today in Iraq.

Forgive my optimisim, but if there has ever been in history a nation's people better suited to be a beneficial world power - if you believe there can be such a thing - than the pluralist, immigrant-descendant American people, I can't think of who they might be.


Originally posted by Minstrel!

Why am I glad that it is? Or rather, not glad, but in some sense prefer it that way? Because I think carefully cultivated nationalism is a bad thing. I'd rather children had loyalty to decency, not to a nation. If the US acts inappropriately, the proper reaction, in my opinion, is not, "My nation first and matter what my nation does, it's right." I'd rather children grew into adults who applauded enlightened behaviour no matter what nation displayed it, and condemned cruelty or injustice, no matter what nation displayed it.

There is a practical aspect to "cultivated nationalism." The reality of the world is that of cliques. With my upbringing, I wasn't strongly patriotic until I joined the Army, and it wasn't any Manchurian Candidate indoctrination that made me so. It was serving overseas and interacting with non-Americans - military and civilians - with whom national identity was implicit. Granted, their nationalism was likely tied to the fact that their national identity was often bound to a homogenous ethnicity, culture, etc.. Patriotism, for them, fell somewhere within their foundation of civics, social responsibility, and communal identity - the ties that bind the one to the many - so in a very real way, "loyalty to decency" was tied to nationalism. Serving overseas was a wake-up call for this sophisticated, cynical New Yorker. I learned that for non-Americans, the concept of the "ugly American" wasn't in fact an indictment of our patriotism, at least the communal, civic patriotism I learned in the Army. They could appreciate that kind of patriotism. What those non-Americans looked down upon, which offended their own patriotic understanding, was the perverted, selfish concept of patriotism of some Americans or worse, the rejection of patriotism altogether by other Americans. Remember, social values or civics for them was bound with their national identity; they believed Americans who reject their national identity were rejecting essential social values. The question that was asked of me was - how can Americans be trusted with the welfare of my society or the world when so many Americans seem to be so selfish about their own society? (Not just student protestors - also business execs, corrupt pols, etc.) In short, our values, to include our rights of the individual, are admired; however, the seeming disconnect of many Americans from their national identity is viewed as worrisome in a world power. It's why your basic conscientious, patriotic young soldier is often a better representative overseas than his counterpart attending a liberal arts college, protesting his country. It's a matter of fundamental social values.

Anyway, as I said, the world operates from cliques, and that's true in the US, too. For Americans, like myself, who are members of an obvious, easily disempowered minority - whatever that minority may be - the essential idea of being an American is not just a "mystical bond". It's about survival, prosperity and the hope for equality in this society - a pluralistic hope that is unique to this nation (the closest equivalent may perhaps be found in religion-based societies). It's what the 60s were all about, and why I love that era - apart from the near-mortal blow my Army took during that time. The civil rights phenomemon of the 20th century was essentially patriotic. It was about purifying what it means to be an American, to be a robust, pluralistic society of equals. The lesson we learned is that the most important standard to evaluate, to judge, to interact with, to bond with one another is not religion or skin color or ethnicity - to the contrary, THE important standard is our shared identity as Americans, as one people. The practical benefit for our society is that our one overriding clique of citizenship works to overcome the potentially (and proven to be so) divisive cliques all of us belong to in one form or another. An affirmation of citizenship means we can all be empowered by our differences as Americans, and not be destroyed by them. You can argue against the morality of cliques, but you cannot deny their reality in our country, not when we accept and embrace our differences. After all, we're not Communist.

Our country is a great, evolving experiment - unique in history - of the highly improbable concept of E pluribus unum, of the many retaining their strength of individuality but also combining them into a greater whole. We Americans still have a long way to go, a lot of issues to work out, but I'm proud to continue that mission. What we all must realize is that few things can derail our great experiment and destroy the painstaking gains of generations of diverse Americans, than to undermine our national identity.

Perhaps it takes 1st generation ethnic-minority Americans like myself, who are starkly conscientious of what it means to be an American, to periodically remind all of us just what citizenship means. I hope a new American will do my children's children the same favor, when arrogance and selfishness threatens to overcome their sense of national identity.

Here's another way to view the issue. If you strip away my protection, my empowerment, my worth and value as an American, and that bond from the entire American people, then we'll have nothing to fall back on except the cliques we already belong. You do that, and you might as well undo the entire civil rights movement, all the social progress we've made as a country and a people, and return me - and those like me - to the status of our predecessors. In your world, stripped of the "mystical bonds" of nationalism, I might as well be a turn-of-the-20th century Chinaman, killed anonymously building a railroad, or waiting for his next beating in an alley or a lynching. In your world, I'll have no choice but to fall back to living within my minority clique on a "landmass" full of cliques, most of which happen to be stronger than mine. You don't happen to belong to the Ku Klux Klan, do you? . . . I don't think you do, but by rejecting American nationalism, you may as well.

I pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation (under God), indivisible
with Liberty and Justice for all.

Read the Pledge carefully and figure out why it might mean more to an American who is in some way a minority. We can't lose this from the education of our kids.

You know, it's amazing what some people take for granted, but I guess the luxury to do so is one of those American things - physical and conceptual - I protected as a soldier. As for me, I'd rather be an American.


(post #31)

Originally posted by bl611!
Good question if I could fully answer it I'd run for president myself (except for that whole you gotta be 35 thing). What I would do however is use the international sympathy gained by the events of 9/11 to the utmost advatage, instead of squandering it the way the bush administration has. Obviously every decision we make won't be popular with everyone on the planet, however we have to be cognizant of how our actions play in other parts of te world. By overtly invading a muslim nation we essentially reinforce every bit of propaganda that Islamic extremists use to foster hate of the US. I think the most effective approach is working with other nations and establishing a multilateral coalition against terrorism, this strategy seemed to be working before we abandoned it to go after Iraq. Since we have word from arabia is Al queda is regrouping probably as a result both our paying less attention to them, and new enrollment thanks to our current actions. The fact is all the money and resources we have burned has made us less safe then we were to begin with.

You know, in my mom's apartment, I'm in the process of stripping all the old flaking paint, and I'm going to spackle, prime and repaint it when I'm done. It's a tough job. I didn't know when I started that the visible flakes were all attached to a bunch of cracks. So, right now, the place is a big mess. Drop cloths, paint chips, dust all over the place, and my mom complaining how awful her apartment looks, and how she thought I only needed to patch up a few flaking spots. It's more work than I thought it'd be, and more expensive, but I know if I quit now, my mom will be in trouble. It would have been better if I had never started, but doing so would have left the original flaking problem. I'm confident, however, that when I finish the job, her apartment will be a better place.

I think one of the major public perception problems with the war on terror is based on the popular belief we were taught for over a decade about the glorious capitalist world peace of globalization in which Americans no longer had to bear the old Cold War burdens. We could share our global responsibilities, which in security terms meant multilateral forces and coalitions. Above and beyond any other nation, the US taught the world to believe in the UN. It was in our interest to do so.

The record shows that after the Cold War the UN as a viable enforcement body in actuality never stopped relying on the US. Just because we didn't want the burden of a unilateral world power didn't make the burden, in real-world cost, any less ours. Kuwait, post-war Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans . . . for better or worse, missions credited to the UN or multilateral forces continued to be carried by the US.

I'm sure you remember how Republicans, including Bush Jr, complained about the increasing number of interventions by the US military under Clinton, in contrast to our shrinking military manpower. That's the kind of thing that happens when a nation heavily invests itself into the viability of an international enforcement body while simultaneously fooling itself into believing its own national global burdens were decreasing. Obviously, the internationalization of global security didn't come to fruition as we had hoped.

Somalia should have been enough to prove that the UN - apart from the US - couldn't function as an enforcement body. If Somalia wasn't enough, then Rwanda should have proved it. When the US balked in Rwanda after the Somalia debacle, the UN didn't even try to address the problem. Croats and Bosnians still blame the US - not the UN - for intervening so late in stopping Milosevic.

The US is the world's leading power. Leaders, particularly disproportionally powerful leaders, have no room for excuses. Nations around the world and the UN have asked for and received help from the US. They're used to that option. Who do we ask for help? Who do we blame when we're hurt, and we need help solving a problem? Who do we turn to? Can we count on the same nations and multilateral organizations that expect us to solve their problems?

Sure, we garnered plenty of sympathy around the world after 9/11, but when it comes to an impossibly difficult, dirty job like effectively fighting the terrorist phenomenon, talk is cheap. Sympathy isn't an effective tool against a growing, possibly out-of-control cancer. As a former soldier, I learned about the difference between our nominal allies' approach to international obligations and how we do it. I served in Korea; technically, I was there in support of a UN mission. Well, the UN forces in Korea pretty much mean our guys and gals supporting the ROKs with a token multi-national presence.

In that regard, I saw in the news today that a Euro commissioned poll says that most Europeans think they shouldn't contribute anything to the Iraq mission since it's an American problem, not theirs. My reaction? After the Gulf War, Somalia, the Balkans, heck just about every substantial intervention in which the US shared the credit but paid the bill (to include my favorite, the Korean War), that's just about what I expect from Europeans. International sympathy is nice, but it tends to add little towards getting the job done.

Put aside Korea. How many non-American troops are rooting out al Qaeda in Afghanistan right now?

I don't understand why Americans think the same nations that needed us to bail them out of their own backyard in Bosnia can now be relied on to be our multilateral savior in the war on terror. International consensus is desirable but the fact remains that when there's a tough job to do, the US - either from our national character or our resources - is the one nation that gets the job done. Perhaps, it goes the other way. We have been guilty too often of playing State Dept multilateral politics, which is one source of resentment against us - we have undermined missions for multilateral-political cache, thus sacrificing the interests of people who were the subject of those missions. When we're talking about 9/11 and the subject of the mission is the American people, my opinion is that we cannot afford to play the same political game by sacrificing our national interests for the sake of gaining multilateral political brownie points.

For me, limiting our actions to please the international community is part of the problem that got us here, and worse in the present, it's mission ineffective. Sympathy is not the answer to this problem. I agree we need better international and domestic public relations, and I fault Bush Jr for being such a poor diplomat - I believe Clinton would have easily sold the same mission. If I was Bush Jr, I would have abandoned the UN by now, but bless his simple, multilateral heart, he kept going back there for a post-war UN sanction of our mission, and even succeeded in getting that sanction.

We live in a shrinking, interconnected, globalized world, where terrorists know that to implant their worldview in the ME and beyond, they need to get us (and other Western agencies such as the UN and Red Cross) out of the way. Stable (economic and security), pluralistic democracies are antithetical to their mission. If we succeed in Iraq, the terrorists are in big trouble, and we boost efforts by reformers such as the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Judge Ebadi. If we fail in Iraq, extremism in the ME goes big-time. (If you think we're boosting terrorist recruitment now, check out what happens if/when the US surrenders its mission in Iraq and bugs out of the ME.) Yer basic high risk, high reward gamble that some other nations want no part of, but then, they weren't hit on 9/11 - we were. It's true we've made progress working closely over the years with the standing (if unpleasant) governments of the ME, but it wasn't enough. Obviously, this problem exceeds past measures.

I'd welcome better, and more to the point, more substantive support from the international community for the war on terror. I'd welcome major improvements in our own conduct of the Iraq mission - an idea I share with the mainstream Dem candidates. Eventually, we're going to need to mend the public relation rifts, but that's up to the next president. But as Americans, we cannot afford to forget again that we are global leaders, whether we want to be or not, and we're the one nation that cannot hide behind multilateralism - as we've tried to do. With privileges, leadership has its burdens. It's no accident that al Qaeda extremists who wish to impose their worldview in the ME attack us. The US - not Europe, not China, not the UN - is in their way. The fact that bin Laden - and all that he represents - targets us as his enemy is actually quite a compliment to what America brings to the world. We're facing the enemy head-on now and not only fighting him but also undermining the conditions in which he flourishes. The enemy knows that, and is attempting to protect his way of life - via attacks on moderate Muslim clerics, on Iraqi government officials, on non-American foreign representatives, on Iraqi civil and oil infrastructure, on international aid agencies and on the Iraqi police force, by trying to chase us away, the enemy is attempting to create the painful conditions in Iraq needed to breed terrorism or, for the Saddam loyalists, fascism. The enemy is hard, committed and smart, and he fights for victory by any means necessary. He believes Americans are a weak people and the US can be defeated - the Vietnam War taught the world how. He's willing to sacrifice untold numbers of lives, especially Muslims, in order to win. The Great Depression hardened the American generation that fought Hitler and Hirohito - is our pampered American generation tough enough to take on this enemy? We're Americans and that means something extra in this world; we have a job to do.


I guess I should read GEN Clark's book, huh? Given that he's my front-runner and all.

The Iraq situation and north Korea situation are very different, and we're working that issue, too. As of now, the nK's are still playing the same game, on one hand being over-the-top threatening, on the other hand begging for aid - basically, offering us the carrot and the stick, and staying alive to fight another day. It's an old game, which our more optimistic analysts think nK can't keep up too much longer - but they were saying that when I was in the Army. Fortunately, the politics of the region have shifted in our favor since the Korean war. While China is a competitor, Communist China is all but gone. The USSR is gone. Today, we can work with Russia and China, as well as the ROK and Japan to contain nK. It's always been a risky Cold War game with them, but as of now, the odds of globalisation are in our favor. While nK has the one bargaining chip, its military threat, we have more moves we can make.

Fighting al Qaeda. There's a reason Clinton didn't want to commit the US to fighting terrorism, even as the threat grew - it's really, really hard to fight the phenomenon. So, how do we defeat terrorism? Indefinitely send the 101st Airborne, Stealth bombers, and Tomahawk missiles to chase terrorists around the globe, and to kill folks and blow stuff up? Indefinitely practice the Patriot Act and tighten Homeland Security? It may be a romantic Chuck Norris solution, but that's not going to get the job done. We're not just dealing with a state-bound enemy we can fix and destroy. This time around, we can't just surround Berlin, atomize two cities, or set up a DMZ.

As far as multilateralism, the government's already working in partnership with nations around the world in the physical fight against terrorists, particularly in SE Asia and the ME, including some pretty unsavory governments. Why do you think Bush Jr (and I cringe to think of him as the chief diplomat representing the US) keeps doing these tours of Asia and Africa, and meeting with all of these leaders? We're relying on successful globalisation (more on that later) to counter the conditions breeding terrorism, but he's also reinforcing the shared fight, such as it is, against terrorism. If we are working multilaterally, then the question is, why does the US seem to be so out-front and center-stage on this? Well, partly it's because Bush Jr is a poor salesman who couldn't spin a top, and partly it's because we've been out-front and center-stage since WWII, even when we pretend we're not.

So, why Iraq? After 9/11, it became abundantly clear that with the deterioration of the ME situation, we needed to end our harmful relationship with Iraq ASAP and to reform our ME policies. The question was how to do it.

Background. The UN's post-Gulf War policy in Iraq had failed. Clinton established that in 98, when he set regime change in Iraq as preferred American policy, conducted Op Desert Fox and we pulled out the inspectors. Inexcusably, we continued the failed policy for 5 more years after that, even knowing that we weren't hurting defiant, palace-building, military-rearming Saddam, even knowing he was transferring the sanctions' impact, designed to weaken his regime, onto the Iraqi people instead. If 9/11 hadn't happened, how long were we prepared to maintain that status quo? Scary thought - before 9/11, Bush Jr wasn't going to change the status quo in Iraq, either.

There were three ways to end the failed Iraq policy: after years of exhausting the alternatives, either the UN had to surrender to Saddam, Saddam had to prove his compliance beyond a doubt, or military-led regime change (after Op Desert Fox, the only "serious consequence" we had left to resort to). Unless we were going to maintain the failed policy forever, the final resolution-confrontation between Saddam and the US had to take place eventually. It was up to us - Saddam was comfortable enough to wait us out. Other than the controversial, embellished urgency he used to break the grip of the status quo and push Rez 1441, Bush Jr pretty much handled it by the book. He even returned to the UN when, via Clinton's Op DF precedent, he didn't have to - bless his simple, multilateral heart. Clearly, our intell failed in that enough of our guys really believed Saddam had a ready cache of WMD (even if the Niger nuke stuff was fishy from the start), but our intell also failed to keep up with Saddam through the years when he was hiding WMD successfully. Saddam remained non-compliant through Rez 1441, we gave him a chance to remove himself from power, he didn't do it, the conditions of "serious consequences" were met, and we crossed the Iraq-Kuwait border.

So, if you can accept the rationale for the need to resolve the Iraq situation eventually, why do it while bin Laden is still at-large?

After the decision was made to change our ME policies, if we had pulled stakes and bugged out of Iraq with Saddam left in power, it would have been a legitimately huge victory for bin Laden's 9/11 foreign policy, which I think we can agree would have been unacceptable. It's a matter of comparing our political status at the beginning of al Qaeda's rise compared to what it is now. It's about asking, where did we screw up, and how we do fix it? Well, we screwed up in Iraq by allowing ourselves to become a harmful, propaganda-inspiring presence in the ME for 12 years, for the sake of world opinion. We screwed up from the beginning by going to war with Saddam in 91, and then leaving him in power - another multilateral goof.

Immediately after the Gulf War, in those early, heady post-Cold War days when the former Soviet realm was democratizing with our help, there was real hope in Iraq and the ME that US intervention meant reform and democracy. Iraqi Shiites even rebelled against Saddam in 91 (yep, Bush Sr was still prez) due to their faith in us. Of course, from Kuwait, we watched while they died - again, for the sake of world opinion. Imagine the trust the Arab people had in us then; imagine the kind of courage it took for those Iraqis to rise up against Saddam. We betrayed them, and we knew it - as badly as we betrayed the Cuban freedom fighters in 61 (btw, Kennedy did that for world opinion, too). Belatedly, we set up a no-fly zone to protect the Shia population in the South and the Kurds in the North. For Americans soldiers on duty in the ME when this went down, it wasn't a proud day. America broke a blood-promise to the Iraqi people we made with our troops. But hey, sacrifices had to be made to appease our partners in globalisation, right? So, we sacrificed Iraqi lives, the integrity of the UN mission in Iraq and our integrity as a world leader. After that, the 9/11 clock was ticking.

The rise of Osama. Saddam, for his part, wasn't stupid. He tested us, we failed, and he figured out early on what the UN and the US wasn't willing to do to stop his obstructions. As for al Qaeda - Osama and his skilled cohorts, their opposition to the existing pro-West governments in the ME, their extremist mission to create a global Caliphate, pre-dated the Gulf War. They did the standard ME terrorist assassinations and bombings but, generally, it was localized stuff. ObL just needed to find his place to take root and go global. Like Hitler's pure-Aryan vision, bin Laden had his worldview - an Islamic Caliphate. Like Hitler's foils, the so-called sub-races, our post-Gulf War involvement in the ME, particularly involving Iraq, gave bin Laden his hate-platform. If Jews were Hitler's disease to be exterminated, America (and Jews, too) became Osama's disease of choice. Why did his hate work? Among the people of the region, as their initial optimism for change was replaced by the reality of our indefinite military presence and political decision to maintain regional stability through existing states, the question arose: if the US wasn't in the ME for Euro-type reform, and we increasingly became the co-agents with Saddam of Iraqi suffering, what the heck was the US doing in the ME? To the Muslim world, Osama offered seductive answers. By our mistakes in the Iraq mission, like the Allies' mistakes in post-WWI Germany, we helped Osama rise from the clutter to find his place in history. The same US that defeated Communism and offered a beacon of hope was transformed into liars, infidels, colonialists, imperialists come to steal oil, and crusaders seeking to occupy the Holy Lands (specifically, Saudi Arabia and Iraq), destroy Islam, corrupt the Muslim youth, rape Arab women and oppress the Arab peoples. Whatever worked to recruit a suffering Muslim to his cause (it's amazing how extreme wealth is contrasted with poverty in the ME), Osama sold it. And we let it happen. Saddam wasn't above feeding from the same trough. It didn't help that anti-Americans around the world, freshly bitter over the defeat of Communism and marshalling against globalisation, eagerly helped spread the message of American villainy. And why not? We truly became the physical embodiment of a harmful, failed policy in Iraq for the sake of multilateralism and our own aversion to impose an effective "serious consequence" on Saddam.

If there is a nation that - as a root cause - is at the ideological heart of our war on terror, it's not Afghanistan, it's Iraq.

Again, think about it. We wilfully maintained this harmful Iraq policy over a decade, and as an American, you're STILL questioning why we changed policy on Iraq. It's no wonder so many Arabs don't trust American intentions in the ME.

Afghanistan makes a lot of tactical sense for Osama for a few reasons, but he pretty much settled there because nobody else would take him in. The Taliban was the only government that did. The Taliban was sympathetic to his cause but they also needed the economic help which al Qaeda provided - sort of like a gang that grips a poor urban neighborhood. We tried to give aid to the Taliban, too, but it was too little, misdirected, and came too late. Al Qaeda was already established in-country, so today, we've got troops fighting it out in Afghanistan.

It should comfort you that, indeed, we ARE still using up vast resources, spending our economic and political cache, filling body bags with our heroes, and becoming more internationally unpopular by the day fighting the terrorists. We may have shifted resources, but we didn't abandon the war on terror in order to do Iraq. However, in a world in which the US is limited by borders and official procedures, and the terrorists are not, we are at a SEVERE disadvantage if we limit our conduct of the fight to the enemy's rules. (Ask a well-trained, well-armed American soldier in Iraq what he thinks about his Rules of Engagement compared to the terrorists' procedural restrictions - then ask him why his morale is low.) At some point, we need to evaluate what we as a nation can do to take control of the fight against a non-state, global, ideologically-driven guerilla force. Unlike our former competitors, the Soviets, this isn't an enemy we can easily surround with our global worldview. Unless we change the Cold War paradigms and move away from limiters like 'containment' or 'immediate threat', the terrorists' mobility and flexibility is going to result in their worldview shattering ours - they jump-started that process by taking the initiative on 9/11.

A solution. Fortunately, al Qaeda has a weakness we can attack as a state actor. They are limited by their own self-identification as Muslims and/or Arabs.

We accept that while the physical fight is a necessary component, we are unable to physically eliminate the al Qaeda phenomenon. We further recognize that like the ideological extremists (some private militias, Communists, KKK, etc) we incorporate in pluralistic America, the effective path is not to seek elimination but rather marginalisation of the phenomenon. So, we go to the heart of the issue, and we use globalisation where it CAN defeat Osama. We go to Iraq and do what Bush Sr should have done 12 years ago to avoid this whole, bloody mess.

The end-state plan. We switched the indefinite, failed Iraq policy to one with an end-state strategy. For some reason, we gave Saddam a last chance to stay in power, which he goofed anyway, so we took Saddam out of power (ideally, he would have peacefully taken himself out of power like Charles Taylor in Liberia). Now, we gamble on the elite Persian heritage of the Iraqi people and on Iraq as an educated, developed nation. We build with them a pluralistic (Christian, Shia, Sunni, Kurd) democracy with economic stability and security. If we succeed, we attack al Qaeda's weakness via a globalisation that takes root with an Arab personage and the true Muslim faith in the heart of the Muslim world. Along with our belief in the Iraqi people, the second key for success in our Iraq mission is their oil. Not for us, mind you, since we don't rely on Iraqi oil anyway, as opposed to nations like France and Russia that had sweetheart oil deals set up with Saddam. It would sabotage our mission to claim permanent ownership of Iraq's chief national resource, and if Bush Jr is stupid enough to try it, then I'LL lead the next protest calling for his impeachment. Iraqi oil SHOULD ensure the vital and necessary economic foundation and, therefore, viability of the new Iraq. (The missions aren't entirely analogous, but think of why we implemented the expensive Marshall Plan in Europe.) Would our work in Iraq have been easier, cheaper, quicker and more effective in 91? No doubt, but that's what we get for procastinating and ignoring the harm we caused.

The next question then is, what good does a rebuilt, pluralistic, democratic, economically stable and secure Iraq do for us, and why the heck should we pay for it? First, we pay, because we invaded them and because we're personally staked on the success of this mission. The larger answer is that we're not normally in the habit of invading nations. It took extraordinary circumstances for us to go into Afghanistan and Iraq. Certainly, we want the terrorists and those who help them to BELIEVE the US is committed to fighting them anywhere, but realistically, we all know that isn't true. Osama isn't stupid - he sees how our troops are forced to tip-toe on the Pakistani, Syrian and Iranian borders (and if he missed it, CNN will tell him). Our president ain't Napolean or Attila the Hun. Logistically, even if we decided to go 19th century, our over-stretched military is incapable of an "aggressive, expansionist" (to use a Ted Rall description) conquest of the oil fields of the ME. Besides, there's no need. We work fine with OPEC, and we don't even have enough troops to adequately guard the oil fields in Iraq. If Bush Jr really meant to be an oil-hungry imperialist, he at least should have waited until we doubled or tripled the size of our military.

Answer. Bush Jr's Iraq mission is about redefining the geopolitical landscape of the ME so we can fight terrorism by bringing all of our strengths to bear as a diplomatic and economic power. In other words, Bush Jr wants to do more than just chase an elusive, amorphous enemy on the enemy's terms; he wants to bring globalisation - as you do - into the fight. How? Iraq isn't tiny (if wealthy) Kuwait or Qatar. It's not paralyzed Saudi Arabia. It's not poor, marginal Afghanistan. It's not controversial, embattled, non-Muslim Israel. Geographically, economically, socially, culturally, politically, even historically - a reformed Iraq should be a tremendous influence on multiple levels in the ME, even analogous to how the US influences the Americas. Globalisation at work. Iraq can influence the archaic Baathist government in Syria. It can influence the reform movement in Iran. It can exert at least a populist influence on the Saudi people, so we can reduce our security-reliance on their monarchy. A reformed Iraq might even be the key to resolving the Israel-Palestine crisis. Via a reformed Iraq, we bring in a powerful, positive fund to influence the ME to counteract al Qaeda's negative fund appeal. Obviously, Arabs are smart folk and a 'puppet' Iraqi government ain't going to get this done, which is why we have to take tremendous care to establish conditions so the new Iraqi government WILL succeed - and not turn into another Saddam. Iraq needs to have an independent government with - like Israel - close ties with us. If Iraq becomes a globalisation driver, by shared national interests alone, Iraq should have close ties with us.

Anti-American propaganda. Is it any wonder that anti-American and anti-globalisation types, and not just terrorists, oppose the US mission in Iraq? A defeat of America by terrorists in Iraq helps their fight against globalisation by destroying our international influence. On the other hand, success by America in Iraq turns Iraq into a model of success, and advances our influence and the hated globalisation. There are more than two worldviews at stake in the war on terror.

Iraq and Osama. IF we can take away hate as a driving force in the ME and replace it with realistic hope for reform - as was expected of us 12 years ago - and IF we can become a positive influence in the ME, then dead or alive, Osama will be finished. Then, our version of globalisation - and not his - can proceed. With success, we will be able to establish conditions to fight terrorism on our terms, where we can work more diplomatically and economically, and less militarily. On the other hand, IF we fail in Iraq, then we've just handed the heart of Persia and all the power of Iraqi oil to al Qaeda.

Do you think the terrorists are in Iraq just to drive out the "foreign oppressors"? The enemy knows the potential of Iraq better than we do. Imagine if Hitler had control of the kind of power potential available in Iraq. If we withdraw from Iraq, then al Qaeda goes big-time, not just in the ME, but in the world.

Globalisation. If the US is going to be effective as the 'engine of globalisation', then the American people really ought to become better educated about globalisation. Economic issues cannot be separated from the social, environmental, diplomatic, and military areas - in fact, economics often lies at the heart of those areas. Clinton, Mr. Free Trader himself, should go around the country and educate young Americans who obviously don't know what it means if they protest this war on the basis of "no blood for oil". Even though the US is pretty good about diversifying our oil sources so we don't rely on ME oil, in globalisation terms, there's a very good reason why we're so keenly interested in stability in the Middle East. Many countries rely heavily on ME oil, and in a shrinking, interconnected, globalised world, there's a lot of power, potential and influence in that region because of their oil. What happens in the ME has tidal-sized ripples around the world, even if not as much in the US. Controlling ripples in the form of regional stability and normalized relations is part of the social-political component of the economically-driven globalisation. (The political component is a big reason why Clinton so aggressively established trade relations with US-competitor China.) Restoring regional stability is why we evicted Saddam from Kuwait in 91, on top of his brutality. Unfortunately, we allowed the ME's ripples to get out of control and then smack us on 9/11 by not resolving the Saddam situation sooner and by allowing the al Qaeda phenomenon to grow out of control. A contained tyrant - such as Saddam getting whipped by Iran - is bad enough, but barely tolerable (at least until he starts gassing his people). When that tyrant starts gobbling up neighbors like Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia in his desire to build a new Persian Empire, it's definitely not in the world's interests, let alone ours, to allow such a destabilization to occur. Fast forward to 2003 - the UN couldn't allow a defiant, non-compliant and (at least) conventionally re-armed Saddam out of the box for the same reason, and as explained, the US was paying the cost of maintaining that box. However, as bad for regional stability as both Saddam and our post-Gulf War Iraq policy have been, and as much as we need to resolve the situation, al Qaeda in control of Iraq would be worse. In contrast, a rebuilt Iraq could be an incredible, oil-powered ally in globalisation and in the fight against the terrorist phenomenon.

We've bugged out before, in Vietnam, in Somalia, and if you consider a few CIA operatives as intervention, we bugged out of Afghanistan. We don't have the luxury to bug out of Iraq. If on nothing else, I know GEN Clark agrees with me on that.

To sum, we screwed up for over a decade in the ME. The folks that say wars are fought because of failure are correct in this case - we failed, and now we're trying to set things right. We've got some hard, glum choices to make in what Rumsfeld calls the "long, hard slog". The closest thing to a right path is perhaps the most difficult one, and it's the one we're following now. We can't afford to screw up in the ME again, and if Bush Jr can't handle this mission as CinC, then we need to find the right person for the job. If you truly want globalisation to come into play to fight terrorism, then you're on-board with what Bush Jr is trying to do.

I guess GEN Clark doesn't agree with me, but anyway, make sense?

Go to Part 4.

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