As regular readers of this column – both of them – will recall, I was opposed to the Iraq war. Not because I foresaw that it would become a bloody quagmire; I did not. In fact, it’s surprising how few people did. Hindsight is 20-20, but surely the breakup of Yugoslavia should have showed us something. Admittedly, the very people who were tasked with planning for the outcome were lying their asses off to promote the war, but I’m still surprised how few people foresaw what actually happened. I guess no one took truly breathtaking incompetence into account.
But, as I say, I did not oppose the war because of I knew what would happen. I opposed it because it was clear, crystal clear, that the president and his coterie were lying, lying again, and lying some more in order to give themselves a war. I still don’t know exactly why. But there was at the time blatantly no justification for it. No weapons of mass destruction, no threat to America or the West. If you thought there was, you are fucking stupid. I hope you’ve learned.
Of course, stating that their was no justification for it is a statement that takes as given the fact that war is terrible. That there is a human cost to war, and that there is a very high bar which must be crossed in order to justify that cost.
I’m not referring here to the American casualties. Frankly, they’re tiny. Three thousand some-odd men killed, twenty thousand wounded, over four years; not to in any way diminish the anguish of the people whose family those men and women are, but that’s a pittance, for war. Were those the only casualties, this war might have been worth it.
But they’re not. Iraq has become a killing ground, and as always in war it’s the civilians in the war zone who get the worst of it. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant; the Iraqis were poorly off under his leadership. But there are more murderous tyrants, the stopping of whom would have been easier (e.g. Sudan). And is overthrowing tyrants truly our business? Was the overthrow of this particular dictator worth the costs that war brings?
Only if you are ignorant of war.
It startles me sometimes, how men educated in military history can remain vocal supporters of military solutions. There is a role, an irreplaceable role, for military solutions, but it should be a last resort, not a first one. The glory of war is something best experienced through the lens of the past, not something we should work to bring about.
Of course, all of that sort of military historian are conservatives, and thus lacking in human empathy. They can appreciate the violence and the dominance of war; but the motherless children are never their problem.
So, you know where I stand. That said:
Pulling out of Iraq is a mistake.
Staying there, as we are now, is also a mistake. We don’t have enough men to secure the country; and we can do no lasting good if the country is insecure. Leaving entirely would be preferable to staying the course.
It would also be a mistake.
This is an occupation we need to win. The negative consequences of leaving with our tail between our legs will haunt us for generations to come. The positive consequences of stabilizing Iraq – and Afghanistan! – would benefit us for even longer.
Winning will require more troops. Many more. So many troops that it will require a draft.
A million men. We should draft a million men, and use them to secure every corner of that medium-small country. Far less than that will be necessary to do the same for Afghanistan, a nation twice as large but much more welcoming to us. A million men for two years, at least. Until the expectation will be of stability, the institutions will be in place, the Iraqis will be able to police themselves. A million men for two years, half that for four, half again for eight, and out in ten.
This will, of course, not happen.
We’re going to leave with our tail between our legs. And the country will collapse. And standing up to the U.S. will seem easy to do. And standing with the U.S… well, it’s already morally dubious, given our predilection for invading countries on a whim. But if we leave, we’re not just bullies, we’re bullies who can’t stay the course. Maybe China has what it takes to see things out. Maybe they’re a better ally.
As I say, leaving is better than what we’re doing now. Failure for free is better than very expensive failure, on a long installment plan. But morally… we broke it, and it’s our responsibility to fix it. That’s where I stand.
One other thing. This bullshit the Republican propagandists keep spinning about “well, then you give us a plan”… what utter garbage. The first, most important element of any successful plan is to have competent people enact it. No plan for Iraq will work unless the first item is: 1) Replace American leadership. God himself could hand down a way to reach a stable, prosperous country on golden tablets and George Bush and his administration would fuck that plan up. No exaggeration, they would. They’ve proven that, again and again.
So there’s your plan for victory in Iraq, Mr. President. Go the hell back to Crawford and let the grownups take charge.
- Sun Ra
Columns by Sun Ra