Bad News from Iraq
September 4, 2003
how do we get out of Iraq? The Wall Street Journal,
voice of the hawks, speaks of strengthening Americas
commitment to victory in Iraq. Furthermore, The guerrilla
war the U.S. is now fighting in Iraq is winnable, notwithstanding the
current media pessimism.
Wait a minute!
Commitment to victory? Winnable? I thought
wed already won! Didnt President Bush just put on a combat
pilots uniform to celebrate our triumph?
Saddam Hussein has fallen, his
sons are dead, most of his top officials are in custody, his alleged arsenal
of weapons of mass destruction has gone poof, and Iraq is
no threat to anyone, let alone the United States.
Now were told that many
more troops, and a lot more money, will be needed to pacify
and stabilize whats left of Iraq. When will this
elusive victory be consummated? Hasnt the country already been
A guerrilla war
wasnt part of the deal. We were fighting a
preemptive war to remove a threat. Mission
accomplished. So bring the troops home. Leave the losers to their own
Or was the antiwar Left correct?
Was this a war of conquest and empire all along? Draw your own
The Journal says
the Iraqis must take responsibility for governing
themselves according to American dictates, of course. It
may sound odd to attack, invade, and occupy a country in order to give it
self-government, but there is much precedent. Abraham Lincoln said he
was invading the Confederacy in order to save self-government (which
else might perish from the earth), then set up puppet
military governments in the conquered states. Woodrow Wilson took us
into World War I to make the world safe for democracy, and
the results included Soviet Communism, Italian Fascism, and German
National Socialism. World War II oh, never mind.
historical parallels lie closer to hand. At first both our major political
parties supported the Vietnam war, launched by Democratic presidents. As
victory kept receding, the bipartisan support continued, but a few
politicians began criticizing the conduct of the war. A huge
peace movement sprang up as American casualties mounted, and finally
during a Republican administration the Democratic Party
directly opposed the war, and the Republicans at last admitted its futility.
We pulled out of Vietnam. All this took ten years.
We are already at the second
phase of the Iraq war. The Democrats, still professing to support the war
in principle, are objecting to the Bush administrations
conduct of the war. Their House leader calls it not
realistic and not sustainable. As with Vietnam, their rank-and-file
constituents are becoming ever more directly opposed to the whole thing.
Again as with Vietnam, the
media are poking holes in the official optimism, and even in the reasons
the administration gave for the war in the first place. As the
administration turns to the despised United Nations for help, the story is
getting more complicated, confusing, and demoralizing. The hawks
arent getting what they wanted not only a conclusive
victory in Iraq, but war on Iran and Syria, culminating in regime
change throughout the region.
You do remember regime
change? Ah yes, regime change, war on terrorism, the Axis of Evil,
weapons of mass destruction it all seems sooooo 2002
now. These slogans have joined the Domino Theory and the light at
the end of the tunnel in the attic of embarrassing memories and
stale ironies. Even Rush Limbaugh has dropped them from his vocabulary.
The hawks (and much of the
press) are still calling the Iraqi resistance forces
terrorists. But guerrillas is more accurate. Their
targets are military forces, other occupiers, and collaborators, not the
civilian population at large. Naturally they arent playing by the
invaders rules, but thats the nature of guerrilla warfare.
After all, the invaders have
switched their own rules. Thats what preemptive
war means. The United States isnt fighting by the old rules,
hasnt formally declared war, hasnt clearly defined its war
aims. And it had no plan for occupation.
Now it has an unmanageable
mess on its hands. We have reached a point where bad news no longer
surprises us. Only good news would do that, but it isnt very likely.
The Journal does
get one thing right. When it comes to stabilizing and pacifying Iraq,
A million Marines wont be enough if the Iraqi people
arent on our side.