In limbo on Iraq - Diana West
- From: "Bob Cooper" <rcooper1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2007 19:38:48 -0500
In limbo on Iraq
By Diana West
January 26, 2007
I find myself in political limbo. I don't agree with the president and I don't
agree with his opponents. I'm not convinced by the argument for sending
21,000 additional troops mainly to Baghdad, and I'm downright incensed
at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting along (Democratic)
party lines (plus GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska) to declare this
same so-called troop surge to be against "the national interest."
The president's argument fails to convince me that the effort required
to secure Baghdad, which comes down to American troops quashing
sectarian street violence, is worth the price. It's hard to imagine that an
increased American presence, which is necessarily temporary, will win
more than a pause in the violence, which goes back centuries. But I'm
also unconvinced that the mission itself is of strategic value to the
United States. My great concern, as I have written before, is that it's
very possible that renewed American fighting in Baghdad, if
successful -- which, as Americans, we must hope it to be -- will not only
stabilize the chaotic capital of Iraq, but will also entrench its Shi'ite-led,
pro-Hezbollah, anti-Western government. This suggests that victory in
Iraq may deliver not a new brother for the anti-terror coalition, but
rather a perfect ally for Iran. And what kind of American victory is that?
A victory for democracy, I guess. In his State of the Union address
this week, President Bush was still chanting the democracy mantra,
insisting that "free people are not drawn to violent and malignant
ideologies" -- this after a whole lot of free people across the Islamic
world have democratically shown themselves to be drawn to just such
ideologies. Even so, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, whom Mr. Bush has
tapped to execute his new Iraq strategy, has noted the limited
transformative powers of democracy. Addressing the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee this week, the general said, "The
elections that gave us such hope actually intensified sectarian
divisions in the population at the expense of the sense of the Iraqi
He could say that again, and, in a way, even about our own elections.
With Senate Democrats pushing through that nonbinding resolution
opposing the troop surge (mentioned above), it might well be argued
that recent U.S. elections brought about "divisions" that have fractured
the American identity. Debate is one thing, but, as Sen. Richard G.
Lugar, Indiana Republican, who himself considers the troop surge
"dubious," pointed out, "Official roll-call votes carry a unique message."
And, in this vote's case, that message goes straight to our enemies,
who will hunker down to wait for a divided America to up and crumble.
This is a disgraceful way for lawmakers to send troops off anywhere.
It also reveals the blindness of Mr. Bush's political opponents, who
see no mission of strategic value to the United States in Iraq. For
example, if, as al Qaeda claims, there are some 12,000 al Qaeda
terrorists in Iraq, it is obviously a mission of strategic value to the
United States to eliminate them, and to do so with as little loss of
American life as possible.
This would likely require U.S. air attacks and such attacks would
likely entail Iraqi civilian casualties. Just the thought of such casualties
seems to render such a mission unthinkable to both Bush opponents
and the Bush team, which now presides, for example, over a
recurring battle for Baghdad's Haifa Street, where enemy fighters
keep returning to fire at American and Iraqi troops from positions in
high-rise buildings. Is it just me, or does anyone ever wonder why,
if pacifying Baghdad is so darn vital, those buildings are still
It is the great irony of our time that even as our stone-age enemies
seek to inflict as many civilian casualties as possible, we in the
postmodern West seek to inflict none. Which is extremely nice, but
what is it they say about nice guys? And how nice, really, is it? Citizens
of the 21st century, we pat ourselves on the back for an elevated
morality even as we expect our brave volunteers to risk life and limb
to protect both ourselves and, in effect, our enemies also. This does
nothing but prolong the state of war and the suffering that goes with
it, which is surely neither nice, nor morally uplifting. Maybe such a
mindset is relatively new to the American identity, but the limbo of
unresolved conflict it consigns us to promises to be with us for a
I wonder about a lot of the same things Ms West wonders about.
Including why those buildings are still standing.