How to Prevent a ‘Quagmire’ in Iraq: End American Appeasement

by | Oct 8, 2003

Voices on the left argue that Iraq will become a “quagmire” because of U.S. “arrogance” and “unilateralism.” They are actually half-right: disaster may indeed be looming–but only because of a lack of self-assertiveness by the United States. We are inviting failure in Iraq, and in our overall war on terrorism, by mounting a campaign that […]

Voices on the left argue that Iraq will become a “quagmire” because of U.S. “arrogance” and “unilateralism.” They are actually half-right: disaster may indeed be looming–but only because of a lack of self-assertiveness by the United States. We are inviting failure in Iraq, and in our overall war on terrorism, by mounting a campaign that is hopelessly apologetic and appeasing.

The Iraqis have a long history of despotism. But instead of forcefully changing their political system, so that it no longer threatens the rights of anyone–Iraqi or American–we are deferentially asking the Iraqis for permission to proceed. Afraid to offend them, we are reluctant to defend our interests and to uphold our values.

For example, we did not appoint the members of Iraq’s Governing Council based on their commitment to freedom; instead, we sought ethnic and religious “diversity” in order to placate the various tribal and political factions that dominate Iraq. Among the 25 members are: the secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party; the founder of the Kurdish Socialist Party; a member of Iraq’s Hezbollah; and a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution–a group, funded by and partly founded by Iran, advocating an Islamic theocracy.

Is this the assemblage that is going to create a free Iraq?

To assuage the United Nations, we are asking for its aid in drafting a new constitution for Iraq. Is it conceivable that this organization–which helped keep Saddam Hussein in power and whose membership includes the world’s bloodiest tyrants–can produce an ideological road map for freedom?

On the military front, our soldiers face continuing attacks in Iraq, but political considerations prevent us from trying to fully disarm the populace. Attendees at funerals and weddings regularly fire automatic weapons, as their means of “emotional expression.” Our military planners apparently believe that a methodical house-to-house search for guns in Iraq would be too “intrusive.”

We are still at war, yet we allow Iraqis to engage in public demonstrations–again, with automatic weapons in hand–in support of Hussein. Some openly cheer from the roadside as deadly remote-controlled bombs are detonated against our military. None are arrested or stopped, presumably because we don’t want to be regarded as overly assertive.

This same, self-effacing policy is being practiced in Afghanistan, where the problem of “offended local sensibilities”–as a recent N.Y. Times article describes it–has led our policymakers to transform our soldiers into goodwill ambassadors, “whose focus is less on capturing terrorists than on winning public support.”

Is it surprising that the Taliban now appears to be successfully regrouping?

In logic and in justice, there is only one means of “winning public support,” in Afghanistan or Iraq: eradicating every trace of the former enslavers. If that is not sufficient, then the support is not worth gaining. Our only concern should be toward those who value freedom enough to recognize the inestimable value our troops have given them. As to all the others–they need not like us, only fear us.

In Iraq we started by apologizing for our presence, when our invading soldiers were ordered to jeopardize their lives rather than risk harming civilians or damaging mosques. We have deposed Hussein–but we are still apologizing. We are unwilling to ask Iraqis to bear the costs of their liberation. We are endorsing the very statism we are supposed to be overthrowing as we permit the Iraqi government to own the oil supplies and to remain in the coercive OPEC cartel. We are begging the United Nations to authorize multinational troops so that the American visibility will diminish. This conciliatory attitude only emboldens the enemy, thereby encouraging resistance and inviting a “quagmire.”

Upon ousting the governments of Germany and Japan in World War II, we did not proceed on tiptoe. We did not express regret at having to stop traffic, search homes and shoot fleeing suspects. We were morally certain–certain that their system was wrong and ours right, certain that their system posed a threat to us and needed to be eliminated. As a result, the enemy was eventually demoralized, allowing freedom to take root. The identical approach should be adopted now.

In postwar Japan, it was Gen. Douglas MacArthur who unilaterally drafted a new constitution–over the objections of many Japanese–and who thus paved the way for a radical shift from tyranny to liberty. Emulating MacArthur, by imposing upon Iraq a U.S.-written constitution that champions the principle of individual rights, would be an ideal means of asserting our interests.

Peter Schwartz is author of "In Defense of Selfishness: Why The Code of Self-Sacrifice Is Unjust and Destructive" which seeks to answer the fascinating and controversial question "What if the central idea we’re all taught about morality is wrong?" Visit his website at

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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