Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A deep breath

Last week America lost its 1,000th man in Iraq. That is 1,000 mini-tragedies acted out as bodies are brought home and laid to rest by inconsolable families. On the other hand, everyone knows going into war that there will be deaths. The question is whether the deaths are worth the outcome. Had President Bush dared to predict last March that in a year and a half we would be able to overthrow Saddam Hussain's regime, jail him, kill his sons, establish a provisional government, and hand over most governing functions to the free Iraqis, he would have been mocked as a fool (even moreso).

In fact, all of those things are true and are true despite dealing for much of the last 12 months with non-native insurgent forces. When Bush famously said: "bring it on", he was serious. What he wanted (and what he got) was for radical Muslims to come to Iraq to fight. Radical Islam cannot stand by while Iraq is transformed into a peaceful democracy. It is anathema to them. They must do everything they can to hamper efforts to launch a free Iraq.

So radicals from around the Muslim world converged on Iraq with the goal of undermining our post-war efforts there. Bush, so often derided as a fool, has got the enemy facing our troops rather than our innocent civilians in America. He also has them thousands of miles away from us facing the greatest army in the history of the world. And, as an added bonus, he has sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the Muslim world. Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan have already heard this message and altered their course of business in ways that favor the United States.

All of this has been accomplished at the price of 1,000 men (and, of course, boatloads of money). Was it worth it? I tend to think so, and I say that as someone who has had over a dozen friends and family members serve in Iraq during the last 18 months many of whom are still there today or are preparing to go back.

The question I would ask those who feel it isn't worth it (a position which I respect) is: What were your expectations before the war? Were your predictions borne out? If not, please have the intellectual honesty to preface your position with the fact that the war has gone much better than you expected rather than tracking body counts with a whiff of guilty glee.


Blogger Tolles said...

Here's my problem with "The Lump Sum Of Fighters Theory."

The astute readers of this blog are probably familiar with "The Lump Sum of Labor Theory", sometimes less charitably described as "The Lump Sum of Labor Fallacy." Briefly, it's an idea that unemployment can only be reduced by further dividing already existing labor demand. The theory ignores a whole host of factors, not the least of which is population growth.

The resoning in this post strikes me as similar to the above theory. Max credits Bush for luring "radicals from around the Muslim world" to Iraq and away from the United States. No consideration is given to Iraqis who have been radicalized SOLELY because of the war itself. Take this guy:

"Abu Mujahed, worryingly for the analysts, fits into none of these easy categories. For a start, he was pro-American before the invasion. 'The only way to breathe under the old regime was to watch American films and listen to their music,' he said. He had been a Bon Jovi fan.

'It gave me a glimpse of a better life. When I heard that the Americans were coming to liberate Iraq I was very happy. I felt that I would be able to live well, travel and have freedom. I wanted to do more sport, get new appliances and a new car and develop my life. I thought the US would come here and our lives would be changed through 180 degrees.'

He spoke of how his faith in the US was shaken when, via a friend's illicitly imported satellite TV system, he saw 'barbaric, savage' pictures of civilian casualties of the fighting and bombing. The next blow came in the conflict's immediate aftermath, as looters ran unchecked through Baghdad.

'When I saw the American soldiers watching and doing nothing as people took everything, I began to suspect the US was not here to help us but to destroy us,' he said."

I don't particularly see the relevence in where fighters hail from except if you want to bolster the "lump-sum" fighter theory. i.e. if they're over there then they ain't here. My own feeling is that claims of foreign fighters in Iraq are VASTLY overstated, not just here but in the mainstream press, but acknowledging that most of these guys are neither foreign terrorists with a seperate agenda nor die-hard Baathists or whatever would EXPOSE THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH that most Iraqis simply don't want Americans with Humvees and guns running around their country. From the same article:

"There has been speculation, and especially among American officials, that Saddam's henchmen had planned a 'guerrilla war' if defeated. But Abu Mujahed, who described himself as 'a Muslim but not religious', and the others in his group were not working to any plan. Everything they did was improvised. And each of his seven-man group had a different motive: 'One man was fighting for his nation, another for a principle, another for his faith.'"

What do these guys all have in common? They hate U.S. soldiers running around their turf. And they may all like Bon Jovi. Where is that damn Bon Jovi when you need him to negotiate a cease-fire?

Here's what else they have in common: They don't want to invade Gary, Indiana, (read: come here) and they're not particularly aginst democracy, at least as far as I can see. One of the most dangerous myths floating around out there is that "terrorists" hate democracy, as if the electoral college, bicameral legislatures, and the secret ballot are reasons to fly an airplane into a building. Violence and terrorism are reactions to real events, not efforts to thwart representative government. Those efforts will be left to the United States once Moktada al-Sadr runs for Alderman/Mayor/Viceroy/800 lb Gorilla-at-Large of Sadr City.

Answers to survey on expectations:
-More U.S. casualities, though not by an order of magnitude. No specific number in mind, but let's say more than 1,000 and less than 10,000. Maybe 3,000? I don't know.
-Lots of Iraqi casulaties, though you wouldn't know there are any even if you do read the newspaper
-Lot's of infighting between Iraqi ethnic groups. This hasn't been that bad yet, but way until a non-U.S. appointed govt. begins to form.
-The discovery of boxes of dusty crap left over from various conficts and that couldn't travel farther than a couple hundred miles (at best) cited as definitive proof of Iraqi WMD. (surprisingly few boxes of crap discovered, even for someone like me who didn't expect much)
-Specious, syllogistic reasoning that the discovery of said boxes of crap completely justified reasons for war ipso facto (no boxes of crap found, war justified anyway)
-The U.S. losing interest in the country and moving on to next misadventure in Syria or Iran (to be determined. For background, see Afghanistan, The War in)
-Yet more chest thumping for having accomplished not that much and not having made the world measurably safer (ambiguous criterion, but see GOP convention in NYC for chest thumping, near head-exploding and duel challenging (Zelch Miller)

1:32 PM  
Blogger Tolles said...

Whoops. Here's the link to the article I cited:


1:33 PM  
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8:27 AM  

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