Jason of South Dakota Politics sent me a pair of emails relating to my apology for supporting the Democratic Party. With his permission, his words are below:
Just wanted to say, you’re forgiven 😉 No, I had thought the same thing in prior to the election, but I hadn’t expected the Republicans to lose Congress entirely. I thought maybe just losing the House would have been a good wakeup call. Turns out that losing Congress entirely still hasn’t provided a good wakeup call, but I digress. I think there’s a frustration in America generally with our political class — people like Speaker Pelosi are trying to establish a shadow foreign policy and all this other bs, and the politicians seem preoccupied with stuff your average American doesn’t care about because it doesn’t effect them directly. They want answers on education, health care, the economy, etc. Where’s the leadership? Just a thought, anyways.
As a result of that post, you’ve started me reading through several of your other posts re: the Iraq War and Bush’s incompetence, as you see it. You seem to have a pretty firm grasp of what’s happening in Iraq, so I’m really learning from your perspective on events. I’ve read some of these posts before, but it’s been a while. Might even get me to change my mind 😉 You had a post where you mentioned that Bush was acting Kennedyesque, and compared Bush to Kennedy’s inaction in the assassination of Ngo in Vietnam — which is rather relevant to me because I just wrote a paper on Ngo and Nhu’s assassination for a history course I’m taking. I thought you made a really good point about him subverting a guy that was helping turn the Madhi Army away from al Sadr. You say that we need to pull out of Iraq now. Do you worry about a regional war, the way Bill O’Reilly and Pat Buchanan do? i.e., if we pull out and civil war breaks out among Shi’ia and Sunni, then Saudis, Iranians, etc. will come in to help their respective religious divides (if you’ve blogged on this, sorry for not seeing it).
It seems to me that the reinforcements are working to help curb violence, but I remain cautiously optimistic. I think we’ll know within the next couple of months whether Gen. Patraeus’s plan will work. But maybe it’s not worth it? And obviously there are other problems in Iraq not addressed, like the flight of the Iraqi middle class and the self-sustaining nature of the insurgents financially. Maybe getting out now is the best plan, I don’t know. Historically, it seems insurgencies have a bad track record for victory — but that depends on how one fights them. Perhaps we’ve passed a point where no matter what we do, nothing can secure the Iraqi government. But then, how does this fit into the global context of the war against terrorism? And if we flee, what does that signal to the world? That we’re a “paper tiger” after all? Then again, there’s evidence to say most Iraqis are turning against al Qaeda and Baathists. I also saw an Iraqi govt spokesperson on C-SPAN the other morning talking about how al Qaeda is playing Sunni’s and Shi’ias off each other to foster conflict, and the Iraqis are starting to realize this and are reacting against it. Maybe things will improve? Maybe the key to victory, not only for Iraq but for the war against Islamic extremism, is to empower the moderate Muslims and marginalize the extremists? So many questions I don’t have answers to. It’s quite frustrating, but definitely worth the mental energy.
Anyways, I’ll keep reading, learning, and thinking. Maybe the answer will come to me.
Jason’s second email, and my response, is below the fold:
One last thought (or two). On the part about what the world will think of us if we pull out, world opinion is already mostly against us, and I don’t expect that to change overnight just because we leave Iraq. Diplomacy is far more complicated than that. What I’m concerned with is those countries that still support us and our activity in Iraq. Can we afford to leave? Will we look weak by leaving, and can we afford that image? Again, so many questions 🙂
I think one important point is to empower moderates. If we can show the majority of Muslims that Islamism is a false belief, then I think we’ll be doing something worthwhile. This is definitely a war of ideas, and I would aver that the Cold War was the same way — communism v. capitalism. Just as we won the Cold War, the GWOT is winnable. Iraq might be winnable. I think Iraq was the right war, right time, and I think the “surge” has the possibility of succeeding.
Jason raises four specific concerns, and I will address each.
1. Will there be a regional war if we leave?
It depends on what you mean by war. There are only three countries in the Middle East with the ability to export significant violence: Iran, Israel, and Turkey. While these countries vary in their strengths and goals, the important point is that none of them are Sunni Arab. No Sunni Arab regime has a military force worth speaking about.
Now, there may well be an increase of terrorism within Sunni Arab states by either minorities or by Sunni Arabs disgruntled by their low place in the world. But frankly, this is a good thing. The Iraq War was about feedback, after all.
2. What will the end of the war signal?
If we withdraw most of our soldiers and marines from Iraq, we will signal that America is stingy when it comes to spending blood and will and that we are unable to conduct major counter-insurgency operations ourselves. In other words: nothing we didn’t know already.
We must give our enemy’s enemies three things: money, materiel, and air cover. If we do that, we demonstrate the important part, which is that we can deny our enemy’s victory in any theater. If we don’t, we will signal a weakness greater than perhaps any time in history.
3. What will our allies think?
Britain would be relieved to be out of Iraq, and other contributing countries are able to donate cash or special forces more readily than they are able to contribute large numbers of soldiers.
4. What will happen to moderates.
If, every time you hear “moderate” in the context of the Middle East, you replace it with “corrupt kleptocrat,” Arab politics will make a lot more sense.