There were many good ideas in President Bush's statement last night. He knows the stakes: "Iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror and a threat to America and to the world." He knows what end needs to be achieved: "We seek an independent, free and secure Iraq. [...] We serve the cause of liberty ..." He knows that we are fighting a "fanatical political ideology" of "theocratic terror" that began attacking us long before 9/11. And he knows that we cannot back down: "America's commitment to freedom in Iraq is consistent with our ideals and required by our interests. [...] Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver."
Bush even made this crucial point: "Over the last several decades, we've seen that any concession or retreat on our part will only embolden this enemy and invite more bloodshed. And the enemy has seen, over the last 31 months, that we will no longer live in denial or seek to appease them."
Unfortunately, the last sentence is not completely true; in some ways we are is still in denial and still seeking appeasement, and Bush's own statement attests to it.
For example, after correctly identifying the enemy as a theocratic ideology of terror, Bush denied that Islamist terror is "the work of religion."
After saying that he has cleared our military "to use decisive force if necessary to maintain order and to protect our troops," Bush stated that "coalition forces have suspended offensive operations" in Fallujah -- where four American contractors were ambushed and mutilated -- so that Iraqi leaders can communicate with the insurgents "to ensure an orderly turnover of that city to Iraqi forces." That is appeasement.
And after acknowledging that militant Islamist and murderer al-Sadr had aligned himself with the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, Bush said, "Al Sadr must answer the charges against him and disband his illegal militia." Answer the charges? Disband? Are we at war or not? Al-Sadr and his militia deserve nothing more than what Israel gave to Yassin. Bush couldn't even bring himself to openly condemn Iran and Syria for supporting the insurgents who are killing our soldiers and civilians.
In the past we've criticized the Bush Administration's "sensitive" approach to the war on terrorism (here and here) -- though lately there's been some signs of improvement. And we've criticized Bush's multilateralist tendencies (here). I wish I could say that there's been a fundamental improvement, but apparently there hasn't.
Despite the good ideas in Bush's statement, it's going to take much more than merely the abstract goal of "liberty" to succeed in Iraq. To be secured, liberty must be pursued and defended as a matter of principle. That is not what is happening. How "free and secure" will Iraq end up if we're working with the dictator-appeasing United Nations to determine Iraq's "exact form of the government"? How will Iraqis get the "strong protections for individual rights" that Bush says they want when we allow the Iraqi Governing Council to include Islamists, socialists and communists?
Two op-eds have recently explained what is necessary to succeed in the war on terror. Foremost is The Ayn Rand Institute editorial by Peter Schwartz : American Appeasement in Iraq. (Via Capitalism Magazine)
As U.S. soldiers respond to attacks in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq, many commentators warn that a forceful, self-assertive campaign to wipe out the militant resistance would be disastrous. Disaster may indeed be looming -- but only because of a lack of self-assertiveness by the United States. We are inviting failure in Iraq, and in our overall war on terrorism, by conducting a campaign that is hopelessly apologetic and appeasing.
The Iraqis have long produced despotism. But instead of being morally confident in our right to establish a government that is no longer a threat to anyone -- Iraqi or American -- we are deferentially asking the Iraqis for permission to proceed. Afraid to offend them, we are reluctant to defend our interests and to uphold our values. [...]
Upon ousting the governments of Germany and Japan in World War II, we did not proceed on tiptoe. We did not express regret at having to stop traffic, search homes and shoot fleeing suspects. We were morally certain -- certain that their system was wrong and ours right, certain that their system threatened us and needed to be eliminated. As a result, the enemy was eventually demoralized, allowing freedom to take root. The identical approach should be adopted now.
In postwar Japan it was Gen. Douglas MacArthur who unilaterally drafted a new constitution -- over the objections of many Japanese -- and paved the way for a radical shift from tyranny to liberty. Emulating MacArthur, by imposing upon Iraq a U.S.-written constitution that champions the principle of individual rights, including the separation of mosque and state, would be an ideal means of asserting our interests -- along with the interests of those Iraqis who genuinely value freedom. [Emphasis added]
The United States, because it is militarily powerful and humane in the way that it exercises that force, usually can pretty much do what it wishes in this war against terrorists. In every single engagement since October 2001 it has not merely defeated but obliterated jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only check on its power has been self induced: out of a misplaced sense of clemency it has often ceased prematurely the punishment it has inflicted on enemies -- at Tora Bora, in the Sunni Triangle, during the looting of Baghdad, and now perhaps at Fallujah -- and relented to enter into peace parleys, reconciliation, and reconstruction too early.
This understandable restraint allowed defeated terrorists to believe that either out of fear of world opinion or too sensitive to domestic discord we were hesitant to dispatch them to their promised paradise. But there is a law and a way to war over the ages that are unfortunately immutable, given that human nature is constant across time and space: namely that peace follows only from the defeat and humiliation of the culpable, not from magnanimity granted to impotent but still proud enemies. [...]
If we are going to win this war, we should begin right now to notify Syria and Iran that their incessant support to terrorists in Iraq will soon be met with a systematic air campaign whose intensity will be predicated on their own behavior. We need not necessarily invade either country, but simply ever so incrementally begin to attrite their conventional military assets, the pulse of the bombing carefully calibrated to the flow of jihadists and material into Iraq from their soil. We need to publicly show the world the tangible proof -- captured soldiers, supplies, IDs from slain warriors, communications intercepts -- of Syrian and Iranian activity, and then begin to take out their instillations. Again, each time we struck back resolutely and unexpectedly in Afghanistan and Iraq we were successful; and each time we wavered, promised to be sober and restrained, our enemies simply harvested more Americans. [...]
Apparently someone in the present administration thinks by waging war-Lite that it can split the difference with Mr. Kerry and win the election. That is fallacious in terms of military strategy, politics, and morality. We can defeat our enemies only by articulating what we stand for and why we are going to win the war. We have the force and imagination to succeed on the battlefield and the American people will accept sacrifices for victory. But they will -- and should -- turn on any leader who doesn't fight to win and thereby ensures that we will all pay a far higher price for defeat than we would have for victory. [Emphasis added]
President Bush is correct when he says that liberty is a just cause in the Middle East, for our sake and theirs. But in the vacuum of deposed dictatorships, liberty doesn't just happen. We have to make it happen.
Message to the administration: No one in Europe or on the left is ever, ever, ever going to like you from seeing a photograph of a marine handing a bag of groceries to a woman in a burkha. Jacques Chirac is never going to say, "Well, they have built a lot of community centers. Maybe Bush was right."
Win. Stopping building schools. Win. There's plenty of time and need for hospitals, but first ... Win. Yes, yes, Iraqi girls can be very empowered by seeing a female colonel running an outreach program, and we can all chip in for the posters that say "Take Your Daughters To Mosque Day," but in the meantime, would you please win.
Posted by Forkum at April 14, 2004 02:05 AM