12 February 2008

Problem, con't.

Regarding this piece in the Wall Street journal by Mark Helprin, who castigates the conservative elites for incessantly ripping John McCain for not hewing closely enough to their standards, a gentleman named Peter Wehner posted a reply at National Review Online.
The reply takes issue with a key paragraph written by Mr. Helprin:

To begin with, American columns should have cut through Baghdad after three days and exited three weeks later, leaving Saddam dead and a pliant Iraqi strongman to keep the country harmless or suffer the same quick take-down. Rather than being broken on the wheel of irreconcilable Muslim factions, a supple and intact American power would have shattered Arab elation following Sept. 11, and then by threatening their rule been able to discipline the various police states of the region into eliminating their terrorists. Far more efficient that way, without six and more murderous and unavailing years in which neither a single democracy has appeared nor will one. The surge is merely coincident with a change in Sunni strategy. Instead of watching the U.S. and Iran arm the Shiites for a major sectarian war, the Sunni choose to avail themselves of American arms while simultaneously removing the lunatic jihadists nipping at their heels.

You can read Mr. Wehner's post on your own, but the downright lack of seriousness of his words prompted me to write the following to him (This touches on several themes put forth here, so please pardon the repetition):

Mr. Wehner,

Regarding your post in response to Mark Helprin’s op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal: you write, “[i]n liberating Iraq, we inherited a divided, traumatized, and collapsing nation.” With all due respect, this is a very odd use of the word “inherit.” That Iraq was divided, traumatized and collapsing under Sadam Hussein I’ll take your word on, but wouldn’t it have made that much more sense not to invade a nation in such condition. We toppled a sovereign nation which posed no threat (strategic, existential or otherwise) to the United States, nor did it have any responsibility to the attacks on 11 September or for providing safe harbor for al Qaeda.

“If we had left after less than a month, its descent into chaos and civil war would have been accelerated, not averted.” We were told by the powers that be that we would be greeted as liberators. The country devolved into chaos as our men watched and our leaders dissembled. If a sovereign nation is involved in a civil war, diplomatically we may have a preference on who prevails, otherwise it is not (or should not) be the concern of the American military or treasury.

“Mass death and genocide would probably have followed.” Again, unfortunate, but not the concern of the United States.

“Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Iran would have filled the vacuum immediately.” You are aware that al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist before March 2003, no? The fact that it came into existence, given President Bush’s rhetoric (and his mandate as commander-in-chief) after our invasion gives as good an indication as any as to the competence of the Bush administration generally and Donald Rumsfeld specifically; as does the previously mentioned asininity of being greeted as liberators; as does this point, “[t]he problem with the post-war (Phase IV) planning was that we had too few troops and did not embrace the population-centric counterinsurgency strategy.” This wasn’t merely “not embrace[d]” it was specifically rejected time and again. And any who pointed out our troop level deficiency was ridiculed for presupposing to know more than “our Generals.” Completely lost in this nonsense is that the Generals owe obeisance to the civilians, not the other way around. Due to pride, electioneering, ignorance, incompetence or whatever, Bush did not move to remedy this situation until after winning re-election in 2004. How many soldiers died due to flawed and failed strategy? Soldiers dying in war in an unfortunate fact; soldiers dying in a war of choice (not necessity) while commanders do not make necessary adjustments is unconscionable.

This paragraph:

“[s]econd, the assertion that there is not a “single democracy” in the Arab world is wrong. Iraq is a democracy. It is a fragile and flawed one, as the United States was for many years after its independence, and the institutions of democracy need to take deeper root. But Iraqis, under threats of death that Mark Helprin thankfully doesn’t face, have held several free and fair elections. We have seen the peaceful transfer of power. Democracy is not perfect, and Helprin may oppose granting the Iraqi people liberty. But whether he likes it or not, Iraq qualifies as a democracy – and it continues to take imperfect steps along that path. It would be nice if Iraqis received support rather than ridicule,"
beggars credulity. A nation-state that cannot sustain itself less the teat of its benefactor is unworthy of the description “democracy.” Compare this article by Deroy Murdock, listing all of the things that the US Army Corps of Engineers must do for the Iraqi people (our personnel on our dime) with this article by Angelo Codevilla. None of the projects in the Murdock article are designed, engineered, implemented or paid for by the Iraqis, just “granted” to them, just like their democracy.

This noble experiment of President Bush, this notion that “our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world,” is patent nonsense that will serve as nothing more than an albatross around our national neck for beyond the foreseeable future. “Democracy” cannot be given it must be earned. What have the Iraqis done to earn it? Lived in harm’s way? If that were enough, all of Africa and the Middle East would be swimming in democracies. Iraqis living in danger is the fault and responsibility of the Iraqi people.

Sean M

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