Monday, September 17, 2007

Making an effort to do better

It's somewhat ironic, when you think of all the heat Ron Paul has taken from Iraq war supporters for his claim that US actions abroad led to 9/11, that President Bush's actions throughout the War on Terror are very similar in direction, though not in degree.

Bush certainly does not believe we brought that day on ourselves, as Paul does; but he clearly does believe that America's actions abroad had played a large part in creating the environment that gave birth to Al Qaeda and similar entities.

His actions speak eloquently in this regard. For example:

  • he held the country harboring Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, responsible for those attacks, and retaliated accordingly;
  • he broke the stalemate in Iraq that spawned two of Osama bin Laden's three professed excuses for attacking America (Iraq sanctions and US troops in Saudi Arabia);
  • further--the point of this post--he afterwards broke with a longstanding US trend of ruling via military proxy, by disbanding the Iraq army.

Christopher Hitchens, as useless as the man may be when the subject is religion, is once again spot-on in discussing Iraq:

If there was one thing about U.S. foreign policy that used to make one shudder, it was the habit of ruling by proxy through military regimes. Especially beloved by the CIA, this practice befouled us in Chile, Greece, Indonesia, and numerous other cases where we made ourselves complicit in the policies of a local uniformed elite. The case of Iraq, where the armed forces routinely acted as a phalanx of naked aggression against neighboring countries and as a spectacularly cruel internal police force, as well as a parasitic consumer of the national income, was the instance above all where it was right to break with this abysmal tradition.

The Iraqi army was also the replication of sectarianism within the state, consisting of a Sunni oligarchy using conscripts from other communities to enforce its will and eating up the common national treasury to conceal unemployment and inefficiency while subjecting young people to involuntary servitude. Yet almost every liberal in America—as you can see most recently by watching the tendentious documentary No End in Sight—appears to be committed to a nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's draft.

Take a moment to imagine what would have been written in the liberal press had the old military class been preserved and utilized to "stabilize" Iraq. I can write the headlines for you: "Baathist War Criminal Gets Second Career as American Employee"; "Once-Wanted Man, Brigadier Kamal Now Shares Jokes With 82nd Airborne"; "Kurds and Shiites Say: What Regime Change?"; "From Basra to Kirkuk, America Brings Saddamism Without Saddam." And, if you like, I can add the names of the reporters who would have written the stories.

Clumsy as he's been in doing so, George W. Bush has been going out of his way to do things differently from how the US did things in the past (which, I think, explains to a considerable degree the visceral hostility with which the Iraq Study Group report was greeted--it was seen as a call for America to go back to the "old way" of doing things).

He's not going to get any credit for it from either side, but he IS trying--which is more than I can say for a certain asinine political party.


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