Friday, March 21, 2003

I've just reread Arthur Fleischman of Untold Millions' reply to my post of last week. To start near the end:

David makes good points when he argues that peaceful means are often more effective (and more desirable) than military action. It is important that we commit ourselves to maximizing their benefits. But he has yet to offer convincing arguments that they, alone, are enough to reach our objectives in Iraq (and beyond). Likewise, his aversion to injuring the wounded dignity of our enemy is a fine sentiment...but one he may ultimately have to sacrifice to necessity. Today's terrible reality will ruthlessly tear away our delusions too.

Although I opposed the invasion of Iraq, it was not because I saw a clear path towards a democratic and peaceful Iraq without any violence. Nor was it because I am a pacifist. I'm not. If world peace could be created simply by our refusing to fight under any circumstances, I would consider peace not so much an art as a science - or perhaps more a simple one step process then a science. I call my blog the Art of Peace for almost the opposite reason - because I believe world peace will require endless creativity, innovation, and will to understand, and because I believe that when we begin to understand the outlines of what is necessary, they may be difficult, but will also posess an even greater beauty than Sun Tsu's Art of War. No, I opposed it because I did not hear any serious planning as to how we could create a democracy from several groups that having been killing each other for a long time, and because I fear it could be all too easy for us to fall into the trap of empire, spending more and more blood and money to maintain an empire which we regret having started, but cannot abandon.

There have been blood and chaos in Iraq for many years. Some will blame it on Western civilization and the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, but the truth is before we jammed together three Ottoman provinces into one bloody Iraq, there were problems. When the Persians and the Turks alternatively conquered certain places, they would each kill natives of the other nationality (Turks supporting killing Shia's and Persians [now Iranians] supporting killing Sunni's). The group currently favored was glad to have revenge taken by their liberators. Nobody ever said 'No revenge for us thanks, we're all presenting a united front from now on, but congradulations on your latest conquest'.

Perhaps you'll want to triumphantly seize this evidence that they really are irrational - but then we must be prepared for them to react as irrationally to our occupation as to anything else. Only now we're responsible for it. We can't apologize and go away, since things may actually be worse then they were before we entered. Of course, I'm hoping desperately I'm wrong, I just wanted to make the real reasons for my opposition to the invasion clear. I'll tell you the truth, if we do build a prosperous democracy in Iraq, it will be a more amazing achievement than the Marshall Plan. Call me an incurable optimist, but I believe it's possible, even though I opposed betting the farm on it. I wrote about some of the reasons it would be so difficult a couple of posts before this one, but other people have written more and better. If we succeed, it will be an amazing physical, intellectual, and spiritual achievement. I don't believe my own suggestion for helping to create peace and prosperity in the middle east is easy or sure, just that the obstacles and risks were somewhat preferable to the course we are now embarked upon.

This discussion seems to have branched out, but the original starting point was 'Why They Hate Us'. You suggested that they had told us the answer simply and clearly - they believe Islam demands Jihad, and this is what they believe Jihad means. If you are right, we are in big trouble. How do you propose to solve it? Do you believe a bloodless conquest will change their minds? Do you believe most of them believe in that sort of Jihad, but not enough to die for it, so that we can intimidate even those not in Iraq by a show of great but restrained force? Even George Bush believes we must now seek to understand the root causes. His answer is lack of democracy, and I actually think he's got a big chunk of the problem identified, especially when you consider how closely many of the other things we talk about are associated with democracy. If women can vote, they can support reformers.

Bush and I both seem to partially agree about the causes. Although encouraging an undemocratic government to liberalize with economic incentives is extremely tricky, I would have chosen it over what we must now undertake. Perhaps even a United States military occupation of the West Bank and gaza strip to help build a democracy there would have been easier than Iraq.

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