Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Learning from Iraq

Ralph Peters, formerly one of the Iraq invasion's most emphatic supporters and apologist for the Bush administration's policies, moves ever closer to admitting that the occupation was doomed from the start by the administration's incompetence.

... the notion of sending more U.S. troops is strategic and practical nonsense. Had the same voices demanded another 100,000-plus troops in 2003 or even 2004, it would have made a profound, positive difference. Now it's too late.
By refusing to adequately increase active-duty numbers in the early phases of this struggle, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ground down our Army and Marines - both the flesh-and-blood troops and their gear. We must not ask the understrength forces who've carried the burden of this fight to shoulder yet more weight.

Make no mistake: Were our nation directly threatened, our ground forces would surge to respond powerfully and effectively. But as far as Iraq goes, they've given their best. They're willing to die for our country. But we should never ask them to give their lives to postpone a political embarrassment.

This doesn't mean that we can't temporarily deploy additional brigades for specific missions. But it does mean that we've got to shoot dead any nonsense about adding tens of thousands more troops on a long-term basis. It won't help. All we can do now is hold open the door for the Iraqis to go through. It's their fight.

And we have to avoid letting Iraq develop a military-welfare dependency on us. While even a successful Iraqi force would need U.S. support for years to come, the issue is: Who will take the lead in combat? The Iraqis must do this themselves - and their moment of truth can no longer be delayed.

It's absurd to brag that Iraq now has 300,000 men in uniform if all most of them do is collect paychecks and duck responsibility - while backing their own ethnic and religious factions.

And, although it pains me to write it, we can't trust the judgment of our military officers as to whether Iraqi troops and police are making sufficient progress. Clientitis happens. Our trainers inevitably cling to the success stories, insisting, Yeah, those other guys poked the pooch - but Col. Mohammed's men are doing a great job.

Peters now suggests giving the Iraqis a year to get their act together, or pull out. Of course, he doesn't yet concede the fundamental flaw in the whole Bush-Iraq scheme - the erroneous notion that an Islamic society could be successfully transformed into a functioning quasi-liberal democracy. Baghdad isn't simply a swarthier version of Minneapolis. The cultural infrastructure on which a democratic government must rest just doesn't exist in the Islamic world. Islamic culture and society - especially Arab culture and society - is based on principles and a social order inimical to the establishment of a liberal society.

What does flourish in Iraq are seething ethnic and religious hatreds that date back centuries, and which, freed from the iron-clad, merciless check of Saddam's goon squads, are now exploding in front of the world's TV cameras. Of course, the Iraqis hate the US. But they also hate each other, much more bitterly. The sooner the US gets its soldiers (and the soldiers of its allies) out of this dismal charnel house, the sooner the residents can get back to their favorite past time - slaughtering each other. If the US "stays the course", the Iraqis will still slaughter each other, but with the added bonus of several hundred Americans every year - at the cost of hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars.

The biggest lesson Americans must learn from Iraq is that the rest of the world isn't like us. All cultures aren't equal. Not all people want a civilized, liberal society, or are remotely capable of maintaining one. This hard-won knowledge should be a linchpin of both US foreign and immigration policies. We shouldn't send our soldiers in fools' errands to drain other people's swamps, and we shouldn't let the residents of those swamps immigrate to America to track mud all over our floor.


At 3:17 PM , Anonymous Kurt, Portland Oregon said...

I used to like what Ralph Peters had to say about things. Unlike anyone else yammering about the middle-east and other places, he has actually spent time there. However, his cheerleading for the Iraq war 2-3 years ago really put me off. Having spent much time in the region, he more than anyone should have realized that there are cultural and biological differences between different peoples. Differences that suggest that what works for a white, anglo saxon people might not work for people in the middle-east.

My belief is that Ralph Peters wanted to believe in the PC-based concept of univeral equality of humans and that the middle-east could be "uplifted". This desired optimism is in sharp contrast to earlier writings in the early 90's where he urged the U.S. not to get involved in the Balkans, because they were culturally "too different". In otherwords, like many of us, he had a hopeful nature that got the better of him and he is slowly beginning to realize this.

In any case, I still recommend Ralph Peter's books and consider him to well worth listening to.


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