Iraq Is Not Vietnam

Thomas Friedman has a clear and important piece explaining why Iraq is not Vietnam. Friedman is no cheerleader for the Bush Administration, but he understands that Iraq is simply too important for the United States to show weakness in this matter:

Most of the troubles we have encountered in Iraq (and will in the future) are not because of “occupation” but because of “empowerment.” The U.S. invasion has overturned a whole set of vested interests, particularly those of Iraq’s Sunni Baathist establishment, and begun to empower instead a whole new set of actors: Shiites, Kurds, non-Baathist Sunnis, women and locally elected officials and police. The Qaeda nihilists, the Saddamists, and all the Europeans and the Arab autocrats who had a vested interest in the old status quo are threatened by this.

This is part of the reason why the liberal opposition to rebuilding Iraq is so infuriating. Iraq is an essentially liberal mission – it’s about restoring democracy, empowering women and minorities, and rectifying the “root causes” of terrorism. If those are not worthy missions for the United States, then why the hell do we have a foreign policy at all? If we can’t create something better in Iraq, why bother? If we can’t accept that democracy is not intrinsic to human nature why bother having it at home?

I believe Jonah Goldberg has it exactly right – this is a case of mindless and ravenous partisanship. Consistancy with liberal values would see condemnation of the war, but an absolute insistance on rebuilding Iraq better than it was. Yet the hatred of Bush has forced the Democrats to abandon the values of democracy, personal liberty, and empowering the poor and the downtrodden. As Goldberg wryly notes:

So, since Bush favors the reconstruction of Iraq – which means, as a practical matter, reluctantly favoring the expenditure of blood and treasure – the Democrats must be against it. By this logic, John Edwards should embrace Satan and start drinking heavily, since Bush is a born-again Christian and a teetotaler.

The opposition to Iraq is entirely unprincipled. It sacrifices traditional liberal values for political expediency, sacrificing the future of 20+ million Iraqis on the altar of Democratic partisanship. The Democrats seem far more interested in defeating George W. Bush than they do Saddam Hussein. This kind of attitude is simply unacceptable, especially at a critical time like this. As Goldberg notes:

They [the Democrats] see each setback in Iraq as a political opportunity to question whether we should be there at all. Not only do they send a message of weakening American resolve at precisely the wrong moment, not only do they abandon their historical principles, but they underscore their most enduring political handicap – the impression that Democrats are unserious on foreign policy. They are left with no principle to stand on, no plan of their own to promulgate, and no credibility to trade with. In short, they have ritualistically shorn themselves of everything but animus and appetite. Shame on them.

I don’t think the Democrats know how devastating this attitude is. They’re handing a key issue to the Republicans in such a way that any Democratic candidate is going to have an instant credibility problem right out of the gate. I can already see the kind of TV ads juxtaposing crying Iraqi children and victims of Ba’athist torture with the well-coifed Democrats arguing who will do more to give them the shaft. The Democrats have abandoned real liberalism to partisanship and petulance, and they will pay the price for it in 2004.

5 thoughts on “Iraq Is Not Vietnam

  1. Right, because the RNC is going to be thrilled with the idea of disaffected soldiers with missing limbs cutting commercials calling Bush a liar and a fraud for taking us to this war.

    The Republicans want the war off the table until the troop withdrawls begin. As long as attacks continue, Bush can’t pull out troops and still look tough on foreign policy. In short, Bush is stuck until after the situation becomes stable AND safer. I don’t forsee that happening before next summer, and I don’t expect the decision for a pullback will be Bush’s to make when the time comes.

  2. No, having the war on the table is a godsend for Karl Rove – it’s an issue where the incoherent and often transparently idiotic stance of the Democrats plays to their perceieved weakness on national security. The military still support Bush by overwhelming margins, and they still overwhelmingly support the mission, as the last Stars and Stripes poll showed.

    Other than that, you’re right, the violence will likely continue for some time. However, the progress being made will also continue. Despite the negative portrayals of the rebuilding from the media, Iraq is much better off now than under Saddam. A day in which 40 Iraqis are killed is still better than a day in which 4,000 are shot in the head and dumped in a mass grave.

    Playing the Iraq card is a horrendously shortsighted political move for the Democrats, and it will come back to bite them in 2004.

  3. The Democrats are playing this exactly as they should. They recognize that “failure is not an option” and that we must follow through with the dubious commitment Bush forced upon our troops and our taxpayers, but at the same time, they’re rightfully not letting voters forget that this commitment was engineered through the lies of White House Republicans who have a vested interest in creating a permanent state of war. Never has it been more obvious that we are fighting “the wrong war at the wrong time”, and while Democrats have a civic and moral responsibility to support the troops and the people we’re occupying with sufficient funds to complete their mission, they also have a civic and moral responsibility to remind people that the mission we’re forced to complete was built through fraud.

    As far as running TV ads comparing the Democrats to Hussein or to Iraqi child killers, go for it. This ploy may have worked last year, but most polls now show that the majority of Americans now recognize this war was not worth it. The places in the country where these types of ads would work are already solid for Bush. The growing number of war opponents in the other 28 to 30 states would be offended by such ads, and thus more likely to vote against Bush.

  4. Our problem was with Afghanistan and Al-Queada, not the whole Middle East!

    You cannot deal with al-Qaeda by simply attacking one base. al-Qaeda is just one symptom of the larger problem, which is Islamofacist terrorism. Striking down al-Qaeda only makes America no safer. Sooner or later Hizb’Allah, Ansar-i-Islam, or one of the many other groups in that region would strike as well.

    The Lew Rockwell/Pat Buchanan strain of xenophobic paleoconservatism is a throughly discredited ideology, and for good reason. The policies of the xenophobic and often anti-Semitic far right are just as dangerous and ill-conceived as those of the far left.

  5. And if attacking Iraq would have made al-Qaeda weaker or decreased the number of people willing to die for the opportunity to inflict harm onto America, I’d have supported it.

    As it stands now, the world as a whole is LESS safe with Saddam Hussein out of power, and Americans are at a substantially greater risk. Iraqis are safer, and assuming we succeed in creating a viable democracy in Iraq, better off. However, the risks to Americans have increased, the recruitment for al-Qaeda, HAMAS, Islamic Jihad and most other Islamic terrorist groups has soared, Afghanistan is far from secure and our budget is taking a hit.

    Had President Bush first sought to weaken these groups through less direct means, such as attacking their funding before their physical form, or increasing educational aid to countries that offer secular schooling to lessen the impact of religious fundamentalist schools, it would be more difficult for these groups to publicize the effort against them in their terms (i.e. “the US war on Islam” as opposed to “the US is justifiably bombing the shit out of us”) and increase recruitment efforts and terror operations inside and outside Iraq.

    Terrorism is a hydra, and we cut off a minor head before readying a torch, creating newer, more powerful enemies where only a weak one once lived. The worst part is that we had to create and exaggerate the strength of this hydra’s head before we could attack it and make new foes.

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