First off, happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Dr. King is one of our most deserving national heroes, and he deserves to be honored in any way possible. We fret about our polarized political environment, but it's refreshing to remember that Dr. King was the leader of one side during a time when we were extremely polarized, and that today his legacy is one of the few things that bring the right and the left together. And we also wish that more people in our public life can demonstrate the kind of courage that MLK demonstrated during his battle for civil rights.
Now. Fellow blogosphere travellers Ben and Matt have blogged recently on the Iraq War and the lack of realistic debate on said subject. And it does seem that the debate on the subject is somewhat sophomoric. You either hate America and want it to be destroyed or you want to personally kill thousands of soldiers and rape Iraqi women. Naturally, this lack of debate has allowed the Bush escalation proposal (let's call a spade a spade and lose this "surge" shit) and the Iraq study group's measured withdrawal proposal to escape serious scrutiny by most Americans. Not only that, but evidence for either escalating or withdrawing is somewhat lacking in the mainstream media where I and most Americans get their information. So the thoughts that follow are uninformed ramblings on a subject far more complex than anyone - including those calling the shots - realizes.
As I commented on Matt's post, the Administration strategy seems to be fighting against the wrong problem. The problem is not a strong insurgency fighting against a legitimate government but a sectarian battle that has made the government irrelevant. Sending in more troops to fight the "insurgents" is kind of meaningless and won't do much good.
Reading this article, then, kind of confused me. It is a story about a D.C. lawyer who went to Iraq with the National Guard, but embedded in it is the story of a town that the U.S. military raided and took over. They were running the town well and getting it back on its feet when they left - and when power was turned over to the Iraqi "authorities," it quickly degenerated into a chaotic hub for sectarian murderers. So I thought that maybe it would be good for more troops to be there (note: this should have been done in the first place) in order to bring some much-needed stability to areas currently under insurgent control.
But then I read Ben's post where he raises the excellent point that perhaps the Maliki government doesn't really want peace. As a result, nothing we do will really help. Any stability that we bring to the region will be only temporary. I'm reminded of a quote by former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. When asked when peace would come to Israel, she said, "We will have peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us."
We will have peace in Iraq when, and only when, all sides involved place peace as their number one priority. Right now, only the Kurds seem to be close to taking this step. The Shiites and the Sunni Arabs (the distinction must be made since the Kurds are also Sunni) are only concerned with gaining power for their own respective groups. Any escalation will bring, at best, only temporary stability.
I proposed on Matt's blog a diplomacy-first solution heavy on the infrastructural development with a small military force conducting a UN-style peacekeeping mission. But I wonder now whether this is the best solution.
I look to history, and to the Israel-Arab conflict again. Only after the Egyptians invaded Israel in 1973 did Sadat learn the true cost of warfare, and as a direct result of the '73 Yom Kippur War Sadat chose to pursue peace. Only after the futility and human cost of the late '80s intifada became apparent did Yasir Arafat join Israel at the bargaining table in Oslo. The reason I support at least a partial withdrawal is this: only after the pain and suffering of a civil war hits home will Iraqis realize the silliness of their current argument and begin to seek peace with one another.
This is not a short process. It can take some people an exceptionally long amount of time before they reach the realization that war is in most cases ultimately futile. The Northern Ireland violence went on for some 70 years before peace was finally reached. Israel and the Palestinians have been at war for sixty years and have still not reached this realization. We cannot force this insight onto the Iraqis - they must reach it themselves.
Kierkegaard taught that one must cast himself into the pit of despair before he reaches happiness. Withdrawing will certainly do this for Iraq. But perhaps, in the long term, maintaining an artificial veneer of stability is actually impeding Iraq's progress. Depressing, yes, but this is what we have sown with this ridiculous war...
On a much lighter note, I just saw a male ESPN2 commentator inadvertantly grab a UNC women's basketball player's boob. The replay of this may be the funniest sports moment of the year so far.
New post on the minimum wage law and some embarrassing hypocrisy on the part of George Miller (D-CA) to come.
Also, I'd like to point out that Condi Rice just got propositioned by both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert tonight. Awesome.