2006/07/19

Wishful thinking

ThinkProgress looks at Bill Kristol's predictions before the Iraq War:

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam’s regime. … History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.

Well, he was right about one thing, History did inded render a verdict. The editor of the Weekly Standard was wrong about the WMD, was wrong to assume anything about the aspirations of the Iraqi people, and the "truth" about Saddam Hussein's regime was pretty much what everybody thought it was before the war started, i.e., that he was an evil dictator who nevertheless posed no real danger to anybody outside the borders of Iraq.

KRISTOL:...the Iranian people dislike their regime. I think they would be – the right use of targeted military force — but especially if political pressure before we use military force – could cause them to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power. There are even moderates – they are not wonderful people — but people in the government itself who are probably nervous about Ahmadinejad’s recklessness.

This is why standing up to Iran right now is so important. They’re overreached. They and Hezbollah have recklessly overreached. They got cocky. This is the moment to set them back. I think a setback to Hezbollah could trigger changes in Iran. People can say, wait a second, what is Ahmadinejad doing to us. We’re alone. The Arab world is even against us. The Muslim world is against us. Let’s reconsider this reckless path that we’re on.

Sigh! So how many times must we hear this endless talk about how "The people will rise up" and "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators."

Bruce Sharp of Mekong.net brings up an extremely good point (In late March 2003):

It seems obvious that the Bush administration underestimated the willingness of the Iraqis to fight for Hussein. After all, why would they fight for a despicable tyrant? Maybe the only reason they need is that he is their tyrant. They fought for him against the Iranians. One would expect that, given the terrible state of the country, the Iraqis would hate Hussein deeply. But how much of Iraq's misery do they blame on Hussein? During the Iran-Iraq war, he could blame the country's woes on the Iranians. After the fiasco of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, he got a new scapegoat: the U.S.

One would think that this would have been considered by the Bush administration. Maybe the Iraqis hate Hussein, but they hate the U.S., too. A few commentators have written about the fear of the U.S. of being drawn into urban warfare, and they've invoked Stalingrad as an example of the horrors of such close combat. Stalingrad provides an excellent historical example here, and not just because it demonstrates the horrible toll of house-to-house fighting. In defending Stalingrad, the Russians were defending the regime of Josef Stalin. They fought against overwhelming odds, successfully... and they did it to preserve a totalitarian dictatorship that was every bit as brutal as the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Before dragging the U.S. into a supposed war for democracy in Iraq, wouldn't it have been wise to show that we're actually capable of implementing democracy in a country that lacks a democratic tradition? In Afghanistan, for example? Does anyone in the Bush administration remember Afghanistan? The Taliban are gone, and that is truly cause for celebration... but the country isn't really a functioning democracy yet, is it? Bush might claim that he has sown the seeds for democracy. I don't think I'd put it quite that way. It's a little more like spitting the seeds of an apple that you've just eaten onto the bare dirt, and then claiming that you've planted the field.

As in 2003, neoconservativs appear to be engaged in wishful thinking. They forgot in 2003 that the US had long supported the brutal sanctions against Iraq that had cost Iraqis up to 500,000 children:

Critics of the sanctions say that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, disproportionately children, died as a result of them, [2] although certain skeptics claim the numbers to be less.[3] [4][5] UNICEF has put the number of child deaths to 500,000.[6] The reasons include lack of medical supplies, malnutrition, and especially disease owing to lack of clean water.

In other words, the idea that the US was seen as a "white hat" that was interested purely in helping the poor Iraqi citizens in achieving "democracy" was never a very credible claim. Iraqis were pleased to have their dictator overthrown and if the US had promptly withdrawn, might have grown friendly towards the American people. But Iraqis were not looking forward to a long-term American occupation and it's very highly doubtful the Iranians will be any more welcoming.

No comments: