Friday, July 08, 2005

The Musing of an Unhappy American

The bombing in London has served to re-focus my thinking about our government’s efforts in the “Global War on Terrorism”, henceforth the GWOT, and I suppose what follows is going to be something of a rant. Ok, fine, it’s my blog so why not, right? I’ll try to be reasonable here so it doesn’t come off too much as a rant.

London is now added to New York, Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, and Bali. Terror is alive and well throughout the world, and I suppose that in fact it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way back to these shores. I hope I’m wrong, but my guess is that whatever does come our way that the terrorists are going to try and outdo what was done heretofore, so we can likely expect to see something pretty horrific.

We ostensibly went into Iraq for two reasons. The first one, the one that’s most on the minds of the American people when they’re polled on the street, and the one that surely would have the most purchase in their consciousness when they were being convinced that this was a good thing to do, was to fight terrorism. Of course we now know that there’s nothing that conclusively ties Iraq to terrorist activities --- there’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of inference, but not a scintilla of hard evidence to suggest that Iraq presented a terrorist threat to this country. What evidence did exist we apparently made up on our own to fit our desires to go in there and teach Sadaam Hussein a lesson. Bottom line nothing has been found in Iraq, after over two years of our being there, to in any way support the idea that Iraq was a terrorist threat to this country at the time we invaded in the name of the GWOT.

The second reason was to bring democracy to the Middle East. This reason is sort of in the background, part of the small print in a manner of speaking, as most people aren’t aware that this was on the list of reasons to go in, and it sure and hell wasn’t made a selling point to the American people. I mean really, how many average Americans really want to give up their lives, the lives of their kids, and their tax dollars to export democracy? No, that wouldn’t float, which is why the speeches before this started all focused on the threat from Iraq, not on the idea that exporting democracy would help quell the natives and make them beg off terrorist activities.

At this point our exercise in exporting democracy has cost us over 1800 American lives, over $200 billion, God only knows how many innocent Iraqi lives, and you can throw in however many other people from different nations who happened to be there and were killed. Mind you, no one has EVER exported democracy in a situation that remotely matches the one we’re dealing with here. Now here in the U.S. our notion of democracy was distilled over years of oppression from the British government. The majority, though surely not all, of us wanted our own government and we felt that democracy best suited us. We then decided to declare our independence and rebel against the Brits, going to war against overwhelming odds to kick the Brits out of this country and to establish our own representative, constitutional government. In Iraq we figure, in our quintessential American way, that the Iraqis are just like us, they want what we have. We assume that when we get there that they'll welcome us in the streets with flowers, and in short order start paying on their own for our experiment in democratic exportation. What do we have? Well, the Iraqis up to now have spent far more effort in rebelling against us than they ever did against Sadaam Hussein. So we have invested our men and women, our money, and our security into an experiment that no one has tried before, the success for which is no where near certain, for a people who didn't really ask for it, and even if
what we’re trying to put in place does taken hold we have no reason to believe it’ll take hold in a fashion we’ll find palatable.

While exporting democracy to Iraq, and the region at large it would seem, we watched as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban hightailed it into the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the hills became alive with the snickers of terrorists. Smart move, the territory is unfriendly and easy to hide within, but then we were also re-directing our resources somewhere else, i.e. Iraq, and in fact NEVER did a full court press in Afghanistan, instead using local surrogates to do much of the scut work. Since 9/11, some four years ago, Osama and company have been able to make video and audio tapes, which they send out to the world, essentially thumbing their noses at the U.S. and anyone else who was involved in trying to hunt them down, inciting more people to join their cause, which has resulted in what we’re seeing now in London.

As I’ve said, exporting democracy is an uncertainty --- killing terrorists is an absolute. Porter Goss, the head of our CIA, has the nerve to tell us that he has a pretty good idea where Osama bin Laden is right now, yet we don’t hear anything about getting him as apparently there are sensitivities regarding national sovereignty. I’m all for respecting the borders of a sovereign nation, but in this case said nation should be given 72 hours to make good on doing something or we take matters into our own hands. When Afghanistan was harboring al Qaeda that was our primary reason for invading THAT sovereign nation, so who's changing the rules?

Bush and company need to go --- I’ll not make the case that impeachment is a reasonable or even necessarily a desirable thing quite yet. That said, the company needs to change, and we need to start aligning our efforts towards where the actual threat is coming from. We’ve been victims of one bait and switch --- Bait: “We need to invade Iraq because it’s a terrorist threat to all freedom loving nations”, Switch: “Well, yes we didn’t find any WMD or anything at all to
suggest that Iraq was engaged in terrorism or presented any immediate terrorist threat, but by exporting democracy we make sure that Iraqis and those living near them don’t become terrorists.” Oh dear … how this rankles me, truly it does. But that said, we need to re-double our efforts against people, who are not parked in Iraq, that have no compunctions about placing bombs to kill perfectly innocent people, and the team we have in the government right now is nowhere near deserving of a fourth or fifth chance to finally get this right.


Anonymous Josh Canel said...

"rebel against the Brits, going to war against overwhelming odds to kick the Brits out of this country"

I've never quite gotten this characterization of the Revolutionary War. After all the "rebels" were Brits, just a different faction of them.

You make a very important point, and one that I'm amazed that war-supporters miss: the distinction between homegrown democracy movements and a democracy implant. I'm sure that most Iraqi want some semblance of democracy, but there is a tinge of supremecist motives in our coming over there to make it for them.

10:19 PM  
Blogger James said...

As for the "rebels", I always assumed that once they designated themselves are rebels they were no longer Brits. Surely they weren't Brits in the sense that they were born in England, so it seems to me that once they made the choice they were whatever they considered themselves to be.

10:49 AM  
Blogger sparre said...

I think that you have touched on an interesting point James, but I think I will expand on it a bit. The GWOT and exporting democracy are two different, but sometimes related, concepts. I think that W has made some progress in the latter goal, in particular, in terms of making democracy promotion a legitamite goal of foreign policy. On GWOT, I wish that W had bothered to formulate a clear and intelligible policy on assasination so that the military could have killed Zarqawi while we knew where he was (Kurdish portion of Iraq).

9:18 PM  
Blogger James said...


I'm not sure about this. First, we're dealing with two mutually unique endeavors, i.e. the GWOT AND the notion that democracy can be exported. I'm not sure how much one can be said to do with the other when it's not clear to me that a lack of democracy, per se, is the problem when it comes to the GWOT. There's a supposition that democracy, or the lack thereof, is part of the cause of terrorism, but I'm not sure I see that.

I also question that the exportation of democracy is a legitimate foreign policy objective. Let us keep in mind that this isn't the goal that the American people have in the forefront of their minds when it comes to our endeavor in Iraq, and the administration, IMHO, has fallen into highlighting the exportation of democracy primarily because it's primary reason for selling this adventure has been shown to be totally groundless. On top of that, there's no reason to believe that anyone can export democracy and expect it to take, at least in any form we're accustomed to thinking of it as in this country.

As for assasination, I'm not sure that there's a restriction to the degree that you seem to think there is. The CIA took out a jeep in, I believe, Yemen, using a UAV armed with a Hellfire missile. In the jeep was at least one confirmed al Qaeda operative, I'm not sure about the people with him. It doesn't seem to me that we have much reluctance in taking someone out if we think we actually have someone we can justify taking out.

9:46 PM  

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