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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Peace for the US and Iraq

I started responding to a comment in a post by Historymike and it just got too long to justify posting it on his site. So, I'm foregoing my posting pattern to put this up.

It started with the Mosques, the violence, and the effects this will have on Iraq. When someone said this was yet another reason for our troops to leave Iraq, I couldn't help but pointing out that al-Sadr, our enemy, agrees. That, of course, opened a can of worms. Dariush provided an excellent link, which I felt the need to respond to and so here we are...


As per the article Dariush cited, I don't think any one strategy is going to be entirely effective. I am, however, one of the "traditional conservatives" that thinks it's hypocrisy at it's worse that we are "spreading Democracy" to Iraq, while supporting dictatorships in neighboring countries. Also, I think an equitable solution between Israel and Palestine would certainly help (though I don't recommend "abandoning" either). Finding a peaceful solution that provided Israel with security and Palestine with prosperity would eliminate, to a certain degree, one of the wedges between the Middle East and the West. However, in the long-run, giving less fodder to the corrupt clerics and governments that convince their under-educated populace that the US is responsible for all their hardships by not supporting governments that force unnecessary hardships on their people would make a much bigger impact, imo, seeing that while many Middle Eastern Muslims give lip-service to their Palestinian "brothers," they don't actually help them rise above their extreme poverty very often or consistently. Over all, a new, saner policy should be enacted that will give the impoverished Middle East populace the opportunity to control their own fate, so they can demand decent jobs, decent housing, decent education and other necessities for growth that oppressive dictatorships keep their people from having. I don't claim to know exactly what that policy should be, but touting democracy in one country while supporting dictatorships that, amongst other things, don't actually take care of their people is foolhardy at best.

Of course, oil has a lot to do with that, and I think one of the first steps to "discovering" a sane approach to foreign policies in the Middle East is getting out from under our oil dependence. And I mean, really doing it, full-throttle, not the GWB way. We need renewable energy that's good for the environment, and if we actually made that a priority American ingenuity would make it happen. Instead, we get talk, trickling funding, and little progress. That's inexcusable.

These are obviously long-term solutions. There are no easy, immediate solutions to our predicament. This crisis has been building up for decades at the very least, and from the point of view of many Muslims, centuries and millennia. As daunting as that is, what we do NOW can have a lasting, positive effect. However, none of this will bring immediate peace in Iraq. Frankly, I don't think anything will. Our soldiers leaving, as was suggested at the start of this particular discussion, will NOT bring peace to that country, and it will not make us safer. Which is only one of the goals that this country should have. Immediate safety for our soldiers, no matter how desirable, does not win long-term safety for our soldiers and their families. Many of THEM know that, that's why they're soldiers. Some in the US do not understand the difference.

Back to the article Dariush cited:
"Even if U.S. foreign policies were changed, however, the global Islamist insurgency very likely would continue."

That is a statement I agree with 100%, which is why I don't see leaving Iraq as a viable option. If we cut and run, then the terrorists win. While that doesn't seem to bother liberal_dem and other liberals throughout the nation, that does bother me quite a bit and not for the sake of any gold medals as liberal_dem ignorantly suggested. It will embolden the extremists and make them all the more difficult to defeat on the larger scale. And, make no mistake, to win a lasting peace these extremists HAVE to be defeated, not just side-tracked, much like Hitler. After all, their goals are very much the same. I don't want my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren being blown up or worse, because we didn't have the courage to face a group of terrorists who want to rule the world.

See, that's the thing. Their fighting us isn't about Iraq. It's not about our foreign policy. It's about world dominion. I've read enough on this particular sect of Islam to understand that. They believe Islam should be spread across and rule the world the same way some misguided Christians (sometimes most Christians) have felt over the last couple millennia. I do not want America or Christianity to rule the world. I do not even believe that "democracy" has the right, that democracy is right for every nation right now irregardless of their own desires. And I certainly don't want Islam to be spread that way. While I respect the Islamic religion as practiced by the many, many moderate Muslims, I don't want to convert to their faith, not by choice and certainly not be force.

Don't believe me, then look further down in the article:

Extremists among the Sunnis dream of the restoration of the Islamic caliphate, which would rule by Islamic law the entire Muslim umma, or community, around the world. When the last Islamic caliphate, that of the Ottoman sultan, was abolished along with the Ottoman Empire in 1922, the Muslim world broke into a plethora of separate and competing states. These states and their apostate or heretical regimes would in turn be abolished with the establishment of the new caliphate.


Will staying in Iraq solve the problem? No, probably not. At least, not exclusively. Nor will leaving Iraq. Leaving Iraq, however, will cause more problems than trying to solve the situation there. I don't recommend "staying the course," i.e. doing the same things we've been doing--insanity isn't going to win the peace. But, neither is cowardice.

But that doesn't mean we are without options. This paragraph, in particular, had great meaning for me.

The history of the Cold War shows that, when dealing with an opposing political ideology, a strategy of separating its moderate adherents from its extremist adherents can sometimes be successful. In Europe in particular, the United States was very successful in separating moderate Marxists-socialists and social democrats from extremist Marxists-communists during the 1950s, and this division largely persisted for the rest of the Cold War. This splitting strategy was not very effective in the Third World, however. There, moderate Marxists the "Third Way" rarely existed or, if they did, they were soon marginalized by the extremist Marxists or repressed by the authoritarian, anticommunist regimes that were the allies of the United States.


I have had or do have several Muslim friends. They're good people. They enjoy the freedoms of our Democracy and want that for their homeland. They enjoy the ability to make choices for themselves without being repressed by their families, their religion or their government. However, the sad truth is that this is NOT the reality for many Middle Eastern Muslims. They simply do not have our freedoms. For some, the under-educated masses in particular, they can't understand or imagine having our freedoms. That's where policy changes come into effect. The US has a history of supporting these governments that deny their own people the basic tenets of life we often take for granted. If we are going to be able to co-exist peacefully with the Middle East, this has GOT to stop. I don't recommend sending in our soldiers to ring the Liberty Bell for all nations near and far. That's ridiculous. However, NOT supporting the governments that oppress their own people...that's just common sense for a nation that believes in Democracy! If Middle Eastern Muslims desire Democracy, they will demand it. If not, then they will find a way to live equitably eventually, so long as more powerful nations aren't forcing oppressive governments down their throats.

Also, (and this is for those of you who aren't familiar with my blog) I must say that this isn't news to me. Supporting moderate Muslims is something I have a bit of a passion for. Far too many people call for the moderate Muslims to do something, and don't pay attention to the fact that they are doing quite a bit...and we're ignoring them. This does not help our situation.

The article Dariush cited somewhat dismisses this strategy:
"There, the features of authoritarian regimes, widespread poverty, and polarized societies combine to nurture extremist Islamism along with extremist political actions."

My point is that instead of dismissing the strategy, addressing why it is not effective will help to not only make the strategy viable, but it would actually be a PART of the strategy itself. If we were not actively infuriating the people we want on our side by supporting those that make their lives miserable, then they would be more likely to want peace with us. If we were actually helping them to get the necessities of life...well-deserved gratitude does have it's advantages. Right now our "aid" efforts often end up lining the pockets of the wealthy and powerful, instead of filling the bellies of those who go hungry. And yet we wonder why they hate us?

With the Mosques we are, of course, seeing this next quote live:
The contemporary analogy is the division between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the Islamic world. The ongoing sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq provides a daily reminder of the intensity of the division in that country, but the division, suspicion, and conflict between the two versions of Islam is a feature of many other Muslim countries as well, especially Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Sunnis normally regard Shi'ites as heretics and inferiors; Shi'ites normally regard Sunnis as hypocrites and oppressors.


In this article it's proposed as a good thing:
"In the Muslim world there might be Sunni Islamists and Shi'ite Islamists, but each might consider their greatest enemy to be not the United States, but each other."
But that really depends on how humanitarian your view is. Personally, I don't want to win peace for us, but helping the Middle East slip into a massive war. Despite the evaluations of the author of this article, I don't think that is a wise and equitable choice.

Nor do I believe that this statement is entirely accurate:
"The Bush administration persists in trying to construct--or conjure up--a democratic, unified Iraq, but this objective will probably prove to be unrealistic and unattainable."

It's a matter of choice. The Iraqis may CHOOSE to split. That's a likely possibility. However, if the Iraqis leaders genuinely want a unified Iraq, they can obtain it. It's THEIR choice to make, not ours.

After all, this is what I find inexcusable:
"The methods of these Shi'ite and Kurdish militias or armies would indeed be ruthless and would probably reach the point of expelling many of the Sunni inhabitants from the Shi'ite and Kurdish regions in a way reminiscent of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia."

James Kurth may feel that letting the in-fighting destroy this area of the world is a reasonable alternative to the hard work of building peace, but I cannot and do not. While, should the Iraqis choose to do so, I would have no problem with supporting an equitable division of Iraq that was peacefully effective, giving each party what it needs to survive and thrive on it's own; I can not in good conscience advocate abandoning them to kill each other. Strategically that may be a sound strategy, but morally in is inexcusable. We're there. We need to find, develop, and make effective a strategy to obtain peace, not just for ourselves, but for the Iraqis. We've taken this responsibility, which very well may have been a mistake, but abandoning that responsibility is an unconscionable strategy.

10 Comments:

At 2/25/2006 6:15 PM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

Post like this is why I told you what I did last night.

Very well done, resourced and hard to argue with. It's something that both conservatives and liberals should want, the end result being a better middle east than it was before we went in. So much time and money has been wasted and as you clearly demonstrated, there have been opportunities missed to make the lives of the poor in the middle east better rather than continuing to support the chain of corruption that so many of these countries are too intrenched with.

:-)

 
At 2/25/2006 10:19 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Perhaps, Lisa. Think of it this way...how long did it take you to convince me to start my baby blog? Maybe by the time I can call it a blog, without calling it a baby blog most of the time, I'll be ready to move up to a site with teeth.

 
At 2/26/2006 4:35 AM, Blogger The Unsomnambulist said...

Thats too long for me to read entirely, at least this late at night, but I did want to advance my strong opinion on one point:

Finding alternative energy sources will only increase terrorism, not eliminate it. While less of a dependency on oil will reduce our need for a presence in the Middle East, it won't help their bottom line. As some regions and classes of people become poorer, terrorist groups will be able to recruit even more. And who will they blame? The US, as always.

 
At 2/26/2006 4:49 AM, Anonymous Dariush said...

Okay, Steph.

That was an excellent reply.

I'm posting from work and am slightly pressed for time, so I may have to divvy up my reply in multiple posts.

If some of this sounds like nitpicking, it's only because these little things did jump out at me on first inspection.

I'll give a broader, more "meta" outlook in a later post.

Here's a misperception that I saw repeated in this post numerous times. To wit:

"...under-educated populace..."

"...decent jobs, decent housing, decent education..."


I'll speak to you only of the two countries that I am most familiar with in the region -- Iran and Iraq -- two-thirds of the "Axis of Evil."

Prior to 1991, Iraq's population was the most literate and educated in the entire Arab world (literacy rate upwards of 85%) and lacked for neither jobs nor housing.

Here you can read the words of an Indian diplomat, written just days before the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, on just what was good about Saddam/Hitler's reign -- none of which ever gets mentioned in the Western media.

Iran also has a highly literate and educated populace (upwards of 70%) and a great many university graduates. It does however lack in decent jobs and job opportunities. Even university professors often have to drive taxis or do other odd jobs just to make ends meet. And when you go there and talk to people you quickly find out that, depending on the age of the person, there are two complaints with the current situation above all.

For kids and teenagers, the mullahs are simply too conservative, repressive and stuffy and won't let them "party" in the manner which they choose. For those who are adults (whether middle-aged, older or just gotten out of school) the complaints center around the economy and job opportunities.

There are several reasons for this but two standout more than most:

1 - Graft and corruption in high places. Especially among certain segments of the clergy. Rafsanjani alone has stashed away hundreds of millions in Swiss bank accounts -- monies acquired through embezzlement, fraud, bribes and monopolies of various industries.

2 - The devaluation of the Iranian currency, the Riyal. The reason for this is that Islamic law forbids the practice of usury; therefore concepts such as "interest" are absolutely anathema. This places Iran not only outside of the international financial markets, but squarely opposed to the heavy-handed actions of international loan-sharks and moneylenders at institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and all of the myriad of aliases which George Soros' Open Society Institute goes by internationally.

The economic situation will, I believe, improve dramatically once Iran forgoes the dollar and begins operation of its Euro-Oil Bourse next month. But, leading up to the opening of the Oil Bourse, watch for a steady ratcheting up of "Ahmadinejad = Hitler" and "Iran is preparing to nuke Manhattan" rhetoric in the ... ahh, how to put this politely while not stepping on Western sensibilities ... "non-Christian" mass media of the U.S. All greasing the wheels for another "shock-and-awe" campaign -- this time possibly involving "small-scale" nukes.

More later, as time permits.

 
At 2/26/2006 10:17 AM, Blogger JSuvari said...

It's not hypocrisy supporting dictatorships in neighboring countries of Iraq. Actually these countries support us with military bases, air space, port access and so on. We supported the U.S.S.R. to defeat Hitler but we did not support communism. We supported Saddam to defeat Iran in the 80's but did not support his tyranny. To link these as hypocritical or reap what you sow is completely wrong.

 
At 2/26/2006 2:34 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Unsom,

I'm not saying my approach is some sort of cure-all. I distinctly said I do not know all that it would take to make my "strategy" work. However, their reliance on their oil wealth is not any more healthy than our reliance on fuel oil. Many do have skills and/or resources that they could use instead, though it would take initiative and planning to flesh it all out.

Just saying "Sorry, don't need your oil, won't give you any money" would have the effect you're suggesting. However, that would be a foolhardy strategy. Rounded solutions that addressed all or most of the current problems and addressed issues before they became problems is the only way to affect a viable solution to this crisis.

 
At 2/26/2006 3:10 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Dariush,

Thank you for stopping by. I'm sure you can see why I didn't feel it appropriate to post all this as a comment on Mike's site.

The only thing I can see that conflicts with my statement is the "under-educated" part.

As for that, I didn't just mean lack of basic education (like the ability to read), but also the more abstract skills that are the basis for logic and reasoning. I've been told many, many times that while Middle Eastern schools can and do provide the basics and give them some very valuable perspectives that are at odds with ours (which can be very useful), that the reason they often come here to go to our Universities is because they have no comparable programs. Most of the people there just don't have the means to do so, even if they can get a "complete" high school level education in the homelands.

Also, what I mean by under-educated is more in reference in having the information and the deduction skills to know when your own government and/or religious organization is screwwing you over...thus knowing not to trust a religious leader who says one thing while also practicing graft, ect.

I'm not enough of an economist to know how the Riyal will be effected by changing over. I hope it's a positive impact, because these people need the ability to make their own living.

"...ahh, how to put this politely while not stepping on Western sensibilities..."

I wouldn't worry too much about stepping on my "Western sensibilities," I try to take everything in context. As for the reaction of the media and others responding to that reaction...I tend to wait to see what really happens. I grew up with people trying to teach me to fear nukes and commies...it didn't work.

Again, thank you for continuing this discussion. Also, if you don't mind me asking, where are you? Are you in the US or somewhere else?

 
At 2/26/2006 3:26 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Jsuvari,

While I thank you for stopping by, we've differences of opinion that I doubt can be resolved in debate. Supporting Hussein got us in a lot of trouble. It was a mistake. We're in the process of rectifying that mistake, however poorly that's being executed.

 
At 2/27/2006 5:05 PM, Blogger JSuvari said...

Your welcome..your doubt is shared :)

Got us in trouble ? What trouble ?
His invasion of Kuwait and our response has nothing to do with the CIA giving Iraq intellegence during the Iraq/Iran war. The only mistake made was the policy of containment for terrorism. We're in the process of restoring freedom, only judged by history as poorly executed. Look at the media reports after Hitler was defeated, it was a quagmire, didn't look good but the media and the anti-war crowd were wrong. You know, the literacy rates were higher, less hunger, more jobs before the allies won. Stephanie, your measuring stick is broken. :) Cheers..

 
At 2/27/2006 9:06 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

JSuvari,

By allying ourselves with Hussein we made it easier for him to perpetuate his crimes against his own people. Hussein and his party were not the natural leaders of Iraq, that's why they had to use such extreme measures to keep their populace under control. We, amongst many others, supplied munitions and power that helped keep the situation going, despite the general populations' desire for different leadership.

I consider that a mistake. Sometimes the ends just do not justify the means. However, that is a matter of opinion and ethics, not fact and I recognize that difference.

As to how the war's being executed...? Open borders? Loose terrorists? Iraqi soldiers being killed before they can even finish their paperwork, let alone their training? Even the Green Zone isn't safe. These are major problems for securing the peace. Considering them anything less is foolish, imo.

There are certainly things going right in Iraq, and I'm one who genuinely believes this war was necessary. Perhaps a better time could have been found to take down Hussein, and personally I would have preferred we finished it in the 90's, but obviously that's not possible.

Good luck with your own baby blog!
:-)

 

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