Thursday, February 28, 2008

Forest for the Trees

Barack Obama was asked on Thursday if he would redeploy troops to Iraq after withdrawing, if Al Qaeda established a base there. Obama answered that if Al-Qaeda was establishing an Al-Qaeda base, then yes.

President Bush used this opportunity to criticize the candidate, saying that that's what we've been doing in Iraq for the past four years - fighting to "[deny] Al-Qaeda a safe haven anywhere." This is not dissimilar to the comments John McCain said yesterday, whose campaign, according to the article linked above, issued a statement that Obama's plan would "embolden Al-Qaeda and weaken our security."

Obama's counterpoint, which is accurate, is that there was no Al-Qaeda presence in Iraq before the invasion. This is what the administration likes to gloss over, rewriting history, as it were. The President, and Senator McCain, would have us believe that the invasion of Iraq was to rid the nation of terrorists. This is simply untrue. We did not invade to rid the country of terrorists. One can speculate at the underlying motivation for overthrowing a country that was no immediate threat to us, such as the idea of opening up the vast oil reserves to American speculators, or to create a long-lasting security arrangement with a government selected by us, to ensure that we have a place from which to attack other nations in the region, or that they really did have WMDs and were creating them and just managed to hide them all in AMC Pacers crossing the border into Syria before our inspectors could get to the plants to show they existed, or whatever you want to believe. The fact is, we invaded for reasons that were shown to be untrue, and then we had to resort to fallback positions to continue the justification. After a while, we got to a point where it appears the administration thought enough water had passed under the bridge to quietly change the rationale for the invasion, and that has now become the talking point. That talking point is the Al-Qaeda angle.

This is not to say that there is not merit in the argument that Al-Qaeda is now a threat in the area. We created that beast by removing the stability of the government in place at a time when we were unprepared to finish what we'd started, thinking that the dream of Democracy would galvanize an entire nation of people unfamiliar with the concept to embrace it and eschew the lives they were familiar with. They were unprepared for our version of freedom, and we were unprepared for a follow-up to the invasion itself. That, combined with hundreds of years of hostility among the different ethnic groups and some mistrust of the liberators of the nation have created a perfect situation for Al-Qaeda to get roots, buddying up with tribal lords, etc. Our current solution of throwing money and weapons at people in exchange for their promise to not shoot us will work for a while, until the money dries up or someone comes along with a better deal. Because of all this, we are stuck.

Our military is the thumb in the dike. There's no saying how long the little Dutch Boy can hold his hand there, though, as eventually, he's going to need a break. The question is, what's going to happen when that time comes? This is an occupation unlike previous occupations. We are not there protecting against an external threat. We are staying to protect a threat we invited in, which is unfortunate, and virtually unwinnable for us. The government is not getting along, passing legislation, the purpose of the Surge, which Bush Apologists tritely point to as "working." The longer we stay, the greater the chance of hostility towards us growing, resulting in exactly the opposite of what we'd ostensibly intended with our invasion.

There are a few questions in Iraq that are left to be answered:
1. What is victory, and is it realistically achievable?
2. How many Americans and Iraqis have to die or have their lives destroyed before this is over?
3. Who is going to be the last American to die for this farce?
4. How much of the blame for "failure" is going to be shouldered on the one who actually takes our troops out of Iraq if/when the nation does fall apart?
5. When will President Bush get to play the "I told you so" card, saying we had to stay because "this" was bound to happen, even though it was bound to happen regardless of timing?


photog said...

How right you are!

I can see why a military career didn't suit you. You think and reason far to well to follow mindless orders.

Looking forward to 2d Sunday.

Nelson M. said...

The Bush Administration has been the most Orwellian in our history. The justifications continuously change, the metrics continuously change to satisfy the criticism at the moment. And most of us are so enmeshed in our own lives that we can't keep up with the cascade of shifting rationales.