(Hat tip to Donald Sensing)
I know that a lot of people who would have supported an invasion of Iraq to remove WMDs or to save the Iraqi population from Saddam would not support an invasion to simply to change the regime to a more democratic, upstanding government.
The fact is we did honestly believe that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. The fact is the Iraqi population did need saving.
Also, the fact is that oppressive, iron-fisted medieval governments (some of which are deeply and extremely religiously fundamentalist and some of which simply pretend) are the breeding ground for the enemies of America.
This past week I was asked why we can’t just take all the money and effort we’ve put into the Iraqi campaign and instead allocate it to our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the purpose of keeping terrorists out of America and preventing another 9/11.
I do think that this is a large part of what we should be doing. I also happen to think that we aren’t doing a very good job about it so far, though you and I can’t even see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to intelligence operations.
I think the short-term (say, the next ten years) needs to focus on this sort of thing in conjunction with offensive operations against our enemies. It’s no good to strengthen border patrols and airline security if we allow training camps in places like Afghanistan and Somalia to carry on. It’s also no good to hit the training camps, scattering the survivors, if we don’t increase our security. We will never take out all the potential attackers, and we need to disrupt them as effectively as we can while at the same time strengthening the security of our homeland against those that will inevitably slip away.
In the long term (say, two or three generations, minimum) we need to focus on the root cause of enemy’s hatred for us. “Why do they hate us?” we should be asking ourselves, say the apologists for the terrorists. What doesn’t seem to occur to them is the fact that many of them will hate us no matter what we do. Troops in the Land of the Two Holy Places? If/when they’re gone, there will just be another excuse. Support for Israel? Even if we totally cut them off, there would be another excuse waiting. Mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners? Sure, that’s probably maddening. But it’s simply a rallying cry for our enemies, not the cause.
Remember the domino theory of Communism? We’re doing that in reverse. Will it work? Who knows? Probably not as well as we hope it will. But look at Lybia. Look at recent events in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It’s certainly not hopeless.
If the people in places like Afghanistan and Iraq see their children living better than they did as children themselves, and if they see their grandchildren with a good probability of living even better yet, war with America won’t seem like such a brilliant idea. It’s when you’re hungry and discouraged and your children suffer that attacking US Marines or suicide bombing women and children looks like a good alternative.
We won’t know if our efforts in Iraq will bear fruit for years. We won’t see significant results for generations. That doesn’t make it less worthwhile.
We cannot simply hunker down in our American bunker, hoping that our FBI agents and police officers will deport attackers before they kill our people. We cannot simply pull all of our people back to the American mainland and disengage from the rest of the world. We cannot simply cease interacting with other nations and other peoples. For better or worse, this is a multi-national society we live in.
Like the stagecoach robbers and cattle rustlers of the American Old West, the nations and organizations that resist the ways of the modern age must be removed from the equation. If they can be convinced to join society in a meaningful way, so much the better. If not, other methods are called for.
And they ARE called for. In fact, I believe that part of the reason this has become such a problem over the past twenty years is that the US and the
USSR occupied each other’s attention. The Cold War, with its threat of instant incineration, trumped other concerns. When the Soviet Empire was vanquished, we were so excited over our victory and were enjoying the “peace dividend” so much that we continued to ignore the smaller, less noticeable threats. They’ve festered and spread, and now we face a World War of another flavor.
What next? I don’t know. Obviously, the past year in Iraq has been tougher than we hoped or expected. With troops in Iraq, though, we are positioned to attack, or threaten to attack, the majority of the remaining enemy states. This is why we invaded Iraq in 2003 and not North Korea or Syria or Saudi Arabia. Changing the regime in Iraq and finally putting an end to the 1991 Gulf War serves both the long-term and short-term goals of our plan. This is why what we’ve done has been worth it.
Will further invasions be necessary? Probably. I hope not, but I don’t expect that between Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan (in the case of a successful revolt?) and the other various ‘Stans EVERYONE will play ball. The odds are against it. The best way we can minimize the chances of needing another major military invasion and occupation will be to do the job right in Iraq.
Obviously, we have a lot of work to do.