Thursday, January 27, 2005

Criteria for success: America's efforts in Iraq and the Middle East

I am often at a loss as to what to think about our progress in Iraq, and in a larger sense, the middle east. One the one hand, the media repeatedly tells us of what we have not accomplished, what continued fearsome dangers our efforts currently face, and the precariousness of any future for which we might hope. On the other hand, if you listen to some of the public policy gurus up in Washington, it seems that our mission of establishing Iraq's government is just around the corner, the firstfruits being the upcoming elections.

This begs an important question. What are the criteria for "success" in our efforts in the middle east? By what methods can we establish measurement of progress? What sorts of goals are reasonable to expect to attain in the next, say, three to five years? What remains only a distant prospect for change decades or more downstream from us?

I found some helpful thoughts in a recent article of First Things, a journal of theology and public policy:

"In these pages, we have adumbrated in a thousand different ways why politics is in largest part dependent upon culture, and why culture is the product of a morality and meaning most deeply grounded in religion. On all these scores, the Islamic world is grievously impoverished. That does not mean Islamic nations are not capable of democracy. It does mean democracy will require deep and difficult transformations not just in politics but, much more importantly, in culture, morality, and religion. That almost certainly will not happen in the foreseeable future, and nobody should suggest that the success of American policy depends upon its happening. "

That was a most welcome breath of clarity. The article goes on to list a variety of possibilities for which to hope:

Success in Iraq is, in no small part, having removed the regime of Saddam Hussein, thus ending the monstrous rule of a systematic perpetrator of crimes against humanity. Success is in demonstrating that America has the capacity and will to respond when attacked. In that connection, the final report of Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Study Group leaves little doubt in my mind that Saddam had the intention and, if America had dallied or left it to the UN, would have had the weaponry to dominate the Middle East and, in collusion with terrorist networks, inflict massive damage on America and the West. Finally, success will be if, three or thirty years from now, Afghanistan and Iraq have reasonably decent and stable governments, operating under something believably like the rule of law and generally respecting the civil rights of their citizens.

The segment of article in which all of this occurs is titled "Internationalisms" and goes on to lay out a number of the currently competing political options for our nation and its future interactions with the remainder of the world. All in all, I am indebted to Richard John Neuhaus for his thoughtful reflections on a decidedly confused and complex issue.

1 comment:

Gunslinger said...

Just today I got my weekly email from one of my friends who is over there now. He said that by in large, they are doing good, and the people welcome them and like having them there. Of course, as he put it, "Just remember that doom and gloom sell, not sunshine and fluffy bunnies." He did say that there are a lot of Iraqi citizens, innocents as he called them, who are being killed by poeople who want to hinder the progress of that country.

A few weeks ago, there was a 2 part special on the military channel called Delta Company (1 & 2) about a marine tank division pushing into bagdhad and laying down the law. After they did that, they ended up just sitting around for a few weeks waiting to do something. Something came in te form of escorting the new Iraqi police department out to do street patrol as "local cops" One of the officers interviewed put it best. "I am not to sure what the objective is here, or how it will be received. Two weeks ago we were shooting at these guys, now we are escorting them around. For years these police have been Saddam's enforcers, now we are their friends. This could be viewed badly by the citizens who like us." It was amazing to watch those cops operate. They would just manhandle witnesses (By manhandle I mean hitting them with sticks.) and be even meaner to potential suspects.

I am not too sure what to think of what is going on over there, except that it is long overdue. I view most radical muslim countries as the wold west of the world. But how do you bring a change to people who don't want it? These people have known nothing but fighting and killing their whole lives, and have had the hate America propaganda shoved down their throats since they were kids. How do you shove your way of thinking onto a society that isnt programed to think our way. In their minds, WE are wrong, and they are right. So why not leave them alone, to do thier own thing? Because you end up with a 9/11, or Pearl Harbor, or U.S.S. Cole, or even an Oklahoma city bombing. I am not sure what the answer is, but I can tell you for sure that I believe that the U.S. is right, and that in the end we will prevail. If nothing else than to stop terrorism, and give some people hope that they can live a better life.