Iraq's uncivil war
Columnist Ralph Peters talks sense on Iraq in today's New York Post. This is the kind of "realism" I like. Here's a taste:
The endless spitting match over whether Iraq is in a state of civil war is a media-driven grudge fight that ignores the complex reality. It's name-calling, not analysis.So, what are we to do? Peters says that we should act first and foremost to defend our own national interests, with a clear understanding that although spreading democracy may be a worthwhile objective, it is a secondary one at best:
A lot of this is just "get Bush" stuff from journalists whose biased reporting helped shape the dismal reality in Iraq and who now crow that they were right all along - the media as a self-licking ice-cream cone.
The good news - and, unfortunately, the bad news - is that Iraq is not in a state of civil war in the textbook sense. If it were, our military and political mission would be easier.
Amen to that. The message being spread throughout the Middle East today is that democracy is a recipe for civil disorder and bloodshed. That is most certainly not a message that serves America's long-term interests.
As far as the now-pejorative term "civil war" goes, let's just let activists in or out of the media use it, if it helps them bear the dawning reality that, no, the Democrats in Congress aren't going to bring the troops home for Christmas and declare surrender.
Meanwhile, those of us who care about our country's security and who worry about the futility haunting the Middle East need to face a tougher issue than yo-mama name-calling: Iraq has deteriorated so badly it's hard to imagine a positive outcome unless we're willing to take radical, politically difficult measures.
The administration and Congress have to face a fundamental question: Which result is more important - preserving Iraq as a unified state with a facade of democratic government, or protecting our own national-security interests?
The two priorities now conflict. Really taking on our enemies - not least Moqtada al-Sadr and his legion of thugs - would require us to defy the elected Baghdad government we sponsored. To kill those who need killing to pacify Iraq and re-establish our ascendancy would mean that we would again become an outright occupying power.
Not that it really matters, but doing what it would take to win would also tear up our permission slip from the United Nations.
On the other hand, the prospect of endlessly shoring up a corrupt, divided Iraqi government unwilling to protect its own citizens, and to do so at a cost in American blood, would be a far more immoral course than ordering our troops to kill the butchers who've been assassinating them and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. ...
A fundamental problem is that the mission in Iraq remains vague. And vague mission statements are not conducive to military success.
Generalities won't do. Let's tell our troops precisely what we expect of them: Are they there to defeat our enemies, or just to buy time with their lives in the forlorn hope that something will go right?
And let's not lose sight of the incontestable fact that, while being liked in the Middle East would be nice, being feared by our enemies is essential.
There's nothing civil about the semi-chaos defining a new kind of war in Iraq. It's a 21st-century phenomenon and our terminology has to catch up. In the meantime, we need to remember that, whatever else our government does or fails to do, its ultimate reason for being is to protect Americans and American interests.
Saving the dubious Maliki government is a secondary concern, at most. The uncompromising defeat of our enemies is what matters.
In much of Iraq, the fundamental building blocks for democracy have never existed, either before the war or now. The U.S. undertook its experiment in democracy-building before the Iraqis themselves had a chance to lay the proper groundwork; the results have been largely predictable: mounting frustration and disappointment. There are signs that the Bush administration is learning that lesson; the sooner it takes measures to act in a way that is more clearly in line with America's own interests, the better.