November 28, 2006

Terminally In Iraq

Terminus is back kids! Well, those of us who knew Drew knew that it was only a matter of time, but it's still nice to see him back at his own place, under the old moniker.

His most recent post is his attempt to get back into the political side of things and, well, it seems like as good a time for me to wade back in as ever. He's talking about Iraq and what the hell we're supposed to do with the debacle that it's become. As he's said for a while now, he thinks we should pull out immediately. He dismisses the moral argument that we owe it to the Iraqi people to fix the mess we've made and dismisses even more readily, and rightly so, the President's argument that we can only lose if we leave. The latter is utter foolishness that wouldn't even be considered a serious position if it weren't the official position of the President. At this point I'm pretty sure he thinks the country is Ed Norton in Fight Club and he's scarring our hand with lye to show us how awesome pain is.

I'm not completely convinced that the former argument is as easy to dismiss. I know this is close to what so many self-important "serious centrists" have been saying for a while now, but what if we pull out and it gets much much worse. Darfur worse. It's entirely possible that the country could turn into, if it isn't already, a massive human rights disaster. Will we go back in then to stop an ethnic cleansing? Will the global community be willing to help? Putting aside whether we would be able to muster the political will to send troops back, is that something we'd be morally obligated to do? It's certainly hard for me to argue that we wouldn't. I've certainly condemned our lack of involvement in Darfur and I don't think I'd be able to weasel my thinking out of finding an obligation to get involved in a similar situation in Iraq, even if we just left. That being the case, is it better to stay if we would just have to come back?

All that being said, at this point it's mostly guilt talking. I never supported the war, but hey, we're all in this mess together and nobody should be above the guilt over what we've done. Still, it certainly doesn't look like we're making any headway on this problem and staying forever just isn't an option. An important issue in "sticking around" is the fact that we have, last I heard, built several large, permanent military bases in Iraq. Now, I didn't pay much attention to it at the time because it was just one ridiculous idea among a sea of ridiculous ideas, but I was under the impression that the US had closed down its bases in Saudi Arabia amid pressure from their citizenry and opted to make Iraq the military staging ground for US troops in the future.
Does pulling out mean eliminating those bases? If so, pulling out seems increadibly unlikely if that would leave us with no strategic outpost in the region.

If, on the other hand, we're just talking about troops patrolling Iraq it's also important to not that leaving "immediately" doesn't mean people drop what they're doing and run for the nearest chopper. It takes quite a while for a force the size of ours to pull out of the country; it just meanse we start preparing to leave now and do so as quickly as possible.

This has been an awfully rambly post, but hey, I'm just getting back into the swing of things. I've also been pulled away from writing this post at least four times which tends to unfocus things. I don't think the guilt over what we've done will ever go away, which increasinly makes me feel that my guilt is a bad basis for letting President Bush dump lye on us.


Rob said...

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

Prepare for a bit of rambling:

I'm not sure why we're morally obligated to stay in a country that before our ill-conceived invasion was artificially held together by a human-rights-impaired psychopath. I don't know what our goal was in invading (no one knows, even our current administration). But it seems like the goal was more or less to remove that human-rights-impaired psychopath and let the chips fall where they may. Let the Iraqis put it back together and try to help them form a democratic gov't. Ok, that was really dumb. But that's what our Gov't did. We thought we'd give them a blank slate. Well, instead we find out that they've got a bunch of religious and culturally driven groups who have no interest in playing nice with each other. So why do we have an obligation to stay? We didn't break their society, it was already broken. We just pulled back the veil to show the horrors - that none of these people like each other very much. Why can't we fix this problem by training their police and military, then sending them money? If we were serious, all we really need to do is take those who want to train out of the country (so they don't get blown up as seems to happen all too frequently), then arm them and send them back in. So it'll be a police state for a while. So what? What is it now? I just don't buy the "you broke it, you bought it" approach. These people aren't our allies. As long as they keep blowing up Marines, they are our enemies. It seems to me that the best way to hurt our enemies is to get out of there and let them hurt themselves. We have no plan, no objective there. Without that, there's no moral imperative to stand in the middle of people intent on killing each other, even if we put the guns in their hands. I don't care if we removed their authority figure. They need to get their own gov't on track. If they refuse to do this and are intent on remaining a dysfunctional free-for-all, so be it. If they want to pull it together they will.

Noumena said...

I want to focus on this point in particular:

I just don't buy the "you broke it, you bought it" approach. These people aren't our allies. As long as they keep blowing up Marines, they are our enemies. It seems to me that the best way to hurt our enemies is to get out of there and let them hurt themselves.

Iraq is a factional mess. Even the basic divisions of Sunni/Shiite/Kurd are endlessly complicated by subdivisions that are anti-American, pro-American, anti-other Iraqi groups, neutral towards other Iraqi groups, and opportunistic fundamentalist Muslims who just want to cause trouble to make the US look bad. Obviously, in such a situation, trying to divide everyone into clear and distinct categories labelled `good freedom fighters', `evil insurgents', and `innocent civilians' is completely impossible.

During the Cold War, US policy was to make these classifications, no matter how stupid, and give the `good freedom fighters' lots and lots of weapons and ammunition, so that they and the `evil insurgents' (who usually received similar support from the Soviet Union, being the `good revolutions' fighting the `bourgeois running dogs') could kill each other and the `innocent civilians' as much as possible. Millions of people died.

It is not, however, any better to simply classify everyone as `evil insurgents' and let them all go hang. Whether we were responsible for starting it or not, whether `they' are trying to kill our soldiers or not, the situation of the people of Iraq is intolerable, and we have a moral imperative to do everything in our power to fix it. Eliminating suffering and injustice is always everyone's responsibility.

Continued at Terminus.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty much how I feel @ Rob. They're not 2 year olds, they were screwed up to begin with and they should be able to fuckin handle it themselves at this point.

Yeah there are innocent civilians in there but most of them aren't. I know several people who've been there including my husband, not people you'd ever see in an interview on tv saying how we're doing such an important job and we need to stay blah blah. I suspect they know a bit more about what's going on there than the average person who knows Iraq only from news articles and interviews with soldiers handpicked bc they support Bush.

The most common statement and complaint I hear from them? That most of them AREN'T innocent. That 90% of the people in the cities they were working in weren't 'poor civilians' standing by. And they'd flat out show their hate for them, whether by ied or screaming at them patrolling/their stryker/humvee. And that ranges from men to women to children. Yes, it's sad, but even children. They came across kids pointing ak's at their faces saying anti-american things.

I'm supposed to believe the majority of them are innocent when that's what my husband tells me and he was actually there? He has no reason to lie about it. We need to just let go of their hands and let them figure it out themselves cuz we've given them plenty of time and plenty of lives that weren't worth the hell hole they're turning their own country into.