Monday, August 15, 2005

Swinging Both Ways

I meant to link to this earlier, but forgot. In a way, it represents a lot of what I feel about Iraq.

The link points you to two stories. One is on the Bush administration finally starting to admit that its wildly optimistic assessments of Iraqi Democracy were completely unrealistic. As a supporter of the Iraq war on humanitarian grounds, I've been forced to deal with this more than most anyone. I can't just say "I was deceived by WMDs," because I wasn't. I believed in this mission. I can't stand the thought of leaving another child under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. So when President Bush says: "We can get that bastard out and spread freedom," I'll admit I'm all ears.

As Dan Savage notes, the liberal hawks wanted this thing to succeed more desperately than anyone else. For us, it wasn't about abstract notions of "the war on terrorism" or "punishing evildoers" (though we thought it would help those too). It was about changing lives, about freeing oppressed people from the most horrific of tyrannies. I can live with failing to find Saddam's WMDs (if there were any). I can't live with the notion that we raised the hopes of millions only to plunge a nation back into chaos.

The worst part is the what ifs. Leftist anti-war supporters are crowing that this war was doomed from the start. The US can't just expect to waltz in and pull democracy out of thin air in a fractured and balkanized environment like Iraq. Is that true? I don't know. I prefer to think that the incredible series of blunders the Bush administration made in its handling of the post-war occupation fumbled what could have been a golden opportunity. Of course, preferred is a relative term: In this case, it merely means that I think completely discrediting the philosophy of spreading freedom and aiding the oppressed is better than that philosophy being futile in the first place. Hurray.

The second story is optimistic. It's about Sunnis uniting against efforts by insurgents to drive Shiites from Ramadi. The solidarity I hoped, prayed, would emerge. Could it be true? After so many disappointments, I fear to take too much stock. It may be an aberration, it may be a trend. It may mean a lot, or perhaps nothing at all. Only time will tell.

The latter story gives me a sliver of hope against the former's confirmation of my worst fears.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On the up side, even if you follow the's numbers, we've prevented the deaths of somewhere around 20,000 civilians. Even if the Iraqi Constitution has flaws and allows for a religious republic, everyone still gets to vote for whoever they want. Even if the Iraqi security forces aren't ready to take care of the whole country yet, they're able to take care of Tikkrit and Diala. Unlike before Saddam's fall, it is likely that few or no children will die of starvation in Iraq. And one of the worst complaints that first story has, that ethnic and religious groups are patrolling the north and south borders of Iraq, is not a sign we're promoting the wrong values. Vigilantes have their places, after all.
It looks like, regardless of what the Bush administration thinks, many aspects - such as establishing a working democratic republic, oil production, security, and basic humanities like food and electricity - aren't going to be ifs, but whens.
Compared to the Big Dig's delays, I think we'll be pleasantly surprised.

Keep the sliver of hope. Despite what we're seeing on the news, it looks like that hope isn't misguided.