Sunday, April 09, 2006

Civil War in Iraq? No Problem

The Wash Post has attracted attention today because of the blatant disconnect between it's front page reporting and editorial page ruminations regarding Joe Wilson and the administration's selective leak campaign against him.

But what I found interesting in today's Outlook was, first, an opinion piece by somebody named Caleb Carr, with the headline, Let Them Have Their Civil War. The piece basically argues that while the genocidal results of an Iraqi civil war would certainly be bad, and we shouldn't encourage a civil war or condone genocide, mind you, a civil war in Iraq really wouldn't be so bad; in fact, given the outpouring of violence that's been allowed to occur already, it might be unjust of us to try to stop it. After all, the Shiites and Kurds deserve an opportunity to exact some revenge on the Sunnis from all those years of Baathist rule, not to mention the insurgent attacks since the American occupation that really haven't been addressed by the non-existent political system in Baghdad.

Now, largely because a civil war both seems inevitable as well as beyond the American military's capability to stop, Carr may have a somewhat valid point.

But there are at least two problems, as far as I can see: one, THIS ISN'T WHAT WE WERE TOLD WOULD HAPPEN IN IRAQ. We were going to liberate the Iraqis, they'd love us and set up a peaceful Democracy, eradicating the years of oppression and bloodshed they endured under Saddam Hussein. The country wasn't told a civil war was likely, and Iraq's ethnic and religious cultures fought it out for supremacy;

And two, wasn't a primary goal of the Iraqi invasion to set up a friendly, secure state that would act as a bulwork against terrorism in the Middle East? If Iraq remains a violence-racked, failed state for an indeterminate amount of time, doesn't this, you know, kind of provide an obstacle to fighting terrorism in Iraq or elsewhere? If the state is essentially out of control, with unknown numbers of Shiite militia groups (some perhaps friendly with the Islamic regime in Iran) and Sunni insurgent groups (aided in part by Zarqawi) roaming the country, or hiding out, does this mean that we're better or worse off than we were before in regards to the "war on terrorism"?

The second opinion piece, just above it in today's Outlook is from somebody named Robert Killebrew, who argues that while the scenes being played out in Baghdad aren't for the moment especially comforting, we should remember how many American lives were lost, how much destruction occured, and how long it took for American and allied forces to secure South Korea, helping it to become the rapidly growing economy and democracy it is today.

Like Carr, Killebrew may have a point; in ten, twenty, thirty years time, maybe Iraq will resemble South Korea more than South Vietnam. But again, this isn't what we were told would happen in Iraq. The country was sold on the notion that the war would be short and awesome. Not long, drawn out, and ugly.

Both articles make the same implication that the violent mess in Iraq really isn't so bad and may in fact really be just one of many alternative paths that our liberation of that country will take. See, the fact that the country has desolved into civil war really does illustrate how much we've truly done to liberate them.

I expect this to be an increasingly popular meme in the right-wing's playbook as the 2006 election approaches.

But whether Americans have been conditioned to accept something less than certain and immediate victory, is another matter.

As Killebrew recognizes:

Truman immediately saw the North Korean invasion of South Korea as a sinister attempt by Joseph Stalin to turn the West's flank, and the war was generally accepted as the price of containing communist expansion. Truman led a nation that, though war-weary, had been through the crucible of World War II and accepted presidential leadership beyond the water's edge...In 2006, President Bush leads a much more skeptical, more networked nation that, though enraged by the events of 9/11, is less inclined to obey than in 1950.

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