Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Question 11: How Do We Know When the War is Over?

The eleventh and final question in our debate series on the War in Iraq and the War on Terrorism is a broad one. But it will be interesting to read everyone’s take on this:

How do we know when the War on Terror is over? How about Iraq? When do we bring the troops home?

This is the last question. Tomorrow I’ll post some final thoughts on what has been said and what I’ve learned. Thanks to all who’ve participated.

Question One: Why did we invade Iraq?

Question Two: Has the Iraq war set any precedents?

Question Three: Are we safer?

Question Four: Why do some think America is the enemy?

Question Five: Why are we so divided?

Question Six: Why do we use words like ‘Hitler’ and ‘unpatriotic’?

Question Seven: Can you oppose the war and still support the troops?

Question Eight: Why has there been a rise in democracy in the Mid East?

Question Nine: What’s the next step on the War on Terror?

Question Ten: Will we ever agree if Iraq was right or wrong?


At 12:28 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

How do we know when the War on Terror is over? How about Iraq? When do we bring the troops home? My Views: I think we will have a good idea that it’s over in Iraq when between ½ and ¾ of our troops are moved out of there. (Note that I didn’t say brought home… Questions about this could start a whole new series of questions.) As far as the overall war goes… This war is not like any another. It will just quietly fadeaway.

Now don’t get me wrong… There’s going to be a lot of kicking and bucking, screaming and hollering before we ever see this war winding down. I don’t think we will ever see any President, (it sure want be this one,) come out and have a great big news conference saying the war on terror is over. That’s just not going to happen. Instead, things will just slowly wind down and as I said, just quietly fadeaway.

I guess we’ll know this when there is no more news coverage on deaths by people blowing themselves and others up. When there’s no more news about car bombings, beheadings and the likes. And not to be left out, when all those anti-war people finally get to shut the hell up and too get off the world stage.

As far as the troops go… We can not get those brave men and women home soon enough. I’m just afraid that’s going to be many years off into an unforeseeable future. (Thanks to those at “The Yellow Line” for putting on this series of questions this last two weeks. It’s truly been interesting to see what others have had in mind on all of this.)

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

But I thought the war was over? I thought this was just an occupation now? I'm so confused. Didn't Bush tell us, "mission accomplished"?

But seriously. I'm no expert, but I don't even think the experts know. I have no idea when it will be over. It might be over when we start bringing troops home or it might still be going on long after we leave. We can't predict what will happen in such a volitile part of the world. Anyone who thinks they can is slightly naive.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

"We can't predict what will happen in such a volitile part of the world. Anyone who thinks they can is slightly naive."

True. But that hasn't stopped countless people from trying.

Let's start by admitting we are not in a War on Terror. We are in a war against Muslim fanaticism. Terror, as a tactic, isn't going away. There will be bombings and shootings and all manner of attacks by all manner militants from now until the end of time.

So, the question is, when do we know we've beaten the Muslim jihadists? I would say a good benchmark will be when the nations of Middle East are democratic. Democracies will have to rise while Muslim fanaticism fight back. But a successful rise in democracy would signal the defeat of those seeking to turn all the Middle East into a Caliphate.

That is probably a long time in coming. There is no magical way to create democracy in a country without it. Military force has produced one marginal success in Afghanistan and one "incomplete" in Iraq and has cost billions of our dollars and a great number of our citizens' lives.

But diplomatic force is terribly slow and can put a country in sticky situations. Do you support the corrupt regime that is considering opening up a few elections and can help root out terrorist leaders? Or do you support the insurgent party that may or may not have a violent streak and different ideas about what democracy is? Foreign relations often presents choices between the lesser of two evils. Or the choice of doing nothing at all.

But we can't do nothng. Muslim fanaticism is a clear and present threat to our nation. Sometimes I get the sense that some people want to do nothing. That's wrong. This is a real enemy.

Which, brings me to my conclusion. Thie War on Muslim Fanaticism won't end without a fight. If we are going to relieve our military of the burden, we have to fight on other fronts. Diplomatic. Economic. Theologic. And on.

It's not going to end anytime soon. But it has to end. There really is no other option.

As for Iraq, it'll be over either after a constitution is installed and a permanent govenrment is elected or within a year after the 2008 election. I think it either ends well under Bush or not so well with a Vietnam-syle withdrawl under our next President.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

The key words here are, “Unforeseeable Future.” Only God knows when it’s all going to end………..

At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Corey said...

I don't think there really is an end to the war on terror. Unfortunately, there will always be people in the world who think that violence and murder are acceptable ways force their point of view on others. So, by declaring a war on terror, I think what Bush has really done is simply state that if you are a nation/organization/individual who uses these tactics, the U.S. will consider you an enemy. He didn't have real expectations of ridding the world of every single terrorist, but wanted to make clear that we would stand against anybody who commits acts of terror.

As for the war in Iraq, that's quite a bit trickier. I don't think that the terrorism has to stop completely for the war to be over. Look at Isreal. They deal with terrorism on a very regular basis, but they are still a very functional, independent nation. So, I think that terrorist attacks could continue for years in Iraq, even after the war is over.

So, I think that a couple of things need to happen before we can start talking about an end to this war. 1) we need to start hearing about Iraqi forces winning more and more battles on their own against the insurgency 2) the Iraqi government declares that it is secure enough to request that the U.S. pull some troops out of the country.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Ted Carmichael said...

Alan said: Which, brings me to my conclusion. Thie War on Muslim Fanaticism won't end without a fight. If we are going to relieve our military of the burden, we have to fight on other fronts. Diplomatic. Economic. Theologic. And on.

I absolutely agree, Alan. Such fanaticism leads to instability and produces a climate that is ripe for violent upheavals. This, of course, is the Catch-22 of the Middle East, since instability itself is an absence of security, and feeds the beast of fanaticism even more.

Invasion certainly has it's place. Getting Iraq out of Kuwait and removing the Taliban are both instances that most Americans agreed on, and many in the Middle East accepted as well. The debate on the war in Iraq notwithstanding, installing democracy is a difficult process, and cannot be accomplished by war alone.

That last remark isn't a very controversial statement, but it does lead one to ask, "What does it take to plant democracy?" What is needed along with (or apart from, if you prefer) war? In a nutshell, it takes a tremendous amount of patience and a willingness to take the long view.

Our record over the last 50 years or so is not very good. For example, by overthrowing the democratic - but socialist - government of Iran in 1953, we helped our national interests in the short term. In the long run it was a disaster, eventually allowing the rise of a populist fundamental regime with a very dim view of America and the west. Today, Iran is a very big thorn in our side.

Lebanon is another, smaller example of our meddling, but with a more positive note. We attempted to mitigate their civil war by stationing troops there (and also showing favoritism, some would say, though none was avowed). After the marine barracks and embassy bombings, we pulled out - wisely, I think - and they are now managing to get out from under Syria on their own. But they do have a tremendous amount of dept - some %180 of GDP - which could cause problems for them and us in the future.

Libya is probably a country we should study more closely. Remember when Qaddafi was the "hitler" of the Middle East? I won't speculate as to what has mellowed him out over the last 20 years or so. But economic sactions are being lifted and relations are being normalized with both America and Europe. Qaddafi seems to be honestly working to improve his country, and has abandoned both terrorism and any desire to create WMD's. We should continue to encourage that, and need an honest assessment of what, if anything we did, actually worked. Was it the sactions? Targeted bombings? The threat of invasion? Or did we just win the waiting game and Qaddafi simply got tired of running an impoverished country?

The Palestine issue is certainly one for optimism, in my opinion. I've always felt that Arafat was somehow subverting the Palestinian cause. But it wasn't until after his death - and the progress that has been made since - that we see what a tremendous impediment to progress he was. For a long time, Eqypt's peace with Israel has been the one bright light in an otherwise dark region. We need more countries to do likewise. An honest recognition by a Middle Eastern country of Israel's right to exist can do more than any war possibly can.

Ignorance, fear, and poverty are the root causes of fanaticism. Fear (or anger) of American intervention can only be stymied by a systematic approach to fairness for the region. That is why how we wage this war - and wage the subsequent peace - is so very important. With right action on our part, we can then fight ignorance from a position of strength.

And strengthening our University system in the Middle East will help this effort. We can simultaneously oppose ignrance and provide the tools needed for economic advancement and prosperity. People who have a vested interest in their country are less likely to abandon their lives to a fanatical cause.

Last of all, we need to do more, as aubreyj put it, to "win the hearts and minds" of the Arab world. So far, we have made a noble effort to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq. But money earmarked for such projects is languishing in limbo, due to security concerns. Is there another way? So far our approach is doing little to improve life for the average Iraqi. I'm not suggesting that we pull out entirely, but it is worth studying how an alternative method would work. Would the insurgents bomb oil pipelines and power generators if our soldiers weren't there? How much truth is there to the idea that they are fighting simply to get us out? Can we give them the means to rebuild without controling, through armed occupation, the methods?

We've given the force method two years, and had little success on the economic front. It may be time to get creative, and come up with other things to try. At the very least, we should start building alliances with Iraq's neighbors now. With serious consensus building we might be able to get a majority of the people in the region on the same page. That could hinder the insurgency's justification with a bottom-up approach, in ways that our top-down approach has failed.

Boy, it seems that, lately, I've had a lot of trouble writing succinctly. I'll do better next time, I promise.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Ted Carmichael said...

Corey said: "... but [Bush] wanted to make clear that we would stand against anybody who commits acts of terror."

...anybody, that is, who commits acts of terror against us, surely. Otherwise, wouldn't we be doing more in Darfur?

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Corey said...

Ted -

My point was that there was not an end to the War on Terror. There will never be a day when we can look at the world and claim that we have killed or captured every single terrorist, and that there won't be any more acts of terrorism. It is a fight that will always be there. All we can do is to make sure we are always on the side that is fighting against the terrorists.

Bush made that promise to the world shortly after 9/11, and I agree with his decision to do so. Whether or not he has lived up to that promise is a totally different discussion.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Jami said...

The War on "Terror" never ends, because so many Republicans will always be chickenshits. Similarly, the War on Drugs hasn't ended because some Americans will always have too much money and not enough brains. Declaring war on things that can't be defeated is a singularly Republican thing to do, that couldn't have anything to do with the fact that Republicans make a lot of money on war.

The war in Iraq will be over for us when all our troops are out of there. Duh. It will be over for Iraqis when the violence in Baghdad is no worse than it is in Washington, D.C.

If the war "ends well under Bush," it'll be through no work of his own. He may "think about Iraq every day," but he doesn't think about it very hard, as evidenced by empty-ass speech this week.

The war on crazy religious people is over when all the crazy religious people stop getting elected to positions of power.

At 5:24 AM, Blogger Michael said...

The war in Iraq will be effectively over long before our troops have left. We will have lost the war when we move into a secured base mode of operation. We already have the green zone, but our troops still move fairly freely in most areas. When we dig in those 14 fortified bases and only sally out on search and destroy missions, we will have effectively lost (see history re Dien Bien Phu). At that point a political compromise will signal the end, and it won't leave the collaborationist current government, and possibly not the coming constitution in place, either.

As to the wide TWAT (the war against terror) there is no way to win a 'war against a strategy, as opposed to a group of people or ideology. So with no way to 'win', there's equally no way to lose. What you can do is bumble around spending a lot of effort and money on very little result, which is what the Bush Administration has done.

Bush failed becuase he consistently fails to identify real, effective, and hostile targets for aggressive nuetralization. Are we after the Khan nuclear network? No. Are we after the ISI and Pak radicals? No. Are we after Al Qaida and its many immitators? Not so much. Are we after the Whabbi bastards in SA behind 9/11? No. Are we at the same time ensuring our PR program is basd on strong truth and justice, not lies and spin to cover for attrocities? No. Thus we loose the Arab world's minds. Bush should be on Al Jazeeera daily if he wasn't a half-wit.


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