Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bitter Anniversary

This week the newspapers and airwaves have been full of reporting tied to the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Much of Washington was tied up yesterday by people demonstrating against the war, talking heads have pontificated ad nauseum, the President says everything's fine and victory is just around the corner, and on the other side of the world, the war grinds on.

As you regular readers know, I think the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a terrible mistake. Unfortunately, now that we've punched this tar baby, we're stuck with it with no particularly good options for getting out. Despite what many demand and Mr Obama and Ms Clinton advocate, we can't just pull up stakes and leave...well, actually, we could, but the resulting maelstrom would be truly horrifying and would likely be worse than anything we're seeing now. The only difference is that, having wrecked Iraq and destabilized the region, we'd just hunker down at home and ignore the consequences.

Perversely, the war is going fairly well from a purely military standpoint. Mr Bush has finally found a general who understands the war he's fighting, and the much-maligned "surge" strategy has begun to pay dividends in bringing the country under control and providing the tenuous security the Iraqi government needs to exert its authority and begin rebuilding the country. Unfortunately, the country as a whole doesn't seem too interested. Sunnis and Shia still hate each other, graft and corruption are endemic, and religious passions still outweigh practical day-to-day issues.

As long as the Iraqis fail to take advantage of the security provided by American sacrifices, the country will never pull itself back together, and we'll remain stuck to the tar baby, covering it with more and more layers of blood and treasure.

There was a very interesting and sobering feature article in the Washington Post yesterday titled "Iraqis and Americans Offer Perspectives on the War," and I'd like to share two excerpts from it with you.

The first looked at Army Captain Derek Bennett, who has chosen to leave the Army after his second combat tour in Iraq. After detailing the reasoning behind his decision, he asked the rhetorical question, "What have we been doing? This isn't like World War II. There's no VJ Day, no sailor kissing a girl when he comes home. This is somebody saying that trend lines indicate a sustainable level of violence. That's not a great feeling."

The second looked at another Army officer who "...spent nearly a year walking patrols as an infantry officer in Baghdad. He saw soldiers dying, his squad leader lost his legs, and he witnessed problems with missing supplies. But when he returned to the United States in 2004, the biggest news story was that Janet Jackson's breast was exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show." This officer, Paul Rieckhoff, who joined the Army Reserves in 1998, volunteered for active duty after 9/11, and went to Iraq in 2003, went on to say: "The lack of involvement on the part of the American people is unprecedented. And it's my biggest criticism of the president: He has never asked the American people to do anything."

And so here we are, five years into a war nobody quite knows why we started. The war's architects are now publishing their books which defend their actions and blame the problems on each other. American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are still dying and suffering horrific injuries for an Iraqi population that isn't interested in reconciling its internal differences and moving forward to build a thriving new nation. And, as has often been said, the Armed Services are at war, but America is at the mall.

Have a good day, and thank the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who protect your ability to have it. If you choose to exercise your right to free speech by blocking traffic and acting silly in the streets of Washington, remember it's their sacrifices that enable you to do it.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

4 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I support our troops...and I'd support them more if they were at home, rather than fighting a war for nothing.

because the middle east will be the same no matter what. They hate each other, always have and always will.

Anonymous said...

It's the unknown commenter again. This is not a war, but merely the latest battle in a struggle that began long before the Battle of Marathon, and was not ended by the Battle of Vienna. You better get used to it, because this war is endless. It is the external expresssion of the endless internal war between rationality and irrationality. Death-worshipping Islamic extremists are killing people to deny the reality of abstract thought. Take a look at the curriculum of any extremist madrassa. The purpose of the endless memorization of the Koran is to make abstract thought near impossible. Western rationality is built upon a foundation of thinking about thought and its relationship to the real universe. Islam is submission, and the Islamofascists want everyone to submit to their totalitarian version of it. Rational thought can only exist where each person is free, and submission only occurs when bad ideas yield to better ones. That is why all scientific and other knowledge (and the progress that results therefrom) has arisen only in the Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, Confucian, and Hindu cultures. The 7th Century Islamist "Golden Age" was mostly purchased from non-Muslims. As Samuel Goldwyn said, "You could look it up." (Try Bernard Lewis for a start.)

In this war (to quote Joe Louis) we can cut and run, but we cannot hide. This war will not end; the West will once again temporarily stop fighting, while the other side continues to fight, mostly by horrific methodologies. The following could easily happen: the Islamofascists, when we quit, continue to escalate their conquests and the horror of their methods. At some point the US electorate realizes that further escalation can not be tolerated, but the country lacks the magnificent military it has now. As a result, a true religious war is fought, using nuclear weapons. This current war is the lesser of two very great evils. But by not fighting to the utmost so as to dominate and end the crises, we raise the potential for future evil. Man has survived thus far by relying on rationality. We cannot lose this war and also survive--as a species, much less a nation!

John said...

I hate the war in Iraq and I hate that our troops are over there. I also hate that we never hear about the large segment of Iraqi citizens that love having the Americans over there and long for the day when they could come to live in America.

I recently spent some time with a friend that teaches English to Iraqis (in Iraq). They embrace him and his family. Every where he goes, he is invited into their homes for tea or dinner--just because he is an American. They bless America for freeing them from Saddam. Women are learning to read with their children. There are schools in nearly every village. While it is still a poor country (in spite of all of its riches) many citizens live with a hope that they have never known in their lives. Why don't we hear these stories? Why does the press have to be so self serving that they are only willing to report the news that paints a picture of failure? Doesn't responsible journalism include the truth any more?

A co worker's son is getting ready to redeploy to the middle east. He shared stories of citizens showing their gratitude to the American soldiers during his first tour. I believe that there are far more Iraqis that would tell us that the war in Iraq is far from a failing political maneuver of the Bush Administration.

Do I want our young men and women to come home? Absolutely! Do I want for the children of Iraq to know the truth about this great country of mine and grow up with the opportunity to live free? With all of my heart, I do.

Can we do both? I don't think so. I'm thankful that the decision is not mine to make and ask that God will grant His wisdom to those that must decide.

Sorry about the rant. I ought to get my own blog!

Mike said...

I was going to try to think of something to say but reading these comments wore me out!