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Monday, February 14, 2005

Sometimes You Get the Iraq You Get, Not the Iraq You Want

The Washington Post had this insightful analysis of the election results in Iraq. According to the Post's article, the winning Shiites and Kurds, far from being the secular and liberal forces that would usher in a western style democracy, with separation of church and state and liberal economic markets, as the neo conservatives had hoped, are dedicated to an Islamist form of government based on the Koran and they are spiritually close with the Iranian regime. Here's the money quote:

"Added Rami Khouri, Arab analyst and editor of Beirut's Daily Star: "The
idea that the United States would get a quick, stable, prosperous, pro-American
and pro-Israel Iraq has not happened. Most of the neoconservative assumptions
about what would happen have proven false."


And this is not the first time that we have miscalculated in this region to our later detriment. We originally also supported Saddam Hussein in his Baathist revolt in the sixties. And in the seventies, we supported the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviet Union. At that time, at the tail end of the Cold War, it seemed like a good idea since we really believed that the enemy of our enemy was our friend. Unfortunately, the Taliban, Al Queda, and Osama bin Laden all proved that theory wrong. American aid, which was seen as a way to weaken the Soviet Union, only led to the destabilization of Afghanistan and was directly responsible for that unholy trinity's rise to power, which later brought deadly blowback for us.

Nation building is a dangerous game, especially in the Islamic world. The reason is that you almost never get the results you expect from other people. As history has shown time and again, other people in different regions of the world really, really do not hold the same values that we do. That is not to denigrate them. In the vast scheme of things, they may be right. We may be wrong. Maybe I should be ordering my burqa right now so that I too can get to paradise and have 72 virgins. Uh, no, that's for the men. Why then should I get that burqa? Do women get 72 Brad Pittmans? If not, is Paradise as unequal for them as life in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and now Iraq?

Anyway, the point is that we can't force people to pick the people that we want them to pick when they start with totally different cultural and religious assumptions. The irony is that Iraq was a secular nation under Saddam Hussein. For years, our foreign policy played the Iraqis off against the Iranians to keep either country from becoming the dominant one in the oil rich Gulf, as the Post article also pointed out. Now, we've assisted the Iranians' spiritual cousins in their bid to come to power. What is to stop the two of them from uniting and dumping us?

And I doubt that either of these nations is going to support Israel or a truly democratic and secular Middle East. Don't look for models of westernized political and economic stability to bloom from this desert any time soon. And yet that was precisely the fall back argument for our invasion that the neo conservatives gave when no WMDs turned up.

Let me see. We never found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There never was a clear link between the 9/11 terrorists and Saddam Hussein, although there were plenty of links between them and Saudi Arabia. Oh yeah, and we never did catch Osama. You know, the guy who actually attacked America?

Given all this, it would seem that the purple thumbs and general air of triumph that was displayed by Congress at the recent State of the Union address was a wee bit premature. As it turns out we're actually 0 for 0 with this war of choice.

Given their general level of judgment and competence, is this really an Administration you want to trust with the rest of your future, like Social Security reform?

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