Iraq Comes Full Circle

Time to stop trying to fix the unfixable.

The current stunning military victories of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) over Iraqi forces said to be fifteen times larger, as horrific as it is for Iraqis, has created little more than yet another partisan furore on this side of the world.  The left blames the whole mess on Mr. Bush for not leaving Iraq in the hands of the slightly-less-murderous Saddam Hussein; the right blames Mr. Obama for wilfully giving up what our soldiers achieved at vast cost in blood and treasure.  Ordinary citizens on both sides of the aisle are worried that, no matter what happens, they'll end up paying the price as they always pay.

They're probably right, but it doesn't need to be that way.

Mr. Bush Was Wrong...

First, we have to point out what is now obvious to virtually everyone: Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq was a Bad Idea.

We have, in point of fact, achieved nothing worthwhile, at a vast cost in American wealth, lives, and credibility.  The current country of Iraq, even what's left of it, is in no sense an American ally; it's closer to being an ally of our sworn enemies in Iran, in no small part because Iran has sent soldiers to help defend against ISIS whereas we're only offering yet more military hardware that Iraq clearly has no clue how to use effecively.

Why have we reached this point?  Because George W. Bush failed to learn the true lesson of Vietnam: America is perfectly capable of winning wars but only when that victory can be fully, 100% completely achieved, including a stable settlement, within the time in office of the president who gets us into it.  America has no patience for wars that last any longer than that.

Unfortunately for Iraq and the world, Osama bin Laden and his successors learned that lesson full well.  They know they have only to hang on for a few more years, and eventually the United States will get tired and go home.  We did in Iraq and are doing so in Afghanistan, with the dire results that a child could have predicted.

...But For the Right Reasons

Does this mean that we now join the leftist chorus decrying Mr. Bush as the Worst President Ever, and that we repudiate our former support for his wars?

No - because he started them for good reasons, and they actually accomplished something worthwhile though not what he'd hoped they would.

There were many true and valid reasons given for why we needed to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - 9-11, Saddam Hussein's assassination attempt against George HW Bush, his use of chemical weapons against his own people and desire to get more of whatever sort he could - but there's one unifying theme that Mr. Bush repeated early and often:

I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom.

- President George W. Bush

The left love to chant "Bush lied, thousands died!" but nobody believes this particular statement was a lie.  George Bush was, and is, a good man, who believed in the fundamental equality of all people and, in general terms, that we're all the same under the skin.

Unfortunately, he was wrong.  Totally, fundamentally, absolutely wrong.  Thanks to his Iraq War, the entire world ought to know this now, in a way we perhaps didn't before, because we have now seen what happens when Muslims are granted freedom: they use it to kidnap and sell young girls in the name of Allah, they murder everyone else they can get their hands on, and they put in place the most corrupt, barbaric, intolerant despots they can find.

To be fair, Islamic revolutions are far from the only ones that end in a bloodbath of terror; it took hundreds of years for Western culture, and then Eastern, to reach a point where their people were prepared to handle self-governance.  But we must deal with the world we have: today, right now, the tribes of Islam are incapable of governing themselves, and anyone who grants them that opportunity will simply make the world a more dangerous and bloodthirsty place.

This shouldn't be entirely surprising.  One hundred years ago, Winston Churchill made this trenchant observation about Islam:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries: improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.  A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity.  The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.  No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.  Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.  It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step, and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) has vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

 - Sir Winston Churchill in The River of War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan

Nothing has happened in the last century to suggest that he was mistaken, except that in the Last Lion's own homeland, you can now be arrested for reading his words in public.  Nobody ever mistook George W Bush for the reincarnation of Churchill, so being a hundred years late in catching up with him is no great surprise.

Thanks to "Bush's war," there is no longer any excuse: Mr. Bush gave the Muslim world freedom and we've seen they aren't ready for it.  No need to make that mistake again, at least not for a few more centuries at minimum.

Henry Kissinger: Right, For Once

Which brings us to the one guy who had the right idea all along: the infamous Henry Kissinger.  Throughout the entire half-century of America's relations with Iraq, Secretary Kissinger is the only individual of note we can think of who's ever said anything about it that was not only correct, but if it had been listened to would have made the world a better place:

It is a pity they can't both lose.

 - Henry Kissinger, during the Iran-Iraq War

Henry wouldn't be Kissinger without still being wrong even when he was right, though: in point of fact, it is perfectly possible for both sides to lose, and most modern wars have ultimately ended this way.  England "won" World War I but lost an entire generation of young men and the heart of what made England England.  When they again "won" World War II, they lost the empire that made them what they were and, now, England is something that Queen Victoria wouldn't even recognize.  The Communist Viet-Cong won the Vietnam War but today Vietnam is an irrelevant, poor, and not even particularly Communist country.  The Nationalist Chinese lost the Chinese Civil War, but for many years their final redoubt of Taiwan was far wealthier than the mainland.  Although the Chinese mainland today is far wealthier and more powerful than Taiwan, it too is only marginally communist; Chairman Mao wouldn't really consider that a victory at all.

So, due to a black comedy of errors and after wasting money and lives we can ill afford, we find the Middle East in much the same situation as it was in the 1980s: enmeshed in a bloodily growing war between two noxious, barbaric sides unworthy of any of our sympathy.  What's not to like?

For once we stand foursquare with the peaceniks: We need to Stay The Heck Out.

We also stand with MSNBC: President Obama, have a great time playing golf.  Somebody please send him a list of other great courses he has yet to experience.

But think of all the poor Iraqi women and children!  Yes, think of them - if they die they die, and if they don't die they'll be oppressed by the medieval tyranny of Islam.  Either way it's not our problem and we need to mind our own business: what, exactly, are we supposed to do to improve their lot in life that hasn't already been tried and failed miserably?

There is one small exception: there are reports that Iraqi citizens are volunteering to defend their own towns, and the Kurds have already taken action to secure their own borders.  That is worthy of respect, and really is the only way that stable nations can be built.

If citizens of a nation don't think it's worth the cost of their lives to preserve it, no power on earth can keep it whole.  If citizens will put their own lives on the line for the sake of their country, that means they think they have a country, and they might eventually be proved right.

So by all means let's sell weapons to the Kurds and to the rump state of Iraq, so long as it's cash-on-the-barrelhead and nothing too fancy for them to use correctly.  Yet again, Mr. Obama has proved one more area in which Mr. Bush was right: if the jihadi barbarians are fighting over there, they won't be fighting over here.  Let's keep it that way.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
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