Monday, June 13, 2005

Questions About Iraq and the War on Terror

Over 1700 American service members have died in Iraq. I don’t like focusing on arbitrary numbers as they never make anything more than a morbid point and often ignore the true worth of those sacrifices.

But Iraq has been on my mind lately. Or, I should say, the whole war on terror has been on my mind. This coming weekend my home here in Washington, DC will go on sale and, in just under two months, I’ll be leaving this city I’ve called home for 4 years. Why is that important? Because for the first time since 9/11, I will be living in a city that isn’t clearly a top target.

If you’re expecting a sweeping analysis and solid conclusions, stop reading here. I don’t have definitive answers. Over time, I have settled on the opinion that, all things said and done, our goals in Iraq are noble and our mission just. But this doesn’t mean I don’t think we could have or should have done things differently in both the lead-up and execution of the war. I’m no soldier or military expert and I can only offer one citizen’s perspective, and, to me, there are a lot of unanswered questions.

The questions that follow are not intended to be leading (although some readers will invariably assume they are) or imply I have answers (even though I do have opinions). Please feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments section.

Did we go to war because of WMD and specific threats or was the Bush administration more concerned about installing a democracy in the Mid-East and Iraq was the most obvious target?

Does Iraq set any precedent for going to war? If so, what is it?

Are we any safer because of the war?

When did a desecrated Quran become more important to some than the 3,000 that died on 9/11?

While 9/11 brought us together, why has what come after so divided us? Is anyone to blame for this or was it inevitable?

Why do such a vocal minority believe Bush is evil—even going so far as to think he’s worse than those we’re fighting?

Why do some feel it is un-American to harshly criticize Bush or imply the Iraq war may have been a mistake?

Is it really possible to support our troops but oppose their work?

Has the sweep of democracy been the result of the war in Iraq or of other, less publicized work to advance freedom or both?

What’s the next step in the war on terror?

If Iraq becomes a real and stable democracy, will we all be able to agree it was worth it?

If Iraq descends into anarchy or a terrorist-supporting theocracy, will we all be able to agree Bush made a mistake?

How do we know when the war is over? When do the troops get to come home?

13 Comments:

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just curious has to what your opinions were on a couple of the questions

While 9/11 brought us together, why has what come after so divided us?

Is anyone to blame for this or was it inevitable?

Is it really possible to support our troops but oppose their work?

How do we know when the war is over?

When do the troops get to come home?

This whole thing has been kind of hard for me to comprehend. As i am of the younger population in the US.I have 3 family members over there right now and i just like hearing what others opinions are about everything that is going on.

 
At 1:43 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Boy, I wish I had good answers to offer you. Unfortunately, all I have are some thoughts.

9/11: I think Bush did not work hard enough to convince all Americans of the need for Iraq. He convinved a slim majority and left it at that. That said, I think many on the left fell into a reflexive, Vietnam-era anti-war stance and was unwilling to listen. I think the rifts we see today are part of the same faultline that opened 30-40 years ago. It's impossible to place blame on one person or one group.

Support our troops: I think one can oppose us going to war, be uncomfortable with us being at war but still support our men and women over there and pray for success. However, there are those Americans who do not support our goals in Iraq and use setbacks to promote their conviction that this was a bad war and we are bad for being there. I don't think you can use failures for your own ends and still truly support the troops. A lot of people would disagree with me, I am sure. But, in my mind, supporting the troops goes hand in hand with rooting for our victory.

When is the war over: That I don't know. I hope and believe we do have some form of exit strategy. I think, however, our government is very cautious about setting a firm date for withdrawl as doing so would give the terrorists in Iraq something to plan around. If I had to guess (and this is really just an uneducated guess) I would assume we will slowly reduce our forces but that we will have some troops stationed there for a long time--not a lot, but some. We still have troops in South Korea and that war ended over 50 years ago. However, if the Iraqi government orders us out, I don't see how we could stay.

Hope this helps. As I said, these are just opinions and I don't mean to be so high-and-mighty to think I am totally correct. I hope your family remains safe as they serve our country.

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

Very good questions Alan… I think I’ll take a shot at it by answering them very briefly. (Suggestion-- In the upcoming days, take one question a day and have a good debate over it. That would make for some real good reading.) Anyway-- Here goes…

1) Did we go to war because of WMD and specific threats or was the Bush administration more concerned about installing a democracy in the Mid-East and Iraq was the most obvious target?
My Answer: All of the above. We went to war for many reasons yet no one thing would be correct to say. I will say that the arguments over, “Bush lied to take us to war” holds no truth…

2) Does Iraq set any precedent for going to war? If so, what is it?
My Answer: Not sure how to answer this one. Want to rephrase it?

3) Are we any safer because of the war?
My Answer: Doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the Afghanistan War, Iraq War or both… My answer would be Yes, we are safer…

4) When did a desecrated Quran become more important to some than the 3,000 that died on 9/11?
My Answer: As soon as they forgot the horrors of 9-11. Unfortunately, for many that would have been just a few days after.

5) While 9/11 brought us together, why has what come after so divided us? Is anyone to blame for this or was it inevitable?
My Answer: It was inevitable and for reasons a mile long.

6) Why do such a vocal minority believe Bush is evil-- even going so far as to think he’s worse than those we’re fighting?
My Answer: It started with Bush winning and how he won over Al Gore and it just went down hill from there.

7) Why do some feel it is un-American to harshly criticize Bush or imply the Iraq war may have been a mistake?
My Answer: Some can not deal with criticism no matter if it is of one thing, to themselves or others.

8) Is it really possible to support our troops but oppose their work?
My Answer: I can’t see it yet many somehow say just that.

9) Has the sweep of democracy been the result of the war in Iraq or of other, less publicized work to advance freedom or both?
My Answer: Iraq was the spark but there is so much more to it than that.

10) What’s the next step in the war on terror?
My Answer: To change the hearts and minds of so many in the Middle East.

11) If Iraq becomes a real and stable democracy, will we all be able to agree it was worth it?
My Answer: Some will never, ever agree it was worth it. No matter what!!!

12) If Iraq descends into anarchy or a terrorist-supporting theocracy, will we all be able to agree Bush made a mistake?
My Answer: This question is a mistake… We can never, ever let something like this happen. NEVER!!!!

13) 13) How do we know when the war is over? When do the troops get to come home?
My Answer: This war is not like any another. It will just quietly fade away. As far as the troops go-- Not soon enough….

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

By precedent I just mean can we create a "doctrine" out of this. Are we now obligated to go to war with any country who has an evil tyrant for a leader, possible weapons of mass destruction, a known desire to harm the U.S. and is in violation of UN agreements? I probably left out a condition or two, but you get the point. Was this a one-time warw ith unique parameters, or does it create a precedent to use for other wars.

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

Now I got your meaning....
2) Does Iraq set any precedent for going to war? If so, what is it? (Can we create a "doctrine" out of this? Are we now obligated to go to war with any country that has an evil tyrant for a leader, possible weapons of mass destruction, and a known desire to harm the U.S. and is in violation of UN agreements? Was this a one-time war with unique parameters, or does it create a precedent to use for other wars?)
My Answer: NO. Every war has its own unique parameters. The Iraq War was no different.

 
At 4:08 PM, Blogger Jami said...

these are great questions, and congress seems to be starting to ask the most important one lately: how do we get out? tomorrow, i think, i'm going to look into putting some fire under them on this issue.

 
At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just one to the point question, Do you agree with what bush has done or disagree with it? Thank you so much for your inputs.

 
At 8:46 PM, Blogger KMSweet said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:30 PM, Blogger KMSweet said...

Alan,

1. Did we go to war because of WMD and specific threats or was the Bush administration more concerned about installing a democracy in the Mid-East and Iraq was the most obvious target?
- This is quite an undeniable fact. The stated arguement of the initiation of the Iraqi War was that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent and growing threat to the US and the world. The administration said repeatedly that Saddam had Bio and Chem weapons, and was developing Nuclear weapons, and that this threat needed to be neutralized. The democracy issue was raised relatively recently as a reason to stay in Iraq and stablize the country. While I don't agree with the way we started the war, or our justification (essentially lies, either innocent or calculated), I DO agree that we must stay and support this country until it can do so itself.

2. Does Iraq set any precedent for going to war? If so, what is it?
- I think in the planning rooms of the Pentagon and White House policy meetings it may set a precedent, but in the bigger picture it doesn't. By this I mean that the public has already been exposed to this rationale for war, and as a result will be much more wary of a similar situation. It is more probable that another preemptive war plan will be scrapped before initiated, because public opinion will make it political suicide to attack another country unprovoked.

3. Are we any safer because of the war?
- In the long run, no, I don't think that were safer because of the Iraqi War. Here's my rationale: You have to look at the big picture. While the "immediate threat" was neutralized, a VERY real threat is now emerging in the form of a huge, experienced, migratory jihadi army. This army, much like the one that trained (and that the US funded) in Afghanistan in the struggle against the Soviets, is now training in the streets of Baghdad, Samarra, Kirkuk, etc. This migratory shadow army is what our country is going to have to contend with within the next 20 years.

4. While 9/11 brought us together, why has what come after so divided us? Is anyone to blame for this or was it inevitable?
- By no means whatsoever was the intense national division inevitable. What happened on 9/11 was a galvanizing event, one that ALL Americans (as well as those around the world) realize rarely. Its historical importance and its possible affect on our national character was not lost on average Americans, which was evident by the aboslute solidarity that permeated every mainstreet in America. However, it is important that initially, 9/11 was a GALVANIZING event, not a POLARIZING event. The polarization of America did not happen immediately after 9/11. It didn't happen during the Afghan War, nor did it happen in its immediate, although unfinished aftermath. The country began to polarize during months of rumblings about a war in Iraq. Of course, the "Culture War", the liberal-conservative divide, Neoconservatism, and political partisanship all began to destroy the national unity that had not been seen since WWII. It was the Iraq War that brought an end to the national unity that momentarily kept all the hyphenated Americanisms in the closet.

5. Why do such a vocal minority believe Bush is evil—even going so far as to think he’s worse than those we’re fighting?
- While I don't know for sure, I would guess that their political frustration has driven them to demonize the President as much as they can. Perhaps this is a way for them to justify their feelings. Other than that, I have no idea.

6. Why do some feel it is un-American to harshly criticize Bush or imply the Iraq war may have been a mistake?
- It's the age-old case of the people getting caught up in the nationalistic fervor present during war-time. There's the traitor stigma, and the non-conformist stigma also. I am not too fond of this President, so I don't really understand why people dislike my criticism so much, even when its relatively tame.

7. Is it really possible to support our troops but oppose their work?
- Yes, in the sense that we don't want to treat them as war criminals, as the were treated upon their return from Vietnam. Its the whole, "Don't hate the player, hate the game" mentality. Much like in Vietnam, however, the public may have a harder time seperating scandals like Abu Ghahib and Guantanamo from the Army as a whole, just like they had a hard time seperating My Lai from the Army after Vietnam.

8. If Iraq descends into anarchy or a terrorist-supporting theocracy, will we all be able to agree Bush made a mistake?
- I would certainly hope that the American people would hold the President accountable, as well has all pertinent members of his administration. After all, it was a mess/situation/glorious liberation (whatever you want to call it) that AMERICA created. Therefore, since we are the sole arbiters of Iraq, anything that happens, good or bad, is ultimately our responsibility. If the American/Iraqi Democratic Experiment fails, then it is a direct result of OUR policies. The Administration cannot scapegoat any other group because Iraq's immediate security, development, democracy, and every facet of its current exhistence is dependent on how we have acted and are acting. The buck may not necessarily stop at the Presidents desk, but it CERTAINLY stops at his administration (him included).

I hope readers have constructive comments or criticisms to share :)

 
At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Corey said...

First of all, great questions. I agree with the post above that some of these would be good individual posts to allow for some more in depth discussion....

1) Did we go to war because of WMD and specific threats or was the Bush administration more concerned about installing a democracy in the Mid-East and Iraq was the most obvious target?

The way the administration sold the war at the time was that Iraq was an immediate threat to the U.S. and our allies. In his state of the Union address, he read off a list of the vast supply of WMDs that Saddam supposedly had. It wasn't until it was becoming more and more clear that there were not WMDs that they started with the "spreading democracy" talk.

2) Does Iraq set any precedent for going to war? If so, what is it?

I don't think it does. Our country had just been attacked by terrorists a little over a year before the war started. This lead to a set of totally unique circumstances that the admin had to deal with, which eventually lead them to Iraq.

3) Are we any safer because of the war?

I honestly don't think that we are. If you asked "is the middle east better off now that Saddam is gone?", I would say yes, but as for the safety of U.S. citizens, I don't feel that this has made us any safer.

4) When did a desecrated Quran become more important to some than the 3,000 that died on 9/11?

Who know? I think this is an issue that has totally been blown out of control. Of all the serious issues we face today, Quran desecration doesn't rank very high in my opinion.

5) While 9/11 brought us together, why has what come after so divided us? Is anyone to blame for this or was it inevitable?

I think that a certain segment of the people felt that Bush had used 9/11 as a tool to justify a seperate agenda. I'm not saying I agree with this, but I do think that this is the impression that many people got.

6) Why do such a vocal minority believe Bush is evil—even going so far as to think he’s worse than those we’re fighting?

I think that this relates to my previous answer. I think that these people see him as taking advantage of the situation and the patriotism that people were feeling at the time. I personally think that he made some very poor decision during a very difficult time, but not that he had some evil conspiracy planned from the start.

7) Why do some feel it is un-American to harshly criticize Bush or imply the Iraq war may have been a mistake?

This is an attitude that I definitely don't understand. As far as I'm concerned, if you took the time to vote, you have the right to criticize any polititian as much as you want. It does help if you have something to offer other than just a lot of complaining however.

8) Is it really possible to support our troops but oppose their work?

I would say it is possible to support our troops, but not support the rational used to send them there. I don't think you can support them but "oppose their work".

9) Has the sweep of democracy been the result of the war in Iraq or of other, less publicized work to advance freedom or both?

I'm sure Iraq had some affect, but there were other factors that played more of a role for most of the cases.

10) What’s the next step in the war on terror?

I don't think there is a next step until we get Iraq secure, and I don't think that will happen for a few more years unfortunately.

11) If Iraq becomes a real and stable democracy, will we all be able to agree it was worth it?

No, I think some people refuse to admit that a point of view that they have criticized for so long may actually be correct.

12) If Iraq descends into anarchy or a terrorist-supporting theocracy, will we all be able to agree Bush made a mistake?

No, same answer as the last question.

13) How do we know when the war is over? When do the troops get to come home?

This does seem to be the million dollar question now adays.

 
At 12:52 AM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

aubreyj, I have to take exception with you on a few issues.

Are we any safer because of the war?
My Answer: Doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the Afghanistan War, Iraq War or both… My answer would be Yes, we are safer…


Perhaps Afghaistan made us a little safer, but I think in the long run, Iraq has bought us more enemies. We are the dog chasing its own tail.

Is it really possible to support our troops but oppose their work?
My Answer: I can’t see it yet many somehow say just that.


I'm living proof it's possible. I wholeheartedly support our troops. During the invasion, I cheered our troops on, even as I was cursing Bush for not giving the inspection teams more time. I was never convinced of WMDs. I hate the fact my Indiana Pacers aren't in the NBA finals, but that doesn't stop me from supporting the Spurs.

Does Iraq set any precedent for going to war? If so, what is it? (Can we create a "doctrine" out of this? Are we now obligated to go to war with any country that has an evil tyrant for a leader, possible weapons of mass destruction, and a known desire to harm the U.S. and is in violation of UN agreements? Was this a one-time war with unique parameters, or does it create a precedent to use for other wars?)
My Answer: NO. Every war has its own unique parameters. The Iraq War was no different.


Here we agree . . . to a point. No, I don't think it sets a precedent, however, even before we went into Iraq, our intelligence sources told us other countries posed more of a threat to us and their neighbors. And whether Bush lied about his reasons for going into Iraq or not, it is a fact that he wanted to remove Saddam. But after a decade of no fly zones and containment, Iraq was a much weaker target than Iran or North Korea, not to mention the diplomatic problems involved in invading either of those nations were tremendously more complicated.

Alan, you have posed some very good questions and once again, I have to agree with aubreyj. You should tackle them one by one with debate. You may not get any clear answers, but it'd be a heck of a lot of fun.

 
At 1:10 AM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

Alan
Your tha Man... Let the DEBATES begin..................

 
At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a couple of questions. They are starting to talk heavy about pulling troops in iraq out by oct. 1,2006 or at least making a time table for pulling troops out. Do you think that this will happen? Do you think this is what should be done?

 

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