Monday, January 31, 2005

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

I am cautiously optimistic about the Iraqi elections. I would rate it a successful first step, while realizing that for it to be a complete success we need to see how Sunday’s events play out over the next few years. As I see it:

The good:
- It’s the first time in something like 50 years that the Iraqis have had the chance to do this.
- If we do end up pulling out of Iraq, the success of this election could make it less likely they would turn toward an Islamic fundamentalist form of government.
- The fact that there was such a high voter turnout (despite violence) suggests that future elections may also be successful, as this one appears to have been.
- Other Middle Eastern countries might sit up and take notice. If some do, and if they decide to have free elections by their own choice, then I will say this election was definintely a success.
- There was not nearly the amount of violence there could have been. A lot of voters came out to vote, while it seemed as if a lot of the terrorists stayed home.

Approach with caution:
- This successful election is not an end-all. There are more elections to be held; this is only the first in a series… but it is a good first step.
- When US voters elected Lincoln in 1860, it fractured our country. Civil war ensued. If certain Iraqi groups feel disenfranchised, it could happen in Iraq too. I think that part of “restoring order” in Iraq will be to do our best to make sure the various factions feel represented.
- Even though it was less (and thankfully less) than expected, there was still violence.
- Most of the terrorists may have stayed at home Sunday, but that doesn't mean they aren't still in Iraq and in other places around the world.
- We are still occupying Iraq, and it still doesn't look like the troops will be home any time soon.

Nonetheless: I rarely say this, but I think AT LEAST SOME kudos are in order to the Bush administration. However, I think MOST of the kudos shouldn’t go to Bush himself, or to Rummy or Wolfie et al, but rather to our TROOPS for making the Iraqi election possible. (Same goes for capturing Saddam Hussein. We shouldn't forget it wasn't Dubya or the GOP that caught Saddam, it was our troops.) It’s one thing to have an idea, but the people in the trenches are the ones who carry it out. To the administration, I say "I think 'free elections in Iraq' is one of the few good ideas you have had... but thanks." To the troops, I say “GOOD JOB!”

It will be interesting to see what the new Iraqi “government” is like, and how soon it will tell us to get our troops out of Iraq, if it does. It will also be fun to see whether or not the Bush administration uses the success of this election and the success of the upcoming ones to say “Let’s pull our troops out of Iraq” as the pressure mounts at home for withdrawal and as his approval ratings decline. Successful elections there could provide him and his buddies with a "safety valve" of sorts.

I doubt that Bush and the neoconservatives actually want to pull out of Iraq, given the permanent military bases we are building there and given the fact that Iraq is right next to Iran, Bush's probable next target… but if they feel a need to use their spin machine about this, it will give them a way to say “We have pulled our troops out of Iraq” while at the same time leaving plenty of US troops there to man the new military bases. And the American people will be fooled yet again.

I still don’t like the fact that our troops are in a war for which the reasons for our troops being there have been changed seemingly every time the administration is questioned about the last reason it gave for invading Iraq… I think far too many people have died during the last several years to get the situation to where it is today. I also feel badly that Sunday's Iraqi election was part of an ongoing "nation-building" process, in which the US is involved. Bush said he wouldn't engage us in nation-building, yet here we are.

Just the same, by making this election relatively successful, I am happy that the US military has given Iraqis some things to be happy about in the midst of all the uncertainty. After what they've been through during the last few decades, I think they deserve at least that much.

14 Comments:

Blogger Damien said...

Yep credit to the American, Iraqi troops (and relevent others) , and to the voters, especially the turn outs in Fallujah (man those folk get my cajones of the week award).

Hopefully the exit strategy has some kind of clarity to it now. I'd consider it the very first public victory by the yankee hordes in Iraq. Good show old chap.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Damien... thanks. How could I forget the Iraqis themselves? Thanks to THEM for going to the polls and getting free elections in their country off to a good start! The fact that so many of them were so anxious to try something new, even in the face of danger, is probably the most important factor in the election being successful.

3:18 PM  
Blogger RBP said...

I believe this first round of elections was a success for the Bush administration. It seems like the very long learning curve these guys are on is finally catching up with them. These elections were planned and carried out much better than the planning for the invasion. Our troops provided the stability and the Iraqi's provided the determination and there was plenty of courage to go around.

Since Wednesday is the State of the Union address, I want to ask a question: If the president in any of his previous speeches had said, "Even though there are no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, it is of vital national interest to overthrow Saddam Hussein and hold free elections there." Do you think the American people would have went along with the invasion?
Democracy, elections are great, and they are in our national interest. For that matter, setting up a stable democracy anywhere it does not already exist is in the US interest. So are we now to set up democracies in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? The answer of course is no, because our vital interest in the Middle East is not democracy but the stability and the availability of the vast resources there. Oil.
I agree, the oil is important to our economic and national security interest, but we need to be told that. The American people need to be given the facts before our troops are killed and maimed and billions of dollars are spent. We need the facts.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Damien said...

Your on the ball man.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

There is not going to be support enough from the republicans for Bush to take any direct military action against Iran, Syria, etc. It would take some type of major action on their part to give us a reason to 'react'.

As for Saudi, I believe that it has been part of the plan all along to secure Iraq so that we have a steady source of oil to allow us to confront Saudi about their support of terrorists.

As for giving us 'the facts', why would you want this to occur? When the gov't tells the citizens it's plans, it also tells our enemies, who use this information against us. While there needs to be some openness, we need to keep some of this information secret.

9:51 AM  
Blogger RBP said...

Nobody's asking for the war plans here, or for a list of the targets to be bombed.
The American people have a right to know:
A. What country(s) are a threat to our vital national interest.

B. What the nature of that threat is.

C. What steps are being taken to alleviate that threat.

D. What the cost, both in terms of loss of life and monetarily, of such steps will be.

None of these things happened BEFORE we invaded Iraq.
We were lied to by the administration about the nature of the threat. And we were lied to about what it would cost.
And as for confronting Saudi Arabia, you got to be out of your f****** mind.
The Saudi's have there own Islamist extremist problem to deal with. Al qaida hates the Saudi royal family more than they hate America. As a matter of fact, the main reason they hate us, is because of our support in propping up the House of Saud. Not to mention our support of Isreal. The only thing we will confront them on is how many barrels of oil they can spit out to stabilize the price. The Saudis are good lapdogs. They know who their daddy is. This is what got Saddam in trouble. He quit taking orders from Washington.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

RBP,

I think you are missing that if the gov't tells us who the threat is, what the nature of the threat is, and how they plan to prevent it, they greatly tip our hand to these very people. On the other hand, if they don't know that we know what they are planning, this will affect their planning. Hell, they may spend time trying to figure out what we are doing. As for the cost, have you ever attempted to estimate the cost of a project? This is not something that is cut and dry. How could the gov't possibly predict how many people would be killed?

I doubt that the administration lied to us about the WMD. They would have known that the truth would come out, and that there would be hell to pay. Given the choice between incompetence and deceit, I don't know how all of Bush's critics claim that he is lying. I thought he wasn't smart enough to create such a plan.

As for the Saud family, they have been playing both sides of the fence for years, attempting to stay in power. However, with our dependence on Saudi oil, we can't play hardball with them about their funding terrorist. With the Iraq oil supply under our control, we would be able to. However, it is only a matter of time before an islamic state is established there too.

7:56 PM  
Blogger RBP said...

Phil,

In a free and open society the government is required to "tip it's hand" to the very people who fund it. If they don't, then how as voters are we to hold people accountable at the ballot box. Allowing the government to conduct secret wars, or provide false pretenses to indvade other countries is not the kind of democracy I believe in. And I don't believe in conducting an undefined, unending war against an unrecognizable foe. There can be no victory in this type of war, for if we can't define the enemy then how can we know he is defeated? Also, if our war aims are continually changing, as they are in Iraq, then how are we to decide what constitutes victory. In other words what is "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. Is it the ouster of the regime? Is it the capture of Saddam? Is it holding free elections? Is it protecting us from terror? Is it protecting us from WMD proliferation?

The administration has never provided a straight answer as to it's true motives for invading Iraq because it has never had to. We all agreed Saddam Hussien was a bad guy. And no one was sad to see him go. But toppling Saddam was never the stated reason for the invasion. The reasons had to do, according to the White House, with the threat to our nations security. They wanted you to believe there was a link between Saddam and 9/11. They wanted you to believe that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and nerve gas, and was preparing to use them against us. They wanted you to believe all this because the actual reason wouldn't have played very well at home. Going in and securing the oil fields first, while the museums were looted and chaos insued in the streets should be enough of a dead give away for most people as to the true intentions of Operation Iraqi Liberation. Otherwise known as O.I.L. People don't want to believe that there government could be so cynical. They want to think of there government as protecting them, not lying to them.
I want to believe that. But the facts just don't bear this out.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

I think if Iraq were to have a genuine democracy, then islamic fundamentalism would be a high probability. After all, we went over there and invaded their country, murdered innocent civilians, and have been sucking their oil out for profiteering western oil companies. I doubt that has endeared us to a lot of people. If they are voting, it is probably because they want us to leave as soon as possible.

I mean, think how you would feel if the chinese came over and invaded New York, destroyed half our nation's infrastructure in the name of democracy in order to remove the evil dictator Bush from the White House. After all, he cheated in Ohio and elsewhere.

Then these chinese liberators for "freedom" offered us fresh elections, in which a large section of the country couldn't vote anyway because of instability of rebel groups (maybe some of our state militia groups) who would oppose the chinese here to save us from ourselves.

And how ingrateful of us to not appreciate them coming over to help. Of course, we're a little confuse because they are now directing the fuel from the Alaska pipeline to Beijing. Also the gas and oil reserves from Texs seem to be being shipped abroad, while we must wait in line for 3 hours to fuel our cars and pay $5 per gallon at the pump. But how kind of them to liberate us from Bush. After all, I have never liked Bush. And Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Perle and Rove and Cheney. I don't like any of them. But did I really want the chinese intervening that way?

12:56 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

RBP,

No they don't. Never have. Never will. We are not a democracy. We are a republic. Major difference. The administration is held accountable to the various oversight committees.

It is probably a good thing that you didn't choice the military as a career. You seem to have problems with change. In the ranks, it changes, and you just accept it. (So what that you had plans to go to Paris for the weekend, you are going to be walking a flightline for 12 hours a day during a NATO exercise. Get over it.)

Besides Grenada, can you name any war that has gone as originally predicted. I have spent a few hours watching the History Channel, and didn't see any special where the war plan was followed exactly. Just like life, the battlefield changes.

As for the WMD, I will post this again (maybe I should just link this answer, I'm getting tired of righting it). Most everyone admits that Iraq had WMD at one point in time (apparently we gave them to him). So, this leaves a few logical options. First, the WMD were destroyed, either in battle or after. Second, the WMD was all used up. Third, that the WMD was given to someone to remove from the country. Fourth, the WMD was buried in the ground. And Fifth, the WMD was disassembled. We have no concrete evidence of which of these possibilities occurred. But Bush claimed that they were there.

This leads to two possibilities: First, Bush knew they were gone, and lied to us about the WMD. Second, Bush thought they were there, and didn't know they were gone. This means that Bush is either a liar, or incompetent.

I find it funny that a group of people that have spent years saying that Bush was an idiot would choice that he came up with this lie and elaporate coverage, instead of just saying that he was a dullared, and should have known.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

To address Phil's points:

Is the USA a democracy or a republic?
From www.m-w.com , the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

Democracy
Main Entry: de·moc·ra·cy
Pronunciation: di-'mä-kr&-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
Etymology: Middle French democratie, from Late Latin democratia, from Greek dEmokratia, from dEmos + -kratia -cracy
1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2 : a political unit that has a democratic government
3 capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the U.S.
4 : the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
5 : the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges


Republic
Main Entry: re·pub·lic
Pronunciation: ri-'p&-blik
Function: noun
Etymology: French république, from Middle French republique, from Latin respublica, from res thing, wealth + publica, feminine of publicus public -- more at REAL, PUBLIC
1 a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government c : a usually specified republican government of a political unit
2 : a body of persons freely engaged in a specified activity
3 : a constituent political and territorial unit of the former nations of Czechoslovakia, the U.S.S.R., or Yugoslavia

Looking at those definitions, they look pretty similar, although I would say Phil is correct that the USA is not a democracy... particularly in view of "the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges" in a democracy.

So, why does Bush speak of spreading "democracy" instead of helping nations become republics? Why would Republicans not want our nation to be a democracy? Would that take away "hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges"?

Liar or Dullard:
Hmmm... given the choice as to whether Bush is a liar or a dullard, I would have to choose "both"! 8-)>
Although to be a good liar, I would guess one has to have at least a few smarts, so if he's a liar... that could partially cancel the dullard factor. I don't think he is necessarily an idiot, so I think maybe "liar" is the more appropriate answer. Then again, when the word "incompetent" comes into play, I think that word could include both prevarication and stupidity. In any event, I don't feel comfortable with someone who is either a liar or a dullard (or incompetent) in charge of the military and its uses.

Finally, which oversight committees are currently holding the administration accountable? It seems there aren't any of them doing their jobs lately. If that is so, it may mean we are not only not a democracy, but also not a republic. What would that then make us? A dictatorship? Not that I would suggest that... it is a term thrown around a lot by angry lefties, but... I do have to wonder sometimes when it seems the White House just does as it pleases, with nobody from either side of the political aisle stepping in to say "Hey, wait a minute... you can't do that!"

Thinking further about the question of lack of adequate controls over the current White House bunch, I decided to look up a couple of other terms that get tossed about. Mind you, these are simply for thought fodder:

Main Entry: fas·cism
Pronunciation: 'fa-"shi-z&m also 'fa-"si-
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian fascismo, from fascio bundle, fasces, group, from Latin fascis bundle & fasces fasces
1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

Main Entry: dic·ta·tor·ship
Pronunciation: dik-'tA-t&r-"ship, 'dik-"
Function: noun
1 : the office of dictator
2 : autocratic rule, control, or leadership
3 a : a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique b : a government organization or group in which absolute power is so concentrated c : a despotic state

2:16 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

If I were forced to make a choice at gunpoint (or if not)I think I would have to go along with "dictatorship" over "fascism", due to this portion of the definition of "dictatorship":

"3 a : a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique b : a government organization or group in which absolute power is so concentrated." The "small clique" is the part that convinces me "dictatorship" would be more correct than "fascism".

Although the following parts of the "fascism" definition may ring true among some folks:

Fascism "exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition."

I don't think so on the part about race, but the nationalism (not patriotism) we saw in the USA from the right wing after 9-11 leads me to believe the part about exalting "nation... above the individual" could ring true to an extent. There are people on both sides of the political divide who would like regimented social behavior, as witnessed by efforts to ban abortion by the right, or the left's attempts to ban smoking. And all Republicans don't want an autocratic, centralized government. just the powerful ones do. One could make arguments for either side wanting to forcibly oppress the other, but I have to go with the Bush folks getting more into this. Bush's comment (on purpose or just a "slip-up") of "There ought to be limits to freedom" is very revealing.

So, based on all of the above, I would say we not necessarily a democracy, not a fascist nation, and probably mostly a republic, but a republic that is showing some signs of becoming as much like a dictatorship as a republic. Whew!

Phil, you got me going again!! 8-)>

2:30 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Finally, for good measure as much as for self-defense:

Main Entry: na·tion·al·ism
Pronunciation: 'nash-n&-"li-z&m, 'na-sh&-n&l-"i-z&m
Function: noun
: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups

Main Entry: pa·tri·ot·ism
Pronunciation: 'pA-trE-&-"ti-z&m, chiefly British 'pa-
Function: noun
: love for or devotion to one's country

I was probably slightly off-base when I said that a lot of what we saw from the right in the times after 9-11 was nationalism and not patriotism. I apologize for suggesting they might not love their country or be devoted to it, because many are.

I do think it would be safe to say that there was a fair amount of both patriotism and nationalism in the aftermath of 9-11, but that if anything has grown out of that time, I think it is mostly a tendency toward nationalism. Our foreign policy seems to (more than ever) be one of "placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups". To me, that's what the whole State of the Union seemed to be about. Love and devotion for the United States didn't seem to be expressed as much as nationalistic fervor.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I had a running debate with a professor back in college about whether we were a democracy or republic. After I found evidence that showed we were more of a republic than democracy, he started calling us a democratic republic. But he could never give a good explanation of the difference. To me, a democracy is where policy decisions are made by the people, and a republic has elected officials with the power to make policy decisions. The US has some public input, but in general the elected officials and bureaucracy makes policy.

I'm surprised you didn't bring up theocracy. But I guess Bush just wants to be a preacher.

7:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

RichardDawkins.net