The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, August 23, 2003
More On Iraq
Joel at Eyes, Lies and Spies made some interesting comments to my Iraq post below.
I would reply in the space of the post, but I quickly ran out of room (1000 characters max). I have no interest to get in a nasty debate with Joel, but I am more than happy to explain my beliefs. That after all is the purpose of blogs. His comments are in italics:
(In Iraq,) Is your country ready to wait 10 years? People don't even want to wait a couple months.
I believe we are prepared to stay In Iraq for as long as it takes, especially if the cost of our withdrawal is Iraqi chaos. “Creating democracy” is a huge mandate, one which is especially difficult. It may not be possible, but this depends on the Iraqis themselves. We need to give it a try. Terrorism occurs because the Arab governments are ridiculous failures that use Israel and the US as scapegoats for their own shortcomings. They are poor and backward because of their own repression, not because anything the West did to them. Good governance can, potentially, change that.
But Iraq is still important in the war on terror even if that can’t be done.
Here are good things that have come about because of this war.
1. Al Qaeda and its sister organizations are fighting our military directly. They are losing some of their most zealous people. They are being drawn to Iraq, not Manhattan. If they try to turn Iraq into a battleground, they may drive more Iraqis to our side. Most Iraqis have nothing in common with Islamic radicals.
2. Iraq’s oil output in 5-10 years may be enough to affect the global price significantly, and this threatens the economies of the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, which has long benefited from the artificially high price of oil. Saudi Arabia’s power will be reduced.
3. One of the world’s worst leaders has been removed. Hussein killed 300,000 of his own people directly, and sacrificed another 500,000 in his pointless wars. We have found the mass graves of thousands. The war was short, low in casualties, and most of the country was left intact. There was no refugee crisis, no humanitarian disaster, and Iraq’s neighbors stayed out.
4. The possibility that Iraq would share weapons with terrorists has been removed, and a huge terrorist funding source has been destroyed. Only states can sponsor huge WMD programs, and one of those states is gone.
5. Most of Iraq has welcomed the coalition forces, and reconstruction is progressing well in these areas. The area around Baghdad continues to be unstable, but the violence there is not a serious threat to occupation. Though the terrorists have some indigenous support, we are not fighting people who express the will of the people.
6. Saudi Arabia and Syria have both criticized our interventions as being “undemocratic.” How does that sound to their people? They have affirmed the “gold standard” nature of democracy, and Arab liberals have noticed (even if the West has not). There are lively debates going on within the Arab world about its future.
7. Saudi Arabia has seriously, although reluctantly, joined the war on terror by cracking down on its fiery mullahs and fighting Al Qaeda cells with its own borders. Practically, I think they realize that if something like 9/11 happens again and the Saudi royal family (which has 3000 members) has ties, their government will be destroyed. 150,000 well- armed troops in a neighboring country has a way of focusing minds.
8. The perception of the US is changing. Hatred of the US has been converted to fear. In the Arab mindset, there is nothing more reprehensible than cowardice. The US is not the cowardly superpower they thought it was, and there is no chance that terrorism will bring us to our knees. We do fight. We aren’t going to leave or surrender, and we are sending the message that terrorism is an Arab problem, not an American one. If they fail to deal with it, we will.
Since 9/11, the US and its allies have destroyed two of the five most oppressive regimes.
Each war that the US and its allies have fought in Arabia has destroyed a myth. And the fantasy-loving (in some case bug-shit crazy) Arabs cherish their myths and conspiracy theories. Like a computer trying to run two conflicting programs simultaneously, the Arabs are blinking, utterly confused, shuttling between two possibilities, one which will exposed as myth:
1) The US is the Great Satan, fighting a huge war against Islam. It wants to seize Arab oil and land, kill Arab children and evict the Arabs. And IT CAN EASILY DO THIS (after the Iraq war exposed the inherent weakness of one of the best armed Arab states), because the combined armed might of the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and the Emirates is a fraction of the Iraqi military, and no nation (or multilateral institution) on Earth will stop the US. The US hates Arabs as much as Arabs hate Jews, and the Iraq War is the first step in its conquest of the region.
- OR -
2) The US is a good country that welcomes different cultures, but it sees governments that respect human liberty to be in its interest, especially in the nuclear age. It will fight tyranny (spending billions to kill as few people as possible), and it will take on the responsibility of building responsible governments even under the most difficult of circumstances.
Up until now, everything they’ve known (government propaganda, Arab understanding of power (use it or lose it), Al Jezeera, European media) has led them to believe number 1. There is now a palpable feeling of suspicion in the Arab world as people wonder what other "truths" might soon be exposed as myths.
These are all good things.
Iraq will get the band-aid fix, no one will allow the US to meddle with Iraq for a decade.
Who is “no one?”
Can you afford (money i'm talking) to stay in Iraq for a decade?
Yes. We can't afford not to.
Oh and another thing, its not free governments that are peaceful. It's rich nations that are peaceful.
Nations become rich because they are free. The free flow of information is essential to wealth creation. Capitalism is nothing more than economic democracy (power doesn't come from the center, but from the millions of individual desires being expressed as monetary exchanges).
When's the last time a wealthy nation started a war? Other than America (America started the cold war... argue all you want its true).
Oh, I know. Americans are bloodthirsty simpletons. I hear this from Europeans all the time. It is said with a sort of intellectual superiority that is above argument.
No one wants to let the facts get in the way of a little old fashioned snobbery.
But I like facts. Facts are illuminating, and they are especially illuminating to people who believe that their freedom and its benefits come as naturally as the air they breathe.
Americans do not forget that we live in dangerous world, and they consider it their responsibility to make it less so.
If this makes us simple, so be it.
American isolation benefits no one, and our interventions in the globe have, for the large part, been beneficial. Consider:
In the last twenty-five years, the US military has overthrown dictators in Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Because of those wars, 40 million people live under better governments (not perfect, but measurably better). And the people of Iraq (25 million people) are likely to add to this total.
The US military directly defends the people of South Korea, a democracy of 50 million people, and it indirectly protects Taiwan’s democracy of 23 million people. With US victory in the Cold War, the governments of 300 million people were freed from the ridiculous economic straightjacket of socialism. In addition, the US was responsible for the direct military protection of Japan (100 million people) and the people of Western Europe (200 million) during the Cold War.
750 million people live under better government because of the US and her military.
And don’t forget: the US was decisive factor in the two world wars against fascism.
No other government, institution, charity or foreign aid program can claim even a fraction of these historical accomplishments.
The US economy is the world’s biggest, responsible for one quarter of the world’s economic growth. Our culture, our TV shows, movies and music are everywhere on the globe. We make more, we consume more, we invent more and we give more than anyone else (forget foreign aid: the US people give more to charity than all other nations combined).
We also have the world’s freest trade policy (though it should be freer). And as a result, many nations of the world owe their economies to us (think Japan, South Korea, Taiwan…).
It comes down to freedom. There is no freer nation in the world, and freedom (but more importantly, the free flow of information) is essential to economic growth. In a capitalist economy, the free flow of information tells everyone where the opportunities are, so that everyone has the ability to profit from them (the alternative is that the same sluggish companies will have all the right information, but have no good ideas on what to do with it). In this way, you best insure that most able companies (or individuals) can be in place to take advantage. Likewise, when someone buys stock in a business, they can peruse the properly audited information about the company’s finances, all of it freely available.
All of this benefits the nation in a way that secrecy does not. Arabs are frightened by freedom, and they resent American success. We can either help to be a part of this success, or we can continue to fight them. And when you look at how warfare is going to change in the coming years (WMD becoming more widely available), I think that we really have no choice.