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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Bush Explains the War
We have had some spirited discussions at the Coffeehouse about the war on terror, most recently here. Today, President Bush spoke to the National Endowment for Democracy and again made his case. It's worth a read. I initially wanted to give you a few quotes, but found I was basically quoting the whole speech, so I’ll just add my thoughts.

I was heartened to read that he names the enemy specifically, rather than continuing the vague talk of “terror” he mentions “Islamic radicalism ... militant Jihadism … Islamo-fascism”. He calls out Syria and Iran as their enablers, and puts them on notice. He defends against the charge (made by Wanderer in the comments I link to above) that the war in Iraq is fueling further terrorism. He states unconditionally that Israel is not the problem. He makes a parallel to the Cold War that I think may interest Q. And he makes it clear that the path forward is dangerous, but that withdrawal from Iraq now would be disastrous.

Mostly it reminded me that his speech writers can present his case much better than I can, and that it’s a case that I still very much support. I hope his successor shares his vision.

Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future.
In our recent dialogue, ball-and-chain and I agreed on the need for an Islamic Reformation. Accordingly, it was this part of the President's speech that I appreciated most:

… the most vital work will be done within the Islamic world, itself. And this work has begun. Many Muslim scholars have already publicly condemned terrorism, often citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is like killing all humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all of humanity. After the attacks in London on July the 7th, an imam in the United Arab Emirates declared, "Whoever does such a thing is not a Muslim, nor a religious person." The time has come for all responsible Islamic leaders to join in denouncing an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends, and defiles a noble faith.

A preacher of a previous century advised younger clergymen to appeal to what is noble in their congregations (instead of berating them). It is a constructive approach — to call forth what is best in people. That's what I like about the quote above.
Q: Ahh, the magic of the Coffeehouse. Finding common ground. Exchanging ideas. Ever-so-slowly nudging folks to the right millimeters at a time.

Have a muffin, and some decaf!
I have to point out that I actually never stated that I thought the war in Iraq is fueling further terrorism. I am not sure it has or has not. That would have been the initial anonymous poster, I believe. I was just registering my increasing discomfort with the casualty count in Iraq, who the real beneficiaries of the War are, and how I did not see a viable exit strategy.

I don't think anyone would disagree with a few more moderate Islamic clerics coming out and refocussing the Islamic world on the peaceful underpinings of the religion. More difficult will be to actually change Islam to allow it to be on equal footing with other religions, and not require a situation of dhimmi - or underling - which has is how Muslims are supposed to view Christians and Jews right now.

With regards to Bush's speech, I would love it if we in the United States had a weekly candid question and answer period similar to what the Brits have for their prime minister in Parliament. Its always easy to sound good when your spin doctors have prepared a text for you, its not so easy when you are asked tough, probing questions by the opposition. Nonetheless, a well-written speech which made some interesting points.
Wanderer: Sorry. You're right. It was anon who blamed the war on Iraq for worsening terrorism. You said in the other thread "Sure Islamofascism is evil and sure they hate us and should be fought tooth and nail." I agree there. Any suggestions how that should be done if not in Iraq?

I've heard you call for an exit strategy. I'll reiterate mine: stay in Iraq for another 20 years like we did in Germany, long after the war is won. What do you suggest? Leave now?
I guess first thing I should say is that I actually begrudgingly supported the war at its outset. I believed the WMD story and couldn't imagine that the Bush Administration could have an excellent battle plan (which was beautifully executed), but then have virtually no plan to win the peace. I believe they had the slogan and spin all figured out ("winning hearts and minds"), but didn't have a clue how to do it. Disbanding the Iraqi military and civil service was a grave error, from which we may never recover.

I don't believe we should leave now. We can't. We wrecked their country, and now we have to fix it. But, unfortunately, I don't share the optimism of many of you coffeehousers. I can't recall any prior instance in history where democracy was imposed on a country (without any prior history of democracy) by a conquering army. Remember that even Hitler was duly elected by the German people in a democratic election. Democracy is by nature a populist system that must come from the street, and not from above. Unfortunately the Arab street has thus far only bred terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, not democracy. Saddam/Sadr City is not a hotbed of democracy, it is a hotbed of Shiite extremism.

The notion of an Islamic reformation is very appealing, though I fear farfetched. As we have witnessed since the late 1970's (with the revolution in Iran) there has been a movement towards more conservative and extremist forms of Islam. Interestingly, I think the same is true of Christians and Jews as well. Christian evangelicals continue to gain power and influence in the United States, and the religious right in Israel gains seats in the Knesset with every election. To hope for an Islamic reformation in this atmosphere seems to be going against the tide of history and change.

So what exit strategy do I propose? I don't really know. I know that sooner or later all of us (I hope) will grow tired of the weekly American carnage in Iraq. I think we will continue to try and build a democratic system there, continuously being thwarted and attacked by the populist insurgency, whether Shiite or Sunni. The Shiite clerics correctly understood that their best (and least bloody) strategy for ultimately establishing an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iraq (a la Iran) is to do so "democratically," by elections. There will eventually be a democratically elected government propped up in Iraq, and then we will probably leave. But I fear that this government will be short-lived, and soon transform into something that may have us thinking Saddam wasn't so bad.

The other option would be something more akin to Doctor Bean's strategy, but I don't think anyone has the stomach for 20 years of continuous insurgency - I know I don't. Taking the battle with Islamofascism over there so we don't have to fight them over here sounds good, but I don't beleive it is sustainable in the long term, and, as we have seen with the London subway bombings, may not be realistic either. I hate to pull this card, but I also believe that it is a little too easy for the Republican elite to be sending a predominantly minority "volunteer" army over there to fight a battle that is continuosly bloody and without an end in sight.

We must focus our efforts on intelligence gathering and infiltration on the military front and dealing with the underlying social and economic causes which have lead to the growth of Islamofascism on the political front. In the long run, I actually think the best hope really is for an Islamic reformation to occur, but this can only come from within and with time, and not from the outside and certainly not by beating it into them.

I don't think I have any great answers, but after this long post can I still have a muffin or biscotti or something?
Wanderer: I appreciate your reply.

"I can't recall any prior instance in history where democracy was imposed on a country (without any prior history of democracy) by a conquering army." How 'bout Japan?

Your comment about race is totally irrelevant and the use of rhetorical quotes around volunteer is just silly since it actually is a volunteer army, without quotes. Are you suggesting I'm more for the war because whites are less proportionally represented? If my son wants to enlist, I would totally support him. As it is, one of our current fantasies is that he gets into a military academy.

I think your concerns about the obstacles in our way are very reasonable, I guess I have more confidence in the average Iraqi than you do. I could easily be wrong. If I am, the war on Islamofascism will have to be fought much more like WWII was, meaning if we can't democratize them, we'll have to kill many more civilians than we already have. Since we've already started to fight, I guess we both hope I'm right.

Sure, have a chocolate chip bagel and a huge mug of hot cocoa.
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