Neo-neocon bravely asked of the War in Iraq: “Why this war is so hated”. Was it due to hatred of GWB? Did people see the US as a bully for deposing the homicidal Saddam Hussein? Or are they just disappointed that the war is taking so long?
The war in Iraq was characterized with a certain audacity in its genesis. The reasons behind it, although they were explained, were complex and multiple. Some of them seemed merely “technical”–violations of UN resolutions and the ceasefire of the Gulf War, and failure to cooperate with inspectors, are unusual (perhaps unprecedented?) reasons to attack a nation. Even though the war was described as defensive–including defensive of the UN’s authority, which somehow seems ironic–it is very hard for most people to see it as defensive. This is partly because the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a third-world nation that might give them to terrorists is a relatively new one, difficult to credit and to wrap the mind around (and the failure to find WMDs in Iraq feeds into this difficulty).
Of course, she got replies from the usual rage-filled suspects, prattling about “hawkish ruling cabals” and “depleted uranium”. Despite that, she even more bravely asked the same question a second time. Is the war hated because of the religious overtones?
This whole business of a war that is at least partly religious in nature (if only because the enemy wills it to be so) is assuredly not what most of us expected for the beginning of the 21st century. I remember, when I first started reading blogs, coming across the site of an Australian blogger (now defunct; wish I could remember his name!) who wrote a funny piece on that very subject. The gist of it was that the whole thing can be explained by a mixup in time: the numbers of the years got reversed, and instead of it being 2001 it was actually the year 1200.
Sometimes it feels that way; the sense of dislocation can be profound.
Although most of the people in neo’s ‘against’ column leaned towards the Left, opposition to the way the war is being handled is no longer a right/left issue. According to recent polls, 32 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush was handling the war. 66 % did not approve.
Some of those ‘do not approve’ Americans are Republicans and Independents.
Many of those ‘do not approve’ Americans originally supported the war. Most are happy to be rid of Saddam Hussien. Most support the troops (as I do, wholeheartedly. Our troops in Iraq are the only Americans who have a legal right to shoot Islamist/mujahideen on sight, and they’re the practially the only members of the government genuinely fighting terrorism. Godspeed to them).
So why have pro-defense Americans changed their minds about the government’s handling of the war?
Iraq as a defensive war?
Like many Jacksonians (or Jeffersonians) I’ve never believed that the purpose of war should be to bring democracy to our enemies, ‘reform’ them or make them better, happier, more self-actualized people. It should be to kill enemy troops/combatants/mujahideen until they reach the point of offering a genuine surrender. War should be used only in self-defense.
Once the enemy has been completely defeated, then we can talk about a Marshall Plan.
The message of the 9/11 attacks was that we were facing an enemy whose goal wasn’t negotiation or even war, it was just annihilation. That’s their goal, and the only thing that limits them is their lack of powerful weaponry. We’re facing an intractable enemy. You don’t negotiate with an intractable enemy.
The war in Afghanistan was a war against the supporters of the 9/11 attacks. It was sold to us as a part of the war against terrorism because it was.
The war in Iraq was also sold to us as a part of the war against terrorism, yet of all the unfreindly terror supporting nations in the Middle East, Saddam had the least connection to the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda or any Islamist terror groups. Bush was fairly honest about the fact that we were concerned about the fact that Saddam might be able to produce WMDs in five to ten years. But Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc. all had that capablility. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan all had connections to al Qaeda that were equivalent to the Taliban’s. If we were fighting a war against terrorism, we would have targeted Iran or the Sudan first. Many Americans may feel that they were the victims of a bait and switch.
A religious war?
Most neo-cons are very determined to point out that we are not at war with 1.3 billion Muslims. They also want to point out that the religion of Islam is not to blame for terrorism – but at the same time, they believe that Islam should and can be “reformed.” If Islam isn’t to blame for terrorism, why should it be reformed?
Muslims are the primary victims of terrorism. Iraqis, Turks and many others have stormed the streets by the thousands to protest Islamist extremism and terrorism. Iraqis leave the bodies of ‘insurgents’ out in the street to be eaten by dogs. The majority of Muslims hate insurgents/mujahideen/terrorists with a force we can’t begin to comprehend. The best way for us to win their hearts and minds is to kill more terrorists.
The leaders and sponsors of paramiltary muhahideens quote the Koran in the same way that the Ugandan Lords Resistance army uses the Bible to justify mass slayings and slavery. Islam isn’t to blame for groups like al Qaeda, Hamas and their ilk, just like Christianity isn’t to blame for the LRA. The politicians who use Islam to justify ethnic cleansing are to blame. They’re the people we should be fighting. We should leave Islam and 1.3 billion Muslim hearts and minds out of this. We can’t reform someone else’s religion and it’s pointless to make this a part of this war.
However, Bush and most members of the government, right and left, believe in the hearts and minds theory. They believe that we should offer money and political power to anyone who promises to ‘reform’ Islam and control extremism. When we do that, you can bet that a lot of ‘reformers’ will show up, promising to do just that. Look at the Ayatollah Sistani. Our Saudi Allies. The UAE. Mahmoud Abbas. If you wave a lot of money around and demand to buy the Brooklyn bridge, people will sell it to you.
Is the war taking too long?
If we were fighting a war against terrorism, we would concentrate our efforts on killing terrorists in an effort to win a genuine surrender. We would ally with anyone who is also threatened by terrorism and could effectively help us kill massive numbers of mujahideen. We would try to improve our relationship with real military powers, like Russia and China.
We didn’t do that. Instead, we concentrated our efforts on mending our “freindship” with the Saudis who paid for 9/11. We continue to support American-grown pro-terror groups like Peace In Chechnya. If we keep going in this direction, the war will never end. It’s not even clear what we’re fighting. Are we fighting for democracy? Then why are we allying with Libya?
Are we at war with anyone who won’t sell us the Brooklyn Bridge, who won’t pretend to cooperate with our efforts to ‘reform’ them?
Are we still fighting the Cold War?
The idea of winning Islamist hearts and minds was originally a cover story for Brzezinski and Carter’s headless chicken strategy, to win the cold war by using Islamists to fight the commies. There is no proof that this policy has been abandoned. According to Dick Cheney, Carter’s strategies are still a very important part of our foreign policy.
in August, 2002, seven months before the war started, Cheney warned that Saddam would be able to seize control of the world’s economic lifeline if he acquired weapons of mass destruction: “Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten per cent of the world’s oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.”
Who has benefitted from the war in Iraq? We certainly haven’t. Islamist terror supporting states like the Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia have. Obviously, this is not a war against terrorism. Maybe it is still the Cold war.
So why do pro-war Americans disapprove of the way the war is being fought?
As neo says, “who would want to recognize that we’re in a long struggle against an unusually implacable and rage-filled enemy?”
I think most people realize that we’re facing an unusually implacable and rage-filled enemy. They just don’t think a “long war” is the right strategy.
Pretend that the US is the world’s policeman. This policeman has just resolved a long, drawn out hostage situation with a clever, well-armed, yet patient, often reasonable enemy. Let’s call the hostage taker ” the USSR”.
After many shared cigarettes and long-drawn out philosophical discussions, the policeman successfully resolved the hostage situation. Now he’s faced with an implacable, rage filled axe wielding manic, rushing towards him. Should he:
- Be prepared for long, drawn out negotiations, offer the maniac cigarettes and mention that he admires Tolstoy?
- Shoot the maniac in the head.
It took the untrained, civilian passengers on Flight 93 minutes to choose option 2. Most Americans share the same outlook. They know that terror supporting states are not real allies.
In their long war scenario, the government has chosen option 1. The American people know we’re fighting a new sort of war. The government doesn’t.
It’s not clear that we are still fighting the Cold War, but it is clear that we’re using Cold War strategies. We’re
fighting the last war, not the present one.
And, despite all the mistakes we’ve made, we’re still doing a better job of fighting terrorism than Europe is. They’re still fighting this war using their old cold-war methods – relentlessly criticizing the US while depending on us to protect them.
Since the war on terrorism isn’t really being fought as a war on terrorism, and since our government (left and right) is obsessed with the hearts and minds myth, I really have no side to take. Sure, I think we should stay until the Iraqis are able to run their own government. But this is the last ‘war on terrorism’/cold war/hearts-and- minds action I’m going to support until the government demonstrates that it has wised up.