Willfull Blindness

Stephen Green has his response to Kevin Drum, and as always, it’s a good one. One point he makes strikes me as rather crucial:

We might fail. The only certainties in war are spent treasure and spilt blood. Our attempt, though it might prove foolish, to create a stable, free, and prosperous Iraq is an attempt to avoid the kind of regional conflagration Drum thinks we want. Does he not realize that? And if he does, is Drum unable to see far enough past his own snark to know that leaving the Middle East to its own devices virtually guarantees a regional conflict?

That’s just it. I don’t think that the anti-war left (and the anti-war paleocon right, for that matter) has any clue about what losing in Iraq would mean for the region and for us. Do they think the situation in the Middle East would get any better? If the US withdrew before the central government had enough strength to enforce the peace, the chances of a catastrophic collapse of Iraq would increase dramatically?

What would be the effects of such a collapse?

If Iraq turned into a mess of feuding warlords, Somalia in the heart of the Middle East, would that in any way be good for American interest? Hell, would that be good for anyone’s interests other than those of al-Qaeda? An Iraq that had become a failed state would almost certainly be an unrestricted petri dish for terrorism. Iraq would become the next Afghanistan – a free base of operations for al-Qaeda that would allow them to plan and execute the next set of deadly attacks against the West.

That doesn’t even touch on the humanitarian disaster that would occur. Exactly where is the morality of leaving 26 million people to a state of utter devastation? The argument that the current situation is just as bad is hopelessly naïve. Does the anti-war side really think that the situation in Iraq would be the same or better if the US and coalition forces left? There doesn’t seem to be a reasonable argument that says that it would.

Would such a withdrawal increase or decrease hatred of the US in the Arab world? What would inflame the “Arab street” more, having an Iraq that is moving towards democracy or an Iraq that has been left shattered, broken, and defenseless? What would that say about our commitment to democracy and peace in the Middle East? Would al-Qaeda interpret such a withdrawal as anything other than a great strategic victory, a sign that Allah had blessed their undertakings and proven the Great Satan to be a paper tiger, impotent in the face of the mujihadeen’s fierce determination?

There is no reasonable, logical analysis that makes a withdrawal from Iraq anything less than an unmitigated disaster. The only arguments that the anti-war side seems to have is that things are already that bad, and withdrawal won’t change anything – which is another false argument. If they were wrong about that, and there’s an almost certain chance they are, their policies would have a strong chance of sparking a major regional conflagration. Nothing we’ve seen in Iraq would even hold a candle to what could happen if we leave prematurely.

Let’s be frank here. The majority of the anti-war side is motivated not be any real concern for Iraq. International ANSWER is an avowed group of Stalinists who want to see America fall. The Democratic Party cares more about defeating George W. Bush than they do about the people of Iraq. The paleo-con right wants to return to the comforting illusion that their doctrine of realpolitik is still relevant in today’s world. Lost in this whole debate are the people of Iraq, whose lives are mentioned only for their propaganda value.

The anti-war side can’t just blithely ignore the realities of our situation. Even if one accepts that the war was a bad idea that was fought badly and that our efforts at reconstruction have been ham-fisted and sometimes even harmful, exactly how does that justify leaving and making the situation worse? Is it truly such a moral argument that we should let Iraq fail and accept that the spillover from that conflict would be likely to spread across the whole region? Is there really a sound argument that states that the situation in Iraq is as bad as it can get and us leaving would have no impact?

It seems to be quite clear that those who oppose our further involvement in Iraq have a willfull blindness to the consequences of such an action. Their headlong rush towards surrender would be committing the same sins they accuse the Bush Administration of committing – taking a rash action based on faulty intelligence and blindly ignoring the consequences.

The fact is that doing “whatever it takes” is the right attitude to have. The benefits of victory are massive – the cost of failure beyond imagination. Al-Qaeda believes this to be a war of wills between the decadence of the West and the boundless determination of the mujihadeen.

The anti-war side doesn’t seem to want to consider it, but if we pull out of Iraq, Osama bin Laden will have been proven right. The costs of the invasion of Iraq have been great, especially to those families who have had to say their final goodbyes to their loved ones. At the same time, what are the consequences of failure?

One thought on “Willfull Blindness

  1. Also lost in this conversation is whether or not Iraq needs to exist as an entity in the form it stands right now. A unified Iraq means little since there has never been any such thing as an Iraqi collective consciousness. It is not racist, but simply realistic to say that the Iraqi people’s concept of liberty is light years away from what westerners would view as liberal democracy. If spreading democracy was the goal, a better choice would have been Syria, a nation with a much more educated populace and a state in which civilizational standards are much higher. Yes the insurgents need to be defeated, no one is denying that (well with the exception of the above mentioned International Answer types). However I am beginning to wonder if it was not a mistake to totally cripple the country. The Republican Guard, Saddam and his family certainly had to go. But why did we not leave another mid level general or two, atleast then a moderate Mubarak or King Abdullah figure might have emerged. Withdrawal is not an option for the reasons that Jay sites. However our continued staying there is problematic because we will never achieve the naive ambitions which we embarked upon. Was it not Dinesh D’Souza who said the corrupt moderns were better than the uncompromising medievals. Unfortunately Iraq is so unstable no modern power broker (be he autocratic.. or quasi-democratic— and yes we will get no better than quasi democratic) is able to take hold. The South Korean and Taiwanese examples of slow emergence from authoritarian rule to democracy look better each and every day. And atleast those were coherent states with a clear sense of belonging. The Bush doctrine is not one of treachery as the left says, but instead one of hopeless intellectual deficiency.

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