"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Iraqi People Speak

I think hanging in there in Iraq is a principled position. We broke it, we bought it, to quote a former Secretary of State. I also think advocating withdrawing the troops immediately is principled, too, altho I disagree with it. Leaving out the casus belli (WMDs, UN Resolution 1441, etc., ad nauseum) discussion, this recent survey of the Iraqi people, if accurate, should be probative. I do think that the American people (most of us, anyway) want to do the right thing now regardless of party stripe.

Most Iraqis feel a continued US/UK military presence exacerbates the butchery. I happen to disagree on the whole because there is a tendency in the non-First World to blame external causes for one's own society's deficiencies. But I could very well be wrong, and I don't live in Iraq.

Still, many Iraqis feel the troops should remain in the near term. Virtually none for the long term, of course. Who would? How embarrassing, that any society should become the ward of another state.

As for the denouement, we are already there---regardless of the ineptitude of the administration's PR, the reality is that we are already in a postwar Iraq: 77% of the Iraqi people feel all this chaos and suffering in deposing Saddam was worth it. Howbouthat?

I myself am surprised, mostly that the populace can discern so quickly that compared to the hell that was Saddam's Iraq, the current purgatory pales. Contrary to popular belief, people are not stupid.

15 comments:

Tlaloc said...

A rather important detail is that the poll was conducted in early January. That was not too long after the Dec 15th elections.

Mid February is when the shrine bombing occured and in just a few days after that some 1300 Iraqis died in sectarian violence.

In other words you are using a poll from a relative high point in Iraq, today things are very different.

James Elliott said...

While Tlaloc raises an excellent objection, I agree in principle with Tom. We owe it to the Iraqi people to aid them as much as possible. We shouldn't be decreasing troop levels, we should be raising them.

Pastorius said...

It seems to me there is a contradiction in Iraqi opinion as reflected by that poll.

If they believe that our presence adds to the violence, then why do they want us to stay for awhile? Wouldn't it be better for us to leave now? Then, the violence would immediately decrease?

The only reason the Iraqis would want us to stay is because they know that we have to stay until their forces are able to contain the violence. They know where the violence comes from; that is, it comes from the Iranian-sponsored Shia forces of al-Sadr, and from al-Qaeda, and various Saudi-funded meddlers.

Those people would be causing mischief whether we were there or not, because they want to control Iraq.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, there is a contradiction. From the opposition to US/UK forces to the anti-Americanism of France, the answer is the same: embarrassment over the failures or inadequecies of one's own society, and the need to scapegoat elsewhere.

That's where we come in.

It's difficult for me to believe that whether Saddam fell with or without our, um, help, that this power struggle was not inevitable. That the US/UK military presence is actually helping a soft(er) landing is by no means disproved at this point. The Iraqis seem to sense it, I think, altho that embarrassing fact makes them quite unhappy.

Tlaloc said...

"It's difficult for me to believe that whether Saddam fell with or without our, um, help, that this power struggle was not inevitable."

Then you need to think it through a little more. If Saddam fell without our help, how would it have happened? An internal revolt. Which means there would already be a power on hand that would sieze control. Quite possibly not a very nice power. But what we did was remove saddam ourselves and we never had the power to control the country.

So instead of one nasty party in control, carrying out its nasty business we have dozens that are vying for control in an escalating power struggle.

Pastorius said...

Tlaloc argues very stability over human rights.

James Elliott said...

Tom - I'd have to agree with your assessment. It's probably not the whole story, but I think you've captured one of the dynamics quite well.

Tlaloc - I think that you're attacking one unfounded assumption with a rather large and unfounded one of your own. A coalition to remove Saddam would have contained many disparate actors. There is nothing that indicates that such a coalition, once its aims were secured, would last to establish a unified Iraq. Disempowered Sunni would find themselves pitted against formerly-oppressed and vengeful Shia; likewise, there is the sectarian split to consider there as well. Secular, liberal Sunnis and Shia would be pitted against theocratic, conservative Sunnis and Shia. Separatist Kurds would want to establish their own (oil-rich) state. Pro-Iran Shia would be pitted against Iraqi nationalist Shia. Baathist loyalists would fight "quislings" and "traitors."

There's a historical one in five chance that a resource-rich country will, when destabilized, collapse into civil war. The collapse of Saddam's regime, whoever accomplished it, represented a destabilization of monumental proportions because of the length and all-encompassing nature of its dictatorship. That there was no "legitimate," recognized resistance movement for us to "assist" was and is a very real problem for future stability. It's true that democracy and change cannot be successfully imposed solely from the outside; the impetus must come internally. But there is no reason to believe, given the reality of the systems involved, that any overthrow of Saddam's regime would, by virtue of rising internally or from a different external actor, necessarily result in a different situation than today's.

Pastorius - No, Tlaloc didn't. He argued for internal revolution over externally imposed regime change. Your analysis isn't even in the same zip code as what was actually written.

Pastorius said...

James Elliot,
An internal revolution wasn't coming. Saddam had been in power for over 25 years.

Why do you think Tlaloc brought up a scenario which was not in the cards, if not to set it up as a preferable example when compared to the situation as it is?

James Elliott said...

Pastorius, I think I'll just repeat myself:

"He argued for internal revolution over externally imposed regime change."

That it wasn't likely to occur doesn't change the hypothetical argument he was making. Ergo, it wasn't a backhand way of arguing for the "stability" of Saddam's regime or any other at the expense of human suffering. He was (wrongly, I believe) arguing about whether or not the power struggle we see now was inevitable. It had nothing to do with stability or human rights. Don't blame me if your straw man gets set on fire and kicked in your face.

Tlaloc said...

"A coalition to remove Saddam would have contained many disparate actors. There is nothing that indicates that such a coalition, once its aims were secured, would last to establish a unified Iraq. "

Possibly true, although honestly Saddam wasn't that well seated by the end of the sanctions. I suspect the DAWA with Iranian backing could have taken him out by themselves given a chance. But lets say you are right, all that means is that if we hadn't done it things MIGHT have ended up as bad as they did when we did remove him.

Tlaloc said...

"An internal revolution wasn't coming. Saddam had been in power for over 25 years. "

Studied much Iraqi history? There was an internal revolution after the first gulf war. We told the Shia to rise up. They did, then we abandoned them. They got their butts kicked.

The reason Saddam lasted so long is beacuse we helped him out so assiduously. First we put him in power and armed him to the teeth. Then we became his enemy and allowed him to play the brave guy who stood up to america. Then we starved the populous which of course hurt the people who might have overthrown him a lot more than it hurt him. The only people eating well were in the army afterall.

:)

Pastorius said...

TVD,
I get the same feeling everytime I come on your blog and discuss things. I think of this as intellectual dishonesty. I don't know what you call it.

Tlaloc is now saying that there was an internal revolution. Ok true, there was, and I know that we abandoned the Shia. However, if we would have aided the Shia, the situation would have either,

1) been a case of Shia rule over everyone else, in other words, simply another strong man government

or

2) the same thing as now,

You see, this is why I said, Tlaloc argues for stability over human rights.

Honestly, TVD, if you could email me and let me know how to deal with this stuff in a wway in which it isn't so angering. It's always the same. I don't know why these guys follow you around.

Pastorius said...

I think I'll lose the nuance and crawl back into my echo chamber now. Bye bye.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Pastorius: I do agree that Kissingerian realpolitik is becoming the default position of the left as a result of its opposition to the Bush doctrine.

A much better alternative to aimless Carterism.

It can be legitimately argued that the Dubyaist invasion of Iraq was imprudent in light of 9-11. You'd be surprised at how many con-cons around here agree with that proposition.

JE: Glad we agree on some points. The last attempted internal revolution (per Bush41) resulted in hundreds of thousands in mass graves. Clintonist sanctions did slightly less badly.

Your summation of the various factions now butchering each other is spot-on.

Evanston said...

We didn't "break" Iraq. The phrase "we broke it, we bought it" is silly in this context. Come to think of it, I'm not sure when the U.S. last intervened militarily in a healthy culture. Suggestions, anyone?