The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, May 03, 2003
(Doctor’s note: In the session prior to this one, the patient showed a bizarre disconnect with current events in the Middle East - simultaneously downplaying Iraqi anger at Americans, and overemphasizing the beneficial effects of the war (NPR sees none of this). I asked him about it….)
I’ve seen the protests against Americans, telling us to leave immediately. I read about looting, the discontent with the security situation and the frustration with American leadership.
It’s there, no doubt.
Some Iraqis who want us to leave. NOW. But the majority want us to stay.
Protests don’t necessarily reflect the will of the people. We, of all people should know this about protests. On February 15th, nearly a million people converged on Washington to protest for Saddam’s “peace.” At the time, 60% of the population supported the coming war to remove the dictator. The protests changed nothing.
The people who want us to leave are mostly radical Shiites (and disaffected Sunnis with close ties to the former regime). One might think that they hadn’t thought the situation out, that they can’t possibly think that a power vacuum would good for Iraq.
On closer thought, though, it is clear that the power vacuum is EXACTLY what they desire. Islamic fundamentalism usually comes to power by exploiting this very situation: it did so in Iran and Afghanistan. Iran is rushing some of its most radical religious zealots into Iraq, and trying to fire up the locals (It is an old cliché, familiar to communists: if your revolution is failing at home, export the misery).
Will they succeed? Who knows? The final answer will rest with the Iraqi people.
But if the coalition were to leave (which will not happen), it would be the ultimate betrayal to all of our friends in the country. Many of them would be killed. The Shiite fundamentalists would likely try to seize power (with Iran’s backing). The Sunnis – of course - would violently resist this. The minorities of Iraq (Assyrian Christians, Turkmen, and Jews) would hide in their homes and hope for the best. The Kurds would seize (oil drenched) Kirkuk and Mosul, and would probably try to declare independence. This would cause the Turks to declare war (They have been fighting the PKK for decades, have continuing problems with the Kurds, and nothing rouses the Turks to war like the idea of an oil-rich Kurdistan on their border). The Syrians would press for the return of the Baathists through Tikrit, which no one in Iraq would want, but Syria can’t tolerate either an Islamic fundamentalist state or an independent Kurdistan.
In short, an American pullout would be the quickest route to a horrible regional war.
So, naturally, that is exactly what the intellectual left, the “peace” movement, and the Arab League are calling for. These people have been on the wrong side of just about every foreign policy issue in the last three decades, and they aren’t about to break that streak here.
But the adults are running foreign policy these days, and none of those things are likely to happen. The American military presence will guarantee stability (albeit stability with reasonable number of continued Iraqi protests) for the time being, and when things are running smoothly enough, the Americans will retreat to a base of some kind and would re-intrude only if constitutional principles were being violated.
The dream is that Iraq will become a prosperous capitalist democracy. There’s a reasonable chance of that happening.
But there is an EXCELLENT chance that Iraq will soon have the best government in the region (the Syrians, the Iranians and the Saudis set the bar so high…ahem).
And that’s simply the best investment the US can make in a post 9/11 world.