Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Irrational Realism

Christopher Hitchens has a great article rebuking the realism of Brent Scowcroft. Novelly, he uses left arguments, rightly, for neoconservative ends.

Here's a taste of his conclusion, which made me smile:
Realism of the Scowcroft sort presided over the Iran-Iraq war with its horrific casualties and watched indifferently as genocide was enacted in northern Iraq. It allowed despots free rein from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, and then goggled when this gave birth to the Taliban and al-Qaida. If this was "fifty years of peace," then it really was time to give war a chance.
You may agree with this or not, but I think he's essentially correct. You can't bemoan American foreign policy being smitten with dictators for "reasons of stablity" that in a very real sense create the preconditions for terrorism and all its externalities and then make the point that we should coddle despots like Hussein because of the chaos it will reap if we overthrow him. What this reflects is that person's inability to even imagine American power being used constructively for beneficial ends. We live in a world where force matters, isn't it good that at least this time, American force was on the side of the Kurds, a true liberation army, and the beaten bloody Shias of the south.

Moreover, I think Hitchens is correct to argue that Iraq was a failed state that would have imploded anyway, unleashing many of the same problems we face today. Remember, I was against this war from the beginning, but my position has shifted considerably. I'm very scared of Bush's true intentions in Iraq, but I sure am jubliant that no one has to fear Saddam Hussein or his nefarious sons ever again. Would I have preferred other options like arming the Kurds and Shiites and protecting them with American air-power against Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle? Maybe, but we had the opportunity to do this at the end of the first Gulf War but to our everlasting shame we went with the devil we knew -- classic realism a la Scowcroft and Kissinger. Should we go back to that type of realism in favor of stability which brings anything but?

Also, Iraq has been the dinner bell to jihadist sharks everywhere. If you're interested in the Iraq War's increasing the likelihood of terrorism, the eminent Peter Bergen and Alex Reynolds have a new article on this here. While this is a disasterous consequence of an ill-executed war and occupation, let's face it, the Yanks and the Brits should try to exterminate as many of the jihadists as possible. I think it's safe to say that the foreign Islamist fighters that have answered U.S. chumming are undeterrable. There is no choice but to destroy as many of these people as possible, before they can wield what they learned in Iraq throughout the Eurasian continent and on North American soil. Just because the Bush administration bungled all of this, doesn't preclude us from considering what effects this mismanagement will bring and how we will respond to it.

In the end, do I think the United States is imposing an imperial regime in Iraq? I sure do and it's a shame. I expect permanent military bases to secure Iraqi oil for the long haul. This is wrong, but it will be better for Iraqis in the end because however horrible we may be, we're nowhere as bad as Hussein. Furthermore, we, the American people, especially the left, have the ultimate responsibility in ensuring we don't stay a minute longer than we have to. If all this sounds like I'm fudging the issue, then so be it. If we leave Iraq to the jihadists, then we are doing a worse disservice to the Iraqis then when we refused to go into Baghdad a little over a decade before.

We've created two monsters for the Iraqi people over the last half-century. We've dealt with one, now it's time to deal with the other.