Friday, October 20, 2006

At What Cost Victory and How is it Defined?

The war in Iraq is a dreary reality. We are there. The conflict and its resulting political swampland has proven to be a fraudulently conceived disaster. But the move against Saddam Hussein, once made, was not a recoverable act and leaves us damned if we stay and damned if we leave.


The war in Iraq is a dreary reality. We are there. The conflict and its resulting political swampland has proven to be a fraudulently conceived disaster. But the move against Saddam Hussein, once made, was not a recoverable act and leaves us damned if we stay and damned if we leave.

Stephanopoulos On ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos, he asked Bush:

"Whatever you call it, aren't American men and women now dying to prevent Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other?"

Bush replied:

"No, I, George, I - it's dangerous. And you're right. No matter what you call it, the fundamental question is, are we on our way to achieving a goal, which is an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself, and be an ally in the war on terror in the heart of the Middle East?"

Soldierburial Well, clearly, Mr. Bush, we are not on our way. Even the goal is no longer definitive. An Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself is no longer on the most optimistic of horizons. The price of that mistake has been paid in American blood and 200 times over in Iraqi blood.

The edgy comparison to Vietnam seems wrong to me. It was an equally unwinnable war in Vietnam, but the country held little strategic value. We were able to exit Vietnam with tragic American losses, leaving behind a country largely destroyed to no good purpose. 58,000 American dead and two ravaged presidencies born of hubris and stubborn resolve.

Vietnam had no oil with which to threaten a fragile western industrial empire--an empire that had become a renter rather than an owner of its energy needs. The Vietnamese were never landlords of American energy requirements. Nor are the Iraqis, in the strict sense of the term, but they are connected within that network and our policies there have frayed those connections.

Saudikingabdullah An overthrow of the Monarchy in Saudi Arabia would devastate our economy, yet no one dares to speak of that. There is no dialog on Iraq beyond ‘cut and run’ or ‘stay the course.’ How are we to extricate ourselves from Iraq without encouraging Iran to slide off toward Chinese interests and putting our Saudi protectorate closer to the sword?

Unmentionable as these risks are, they’ve frozen the dialog. Foreign policy is now predicated upon a fear-based war strategy. Terrified, this administration simply does not know what may come of the probable partition of Iraq. It does not know what may come of the disintegrating Iraqi middle-class and a return to warlords. It cannot know if the West will be able to buy from and depend upon a steady flow of oil after the war. It cannot know what ‘after the war’ even looks like.

Iraqiboymournsfather If it knew these things, the Bush administration might formulate a process of withdrawal. Our pride would be wounded, but pride heals. Our reputation in the world as a free and fair and sustaining source of political good might even be enhanced by turning away from contrived unilateralism. A cost-benefit analysis would at last and at least be possible.

When the cost is pride, treasure and lost lives and the benefit is speculative, no prudent man (or nation) ventures forth. A case can be made that pride against speculation are exactly what got us where we are.

My sense of this is that no breakthroughs will be found within a coalition of the less and less willing. Nor from the imposing architecture of the U.N. building in New York. The people at risk, the Muslims dying and damaged, whose world lies wrecked at their feet, are now the ones in power.

Iraqi6solesurvivor The Muslim world, particularly the Arab portion of the Muslim world, is worn out by radical clerics who came to power to redress abuses and remained to become abusers. A billion and a half Muslims are poised to choose whether or not they will live under the heel of their radicalized clerics. A hundred-fifty thousand militants (a mere 1.5%) hijacked the Islamic faith.

The West needs to work with that anomaly, not encourage further defections to radical Islam.

A possible way to achieve that is by multilateral negotiations--not at Camp David and not restricted to the ‘vested interests’ (that include ourselves), but among the broadest possible Muslim audience. Open and inclusive dialog, with everything on the table. All parties to participate. All issues on the table

  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Lebanon
  • Israel
  • Palestine

No exclusion of ‘terrorist’ organizations. Exclusion makes martyrs. When Hamas or al Qaeda rages in the streets, let their leaders explain in the public forum. This is new to everyone and there will be positioning and preening and self-serving rhetoric, snatchings of papers and leavings of the room. But what is accomplished, be it great or small, will have broad Muslim support.

Let the disenfranchised observe for once what is being negotiated on their behalf.

Ultimately, the monarchies are going to have to relax their economic grip, the clerics their theocracy and the militias their arms. A billion and a half Muslims demand it. Consuming nations are going to have to show a proper (and long overdue) respect for Islam, a willingness to invest in Islamic infrastructure and defer to local custom. World social stability and energy equity demands it.

Patience, fairness, openness and the bedrock understanding that military intervention is too costly on all sides to be borne any longer, will ultimately prevail. Muslims watching their own representatives negotiate as equals will provide a powerful democratic message.

A far less costly and more potent education in democracy than what has been offered at the point of a sword. A way, perhaps the only way, to define a victory.
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The War in Iraq, recent media;