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The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, October 23, 2003
 

Good And Bad


I think there has been a change in the media coverage of the war, and it has been for the better. I don't want "rah!rah!" cheerleading. Honest criticisms, like Thomas Freidman's, are welcome in the mix: Free Advice to G.O.P.
It's time for the Bush team to admit it made a grievous error in disbanding Iraq's Army — which didn't even fight us — and declare: "We thank all the nations who offered troops, but we think the Iraqi people can and must secure their own country. So we're inviting all former Iraqi Army soldiers (not Republican Guards) to report back to duty. For every two Iraqi battalions that return to duty (they can weed out their own bad apples), we will withdraw an American one. So Iraqis can liberate themselves. Our motto is Iraq for the Iraqis."

• Attacks on our forces are getting more deadly, not less. Besides those killed, we've had 900 wounded or maimed. We need to take this much more seriously. We're not facing some ragtag insurrection. We're facing an enemy with a command and control center who is cleverly picking off our troops and those Iraqi leaders and foreigners cooperating with us. Either we put in the troops needed to finish the war, and project our authority, or we get the Iraqi Army to do the job — but pretending that we're just "mopping up" is a dangerous illusion.

• The neocons need a neo-Baath. I'm glad we banned the Baath Party, but the ban was not done right. It needed to be accompanied by a clear process for people who simply joined the Baath to secure government jobs, like school directors, to recant and be rehabilitated. Just tossing these people out has purged thousands of technocrats, weakened the secular middle class and left a power vacuum filled by religious groups. Also, Iraq needs a party that can express the aspirations of Iraq's Sunni minority and give them a stake in the new state. Right now, the Sunni mainstream in Iraq isn't sure how it fits into any new order, so the worst elements are opposing us and the best are apprehensively sitting on the fence.

And there's this is in today's Washington Post:

U.S. Force Pulling Back in the North

MOSUL, Iraq, Oct. 22 -- The senior U.S. military commander in northern Iraq said Wednesday that he was beginning to reduce his soldiers' presence in this northern city and turn their security duties over to Iraqi police officers and troops as local government takes root and life slowly returns to normal.

Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, also said he thought it would be possible for the Pentagon to reduce the number of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, without adversely affecting security when fresh forces replace his 20,800 troops in late February or early March.

And the Philadelphia Inquirer is getting in the game too:
Six months after the war, Iraq feels like a patchwork of separate countries - a confused mix of stability and chaos, progress and paralysis, the only common denominator being the unexpected difficulty of rebuilding it into a stable society. Extensive interviews show that, amid this jumbled picture, occupation authorities are making progress in the reconstruction.

A question central to U.S. success remains unanswered: Is this progress fast enough?

What follows is a story that I think correctly assesses the importance of Iraq, and the confusion on the ground there. The majority of Iraqis support our efforts, but they are keeping quiet (for many reasons), and many evil people are coming in to fill the void. Great things are happening, but there are ominous developments as well.

Yes, our soldiers are dying. Each death is terrible and tragic. The death of each soldier in World War II was tragic too. But then, as now, there were more important things: this war will determine what direction the Arab world takes.

In a few years, the Arab countries will all have nuclear weapons. In a few cases, so will terrorists.

Democracy in Iraq is the only way I see that we can take the wind out of the terrorist belief that they (and only they) speak for "the people."

Democracy exposes them for what they are: larval tyrants.

In a year or two, these scum will be attacking people for doing something Americans take for granted: voting. They will try to threaten people away from the polling stations, and their bombs and bullets will kill many.

The power of intimidation might keep some people away, but don't bank on it. Never underestimate the courage of the common person. Choosing one's leaders is a universal desire.

If the Democrats have suggestions for getting to this point in Iraq, I'm willing to listen. For years, they have been saying that we should send money to the Middle East, not soldiers. Very well, but where is the track record for success in this approach? Should we support the authorities in Saudi Arabia or Syria or Iran (governments that are largely unpopular among their own people)? The aid that we have given to Egypt ($2 billion a year) hasn't won us any friends in that country.

Right now, the Democrats all want to pretend there is no threat. To them, it is still 1998.

I wish it was.


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