Thursday, October 16, 2003
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Is it about the schools?
Josh Marshall vents his spleen on whether the reconstruction of Iraq is going well of not. At the end of the post, he says:
As fate would have it, John Sviokla and Marvin Zonis have a Chicago Tribune op-ed today that says we should be in Iraq to reopen schools. The highlights:
To be fair to Marshall, he ends his post with, "to come soon on this issue of the schools." I'll be sure to update this post when Marshall explains himself more fully.posted by Dan on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM
I think you're comparing apples and oranges. While building/reforming the Iraqi education system is part, even a big part, of the equation, Marshall points deal with the issue of spin more than anything else. Hawks and conservatives seek to confined all discussion on Iraq to the schools and other sun-shiny stuff. The point is, what good would it do the Iraqis to have the best schools on the planet so long as they're anxious about sending their kids to them? Ideally, we're there to stabilize the country and leave it to the Iraqis to decide what they want to do with schools and society in general. Unless we want to make Iraq the 51st state, we will forfeit all control on this and many other issues before long. Despite frequent denials about colonialism, I think the spirit of "White Man's Burden" is very much alive in our approach to Iraq - i.e. we'll tell these swarthy buggers what civilization is, we will teach them to love our ways.posted by: Jeff Bull on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Jeff Bull, if one side believes in the White Man's Burden, then just as appropriately one could accuse the Left of believing that the "swarthy buggers" are incapable of having liberty or a responsible government. "What can you expect of them, anyway?" and all that.
Right now it's the Right which is voicing a belief in universalities, in all peoples wanting the same liberty and freedom (which might be arrogant), whereas it's the Left that is taking the more Burkean, traditional conservative approach of believing that other peoples may not want or be able to handle the same type of government as us.posted by: John Thacker on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
On the question of spin, those on the left seem to just want to talk about things going boom and hope big media continues to practice police blotter journalism. Certainly,the administration is spinning. Why would they be doing anything else? The left is spinning too. As with most issues, you are not going to get the truth if you just read one source. Caveat lector.
It seems that so much debate these days boils down to "how dare the other side express its viewpoint"! Why not just accept the fact that for every progressive move, there's likely to be an equal and opposite reactionary.posted by: appalled moderate on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Marshall's issue with the school opening is that it means things are going well.
“The point is, what good would it do the Iraqis to have the best schools on the planet so long as they're anxious about sending their kids to them? “
What are you talking about? Many families previously had to worry about Saddam’s top henchmen raping the schoolgirls. The situation is quieting down now to the point where Iraq ‘s crime problem is less of a problem than during Saddam's era.
“Despite frequent denials about colonialism, I think the spirit of "White Man's Burden" is very much alive in our approach to Iraq - i.e. we'll tell these swarthy buggers what civilization is, we will teach them to love our ways.”
I am unabashedly and shamelessly guilty of telling “these swarthy buggers what civilization is, we will teach them to love our ways.” You are starting to get the picture. We should indeed act as secular missionaries bringing the higher values of Western Civilization to the backward and reactionary Muslim world. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. The last thing these people need is more of Edward Said’s multiculturalist claptrap.
Shucks, what do you have against women? The cultural and social milieu of Saddam's Iraq was a male chauvinist pig paradise. Are you willing to doom women to a mere second class existence? t’s also seems that somebody hasn’t spent anytime learning about the great Ataturk. You might wish to read Andrew Mango’s superb “Ataturk: the Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey. “posted by: David Thomson on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Reopening schools won't matter if a few soldiers are killed every day for the foreseeable future and armed bandits roam the countryside.posted by: Jason McCullough on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
David Thompson --
I would suggest reading www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com. She obviously doesn't share your view of her country and the treatment of women by the Baathists. (I know the indymedia rhetoric of that site will bug you, but get past it, as she actually lives in Baghdad.)
Jason McCullough --
Apply what you just said to inter-city neighborhoods in this country, and think about whether it makes sense or not.posted by: appalled moderate on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
"Reopening schools won't matter if a few soldiers are killed every day for the foreseeable future and armed bandits roam the countryside."
Armed bandits roam the countryside? This is a gross exaggeration of the situation. Most of Iraq is fairly safe and quiet. Also, the killing of an occasional soldier is hardly slowing down the rapid improvement. A national population of some 23.3 million people barely notices the deaths of a small number of people. Life continues to go on.
It’s time to ask folks like Jason McCullough a blunt question: do you believe that the Iraqi people are better off today? Are you implying, if not even explicitly saying, that things were better during Saddam’s reign of terror?posted by: David Thomson on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
In this context, in this one regard, hawkish Democrats like Marshall are the conservatives and pro-administration Republicans are the Wilsonian nation-building touchy-feely liberals.posted by: xian on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
“I would suggest reading www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com. She obviously doesn't share your view of her country and the treatment of women by the Baathists.”
Iraq under Saddam Hussein was indeed better for women in some respects than countries like Saudi Arabia. However, these women were still rape bait for Saddam’s thugs. Are you perhaps hinting that the situation isn’t dramatically improving in Iraq? Wouldn’t any sane woman rather live in Iraq today? I guess that I must ask you the same question as I just did of Jason McCullough:
“Are you implying, if not even explicitly saying, that things were better during Saddam’s reign of terror?”
Let’s hear it. What’s your answer?posted by: David Thomson on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Their schools in Pakistan are the breeding grounds for Al Qaeda recruits.
Before we get too giddy about the prospects for democracy in Iraq, remember that at one time Pakistan was a democracy with a Harvard-educated female prime minister. Now it is a breeding ground for terrorists.posted by: Michael Jones on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
There is zero doubt in my mind that if the schools werent open, Bush's foes would be screaming about the crucial imperative of the schools. Bush hating has reached such rabid levels, even in the Congress, that opposing everything Bush proposed is simply the standard. Look at Ted Kennedy, he's going to vote against the 87 billion for Iraq when he has spent the last year deriding Bush's long term dedication to Iraq in shriller and shriller tones. He demands further UN participation, so Bush gets a unanimous vote in the Security Council. Turkey and other nations are sending troops. Japan and many others are sending billions. But Kennedy, Harkin, Fienstien and others will vote no to feeding our troops and rebuilding Iraq. Even though Bush has done exactly what the asked of him.posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
From my ivory tower here in Atlanta, it looks like Iraq today has hope and potential -- something it did not have under Saddam. Is life "better"? It looks like the Iraqis believe it either is or soon will be.
Are things dramatically improving? Seems like it. Do they have the capacity to go straight back downhill? Yep, if it looks like the central authority cannot keep order. My point to McC is that a society that will not keep the schools in repair is a society that has given up.
Was the war just? I think so -- Saddam's regime was simply evil and sactions without end was not really a tenable option. Do I feel there was a good chance Bush streched the truth on WMDs? Yes.
Think that covers everything.posted by: appalled moderate on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
As someone who has actually been involved in school construction projects, may I point out that we are talking mostly about bricks and mortar here? Even if the discussion is confined to education what the schools are made of is less important than what gets taught there, and we haven't seen much information about that at all.
Don't get me wrong, I think school reconstruction projects -- most of which appear to have been initiated by American military units without direction from Paul Bremer's CPA -- are good things that Iraqis will appreciate in years to come. Right now, though, security in Baghdad and some other places is a bigger concern. That is not a political statement, and I'm not blaming anyone in Washington for it. It's just a fact of life for our people in Iraq right now.
As for the people noting that the "right" has taken over from the "left" in promoting the universal applicability of American rights and values, may I ask why that is something to be proud of? Saddam Hussein and the other repulsive people who run most Arab countries did not fall from the sky. Arab culture produced these people, as it has also produced a fairly high proportion of the world's most bloodthirsty terrorists. The idea that a backward, violence-prone culture saddled with a religion associated with obscurantism and economic stagnation nearly everywhere it is practiced can support a liberal democracy is certainly attractive, but the odds against success are long ones.posted by: Zathras on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
I think it would be wise if all of us listened to what Iraqis are saying about the liberation of their country and quit focusing so obsessively on the minutiae of the lead-up to the war.
(Full text available at www.memri.org #590)
The Occupation of Iraq is a Blessed Liberation
"Yes, the occupation is a blessed and promising liberation for Iraq, even if the U.N., Europe, Russia, India, and all the Arabs say otherwise. The logic of international law could be of interest to the French, the Germans, the Russians and the Arabs, who are enamored with it… but not to us, the Iraqis. International law should not be of interest to us in any form or shape, because Saddam's dagger was dripping Iraqi blood, not Russian or Arab [blood]. Saddam's plague wreaked havoc with us, the Iraqis, not with the Arab League's minions, nor the Russians or the Chinese! The Iraqi tragedy, which exceeded any rational boundaries, was and continues to be at the epitome of its viciousness and degeneracy.
"While others were sipping Araq [an alcoholic drink] in the most upscale resorts in Baghdad, thousands [of Iraqis] were being buried alive in Iraq's sands, deserts, lagoons, [and] vast and godforsaken plains. And while Arab journalists, intellectuals, politicians, and poets came to sing with their trilling voices, to beat the drums [in support of Saddam] and to take pictures with Latif Nassif, Jassim and Nawal Al-Aloussi, and the rest of the Ba'ath Party 'gang'- hundreds of [Iraqi] poets, scientists, and writers were dying [on] the war-front and in torture dungeons. During more than three decades, the dagger of death extricated Iraqis from their homes, their families, their work places, their schools and their [children's] playgrounds…"
Hundreds of Thousands of Mass Graves
"Look at the mass-graves… [Lest you say] no more than a few thousands, 10, 20, 50 thousand… No, there are hundreds of thousands of bodies that have not been unearthed as of yet, hundreds of thousands of human lives who could have become a rich resource for humanity. Every Iraqi, every Arab, and every human being should ask himself for the reason they were murdered, before he [waves] the banner of international law. We the Iraqis were candidates [to have the same fate as] the Hutu and the Zulu tribes, the Cambodians, the victims of the Holocaust and the millions of Russians massacred at the hands of Stalin. Considering the blindness of international law and the apathy and lack of compassion of our Muslim brethrens… and supposing that the U.S. had remained silent and in a truce with Saddam, we could have lost millions of additional lives in wars waged by Saddam, his sons and his grandsons.
"If the justification for the war was not very clear prior to its onset then following the liberation there has been no doubt about it in the mind of anyone who has any sense. It has become clear in light of waves of Arab mercenaries crossing the borders [into Iraq]… Saddam Hussein prepared for war, and anyone who claims otherwise is lying blatantly. It is true that he did not deploy his missiles, and it is true that he did not strap explosives to hundreds of thousands of his suicide seekers and guards so that they can blow themselves in the midst of Americans and Brits – the way Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi [of Hamas] was hoping. But Saddam prepared a different weapon, more effective and more dangerous…
"Saddam Hussein's war was not against the Americans… Saddam's war was first and foremost against the Iraqis, including his own clan and household relatives. Therefore, his weapon… was more degenerate than any WMD, and he convinced himself that with it he could cast his fear on others. Saddam Hussein released from prison tens of thousands of the most die-hard criminals and murderers, after eliminating the last political prisoners he had in his hands…posted by: Daniel Calto on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
"Are things dramatically improving? Seems like it. "
I’m afraid that the Liberals will soon excommunicate you. It appears that you no longer desire to be invited to those white wine and brie cheese get-togethers. Don’t you know that saying anything positive concerning this administration means that you are now a scum bag reactionary of the lowest kind?
By the way, if you desire to do some Bush bashing, why don’t you pick on some of his serious deficiencies? The President seems far too friendly with the Saudis and is somewhat infected with the virus of political correctness. His recent peculiar initiatives regarding the Israeli-Palestinian mess has perhaps only made things worse. Also, the inane Norm Mineta is still a member of his cabinet. Now that is a real scandal!posted by: David Thomson on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Gee Dave, I'll really miss those wild wine and brie get togethers. I remember the one where some ivy league fellow got really toasted and started reading paul krugman columns backwards for the fun of it. (I nearly got thrown out of the party when I suggested they made more sense that way.)posted by: appalled moderate on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
If getting control of the schools is such a sure-fire way of controlling the population, then why did communism fall? For 70 years the people of Russia were thoroughly indoctrinated in the virtues of Marxism, yet the whole thing fell apart anyway. Moreover, if the NEA has its way, no Republican would get elected dogcatcher anywhere in this country, yet they have done pretty well despite. My point simply is that we should not expect too much.posted by: Bruce Bartlett on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
First off, the Christian Science Monitor which has had fairly even reporting on the topic puts allot of the construction work in perspective:
Namely, yes things are improving since the immediate aftermath of the war but it doesn't matter really.
Secondly, those who uphold the picture of Saddam's abuse of women are naive. As it turned out in Afghanistan, the rise of crime and anarchy produced more kidnappings, rapes, and misogynistic religious extremism than under the Taliban. So it is the case in Iraq, where anarchy poses a greater danger to women and their rights than Saddam's tyrannical state. This has been widely reported in both conservative and liberal newspaper, and it is a fact that is beyond dispute - noted in how the CPA carefully avoids the topic.
In the 1980's it would have been heresy to suggest that the Soviet's management of Afghanistan was preferable to the national revolutionary movements. As it turned out, history proved correctly that such an assertion that the Afghanis - and the world - would have been better off under the Soviets than the Taliban would have been correct. And unfortunately the post-war has proved a let-down from even the Taliban!!!
Hence, I have no doubt in saying that Saddam was infinitely preferrable to the extremist and anarchic forces released by his demise. Insofar as those forces still dominate the life of the average Iraqi far away from the convoys, patrols, and razor-wired fortresses of our troops - then certainly the Iraqis were better off in general than under Saddam.
Such a statement is purely based upon common sense that eschews baited rhetoric.
Finally, we can open all the schools we want - it doesn't matter. Investments in educational systems take years and decades to pay off. This is why for instance in our own country we have failed to gather the collective will to make such changes.
In the short term however, the Administration and CPA is seemingly doing everything possible under the sun to alienate the short term interests of the Iraqis. They disbanded the army. They plan to discontinue food distribution. They are opening the country to privatization that will increase unemployment when unemployment is sky-high. They have chosen to hire American firms which are wasteful compared to Iraqi firms. In each case they have been warned that each step would create chaos - yet they proceed anyway.
Old-fashioned Republicans who used to know how to think and question their leadership, understood the principle that human beings act in their own perceived interest. To expect Iraqi's to be idealistic about an outcome that we promise them that will occur X years hence, when they experience deprivation today is unrealistic. They will turn on us. They already are in increasing numbers. It is not a foregone conclusion that things will end tragically.
However progress of this sort is making things daily worse in every key way that matters and not better.posted by: Oldman on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
This seems like a such a worthwhile argument - The administration or media should not focus on the "sun-shiny" things. I completely agree. What we should do is muster enough troops to instill a police state in Iraq. We should lock up or kill anyone that looks like they may attack us or our allies and forget about everything else. If we could accomplish this we wouldn't have to worry about random acts of violence and civil unrest. Then, after we have eliminated all possible areas of resistance, we could rule by fear to prevent any future resistance. After this is accomplished in Iraq, we could bring the troops back and set up the same sort of system in our inner cities. This way no one would have to feel anxious about sending the kids to school. PLEASE NOTE: THE ABOVE STATEMENTS WERE SARCASM, JUST IN CASE YOU DID NOT PICK UP ON IT.
As far as the spin issue, what do you expect the administration to do, highlight the negatives? It seems to me that there are plenty of mainstream media types that do that already. For the administration to do so would be a redundant effort. It doesn't matter what the administration does, the left will critique it; because this is a lot easier than suggesting better solutions.posted by: Robert Habich on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Can people stop responding to any criticism of any aspect of the situation in Iraq with "WOULD YOU PREFER SADAAM WAS STILL IN POWER?!?". That's a ridiculous answer to any point, no matter how ill-conceived or wrong it is in your view.
Thank you.posted by: TG on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
The people who do so, do so because they do not have any argument that will stand regarding why it should be that Americans should have done this. All their arguments about how it would benefit America have either fallen apart or have been shown to be exaggeration.
So all they are left with is bashing Saddam, and trying to hang him around the neck of anyone who dares bring up the question of "how has this helped America?"posted by: oldman on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
“Can people stop responding to any criticism of any aspect of the situation in Iraq with "WOULD YOU PREFER SADAAM WAS STILL IN POWER?!?". That's a ridiculous answer to any point, no matter how ill-conceived or wrong it is in your view.”
Nope, I am compelled to continue asking this most important question. There are far too many folks implying, if not even explicitly asserting, that the Iraqis are now worse off than before. They should cease mealy mouthing and answer this legitimate question with a yes or a no.
“(I nearly got thrown out of the party when I suggested they made more sense that way.)”
Gosh, what can I say? You may perceive yourself as some sort of moderate, but the Leftists consider you to be a Right Wing scum bag. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.posted by: David Thomson on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
The most important question is whether or not America would be better off if it had not invaded. The answer to that question is unfortunately an unequivocal: YES!!!posted by: Oldman on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Well should have or should not have, this type of reply is the equivalent of "I know you are but what am I?"
I was not meaning to take a stand either way with my comment, just that that particular reply is useless.
We are where we are now, he's (mostly, sorta) gone, and discussing what's going on now and how it could be improved or is being improved would seem a bit more useful to talk about IMHO. And answering "are there or are there not enough troops for security?" for example with "WOULD IT BE BETTER IF HE WAS STILL THERE" is a bit childish is my point.posted by: TG on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
"Nope, I am compelled to continue asking this most important question. There are far too many folks implying, if not even explicitly asserting, that the Iraqis are now worse off than before. They should cease mealy mouthing and answer this legitimate question with a yes or a no. "
Oh, implying is OK in this regard but not in presidential speeches? ;-)
Why can this point be made by implication if not explicitly while other arguments require a particular word to be used? (imminent! there I said it!)
I'm just hoping for a bit more discussion and less knee-jerking, from all sides. "Can't we all just get along!?" ;-)posted by: TG on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
The point about the pre-war debate is important in this manner: If they didn't listen then, are they gonna listen now?
The answer is no. The Admin asked for our faith in its judgement about the rightness to go to war. Now it is asking for our trust in its management of what happens after the war.
But it doesn't want to answer questions about why the hell it should be trusted after it got the original story wrong.posted by: Oldman on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Quoth Oldman:?Can people stop responding to any criticism of any aspect of the situation in Iraq with "WOULD YOU PREFER SADAAM WAS STILL IN POWER?!?". That's a ridiculous answer to any point, no matter how ill-conceived or wrong it is in your view.?
To which David Thomson replies: "Nope, I am compelled to continue asking this most important question. There are far too many folks implying, if not even explicitly asserting, that the Iraqis are now worse off than before. They should cease mealy mouthing and answer this legitimate question with a yes or a no."
I think that Thomson's question is a fair one, and it is completely besides the point. If your strongest argument for the legitimacy of the war is that it is better that Saddam is not in power than that he is, you're in a lot of trouble. Moreover, it is besides the point. The real question is, from the standpoint of Iraqi happiness and freedom, and American security, does this (i.e. Bush's) war portend a stable, and democratic Iraq decades hence. Sadly, I think that the answer is no. There will be a civil war in Iraq, sooner than many of you think, and it won't be the fault of the SCLM. So the right's straw-man argument ("you're not suggesting that it would be better if Saddam was still in power") doesn't address the crucial issues. It's like getting rid a mouse infestation by burning down your house. Sure, you've gotten rid of the mice, but...If I were to criticize the means of getting rid of the mouse problem, someone like David Thomson would opine, "Just answer this question: Would you prefer that you still had a mouse problem?"posted by: oneangryslav on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
“The real question is, from the standpoint of Iraqi happiness and freedom, and American security, does this (i.e. Bush's) war portend a stable, and democratic Iraq decades hence. Sadly, I think that the answer is no. “
Where are getting your news? Indymedia? The actual evidence contradicts your pessimistic viewpoint. Things are going very well in Iraq. So much so, that your comments don’t make any sense. Your hatred of the Bush administration definitely blinds you to reality.posted by: David Thomson on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
"Hence, I have no doubt in saying that Saddam was infinitely preferrable to the extremist and anarchic forces released by his demise. Insofar as those forces still dominate the life of the average Iraqi far away from the convoys, patrols, and razor-wired fortresses of our troops - then certainly the Iraqis were better off in general than under Saddam. "
Oldman, this is breathtakingly stupid and demonstrably wrong. Better for who? The thousands of victims of Saddams torture rooms? The young girls unfortunate enough to cross his sons' paths? Any number of those he would have murdered in the intirum? Why do all the polls of Iraqis show overwelming relief that Saddam is gone? Have you read any of what the Iraqis are saying? I have seen basic zero response (outside of Baathist thugs) saying they would be better off at any stage under Saddam. HE WAS A MASS MASS MASS MURDERER. The entire county was gripped, not in fear IN TERROR of him, constantly. You are a fifteen year old girl in school who writes something critical of the government and you spend the next six months being raped and watching your immediate family tortured. NOTHING COMPARES TO THAT. My god, you really have no clue what its like to live in a Stalinist police state. Its not just the danger of crime or uncertainty of the future, its the bleak hopelessness of knowing that you are trapped under the tyrant forever, your children are trapped under his, you are eternally damned. That is murder of the spirit. You have left the critical factor out of your reckoning. We have given the greatest gift humans have to offer, we have given hope to those who have none. Go ask his victims instead of presupposing your inane theories. They are no different than the Stalinist and Maoist apoligizers clung to. There is nothing on this earth worse. Whether the US is better off is debateable. Whether the Iraqis are is not. The fact that you dont understand this showcases ignorance of the highest order.posted by: Mark Buehner on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Expecting a stable democracy to emerge in Iraq may be optimistic, as Zathras suggests above. But what other models are available than the democratic one? Monarchy has been discredited in the Arab world as elsewhere; partition along ethnic or religious lines is opposed by everyone in Iraq; rule through an elite or a strongman is what led Iraq to its present unhappy state. In any event, having made the commitment to "Iraqi freedom" we have little choice but to persevere.posted by: Damar on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Damar: Strictly speaking, monarchy has not been discredited everywhere in the Arab world. Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are all monarchies; monarchy in the first two and some of the Gulf States is the foundation for the most humane and progressive Arab governments. Monarchy is probably not an option for Iraq, however.
Having said that, the point you make is valid to this extent: even if a stable democracy is a wildly optimistic objective for Iraq, if we have no other options and have already committed ourselves we don't have much choice but to try and succeed. I believe we would have more success if American officials were franker about the obstacles we face, which are considerable and go well beyond Baathist "dead-enders" and non-Iraqi terrorists. Chief among these obstacles is the problem that many Iraqi Sunnis have not come to terms with the fact that they will not be dominant in the way they have been either now or under a future government. This, I believe, is the wellspring of much of the violence directed against coalition forces; the thinking is that once occupying forces are driven out the Sunnis will be able to resume the leading role they had in Iraqi politics and the economy under Saddam Hussein. I'd like it if they could be persuaded peacefully to accept something less, but fear they will be receptive to this only if they fear something much worse if the Americans leave, like a state dominated by Shiites.posted by: Zathras on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
First of all, don't you guys have jobs? Wives? David Thomson, I'm looking at you here....
Wow. Tidy little debate we've got here. Where to start?
First, Mr. Thacker, my comment on "white man's burden" passed no judgement on whether or not the "swarthy buggers" are capable of it. I'm willing to consider the possibility that, given time, they could make a better democracy than ours. My point is, the history of the secular (and not-so-secular) Western gospel features few real successes. Long story short, I'm more optimistic about democracy emerging in Iran than I am in Iraq, largely because, if it comes to pass, it will come from the Iranians rather than being imposed from the outside.
And while we're on that subject, I appreciate that Mr. Thomson points out my biggest gripe with all this. So we've got this turgid enthusiasm for democracy in Iraq, but we don't give a toss about what happens in Egpyt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and a few of the central Asian republics as well. The point is, we carry Realpolitik to far, the world sees the hypocrisy of our foreign policy. Like it or not, the distance between our rhetoric and our oil dependence is telling.
Returning to Mr. Thomson, the notion that my comment about schools is some how "anti-woman," that they suffered horribly under Saddam misses the point. Whether or not things are better now, crime sucked hard-core for Iraqis over the summer. The one statistic that I read that really sticks out was the fact that a loose tally of the Baghdad homicide rate recorded a tripling of murders in the city from March to August. If the homicide rate tripled in any American city the public would lose their f-ing minds. The random crime was and is severe. Women CAN'T walk the streets alone and, from what I've read, that didn't pertain during Saddam's days - his demonic sons aside.
And, curiously, you make this point: "A national population of some 23.3 million people barely notices the death of a small number of people. Life continues to go on." Wow. That's just a silly statement. Consider the U.S.: out of population of 280 million, we lost 3,000 - a comparative drop in the pond - but our entire country came to a standstill for a week or two. Beyond that, we went crazy-ape bonkers, calling a third of the world our enemies and another third wimps. So when 95 people die outside a mosque in Najaf, I think the Iraqis can be forgiven for feeling a little insecure.
Finally, you repeat the question, "would you prefer Saddam was still in power." Here's your straight answer: no. I had to overcome what I figured to be a mouthful of Bushie exaggerations and near out-right lies to figure that Gulf War II was worth the gamble (newsflash: nearly every administration claim regarding Iraq and WMD was called into question shortly after it's announcement; what we're getting now are confirmations of those doubts); getting rid of Hussein seemed a better option, especially, than the sanctions. But, the other question, asked by Oldman, is America better off? Highly debatable.
And this is where Mark Buehner's very reasonable point about the reconstruction funds came up. We are six months into this thing and the American public and political classes are balking at delivering on our assumed obligation. One big reason for that: we had Paul Wolfowitz go to Congress and talk crap about Iraq paying for its reconstruction. The overly optimistic scenarios that sold the war are coming home to roost now. THAT'S why the pre-war debate still matters.
Mark Habich asks whether the administration should highlight the failures in Iraq. What the hell are you talking about? Of course not. The point is the should be up-front and acknowledge both the attacks and the multiple theories of their origins (i.e. instead of pretending it's all Baathists and al-Qaeda, perhaps they should look at the State Dept. report that fretted about the beginnings of popular outrage in the Sunni areas). This is Debate 101: acknowledge your opponents argument, THEN explain why you disagree/why it's inaccurate. The Bushies don't even do that.
Ugh. That's enough for now. I could go on, but I do have a job and a wife.
The bigger point is, we broke Iraq, now we bought it. We're stuck there. What we need to leave behind is a state that Iraqis genuinely help build - not one that is imposed by Bremer and entirely owned by American-based (or, really, Caribbean-based) multi-national corporations. And we need to get out as soon as is feasible. Contrary to what Dennis Kucinich says, that's not today, that's probably some time next summer at the earliest.
I get the impression that we're going to leave something behind 1) a government similar to the weird and, possibly, untenable government that we concocted for Bosnia, or 2) something like an Egyptian-style "democracy." The problem in both cases is that such governments, while MILES better than life under Hussein, run the risk of failing to provide Iraqis with a voice and greater opportunity. If that comes to pass, we will have arguably wasted our time in terms of our own security.
Finally, in response to Appalled Moderates post, I read a pretty dang broad array of publications: I get my right-y stuff from the Weekly Standard and The National Review. In both of those publications, as well as in Mr. Thomson's posts, I've heard that things are "vastly improved" in Iraq. But I've never heard anyone tally up the specifics.
Iraqis feel better about the future and that's great. That's the best thing about this invasion. But, in ten year's time, that might not be enough.posted by: Jeff on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Someone else may have pointed this out, but...
David Thomson writes: " However, these women were still rape bait for Saddam’s thugs. Are you perhaps hinting that the situation isn’t dramatically improving in Iraq? Wouldn’t any sane woman rather live in Iraq today? "
Today, the women are rape bait for *anyone*, not just a handful of privileged goons, who thankfully were each limited by physics to only be in one place at a time.posted by: Jon H on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
Once upon a time Kennedy had assassinated two Vietnamese leaders because he felt that they were intolerable. Unfortunately, the ultimate choice was not between a democratic US client state and these guys, it was these guys and Ho Chi Minh.
Your logic has got so many holes in it it wouldn't even pause before sinking. Yes, Saddam while terrible was not the worst of all outcomes either for America or for the Iraqis. Therefore, Saddam being in power was preferrable to those outcomes. Taking Saddam out of power was a responsible act if and only if care and effort was given to a reasonable plan to advert said worse alternatives.
Hope is a double-edged sword. People can limp along with despair for a long time. However if you give them hope and then disappoint them, then they get really angry at being let down. The post-war ubiquitious Iraqi disastisfaction with CPA reconstruction progress is a case in point.
You got spirit Mister but you ain't got sense. Saddam ain't the worst thing in the world by a long shot, and he is definitely better than some of the things crawling into the light of day right now as I type in Iraq. You ever had your hopes disappointed Mark? Get ready to have it happen again. When it does, you remember what you wrote and what my reply was. Maybe then we'll have a talk about the way the real world works.posted by: Oldman on 10.16.03 at 01:27 PM [permalink]
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