"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

And more Iraq craziness

In a week of things hardly surprising, yet another non-shocker: the Dems want to start pulling out of Iraq. No discussion with the White House, no report from the Iraq Study Group, no particular change in the situation on the ground. Pulling out just because . . . because . . . Bush doesn't want to! And because Europe wants us to! And because al Qaeda wants us to! Wait, they're the bad guys right? No matter, war makes for strange bedfellows, or something like that. And besides, they told us: we want a new direction in Iraq. North, south, east, west, doesn't seem to matter, so long as it's out. Guess the days of "pay any price, bear any burden" for the sake of freedom are over.

Of course, Iraq strategies are a dime a dozen these days, and universally vague.
Here's one with a few more details than most. I have offered occasional pieces of armchair quarterbacking, with slight modifications here and there. Perhaps I will codify them and offer my best, middle, and worst case scenarios for the region.

Best case (and "best" not necessarily meaning "that which makes everyone happy, is bloodless and cost-effective): Free nations of the world unite to forcibly dismantle every last crackpot nation in the region. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt: all under new management. Depose every last Baathist, close every last hate-spewing madrassa, shut off every last oil spigot from the madmen who use petrodollars to sponsor their dreams of murder. Do as the British did and establish democratic institutions that last, educate and train the populace to do something other than drill for oil and kill their neighbors, redraw borders as necessary to separate warring factions, quash radical holdouts without mercy or hesitation. Take control of regional oil wealth and use it to invest in new industrial and commercial ventures in the area, but keep it out of local hands until native leaders prove they can play nice. Allow freedom of religion but put Muslim leaders on notice: any future attempts to use Islam to incite terrorism will be met with swift retribution. Time frame: very long term. Cost/benefit: high and high. Liklihood: zero to none. The West doesn't have the willpower to execute such a plan right now; and as Europe continues its decline into Eurabia, perhaps the chance to carry it out has permanently passed.

Middle case: we increase the number of troops we have in Iraq right now and start playing hardball. We eradicate the militias that have caused so much trouble, and either incarcerate or execute Moqtada al-Sadr. We secure every city and stay there to keep them secure. We take over the higher levels of the army and police forces so that we can closely supervise their activities to prevent more sectarian violence, and provide positive leadership examples to raw Iraqi recruits. We tighten up Iraq's porous borders, and punish any attempt by Syria or Iran to further unbalance the situation. We hang Saddam by the neck until dead, shattering the dreams of ex-Baathists to return him to power. All the while, we invest and rebuild, and invite the world to do the same. Time frame: medium to long term, at least five to ten years. Cost/benefit: again, high and high. More troops and more aggressive rules of engagement will mean more casualties, and rebuilding the nation will require much more of our national treasure. But surely the success of our mission there will be worth it. Liklihood: strong, if only our leaders can appeal to the American people and make the call for national sacrifice that we've long been without. Weak, if those in favor of our mission fail to articulate their plan for success, and those opposed seek withdrawal at any cost.

Worst case: we abandon our project completely, the future of Iraq, the Middle East, and the world be damned. We leave the Sunnis and Shiites to slit each other's throats; that seems to be the current national pastime anyway. Perhaps we'll leave a token force in Kurdistan, as the Kurds sure as hell are glad we took out Saddam and seem to care about having a promising future. We bring the rest of the troops home, leaving al Qaeda, the Saudis, and Iran to gobble up the pieces of our failure and their success. We button up our borders, keep our troops at home, hang our heads as the world gloats, and pin Iraq next to Vietnam on the list of wars we're ashamed of. Time frame: short term (hell, immediate if the Dems get their way). Cost/benefit: low for us if we can withdraw quickly but bloody as hell if every insurgent and militiaman takes a shot at us on the way out, and certainly blood-drenched for ordinary Iraqis; and little to none. We can take solace in a free Kurdistan, but the world will be left to deal with a Sunni-Shiite war in the south and terror that will inevitably spread from there. The ideal of American determination and perseverance will be permanently buried in the eyes of the world. The end of the American era may well be over. Liklihood: sadly, the most destructive of the three is also the most likely.

Those are my ideas. Maybe not good, but at least I have some. Let's see if our leaders can do the same.

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