Monday, October 03, 2005

A Conservative Argument for Leaving Iraq

Conservatives have long been known for arguing the perils of the welfare state. An over-emphasis on welfare programs, conservatives (and many liberals) argue, leads to a culture of dependency that discourages private or personal investment while erecting inefficient and entrenched bureaucracies that feed off of ever-more taxpayer dollars. Why would anyone work, conservatives ask, when the government will pay them not to? Indeed, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have both issued reports in recent months that explicitly acknowledge the negative affects of too much government welfare.

It has been common over the last many years for Americans to question whether the U.S.' strong security role in Europe, and particularly Germany, has perhaps caused it to take its security for granted. Headlines such as, "Shorter Work Weeks in Europe Subsidized by U.S. Taxpayers", have not been unheard of. Some of these often-jaded articles have even made some poignant points.

As a strong economic conservative then, I ask, might the “welfare affects principle” not also apply to U.S. subsidized security in Iraq?

The Bush Administration has consistently stressed that we must "stay the course" in Iraq, and has repeatedly refused to set a timeline for withdrawal. (Although, any astute spectator recognizes Bush’s long-held goal of ending this war on his watch. Why let someone else take the credit for it?) The President has also raised the point that a total withdrawal is in no one’s best interest. For the sake of argument though, let us put aside arguments for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq at current levels and allow me to put forth a few generalizations based solely on the welfare argument.

First, security in Iraq is overwhelmingly an American burden. For many of Iraq’s leaders, this permits them the leniency to be concerned with security only so far as it affects their own security, or their grip on power. Indeed, for leaders such as Muqtada Al Sadr, who thrive on anti-American or strict nationalist sentiment, the serious difficulty that Coalition Forces have maintaining security only provides fodder for their cannons. In those cases, the U.S. is not only largely subsidizing the security for those officials, but is also absolving them of any personal responsibility for the security situation while making their political case for them. Muqtada al Sadr could not be more pleased with the U.S. inability to provide immediate and unchallenged security for the Iraqi people.

This brings us to our next point. Shouldering the overwhelming burden of security, in terms of personnel, equipment, and funding, allows Iraq's politicians to criticize the situation without necessarily having to provide solutions themselves. Were Coalition Forces not present to take all of the blame however, the Iraqi people's discontent over the security situation would be directed instead at the Iraqi officials whom they elected into office for the very purpose of providing a more secure, stable, and prosperous Iraq. There is much cause to believe that this would be the case.

In a recent poll, the majority of Iraqis said that they feel that attacks on Coalition Forces are justified, but that attacks on Iraqis – civilian or otherwise - are not. This presents a strong case for the argument that, if Coalition Forces were not so available for target practice, insurgent attacks would either subside or be more frequently directed at Iraqis and at the critical infrastructure that average Iraqis so depend upon. If we draw our conclusions from the polls then, Iraq's insurgents will find Iraq an increasingly hostile environment to operate in with U.S. troops gone or diminished in numbers, and their legitimacy might wane quickly.

The same goes for the terrorists and foreign fighters that are pouring across Iraq’s borders to wage their jihad on Coalition Forces and innocent Iraqis. There is no telling how many foreign fighters travel to Iraq only to attack Coalition Forces, but it is very likely the majority of them. Meanwhile, the CIA and other bodies have stated frankly that Iraq has become the new training ground for terrorists from around the world, breeding a new generation of battle-hardened and often brain-washed terrorists looking for a free trip to the Land of the 40 Virgins at the expense of even one U.S. soldier or Iraqi Shiite: the preferred targets; infidels all. How many foreigners might be less inclined to cross the border into the terrorist training ground of Iraq though were U.S. forces not so present? That is not a question that anyone can answer, but it certainly stands to reason that the draw would be less significant and the numbers would dwindle. Of course, they would not stop coming altogether.

There are already strong signs that foreign terrorists are becoming increasingly disliked by native Iraqis. Recently, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi issued a fatwa declaring all-out war against Shiites. The significance of this fatwa did not seem to resonate with the foreign press though. Extremist Sunnis such as Zarqawi and Bin Laden who espouse the Salafist doctrine of Sunni Islam have in fact been waging war against the Shiites since the death of the Prophet Mohammad. This crucial history though has been all but buried since 9/11 though. Also largely unnoticed has been the ongoing split between Iraq's native insurgents and Zarqawi's terrorists.

Following Zarqawi’s fatwa, dozens of Iraq’s Sunni leaders came out to express their solidarity with their Shiite brethren. Iraq’s Sunni insurgent groups also instantly rejected Zarqawi’s barbaric plea. Just as important were the recent events in the Iraq-Syrian border town of Al Qaim. Zarqawi and his henchmen had raided and pillaged the border town and began enforcing their extremist version of Islam on the town’s people, forcing many of its residents to flee. The Albu Mahal tribe did not run though - they fought back. Unfortunately, their bravery was in vein. Those resisting the thugs were practically slaughtered, and Zarqawi's terrorists made examples of them by abducting and brutalizing the tribe's men, women, and children, beheading many. This was meant to be a warning to Iraqis not to oppose AQI, but instead it has caused a number of tribes with strong ties to the Albu Mahal tribe to seek out a local alliance against Zarqawi and his thugs.

The split between native Iraqis and AQI has been broiling beneath the surface for some time and U.S. forces have been somewhat slow to exploit it. The presence of U.S. forces, it could be argued, has in fact provided cover for AQI to continue its campaign of indiscriminate slaughter unhindered, not to mention providing many local insurgents an excuse to ally with the likes of Zarqawi. After all, how much motivation would local Iraqis have to oppose AQI when they too are opposed to the presence of U.S. forces? That motivation has always been there - AQI has consistently targeted innocent Iraqis - but it has generally been secondary to the desire to expel U.S. forces from Iraq. It could be argued then that a decreased U.S. presence in Iraq would force AQI's indiscriminate slaughter of civilians to the front pages of Iraq's newly independent press and help to solidify the split between native Iraqis and foreign terrorists. This seems very plausible. Iraqis, who are extremely nationalistic, would likely then put pressure on the Iraqi government to expel the terrorists, or else do the job themselves.

Lastly, requiring the Iraqi government to more fully fund its own security would give Iraqi officials a much greater stake in ensuring that the money is being spent effectively and efficiently. As the Iraqi government takes on more responsibility for the needs of its people, its government agencies will be forced to compete for more finite monetary resources. This would force the Iraqi government to better prioritize its spending and funnel more money into the areas where it is needed most: security, infrastructure, and basic nutritional and medical needs.

Certainly, there are many lines of argument to be considered here, and a full and immediate withdrawal is obviously not advisable. The immediate rebuttal to this welfare argument is that even most conservatives agree that welfare is necessary to help those who truly cannot help themselves. Iraqi forces though are not entirely incapable of providing security, nor are they perhaps fully capable of doing so. The truth undoubtedly lies somewhere in the middle. On the other hand, Saddam managed to secure his nation into complete and utter submission, even with a rag-tag military degraded by a decade of economic sanctions. So it may not be all that foolish to suggest that Iraqi forces may be capable of surviving a decreased U.S. presence in Iraq. So how might U.S. forces being to wean Iraq off of U.S. security? “Softly, softly”, the Brits might say.

While maintaining some semblance of security in which the fledgling democracy in Iraq can continue to build, it may be advisable to at least decrease the U.S. footprint in Iraq's major cities or in other areas. Perhaps U.S. forces might do well to shift their security focus to Iraq’s critical infrastructure, the majority of which remains unguarded to this day. There are a number of possibilities, all of which have their down-sides, and all of which are undoubtedly already being considered by high-level officials. When or how such a plan will or should be implemented is another question for another day.

America has finally provided the Iraqi people with a democratic infrastructure that allows them greater power to determine what its government does and when it does it. There will come a time when the U.S. would do best to give the Iraqis the opportunity to exercise that power to force their government to provide security for them, instead of allowing the U.S. to shoulder the burden and blame while many of Iraq's leaders are permitted to remain complacent without retribution.


At Thursday, October 06, 2005 10:26:00 PM, Blogger OSAPian said...

Truly outstanding post. Keep up the good work.

At Thursday, October 13, 2005 3:57:00 PM, Anonymous Djaughe said...

Great blog site.

I have a question - I'm not an expert on how arabic word processing works...but I'm troubled that the latest letter to zarqawi has the numbers in english and not scripted in that common?


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