Sunday, February 11, 2007

In today's Washington Post, William Oden points out how Bush's (and what remains of the kool-aid drinkers) goals in Iraq have devolved.

Bush's not-so-excellent-adventure started with the hope of liberating Iraq from Hussein and creating a liberal (i.e., 'western values') democracy. While Oden argues (and persuasively so, in my view) that this was a pipe dream of the highest magnitude, that it was ridiculous to have thought this such an outcome was possible, I'd add that even if it were possible, it would have been not worth the cost in dollars and men of pulling it off.

And now? Notice that Bush no longer argues that we're going to turn Iraq into this peaceful place where everybody loves and respects one another, the repressed people of the world will be inspired to rise up and the world's troublemakers will be so cowed by our victory that they will avoid doing anything to p*** us off.

No, in what one might call the soft bigotry of lowered expectations, Bush and co. are reduced to arguing that, as Oden puts it, we need to keep our troops in Iraq to keep a catastrophe from taking place, to keep Iran from exanding its influence in the region, to keep Al Qaeda from having a new base and because we need to show our troops that we 'support them'.

I think it's a good time to ask again a question I posed a while back: if our troops weren't in Iraq now, would it make sense to send them there to accomplish what Bush wants to accomplish? Would it make sense to send troops into Iraq to try to keep the intramural fighting from becoming even worse? Should we expose American troops to risk to try and keep Iraq from expanding its influence in the region? Ought we commit 100,000+ soldiers and a huge portion of our overall defense spending to keep Al Qaeda from establishing a base of operations? And would it make sense to send troops into Iraq because not doing so would, in the view of some, be 'disrespectful' to them?

I'd argue no.

As cold as it might be, I just don't care enough about the Iraqis to want our guys dying to keep more Iraqis from dying. I'm not a big fan of the Iraqis in any event, and, even if I were, it's important to remember that the ONLY proper use of our military is to protect America. Our soldiers are not mercenaries to be hired out to prop up other countries. Our soldiers enlisted to protect America. For the same reason, I opposed Clinton getting involved in the Balkans (but at least he managed to do so without really exposing our troops to risk) and I oppose our sending the military into Darfur. I feel bad for the people getting slaughtered there, but not enough so that I would ever want an American father, mother, wife, son or daughter to have their loved one die in that god-forsaken part of the world.

And I'd rather wait to see if Al Qaeda is able to establish a base in Iraq than have our troops there to keep something from happening that might not happen anyway. And there are lots and lots of places where Al Qaeda 'might' establish a base of operations, and I don't see it as practical to have our troops everywhere where such a thing might happen.

As for Iran, I'm less concerned with it having influence in the region than what it tries to do with its influence, and we don't need troops in Iraq to put pressure on Iran.

Finally, to those who argue that our pulling out of Iraq would be taken as a sign of weakness by our enemies, I'd respond by saying our enemies already see as weak and unable and unwilling to respond to any trouble they stir up... and it's our being in Iraq that is making them think so. They know we have no stomach for getting involved anywhere else right now. They know that our military is already streched pretty thin by our being in Iraq. They see us as being more worried about Iran causing trouble for us in Iraq than worried about their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

And in any event, how seriously our enemies take us has less to do with what has happened in the past than what they believe will happen in the future. To illustrate, it wasn't that our pulling out of Vietnam in and of itself encouraged our enemies, it was their assessment that we weren't going to respond to anything they did that encouraged them. Likewise, our pulling out of Iraq will only encourage our enemies if they think our doing so makes us unlikely to act against them in the future. A future President (it has to be a future President, as Bush has no credibility) can make it very clear that, notwithstanding our pulling out of Iraq, America is fully committed and willing to using force if necessary to protect American interests... and it is the degree to which that President is able to make our enemies believe that statement that will determine the extent to which our enemies think they have something to worry about. Right now, with Bush stuck in Iraq and unwilling to do anything anywhere else, our enemies know they have nothing to fear from the United States.

Ironic, isn't it, how Bush, by sticking around in Iraq so long, has created the exact opposite of the situation he hoped to create? He hoped that our enemies would be cowed by our actions... when in fact, he has liberated not the Iraqis, but our enemies.