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The War In Iraq and Bush's Legacy

Commentary by Greg Lewis / NewMediaJournal.US
February 2, 2007

The overwhelming issue, whose outcome will determine both Bush's and Rumsfeld's political legacies, is the Iraq War. As Bush recently said in a press conference, "I didn't think it would take this long to win the war in Iraq."

Nor do I disagree with the President's assessment of how things have gone. My sense of what could (indeed, should) have ensued after we'd blown our way into Iraq three years ago and dismantled the Iraqi military in about four days was that Iraqis would welcome us as liberators, that they would work with us to help us identify and capture or kill those who had oppressed and murdered them during Saddam Hussein's reign of terror.

I overwhelmingly thought that within a matter of months, a year at the outside, Iraq would have been "tamed" (as it were), a democratic government established, and relative order restored so that the business of rebuilding a crumbling civil and manufacturing infrastructure could commence and proceed apace.

What I hadn't taken into account is what I've since identified as "tribal consciousness" or "the Arab-Muslim ethos," for want of better terms. As I've said in another context, I've realized that it's about time we stopped expecting Muslims to behave like westerners and faced up to a few significant facts: Islamic jihad is not going away any time soon, nor is it only radical Islamists who are waging it.

In characteristic democratic-westerner style, we Americans discounted the religious, ethnic, and cultural forces that were working against our being able to come in and, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, sort of lead the Iraqis, through the sheer force of our political will and our military might and our "knowing in our hearts that capitalist democracy is the 'correct' political solution," directly to democracy. We were Iraq's get-out-of-jail-free card. Do not bother to pass go, do not bother to collect $200.00.

This is not to say that Iraqis as a people do not desire to live in a free and democratic society. The extraordinary voter turnout for the January 2005 elections in Iraq speaks to that. Indeed, the overwhelming impression I took away from following the events of that election day as they unfolded was a sense of the utter courage of the Iraqi people in the face of what would surely have been for virtually every one of us Americans the debilitating threat of terrorist violence.

Even given that, however, we certainly did not foresee the resistance to the presence of the U.S. military in Iraq, which arguably reflects the need on the part of militant Islamists of every stripe to resist with all possible means the establishment of a western style democracy and the need to fight a war of terror for the purpose of bringing Iraq under the unbending sway of Sharia law in its most fundamental form.

As George H.W. Bush's advisors had predicted in 1991, taking out Saddam Hussein after having liberated Quwait would have led to a "power vacuum" in Iraq that would have de-stabilized the entire Middle East. Something like that is happening now, following Saddam's ouster at the behest of the elder Bush's son.
Indeed, we might have taken a considered look back, not only at the conclusions of Bush 41's advisors about the consequences of "regime change" in Iraq following Desert Storm, but also at what happened in Korea in the 1950s and in Vietnam through the early '70s. Had we done so, we might have realized that in our haste to establish a beachhead in the Middle East we might have been making many of the same religious-ethnic-political-cultural-assumption mistakes in Iraq as we had made in Korea and Vietnam.

But we didn't, and there's nothing we can do about our (in retrospect) seeming short-sightedness now.

We might blame the current apparent stalemate in Iraq on "mistakes" made by Paul Bremer or Donald Rumsfeld or the commanding Generals, but their recommendations and the policies they supported were, in the most important sense, a reflection of the "gestalt," the mindset, of the current Bush administration.
I don't think any one person can be blamed for the "mistakes" we made in Iraq; furthermore, I think it's highly premature even to label these policies as "mistakes."

I would assert that, rather than their being construed as "mistakes," we should view them as components in the ongoing process of our waging ultimately successful war against the forces of Islamist terrorism in its many guises.
War, at any level, is, minimally, utterly unruly and next-to-impossible to manage. And given what has become the "instant accountability" of the contemporary 24-hour digital news cycle, with its insatiable appetite for event-fodder to be processed through the agenda-driven grinder that many left-leaning conventional media outlets - including especially The New York Times, The Washington Post, the broadcast network news outlets, and CNN and MSNBC - assessing along the way the potential outcomes of a war-in-progress is a dicey prospect at best.

The New York Times, in keeping with its long-standing position in favor of leftist, anti-capitalist political positions and in opposition to publishing anything even remotely pro-freedom, pro-capitalist, pro-spiritualist, or pro-individual-initiative, has recently printed information that arguably compromises United States positions with regard to our country's ability to prevent military attacks against our infrastructure, specifically, in this case, our ability to prevent or curtail precisely such an attack on New York City's tunnels. Indeed, it's difficult to characterize the Times's general editorial stance as anything but pro-terrorist and anti-democracy.

But to return to the topic at hand: While you might say "we should learn from our 'mistakes,'" I would say that we should rather recognize that we're engaged in an ongoing war against Islamism, and that every military engagement we pursue against said forces provides us with evidence, in the form of analyzable outcomes, of how we might tweak our tactics so that we might push our interests forward in future encounters with this enemy.

We are engaged in a process here, and to expect us to deliver a "product" (that is, a neat victory) is to misapprehend what is going on and how it must evolve for us to be victorious.

Nor, for that matter, do I think we need to label the outcomes of the various military processes in Iraq "mistakes." First, the war is not over. Many of us baby-boomers were gestating as America's involvement in WWII began, and we were infants when it ended. The sense I gather from reading about what happened between the time I was born (in October, 1942) and my third birthday is that the issue of who would emerge victorious was in doubt almost to the end.

As Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over." And World War II certainly wasn't over until it was over. Indeed, the only reason then-President Truman decided to drop the big one on Japan was that the alternative was to invade Japan with the potential loss of American life in the 100,000 range. (We'd already lost some 400,000 killed by mid-1945.)

Our involvement in World War II was characterized by innumerable enormously costly "mistakes" and any number of devastating defeats before we emerged triumphant. Our losses in Iraq are, by comparison, minimal. Five times as many Americans die in highway auto accidents every year as have died in the Iraq war to date; the 9/11 attacks killed more Americans than have died in Iraq, for that matter.
And although the liberal media continue to insist on characterizing our efforts in Iraq as a "losing cause," the fact is that we're not so much losing as we are in the latter stages of winning. The old adage, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater," is certainly applicable here, and it translates to something like, "Don't misinterpret the apparently negative results of U.S. tactics and policies as signaling defeat when we're still in the middle of an armed conflict."

The results of the impending tactical and strategic changes of our military policy in Iraq, like those in the latter stages of World War II, "won't be known until they're known," to paraphrase Yogi.

In the meantime, don't bet against us on this one. And don't bet that Bush's and Rumsfeld's legacies will be tainted by our defeat at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Ain't about to happen, bro, no matter what the lefties try to tell you.

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