Friday, August 8, 2014

Back in Iraq

You have to feel for the President. Just when he finally extricates the U.S. from out disastrous war in Iraq, along come the would-be caliphs of ISIS, slaughtering Christians, Yazidis and Shi'ites and threatening our friends in Kurdistan. All around him, a chorus of "We have to do something!" bursts out. Yet in his other ear he hears a nagging whisper, the people in the peace institutes saying, "Every bomb recruits more extremists."

I don't know what I would do, at this point. I'm disappointed in the Kurds; I thought we could rely on them to preserve their own island of stability, but it seems that they won't stand up to ISIS any more than the Iraqi government will. The Kurds are already very well armed, so if they still won't fight there isn't much we can do to help them.

I'm not going to protest American airstrikes; as I said, the President is in an awful position, and things in Iraq are bad. But the long-term lesson seems clear to me: war is not the way to peace. Stirring up violence usually only leads to more violence, and we should stay far away from half-baked revolutions and stop meddling in other people's civil wars. ISIS is our own creation, the natural result of the violent policies we have pursued in the Middle East since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and of our alliance of convenience with Sunni fanatics in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. We brought them into being. I cannot decide whether that means it is now our job to stop them, or whether the whole story shows that our meddling will always only make things worse.


G. Verloren said...

The entire reason we left Saddam in power for decades (and quietly sold him chemical weapons on the side) was that despite being a megalomaniacal murderous tyrant, he was reasonably predictable and controllable in a region of immense geopolitical instability.

He could have been easily deposed long ago during the Gulf War, but the major nations of the world realized that removing the local dicatator was simply asking for trouble, via the creation of a power vacuum. Simply put, no one wanted to spend the resources and suffer the losses necessary to keep the peace and stabilize the area themselves, which is why everyone was happy leaving Saddam in charge so he could do it for them.

Decades later, here we are in the same situation, except now the only people willing and able to fill the power vacuum are somehow even worse than Saddam ever was - at least in terms of political expediency. We've traded a delusional military egoist and his corrupt regime for straight up insane religious zealots.

Where before we could count on the Husseins to keep (highly relative) calm in the region purely because it was in their best interest to do so, now we've got literal madmen who don't operate based on rational thought and even semi-practical concerns and needs, but almost purely on extremist religious rhetoric that doesn't just have a supreme disregard for reality, but rather an active and virulent disdain for it.

This is the very definition of taking things from bad, to worse, and it was entirely and utterly predictable - indeed, a great many intelligent people DID predict it, vocally and eloquently. But the hysteria of the first decade of the new millenia was too strong to counterbalance - the cultural fear frenzy that drove America into an unwinnable war in Afghanistan had so much inertia that it drove us into a second unwinnable war in Iraq - except this time, we didn't even have a half-convincing alibi for it.

"Weapons of Mass Destruction" was a phrase thrown around a lot at the time, which is darkly hilarious because we'd previously sold those exact kinds of weapon to Saddam to use in a campaign of extermination against the Kurds. We'd never given a damn before - so why now? Even at the time, the public openly speculated it was just a ploy, with the real goal being claiming strategic oil reserves, but at this point who can say anymore? Everything went to hell, and America stopped wanting to hear about it on the news, so we just kept shipping young people overseas to fight and die while the nation as a whole actively ignored the entire fiasco.

There is no winning solution at this point. The situation is unsalvageable. We created a mess we're unwilling to clean up, and which we're desperately trying to sucker someone else into handling - but no one seems stupid enough to listen to ol' Tom Sawyer singing the sublime joys of whitewashing a picket fence.

At this point, we may well just have to let the region collapse into chaos and prepare for the worst. We've handed a loaded gun to a bunch of radical zealots, and only time will tell who they choose to turn it on, and when.

Death Breath said...

The whole thing is ludicrous. The presidential system never had the answer. Either we totally annihilate the opposition and kill lots of people that aren't affiliated with them, or, we stay out of the country. I don't believe we have any right to decide what another populace does on their own soil. If extremists want to kill all the other non extremists, let them. If they don't, let them not. We clearly constantly over step our boundaries by trying to stop some threat or another. If it spills onto our soil, we deal with it. No more protecting our foreign interests and not our local ones. This is the dumbest debate in the history of U.S. politics. If there where a way to stop it, I'd flip that switch.

Furthermore, when nature photographers witness poor defenseless animals being attacked by other stronger animals, they don't intervene. They let it happen. We should take a page from that book. How in the world did 'Would you want it to happen to you?' ever become a question posed? If it was on our soil, which the police state we're becoming kind of is, we should try to take it out ourselves. We wouldn't call France and ask for help.