While continued American military involvement in Iraq, in particular, and in the Near & Middle Easts, in general, has been continuously losing popular support with each passing month; there is fairly general agreement that it would be a very bad thing, were America to be seen as having sustained a military defeat in Iraq. We would agree that such a military defeat is not acceptable. However, that really is not the issue facing American Foreign Policy makers today.
A solution to the dilemma in Iraq must start with a clear understanding of the functions and attributes of the human factors--the "players." A good place to begin analysis of function and attribute may be with reference to an historic exchange--little recognized as such--which took place in the early 1960s. That a dramatic exchange of views with historic significance was involved, went largely unnoticed at the time, as there was a year between the stating of a proposed functional reassessment and the clear answer, which responded to the previous proposition in general terms, rather than with specific reference to any particular proponent.
In 1961, President Kennedy--whose Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, advocated the same cultural meddling to promote Democracy in distant lands that President Bush suggested again in his Second Inaugural Address--was sworn in as President of the United States. That same year, Kennedy spoke to the Corps of Cadets at West Point, to suggest a changing role for the modern soldier. Without ever mentioning Kennedy by name, General Douglas MacArthur addressed the Corps on May 12, 1962, and put matters back into a timeless perspective:
through all this welter of change and development your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment; but you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country.
Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds. But serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war guardians, as its lifeguards from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiators in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.
Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government: Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as firm and complete as they should be.
These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a tenfold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.
The American Armed Forces have twice performed that mission with respect to Iraq (in 1991 and 2003); in each instance, with dispatch and very low casualties. The problem, today, has little to do with military function; and the perception of failure flows directly from serious confusion, on the civilian side, of both the functions and attributes of those involved in what is fast becoming an ongoing disaster. Toput the matter into graphic perspective: Over 90% of the military casualties have occurred after the successful conquest of Iraq, after destruction of a hostile Government. We do not have a clear break down of the other costs of our continued presence, but the post conquest dollar price in Iraq has clearly exceeded that of the actual war by a significant multiple. Yet neither the terrible physical casualties, nor the budget busting price of a continued occupation may be the greatest cost in the long run.
The conversion of significant numbers of the U.S. Military into what is tantamount to a Police force, drawing hostile fire to patrol an alien land; not to exact tribute, benefit or anything traditionally associated with conquest, but to further a poorly conceived civilian project in social engineering; raises unaddressed questions of crucial importance. The worst effect from a perception of military defeat in a far off land, may not be in any immediate threat to American homelands. There is no conceivable way that any of the factions fighting us in Iraq could attack an America effectively on guard. [That, of course, implies a rational Government that would protect its coast and borders against infiltration; something we do not have at the moment.] The worst effect from a perception of defeat in Iraq would be to the morale of the Armed Forces. And in the long run, that could definitely endanger the American homelands.
Yet even a modicum of success in social engineering could itself undermine military morale in the Armed Forces. Young men do not volunteer to put their lives on the line, by serving in their nation's Armed Forces, to experiment with alien cultures. There is an immense difference between the military mind and that of a typical sociologist. Indeed, it is arguable that there is no way, from a military standpoint, there can be "victory," in the way in which the current Bush Administration seeks to define it. Examples of a warping of once clear function are so extreme as to approach a "theatre of the absurd." Consider the Marine Corps, for an obvious instance. As the name indicates, "Marines" are connected with the sea. They were the Navy's traditional ground forces, converted into a separate branch of the Armed Forces after World War II. They travel on Navy ships, establish beachheads, seize and secure ports.
While Marine excellence in combat has frequently earned them extended duty on the ground, after establishing a beachhead; the idea of using such highly trained warriors, not to seize coastal areas in furtherance of American interests, but to patrol an inland desert to draw guerrilla fire, ought to raise many questions even in Washington. The one, most relevant to our point, is how long this can continue without effecting a change in the quality & spirit of future recruits.
Of course, what should be yet more obvious: Even a modicum of success in social engineering by the U.S. Military--that is a temporary appearance of success for the Administration in claiming to establish a functional "Democracy" in Iraq--would, itself, almost inevitably contain the seeds of ultimate failure. If Iraq were ever to embrace anything remotely resembling forms which, correctly or incorrectly, have been associated with Nations described as "Western Democracies," it is certainly not likely to come from a misuse of the American Military.
The first example of actual Democracy that comes to mind is the Athenian, basically limited to a single ethnic group--hardly the demographics of Iraq! Neither resident aliens nor bondsmen were allowed to participate. In modern times, the best example is Switzerland, where individual responsibility for all aspects of the social order, is paramount. While the United States were specifically declared not to be Democracies, our States certainly had long periods, when they illustrated how popular Governments could work. Yet here, as in Switzerland, the key was always personal responsibility.
French aid, particularly in the arrival of a well manned French fleet at the key moment at Yorktown, played a major factor in the success of the American Revolution. But consider the situation, had the French remained after the British surrender, to help establish the newly independent States! Historic estimates are that the Colonists were fairly evenly divided: One third, favoring independence; one third loyal to the British Hanoverian line; one third, merely spectators as the events unfolded. Under such circumstances, there was considerable doubt how well--or for how long--the new political structures, being created, would stand. Will any rational person suggest that those prospects would have been improved by a French occupation?
There are two transcendent reasons to reject the idea of any such dependence. Obviously, an effort to establish workable political independence among a group of diverse States, with only about one third of the populations actively supporting the idea, was not going to be enhanced by simply transferring dependence to another distant power! Developing the necessary sense of responsibility--and comfort with that sense--would have been ill served by such a transfer. Secondly, the pro-independence group would immediately lose what popularity they had, as friction developed between the personnel of the occupying power and the general population. This would be particularly true, where the cultural differences between such new occupying power and the native population were actually substantially greater than those between that population and the rejected former rulers.
Both of these factors are even more clearly relevant with respect to the current situation in Iraq. The "defeat" that the Administration would avoid, is no likely achievement of our enemies. It would be wholly the result of a tangent, on which our Government has embarked, which has no relationship to any reasoned military objective.
Obviously, having conquered Iraq with comparative ease--after earlier driving the Iraqis from Kuwait, with even fewer casualties--the lesson must be pretty clear as to our military capability. The way to restore credibility is to speak from that proven capacity--not to outline goals, inherently demeaning to others;--to state what we have demonstrated that we can do, if necessary--not to proclaim objectives, actually at variance with our own traditional values.
The first point, then, is that we could exit Iraq shortly, yet return to reconquer if and when a hostile new Government, that seriously threatened our rightful interests, should come to power. The clear lesson from two Gulf Wars is that such reconquest would involve substantially lower cost than we incur in continuing the present occupation. Secondly, a continued occupation can undermine any Iraqi sense of responsibility for their own affairs, as well as almost certainly increasing potential danger to our friends, once we finally do pull out. (We suspect that the present Iraqi leadership have already given serious consideration to demanding an American pull out at such moment, if ever, when they believe that their forces are stronger than those of their identifiable or prospective domestic adversaries.)
The major problem, both for the United States and our Iraqi friends, is our Administration's proclaimed intention to change the cultures of other nations. A people's culture develops from the unique personalities of those interacting in the social affairs of their communities. While there may be parallels to those of other peoples--similarity, in many regards, to the cultural nuances of other nations--the differences cannot be simply attributed to chance events. It is true that chance events may cause a particular twist or turn in an evolving dynamic; but it should never be assumed that the idiosyncrasies of a people do not reflect their inherent natural characteristics. Thus, Anglo-Saxon settlers, over hundreds of years, on five alien continents, under a wide variety of different circumstances and conditions, retained greater cultural similarity to one another, than to those they settled nearby. One can make the same observation about many other racial and ethnic groups.
Reference has been made to the remarkable achievement of General Douglas MacArthur, in apparently modifying major aspects of Japanese culture, during the military Governorship that followed that Nation's surrender in 1945. The alleged phenomena involved, there, would only be useful in any other context, if that other context clearly involved comparable factors. There is no place in the Near or Middle East, where there is even a suggestion of the key factors in 1945 Japan.
Unlike the vast and angry cultural and ethnic diversity in Iraq, the Japanese are one of the most homogeneous peoples on earth. Basically, they respect one another. In 1945, the Emperor was both the spiritual and temporal leader of Japan. His agreement, part of the surrender protocols after the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities, required Japanese acceptance of the MacArthur directed reform. Thus, while MacArthur oversaw the operations, it was in large measure a case of the recognized Japanese leadership adjusting their political society as part of an ongoing cultural dynamic. In this context, earlier self-imposed political and social modifications, adopted between 1867 and 1872, which had led to the modernization of Japan from 16th Century technology to a major Twentieth Century power in little more than a generation, must be kept in mind. The Japanese were used to following their leader in adapting to new situations.
Almost as significant, to understanding Japan, would be the very high I.Q. of the average Japanese. To comprehend relevance to the notion that you might be able to define victory in Iraq into something comparable to MacArthur's success in Japan, consider the fact that the gap between the mean Japanese I.Q. and the mean Iraqi I.Q. is substantially wider than that between American Caucasians and Mexican Mestizos. The Japanese, both before and after MacArthur succeeded in converting them into a major ally, while restoring public participation in their Government, were far better educated, far more used to a middle class culture. The effort of some proponents of a sociological experiment in Iraq, to compare their project in cultural manipulation with the 1945 to 1950 achievements of General MacArthur, working closely with the spiritual leader of the Japanese people, is beyond absurd. The image of Iraqis, in many cases directed to the polls with voting instructions from contending gurus, exiting with dyed fingers, offers not the slightest indication that Iraq will ever have the potential to emulate Japan.
This does not mean that victory is unobtainable. What we need to do is to stop defining victory in terms of egalitarian fantasy. Both the Executive and Legislative branches of our Federal Government need to drop the rhetoric of confused ideologues; to recognize the difference between military objectives and academic pipe dreams. General MacArthur defined military objectives in the address quoted. The use of the American military to engage in social engineering--for what else is an attempt to change a nation's culture--is a misuse of the military, not a new standard for determining victory. In Japan, MacArthur carried out the terms of a military surrender. Nothing that followed the surrender on the Battleship Missouri was part of an ongoing war; and no amount of American sacrifice will change the diverse peoples of Iraq into anything equivalent to a Japanese Nation.
We need to make a decision--the sooner the better--as to the proper role of Foreign Policy. Then, we must reassess all options; utilizing actual assets as opposed to the wish lists of ideological quacks. Our primary asset, in the Near or Middle East, is indeed the fact that in actual war, we were able to trounce the Iraqi forces in two quick and comparatively easy victories. The very emphasis on our role in what has followed, is itself a serious distraction, which confuses an appreciation of that first essential fact. Not only does it dim proper recollection of our actual strength, it deepens the impression, not only in the region, but across much of the World, that we have now embarked on our own ideological meddling in other people's affairs; thus accomplishing two very bad objectives: A diminution of our military credibility, at the same time that we increase the level of anti-American resentment.
While an immediate withdrawal from Iraq may not be desirable, either from the standpoint of appearance or regional stability; certain common sense steps can still be taken to hasten the day when we can withdraw, with honor and credibility intact. First, we would urge the basic and relevant concepts in an essay we wrote in the fall of 2001 on how the War On Terror should be fought (below). Then we would suggest an immediate shifting of our role on the ground in Iraq, away from policing the streets and desserts to one of protecting the borders and our own bases. Let the Iraqis take over the streets and desserts. If the Iraqi Government is not able to do this, it does not have a level of support to survive. On the other hand, if there is any force in the country, hostile to the United States, capable of overthrowing the present Government, we could sally forth from those bases, with the same result as in the first two Iraqi wars.
However, an essential question in such a scenario, would be the level of hostility to the United States. It is not consistent with the principles of our traditional Foreign Policy, that we involve ourselves in other nation's civil wars, absent a compelling interest of the American people--such as the need to keep a strategic area from falling into the hands of a world-wide Communist menace, as in Viet Nam.
The benefit in making it clear that we are not trying to dictate the outcome between contending forces in Iraq, absent something that directly threatens American interests, is that it, in itself, tends to re-redefine our objectives back to the traditional. And, in that process, we can make it very clear, that our problem in the Islamic World, is that we will not allow ourselves to be attacked! We have a proud history in that regard, from Jefferson's lesson to the Barbary Pirates in 1801, of punishing insult, yet not meddling with any people's Faith or culture. (Jefferson, you may remember, sent warships with Marines to protect our shipping off Tripoli; engaged, they seized a Pirate cruiser, inflicting heavy casualties with no losses of our own. Then, assuming the lesson learned--and Congress not having authorized more than defense--he returned the blood-soaked ship to the local Bey.)
Restoring credibility in Iraq is also important for dealing with Iran. It would obviously be pure folly to get drawn into an attack on Iran--indeed, one suspects that the truculence of the Iranian Government may actually reflect a desire, on the part of one faction, to provoke something on our part to inflame the entire Islamic world, perhaps giving the Shiite sect an edge over their more numerous rivals in other lands. Yet they are well aware that if they were to attack us, we have the means to respond swiftly, to defeat any standing army in the region. This gives us a tremendous psychological advantage--if we simply withdraw the foolish rhetoric that suggests a claimed right to cultural interference. (Why inflame a people's pride--indeed, their very self-respect--when all we really desire from them is that they leave us alone?!)
The Baker/Hamilton study recommended that America enter into constructive dialogue with Iran on regional issues. We have no clear idea why the Bush Administration has been so reluctant to do so, but just today, there is indication that that may be changing. Admittedly, had we been around in 1933, we would have criticized Franklin Roosevelt for recognizing Soviet Russia. We would have been wrong! While FDR betrayed our most sacred principles by bringing known Marxists into an American Government, it made no sense to deny the distasteful reality that Stalin's Government was firmly in control of the former Russian Empire. We lamented Nixon's recognition of Red China in 1973; and we were wrong. While that was no reason to lessen ties with the Nationalist Government on Taiwan; there was no question that the Red Chinese were in firm control of the Chinese mainland--and had been for 24 years. It served no American interest to continue to pretend otherwise.
The Islamic Government has now been in control of Iran for 28 years. While we had great respect for the late Shah, overthrown by the present Government, and wish our old friends still in control; we accomplish nothing by pretending that the present Government does not speak for contemporary Iran. Moreover, by continuing to insult them, over 26 years after the Hostage Crisis ended--note the wide difference between disagreement and insult--we reduce our potential influence there to a nullity. Were we to sit down with them to work out details for protecting the Iraqi border from meddlesome incursions from their territory, we would be in a much stronger position. Iran has surely observed our military capabilities--as demonstrated in two quick victories over Iraq. By removing incentives to reckless anger, derived from an unnecessarily wounded pride, we free them from a perceived need to strut in a way that clearly endangers their own self-interest. It would cost us nothing but abandonment of an improper desire to meddle in the internal affairs of other peoples, to invite a normalization of relations. Iran was not part of the Al Qaeda attack on America. Their own dogmatism is part of a rival fundamentalist movement. We lose nothing in the fight against Al Qaeda by talking to them without the Administration's preconditions. The fact that James Baker, whose handling of Foreign Policy during the first Gulf War achieved cooperation from virtually all of Iraq's neighbors, urges such a course, is also persuasive.
If such measures did not rapidly lead to a stabilization of the situation facing the present Government in Iraq, within manageable parameters; we would need to invite both that Government and any tribal, sectarian or regional leaders, not presently involved in trying to make that Government work, to a new conference. There, all options could be on the table; the essential point--from our standpoint--being that they (the various local factions) must make decisions with the clear understanding that we are neither going to police nor subsidize what they decide upon. That if the factions have no common loyalty, then the artificial "nation" that was Iraq may need to be divided into parts, where the remaining populations have a common identity--a common sense of purpose--a common personality, as it were, enabling the bulk of the people to work together in their own self-interest.
Finally, we need to stop subsidizing day to day life in Iraq. We are making them dependent, rather than helping them develop independence and personal responsibility. As for modernization of facilities; they have expected oil revenues, which may be borrowed against. It is absurd that the United States are going deeper into debt to do for the Iraqis what they obviously need to do for themselves. In the same category, morally and pragmatically, is the question of policing the streets and dessert. Yet, apart from the obvious, returning to questions of victory or defeat: For America to be pouring countless billions into a country that we have already defeated, is perhaps the single most confusing aspect of our pursuit of "victory." Yes, we have done it before. It may have made sense during the Cold War, when we were trying to win support from populations actively wooed by our Communist enemy. But the situation, here, is radically different. Al Qaeda is not appealing to Iraqis on the basis of claims that Capitalism has failed them; rather that America is corrupting them. The Administration's combination of misunderstood largesse with ideological sloganeering is a very expensive demonstration of confused purpose.
The Soviet Union collapsed when promoting an ideological agenda as foreign policy became too expensive. While free enterprise has given us a greater capacity--greater resources--for waste; they are not unlimited. Rome collapsed when it lost its ethnic (national) purpose, in outreach after outreach. At the end, it has been estimated that less than 10% of its forces were ethnic Romans. They had in fact, lost almost all sense of whom they were. In meddling with the internal affairs of others, in embracing dogma at every level--from immigration policies, to foreign policy, to domestic policies on a host of concerns--accepting the notion that we are all alike and should have common institutions--we are losing a sense of whom we are. It is in this ideological quagmire, that we have also lost a sense of how you win a war.
Do we believe that either the Administration or Congressional leadership are part of a diabolic plot to destroy America? No! What we witness may be a product of stupidity or confusion, cupidity or opportunism--depending upon the particular individual involved. In an overwhelming majority of cases, it does not amount to actual treason, as defined in our Constitution. Some of the players really are sincere. Some may believe they are serving American interests. Some may even think that they are "Conservatives." Yet both major parties have fallen into a form of compulsion driven "tunnel vision" that is pathological!
There is a genuine tragedy unfolding in the West, with what should have been a still youthful, vibrant and resourceful America at the center. To some of our regular visitors, we may be beginning to sound like the proverbial "broken record." Yet you would not come back, if you did not believe that our analysis had some validity. And the evidence is overwhelming that the same egalitarian fallacies underlie almost all of the major problems that beset us.
Granted the degree of causation varies with the problem; but the tragedy lies in the failure of our political leadership, on all sides, to even contemplate the possibility that most contemporary public policies are based upon hopelessly flawed assumptions. Why is it so hard to grasp that no two of us are completely alike; nor two races, tribes or nations! Yet, grasping & analyzing reality is the role of reason; and most of our political "leaders" are driven by compulsion. As we demonstrated, Clinton/Bush Era, the second Bush Administration, while claiming to be Conservative, applied the same flawed assumptions to predicting human nature or behavior, as did that of Clinton. Just what did they seek to preserve? To preserve institutions, you must understand the realities on which they were based. In recent years, there has been very little of such understanding in Washington.
In every great tragedy, there are elements of irony. The ultimate irony here is that while the same flawed "leaders" expend lives and treasure vainly trying to remake other peoples' cultures; by applying the same flawed assumptions to our immigration policy, they are rapidly changing America, almost beyond recognition. By embracing dogma to ignore all factors that make other men unique, they undermine the very qualities that they claim to honor in America. May God help our children, if we do not find a way to stop them!