Democrats and Republicans, liberal media as well as Fox News, all seem to take for granted the following position on Iraq, as (in this instance) reported today at MSNBC.com:
“The constitution is a crucial step in Iraq’s transition to democracy after two decades of rule by Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Washington is hoping it passes so that Iraqis can form a legitimate, representative government, tame the insurgency and enable the 150,000 U.S. troops to begin to withdraw.”
The premise of this position is that it’s the obligation of the United States to stay in Iraq until the Iraqis show that they are capable of democracy. This is not our obligation. The obligation of the United States is to protect itself. By allowing our troops to continue to die there, we are holding them hostage to the willingness (or lack thereof) of Iraqis to do what may take decades, centuries, or will perhaps never even happen at all. This is not and should never have been the premise of our foreign and defense policy. The proper premise is that it’s up to the United States to defend itself: that is, to attack known enemies as early as possible in the process of their military buildups. Israel, for example, bombed Saddam Hussein’s weapons facilities back in the early 1980s and that action, combined with the attacks from the U.S. in the early 1990s, are the likely reason no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq. Those earlier policies worked, and they didn’t require making our troops vulnerable to the daily car bombings of religiously fanatical losers.
I will grant that military occupation can serve the interest of the United States, in certain cases, to keep a military presence when there is reasonable certainty that doing so will allow the rational and best elements of the society to form a stable government that respects freedom and individual rights. This is not the case in Iraq. Going through the motions of democracy does not a republic make. From the available evidence, the best we can hope for in Iraq is a badly divided democracy/theocracy in which religious tribes fight over which sect of Islam gets to rule. This is hardly what Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had in mind, and it’s hardly what happened in Japan and Europe after World War II. It has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom, as freedom requires the separation of church and state, something for which there is no support in the Middle East.
The underlying premise of our foreign policy has become: sacrifice of our own interests for the sake of nation building. It’s not our job to save Iraq. If Iraq remains unstable and another dictatorship develops, we can simply bomb them again when the time is right. It’s not terribly expensive and can result in little to no loss of life with our military forces. Instead of trying to build the impossible dream in Iraq, we ought to be spending our military and financial energies targeting other dangerous regimes such as Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Our foreign policy is supposed to be about defense, not about nation-building.