September 09, 2004
Hypocrisy in Iraq
If you're interested in reading a very cogent, well-informed, negative view of the situation we are now in in Iraq, this article in Foreign Affairs is good reading.
A main point is that we have never supplied anything remotely like the security force necessary to provide stability. And without a basis of stability and rule of law which people could rely on to live their lives in safety and order, our objectives for Iraq seem to be becoming less and less achievable.
Through more manpower, we could have provided stability, and most Iraqis, who just want a decent lives for themselves and their families, would (arguably) have remained as grateful for our presence as most seemed to be in the hours immediately after Saddam's fall. That is, we could have given them a better life than they had under Saddam. But instead, through a lack of committing resources, we allowed chaos to ensue, and their lives were therefore not better than they were under Saddam; in fact, for those who did not have friends or family members who had been tortured or murdered by Saddam's security apparatus, their lives were generally worse.
So of course there was, and is, resentment of Americans and the pro-American government the coalition installed.
The Foreign Affairs article points out that this is a different situation than in postwar Germany and Japan, when the necessary security was provided. It is also different from Bosnia: if Iraq had the same ratio of troops to population as was supplied by NATO in Bosnia, there would be 500,000 troops in Iraq.
I'm saying all this as someone who is fundamentally a supporter of the war. But I am not a supporter of ousting Saddam and then making a choice not to provide the resources needed to make a success of the resulting situation.
In effect we did what the administration mockingly accuses Kerry of: supporting the war and then refusing to provide the necessary resources. (I'm referring to the Bush campaign's take on Kerry's $87 billion vote, the one that was the subject of his frequently-heard statement "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Actually, Kerry is correct: he voted for it as part of a bill that would also have raised taxes to pay for it, and then registered a "protest vote" against the version that did pass, knowing full well that there was an overwhelming majority in favor. That is, his protest vote did not place the bill at risk. I am confident that he would have voted for it both times if it had mattered.)
We could have provided the necessary level of security in Iraq. We chose, and continue to choose, not to. Probably because the Bush administration thought, and thinks, that it would have been too politically unpopular to commit that level of resources. But you can't have it both ways -- you can't start a war, and then not commit the resources precedent has shown are needed to successfully follow through.
The only thing I can say in defense of the administration's minimal-security approach is that many observers had also been quite adamant that they had not committed the resources necessary to win the war in the first place. Those critics were proven to be completely wrong about that, so perhaps from the administration's point of view it was not unreasonable to assume that real security could be provided on-the-cheap too.
But in that case, surely there is ample data now, and in fact there was after a couple of weeks, indicating that much more manpower is needed. And it isn't being supplied.
For a president who presents himself as the only candidate with the courage of his convictions, then it is downright hypocritical if he is not supplying the needed resources for reasons of political popularity.