I find myself growing more and more discouraged about the situation in Iraq and the Middle East, generally. I thought the invasion of Iraq was an error back in March of 2003 and, while I believe that liberal democracy and modernization is the only real solution to the problems of the region, the means selected were unlikely to obtain a favorable result. Being pessimistic by nature I’m skeptical that enough modernization can happen quickly enough in the region without substantial carnage to avoid even greater carnage.
My discouragement has moved me to leave a few comments on other blogs somewhat less temperate and balanced than the level I try to maintain. In particular I’ve been a little harsh about Democratic leaders who have apparently convinced themselves of the wisdom of withdrawing our forces from Iraq. I’ll try to return to the degree of sang-froid I try to maintain.
I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of their concern about the lives and health of our troops in Iraq but I believe that, just because it was unwise to invade Iraq it does not mean it is wise to leave Iraq with the current level of disorder. If our only concern were the lives and health of our soldiers and the cost of maintaining them in Iraq, it would, indeed, be prudent to leave.
But we have lots of other interests in the region and, while I don’t know that we can secure them by staying in Iraq, I’m convinced that we cannot secure them by leaving.
In an interview broadcast yesterday on ABC’s This Week King Abdullah of Jordan reinforced my opinion with his concern that there may soon be three civil wars going on concurrently in the Middle East: in Iraq, in Lebanon, and in the Palestinian territories.
The details of the report from the Iraq Study Group that are coming to light don’t do a great deal to assuage my concerns. While the report does not, apparently, call for a schedule for withdrawal I think that will be castigated as a whitewash by those who favor such a schedule. And, as I’ve suggested before, while I have no problem with face-to-face negotiations with the Syrians and Iranians it’s hard for me to see how anything they might be willing to accept in trade for taking the pressure off Iraq will remotely be worth the exchange.
The problem as I see it is that all of the American politicians have been viewing the situation in the Middle East through the prism of their own political experience. President Bush sees a universal yearning for liberal democracy. The Democratic leaders see an Iraqi government that’s just too stubborn to make the necessary concessions.
I think the problems are far more structural than that and, in particular, the present Iraqi government—composed of creatures of the militias—is innately incapable of bringing those very militias to heel.