Somewhere on A1A...

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Then What???
I’m not feeling great about the war today. The taxi suicide bombing coupled with the alleged American mistreatment of an Israeli journalist are signs that are making me worry. The combination of the two events is focusing my mind on our relationship with Israel making me afraid of the post-war situation. Overthrowing Saddam will not automatically make the Arab world see America as the good guys.

If things go perfectly, and the Saddam regime is completely and utterly defeated, it will be possible to bring democracy to Iraq. But for democracy to flourish, the people have to experience, and know freedom FIRST. Our history in Japan and Germany, where we STILL have a large presence after 50 years, shows us that it is NOT a quick and easy process. Simply setting up elections leaving will change nothing.

Even if things go very well, in the absolute best case, we will need a significant presence in Iraq for at least a generation. Many Iraqis will accept it and thrive with it, many others will reject it. and will fight to get the Americans to leave the region. But that’s only inside Iraq. Some in the Arab world will also accept it and many more will not.

The surrounding Arab states, and Iran, are not going to welcome a free, democratic, pluralistic, tolerant nation which will threaten their centuries old way of life. Just as they keep the palestinians stirred up and fueled for the Arab terrorist war with Israel, so will they keep some Iraqis stirred up and fueled for an Arab terrorist war against America and its presence in, or “occupation” of Iraq. You can even throw the same UN organizations into the post-war mix so they can support the Arabs the same way they do in Israel. There will be plenty of enemies, and they will be hard to distinguish from friends and by-standers. The surrounding states, who have no interest in a free and democratic Iraq, will support those enemies and make it at least as painful as they make things for the IDF in Israel.

We are not being prepared for that possibility.

The Arab world’s biggest complaint about American foreign policy is our support of Israel. Their second biggest complaint is that we act like a bully, forcing our will on others. We’re ignoring them. Our support for Israel is strong and, more importantly RIGHT, and we are about to “force” democratic reform, American Style, into their back yards. Our only hope to accomplish it relatively painlessly, is that the overthrow of Saddam miraculously makes the Arabs see us as heroes and liberators and not as imperialist conquerors. Any bets on what our friends in Saudi Arabia and Egypt will say or what Iran will say?

Today, our forces are facing the same kinds of attacks from Arabs that the IDF encounters every day. We are waging war by our moral standards which the enemy ignores and sees as a weakness. Our troops are being exposed to heightened danger because of the ruthless nature of the regime we are going to destroy. But that ruthless regime can disappear but the ruthless aspects of the culture that accepted it will still exist.

Saddam’s pattern of lies and terror against his own people is only different from Arafat’s in its scale. The culture that lets those despots thrive is the same in Baghdad as it is in Gaza. The culture that lies to itself about battlefield victories in Syria and Egypt in 1948 and 1967 is the same culture that lies to itself in Iraq today and makes Al Jezeera such a huge success. The culture that cheers the execution of Americans and the desecration of their bodies in Baghdad is the same culture that cheers and celebrates the execution of Israeli policemen nad the sesecration of their bodies in Ramallah. It’s the same culture that produced women ululating and children celebrating in the streets about the Arab attacks in America on September 11. It’s the culture that encourages its youth to blow themselves up in the name of their god, and to shoot toddlers in the head in their own beds. It’s a culture vastly different from ours and from Germany’s or Japan’s when we helped them to democratize.

Germany, had lived under an authoritarian regime but they were still “western” and largely Christian and had centuries of living as Germanic people. Japan had made enemies of all of their neighbors and maintained themselves as a separate culture for centuries. Iraq, on the other hand, like its neighbors, is a modern creation borne of western conquest with arbitrary borders drawn to reward a few tribal leaders. The culture is largely indistinguishable from its neighbors, and only tiny Kuwait bears any animosity… and even that is only for Saddam’s regime. It will be extremely difficult to encourage and support western style pluralistic, tolerant democracy in the middle of an Arab world that doesn’t want it, and doesn’t want America there.

The Arabs have been fighting Israel since its creation. Even before 1948 they fought against a Jewish presence. What makes anyone think that they will treat an American presence in their midst any differently. The sad and dangerous part is that it doesn’t take many people to make life extremely difficult. The Arabs won’t have to create a babylonian people to focus attention. There are enough ruthless Arab organizations existing in Syria, Lebanon, Judea, Samaria, Gaza, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia that will happily recruit in Iraq and keep terrorists stirred up and fueled in a war to kick the Americans out.

I’m not feeling great about the war today because I don’t see anyone even trying to prepare us for what is ahead. Are we going to do it right or are we going to cut and run? We are about to experience first hand the terrorism that Israelis live with every day. The difference is, we can, leave Iraq if it gets too difficult. Unless we are better prepared for what is likely ahead, I’m afraid we won’t have the will to do it right.


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