Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Five Years is not a Long Time
to Establish a Stable Government

Iraq was the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason. So goes a hackneyed phrase from a few years ago. We can disagree on whether attacking Iraq and taking down Saddam Hussein was warranted or not, and some will cling to the argument that “Bush lied, people died,” and that the administration manipulated intelligence to show that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the war.

But this view is contradicted by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Silberman-Robb Commission. Not only did every significant intelligence agency in the world believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but the Duelfer report created after the invasion concluded that he maintained the capability to produce them on short notice. Furthermore, it said there was abundant evidence of contact between Saddam’s regime and terrorist groups, including al-Qaida. Given Saddam’s hostility to the United States and his defiance of multiple United Nations resolutions, American leaders had every reason to believe he posed a grave threat. Removing him removed the threat.

Furthermore, there is an important factor concerning Saddam Hussein himself. The Left assumes that because no WMD were found Saddam would not have used them if he had them. They put the focus on WMD, not Saddam Hussein. But this idea flies in the face of history: Saddam used WMD against the Kurds not so many years before the war.

When you look back to the situation at the time, Saddam Hussein was hostile toward the U.S. and possessed the capability to produce and the inclination to use chemical and biological weapons.

But that is all water over the dam, and as my son often says, we have to “live in the now,” and the “now” is that we are in Iraq, have made a huge investment in that country in military personnel, lives and money, and are well on the way toward establishing a stable, democratic government in a part of the world where democracy and personal freedom are not only rare, but are looked upon with disdain by the dictatorial rulers that control much of the Middle East.

The troop surge has worked pretty well, despite Barack Obama’s silly refusal to admit it, and things are definitely moving in the right direction. No serious person would assert that establishing a stable democratic government in the Middle East is undesirable.

But the American people have become an impatient lot; we have been taught through decades of relative ease to expect instant gratification, and when things don’t fit our expectations, some of us lose our will. After five years in Iraq our patience is waning, and some are ready to admit defeat.

But historically the United States is more resilient than that. Following the unprovoked Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor we went to war against the Nazis and the Japanese and defeated them. In the ‘60s, we put men on the Moon. And following the vicious attacks of 9-11, just seven short years ago, we roared with one loud defiant voice, and declared war on terrorism. What has happened to our sense of perspective and our national character since then?

While there are those who always opposed the war on principle, many critics of the Iraq war are recent converts who are largely motivated by their dislike of George Bush. Their Monday morning quarterbacking benefits from 20-20 hindsight. But if you read history you know that war is not predictable, and that serious mistakes have been made in every war, so far.

Why should “Bush’s War” be any different, unless Bush is super-human? So, Bush hatred, impatience, and perhaps a lack of historic perspective combine to show that many Americans mistakenly expect the evolution of a stable government in Iraq to occur in a few short years. Certainly, they say, five years is plenty of time. But it is far more complicated than that.

The passage of several years between escaping an oppressive ruler and establishing a stable, democratic government has at least one very strong precedent. The United States declared its independence in 1776, and our country was formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation. That took five years, just like Iraq has so far. But the Founders’ first attempt failed. The Articles did not work very well, so they went back to the drawing board and created the Constitution of the United States in a contentious and lengthy process.

By the time all was said and done, 13 years had elapsed between declaring independence and the final establishment of a governmental form stable enough to survive.

It took a few years more to see that the new government was, indeed, solid and dependable.

For some reason, many of us expect things to move faster in Iraq, with all its attendant difficulties, than when the United States was formed, and some are ready to throw in the towel in Iraq after just five years. But that isn’t long enough, and we need to stay in Iraq and finish the job.

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