Iraq: We Made A Mess...Now What Do We Do? genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Dose of truth

If one strung together the Bush administration's explanations of why we needed to invade Iraq, the list would be quite lengthy and ever changing over time...but as it looks more and more like the U.S. is preparing to hand the reigns back to the struggling Iraqi government, I can't help but think of the oft heard expression, "The road to ruin is paved with good intentions". A new article in the Washington Post discusses the growing indications that the Bush administration is in the process of testing the rhetoric for an eventual withdrawal from Iraq that will include the ability for the President and his neocon cohorts to wash their hands of any unfavorable outcome.

It's been coming for a long time: the idea that fixing Iraq is the Iraqis' problem, not ours -- that we've done all we can and now it's up to them.

Such arguments have been latent in the Bush administration's Iraq strategy and explicit in Democratic critiques of that strategy for some time. Now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has declared: "It's their country. . . . They're going to have to govern it, they're going to have to provide security for it, and they're going to have to do it sooner rather than later."

The implication of these arguments is clear: The United States should prepare to leave Iraq, after which the Iraqis will work out their own troubles -- or they won't. In any event, we can no longer help them. This notion is wrong and morally contemptible, and it endangers American security around the world.

One of the prevailing problems with issues that are politically charged and that are allowed to linger and languish amidst an abundance of partisan rhetoric, is that the need for actual solutions often gets lost in the scuffle. Iraq is fast becoming a casualty of this phenomenon. Almost from the outset, the Bush administration has been forced to play defense as little of the intelligence employed and fewer of the assurances made have proven to be accurate.

While it may not be completely fair to say what I'm about to say, it merits discussion regardless. There is a line in the movie The Color Purple that speaks to bad decisions and the consequences of inappropriate actions that seems applicable to the failures in Iraq...failures that were exacerbated by intransigence and what appears to have been an initial effort to distort the realities in order to facilitate the invasion. I believe the line was uttered by Oprah Winfrey to the man that had made her life a living hell and it went something close to this, "No good will come to you until you do right by me". Our actions in Iraq may well be similarly viewed by those historians who attempt to unravel the quagmire in the Middle East our President so nobly coined as "freedom is on the march" in his bold effort to export democracy.

The current crisis in Iraq is no more just an Iraqi problem than it has ever been. The U.S. military destroyed Iraq's government and all institutions able to keep civil order. It designated itself an "occupying force," thereby accepting the responsibility to restore and maintain such order. And yet U.S. Central Command never actually made establishing order and security a priority. Its commander throughout the insurgency, Gen. John Abizaid, has instead repeatedly declared that America's role is primarily to train Iraqi forces to put down their own rebellion and maintain order.

By allowing violence and disorder to spread throughout the country, the Bush administration has broken faith with the Iraqi people and ignored its responsibilities. It has placed U.S. security in jeopardy by creating the preconditions for the sort of terrorist safe haven the president repeatedly warns about and by demonstrating that no ally can rely on America to be there when it counts.

To this point, I am in full agreement with the analysis offered in this thoughtful article. Further, I accept that the United States has an obligation to bring some resolution to the situation but how that is best achieved remains fully open to debate and wholly subject to doubt. My own moral compass could accept any solution that actually proved to be a solution...even sending more troops if it could be reasonably determined that doing so would solve the problem. Conversely, I could also accept a time-defined redeployment if that would solve the problem. With that said, I struggle to imagine any alternative that can succeed in sustaining order if and when it might be restored...because none of the solutions have the capacity to quickly change the hearts and minds of the Iraqi's and those who stand to benefit from further chaos.

It’s important to understand and define the environment we're in…and it’s not simply a military endeavor nor was it ever reasonable to believe as much. A review of our prior foray into Iraq under the first President Bush makes that clear. It’s also important to sort out the partisan rhetoric that has poisoned the pursuit of the truths we need to acknowledge. During past elections it served the GOP to hold fast to the military solution...and they benefited from attaching Iraq to the war on terror.

At the same time, they succeeded in undermining those who suggested the war on terror would be better executed with improved intelligence efforts and more consistent with a law enforcement template...coupled with aggressive efforts to change the dynamics that were fomenting extremist ideologies. Those efforts include a focused push to resolve the Palestinian situation as well as political, economic and diplomatic pressure and measures to begin the difficult task of bridging the cultural and religious differences that have served to germinate more extremists and therefore more terrorists.

Clearly, the GOP succeeded in portraying those efforts as insufficient. It worked because Americans wanted the threat of terror removed and they wanted it immediately...and what better than a military invasion to demonstrate their demands have been heard. Giving voters cathartic relief kept the GOP in power but failed miserably to combat the complexities presented by growing extremism and terrorism directed at Western Civilization. The reality is that our invasion of Iraq simply added to the complexity...something we are now witnessing with the current conundrum and that has returned as an albatross around the collective neck of the Bush administration and the Republican Party. They succumbed to voter baiting and now they don't know what to do with the aggrieved and angry masses...or how to undo the mess that is now Iraq.

Americans believe that all problems are soluble and therefore that people who aren't solving their problems must not be trying. They need to be "incentivized," either through promises or threats. Many on the left have long been advocating a withdrawal of U.S. forces, or the threat of it, as just such an incentive for the Iraqis. But what if even then Iraqis cannot accomplish the goals we have set for them? Can we then declare that, by establishing the Iraqi army and helping Iraq elect and establish its government, we have done all that honor requires?

No, we can't. Both honor and our vital national interest require establishing conditions in Iraq that will allow the government to consolidate and maintain civil peace and good governance. It doesn't matter how many "trained and ready" Iraqi soldiers there are, nor how many provinces are nominally under Iraqi control. If America withdraws its forces before setting the conditions for the success of the Iraqi government, we will have failed in our mission and been defeated in the eyes of our enemies. We will have dishonored ourselves.

Those who have criticized the administration for failing to send enough troops to fight the war, failing to plan adequately for the postwar crisis and failing to react properly when it came are right. But Democrats should not be so quick to embrace these attacks unless they are willing to accept the corollary: Just because Bush did the wrong thing in 2003 doesn't mean that we can do the wrong thing now.

I understand the argument being made by the author but it is unfortunately another attempt to accumulate political points from a seemingly unwinnable conflict. I hate to be the purveyor of bad news...but that's all that is available at the moment and the sooner someone decides to admit as much to the American public, the sooner we can focus on real solutions and cease the partisan wrangling that serve the few and hoodwink the many.

I'm reminded of another line from a movie...the one where Jack Nicholson forces a poignant acknowledgment when he answers his adversaries demand for answers and the truth by saying, "You can't handle the truth!" Iraq and the war on terror will remain an American problem in need of a solution on November 7th and on November 8th. In a country addicted to instant gratification where politicians are all too happy to accommodate, I'm afraid Nicholson's observation may be spot on.

more consistent wi

Daniel DiRito | October 25, 2006 | 12:19 PM
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1 On January 28, 2007 at 9:38 PM, Quinten wrote —

So interesting site, thanks!

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