Sunday, December 18, 2005

Global terrorism and victory in Iraq

I'm listening to Bush's speech on Iraq. He (and apparently Republicans in general) love to talk of global threats. He talks of global terrorists who are threats to the country. He identifies them with opposition in Iraq. He also likes to contrast the vision of global terrorism with an image of a free and democratic Iraq. The republican love ultimate enemies.

None of that is the point. Where will Iraq end up? My guess is that if it stays together (which it may not) it will end up as something like Iran. Iran has elections. But the people the Iranians elected aren't the ones we would have liked them to elect. It's not clear how close Iraq and Iran will become. They may become allies. They may be fearful of each other. The latter would be better for us than the former. A balance of power in the middle east is probably better than a unified force that doesn't like us. But however it works out, Iraq won't be a beacon of democracy. It is a Middle Eastern country, and no matter what happens in the near future, it will remain a Middle Eastern country with a tradition of conservative Islam as well as a tradition of cronyism and corruption. It will take decades to turn that around.

And that has nothing to do with "global terrorism." The message of terrorism is that one doesn't need a global force to do a lot of damage. It took only 19 people to bring off 9/11. It took fewer than that to bring off the Oklahoma City bombing. Because of the way our economy operates, we are vulnerable. And there is not a lot we can do about it. The fact is, safety cannot be guaranteed. As long as Bush and his supporters put the issue as safety vs. chaos, global terrorism vs. shining democracy, he will mislead the country. Neither will be the case. We must start recognizing that the world is not a simple place, and it will never be a totally safe place.

By the way, I think that we are obligated to find some way of leaving Iraq without inviting a civil war. Bush got himself into this position; he can find some way to get himself out. I don't have an easy solution. My primary consideration is that Bush should not paint a false picture of "ultimate victory." He has no idea what that might mean or how that might be accomplished. Talking about victory in Iraq is intellectually dishonest. But then that's the way Bush is. To ask for something different is also unrealistic.

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