Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Time for Leaving

Reposted as history. Originally posted in January of 2005.

The American Conservative
By William R. Polk - 1/17/2005

Leaving aside Kurdistan, where roughly a quarter of all Iraqis live, Iraq is a shattered country. Its infrastructure has been pulverized by the “shock and awe” of the American invasion. Few Iraqis today even have clean drinking water or can dispose of their waste. About 7 in 10 adult Iraqis are without employment. Factories are idle, and small shopkeepers have been squeezed out of business. Movement even within cities is difficult and dangerous. And the trend in each of these categories is downward. Iraq’s society has been torn apart, and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis have died. Virtually every Iraqi has a parent, child, spouse, cousin, friend, colleague, or neighbor—or perhaps all of these—among the dead. More than half of the dead were women and children. Putting Iraq’s casualties in comparative American terms would equate to about one million American deaths. Dreadful hatreds have been generated.

This is excessive rhetoric and gives the flavor of much of this article. Isolationism is the traditional position of conservatives. It is probably the one issue that most separates them from neocons and libertarians, the other groups that make up today's "right". However there is a difference between isolationism and pessimism. I find it hard to believe that traditional conservatives really see what is happening in Iraq in such a relentlessly negative tone as this article. There are numerous credible people who talk about the significant progress that has been made since the end of the traditional war in Iraq. On a great number of issues, including some of the issues Polk addresses in this article, the reality is that things are better than they ever were under Saddam. Many Iraqis are expressing great appreciation for what has happened. They do not want us to leave. Where is the perspective in Polk's article?

Polk says "When I visited Baghdad in February 2003, on the eve of the invasion, the Iraqis with whom I talked were proud that they had rebuilt what had been destroyed in the 1991 war." This is the view of Saddam and his henchmen. When we arrived in Iraq what we discovered was that the infrastructure had been allowed to deteriorate. Much of our reconstruction has been harder than expected because we did not realize how wrong this statement was. Why is Polk quoting Saddam's adherents to make his position?

The islamofascist movement was actively planning for the destruction of America before 9/11. They had huge open bases in Afghanistan. They were being funded by some of the richest people in Saudi Arabia, again very openly. Today the bases in Afghanistan do not exist. Whatever attraction Iraq has for the people who used to go to Afghanistan to train for our destruction, they cannot do it openly in Iraq. If you think they can, you need to restudy the recent experience in Falluja. The Saudi's who used to fund the islamofascists (Bush calls them terrorists for tactical reasons of not making an issue of their religion) are now worrying about their own government's opposition to their activities. They are curtailing their contributions and worrying about keeping their freedom.

The position of Polk in this article is not significantly different than the position of many leftists before either the Afghanistan war, or the Iraq war. It is a new way of saying, "The Arab street will rise up if we do anything". However it has not yet. I cannot see that it will. Expecting the "street" to rise up assumes we handle these issues so the conflict is framed solely in terms of religion. Polk criticizes the use of the term "terrorist" to describe these people when that term was chosen to not make happen what he seems unwilling to accept has not happened. Pressure to "get out now" is counterproductive if winning is important.

There are a wide range of political views in this county, and frequently they define themselves by what they oppose rather than what they support. Ronald Reagan taught us better than that. Some conservatives are now attacking a war that many of us on the right feel we have to keep fighting until the islamofascist movement is no longer a threat. A nuclear bomb going off in America is still a real threat if we do not act now. We need to discourage the most conservative parts of our political spectrum from attacking those who are their natural friends over what are disagreements about tactics.


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