There is evidence that more and more Republicans are likely to line up with the Iraq Study Group’s conclusions, even if some find the military prescriptions vague and the group’s idea of talking directly to Iran and Syria repugnant. After all, the Republicans have little interest in facing another election, in two years, where Iraq becomes the overarching issue.
But Mr. Bush faces no more elections. And he has not been one to back down, even when offered a “graceful exit.” He has staked his presidency on remaking Iraq, and with it, the Middle East. Every day, the chances of that seem more remote. With only two years left, this may be his last moment for a real change of strategy.
Shocking as it seems, I think the New York Times has presented a realistic article on Iraq and the Republicans. Indeed, there is no easy way out of Iraq, short of sacrificing a million or more lives to religious and civil warfare.
It can be said of the Bush administration, "They broke it, they own it." But the reality, which we all didn’t fully appreciate, is that the Middle East (and Iraq in particular) has been "broken" for a very long time.
Most recently (last 100 years), it has been broken by Western powers who wanted oil (and thus stability) from the Middle East. They (we) wanted oil for our cars, and we didn’t care what happened to the people under the thumb of the rulers, so long as we got the oil we wanted at a low enough price. We ARE very guilty of that. We supported "stability" over "justice", sacrificing the lives (and freedom) of invisible generations of people in the region. (The Cold War made it easy to rationalize ignoring justice there, as in many places in the 3rd world. But we don’t need rationalizations; we know we failed to follow our nations’ principles.)
But far back in time (about 1000 years), the Islamic religion suffered a schism that has been easily exploited over the centuries by evil leaders who want to avoid the critical eye of their people. The Shia can blame the Sunni and the Sunni can blame the Shia, killing and torturing in the name of religious purity, but in reality, just deflecting attention from the failures of their leaders to bring peace and prosperity to their people. (And, we all realize, providing convenient cover for killing-off potential competitors for power. "Ahab was a good man! He sacrificed himself for Allah! …and thanks be to Allah, he won’t argue with me again at the next council meeting!")
It is not JUST the failure of the administration, however. It is the failure of generations of us in the West, and many generations of the people in the Middle East. All are to blame for their ignorance and deliberate denial of reality.
The decision we are faced with now, however, is this: How much justice should we sacrifice to buy stability?
We hear many on the pro-war side take a view that life without liberty (justice), life is not worth living. Victory to these folks seems to worth any price. (And that old "liberal" John Fitzgerald Kennedy preached just that and nearly got us blown up in the Cuban Missile Crisis and then subsequently sent tens of thousands of our troops into Vietnam!)
We hear many on the anti-war side suggest that the carnage taking place between the (multiple) factions is far worse than allowing generations to live in virtual slavery under a dictator like Saddam. (They seem to believe that lives taken in view of network cameras are much more to be decried than lives taken in the quiet of a secret desert graveyard, but this piece of the insanity is just a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.)
The true issue is one of balance: How do we balance the lives of strangers against the freedom of strangers?
Which is more valuable to defend: their blood or their spirit? Or do we do a trade-off and decide that half measures of each is all they are worth? This seems to be the consensus of where we are in Iraq today: give them a taste of freedom, and a taste of the blood that must be expended to defend it, then let them go.
After all, they ARE "strangers", right? I reject that. They are our brothers in humanity and deserve more than our passing glance as they lay, bloodied, on the side of the road.
Bush, the conservative, may have argued that we had to take away the WMD and then give them democracy in order to have OUR peace. But he was wrong in thinking that freedom is justified for these people in order to disarm them as an enemy. Nor is he right to say we owe these people freedom in payment for our years of supporting dictators, princes and mullahs in name of "stability".
We, the free people of this world, owe these people the opportunity to be free, not because it will make the world safer for US, but rather because it will make the world safer for THEM, our sisters and brothers who share this world with us.
Indeed, we may well have to pull out and allow the factions kill each other in large numbers. This may be necessary for them to learn the lessons we learned in our Civil War and the Europeans learned in the World Wars. But we should, at least, attempt to educate them about the potential for compromise and the value of the ballot box. If we can get this message through their thick skulls before we pull out, then at least, we hope, we will reduce the massive numbers that are likely to die before they again find "stability". Certainly, it will enhance the (small) possibility that the will also find "justice" and freedom as well.