Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Jon Henke argues (hat tip Instapundit) that despite the superficial bickering, the parties are mostly in agreement about Iraq:

So, after 2 years of debating Iraq policy, the Democrats have decided that training Iraqi security forces to take over and reducing US deployments as they do—"as Iraq stands up, we will stand down"—is the best course in Iraq? And this epiphany, David Broder writes, may have "pointed the administration and the country toward a realistic and modestly hopeful course on Iraq."

The Democrats have not come up with a new Iraq Policy. They've jumped onboard the Bush administration's existing policy, with the novel new suggestion that we stay the course...but try harder.

Sounds right to me. The Iraq debate here seems phony to me. Of course we'll withdraw troops: that was always part of the plan, and it's silly to get indignant about it. But it would be idiotic to do so before the elections, and of course everyone knows we won't. Lack of WMDs doesn't matter: if he didn't have them, he would have as soon as we lifted the sanctions, which were both unsustainable and immoral. That some people still don't understand this is pathetic, but irrelevant since we can't rewind the tape anyway.

Ralph Peters sets himself apart by offering a rare dose of fresh thinking:

To have any hope of reaching a positive outcome in the Middle East, you must chose a side and stick to it. Wishy-washy attempts at mediation alienate everyone.

As a result of our every-child-deserves-a-prize approach to Iraq's redesign, the Sunni Arabs continue to view us as their oppressors, the Shia see us as protectors of the Sunnis — and our Kurdish allies are scrambling to make deals with Iraq's neighbors (including Iran and Syria, as well as Turkey) to ensure their survival should the country explode when our troops depart.

Our reluctance to kill Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia gangster, turned him into a hero and a true power broker (he's not afraid to take sides). The fecklessness of our policies left the Kurds determined to become the Middle East's new Sparta — their peshmerga militias remain the most potent force in Iraq after our own. And the Sunni Arabs, who needed to be broken down before they could be built up again (think the psychology of basic training), have been allowed to create an image of heroic resistance.

I think Peters is close to the truth here, but he doesn't understand something about America. The nature of the American polity is such that we could never think this way. Ralph Peters is a soldier, and he's thinking like a soldier, but we're governed by politicians. Of course, that's a good thing, even if it does lead to a lot of muddle. Soldiers have moral clarity, but they have other vices to offset it.


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