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The Mass Media

The Mass Media


It’s easy for Americans to play armchair strategist, relatively safe and secure, when half the world over someone else is mourning the loss of their brother or mother to a suicide bomber. Nevertheless, as our country discusses the how’s, when’s and wherefores of withdrawal from Iraq (or argues against it), anyone who thinks about the war necessarily does so.

The left says “Troops Home Now” because it’s the opposite of the right’s “Troop Surge.” And to the right, “Troop Surge” sounds so unlike the defeatists’ “Troops Home Now,” that even when having no faith that such a surge will work, they still side with it to spite the left. How do we leave Iraq without leaving civil chaos behind? If we do stay, what then?

Radical Islam is a dire threat, and we had to defend ourselves after 9/11. “Defense,” in some cases, may mean unilateral, pre-emptive action. We should do what needs to be done. A cogent argument can be made there.

The thing is, Iraq didn’t need to be done. Wrong place, wrong time and wrong everything, just like John Kerry said. If war is sometimes a valid option, it must be executed with the utmost care that it be defensible politically and morally, that it be for good reason. We witness the rationales for the Iraq war crumble.

One argument to be made is from moral imperative: Now that we are there, we must ensure we do not leave a ghost country behind. That is the 2007 version of the moral imperative, anyway, much different from 2003’s. Civil war lurks, if it has not already broken out. We have to secure Baghdad for some central authority that is neither Shia nor Sunni fundamentalist. To trot out the Pottery Barn rule, cited by Colin Powell, once more: We broke it, we bought it. Now that we own the whole mess, we must see if there is something we can do to make it hold.

But do we “owe it” to anybody to continue with our current program, even though we started it? Owe what? Is having made bad decisions in the past a reason to continue with more bad decisions? Isn’t our very presence in the country fueling the very violence we wish to prevent? The stated purpose of the invasion was to remove Weapons of Mass Destruction from the area. We invaded, discovered there were no WMD’s, so why wasn’t it time to leave? ?

The left seems to think that if we did leave now, the Shia and Sunni would clash among themselves, somehow sort it out, and …? What happens next? Does the region somehow not explode into even more ferocious, widespread warfare? Doesn’t basic self-interest (world interest, really) dictate that an open clash in Iraq be avoided by any means available? As arduous and expensive and terrible as this war is, is the alternative to fighting it more fearsome at this stage?

The right, of course, want another big enemy to be right about, ala Communism, forgetting the fact that many on the left, like blogger Juan Cole, are thinking seriously about terrorism. So they holler themselves hoarse, listen to no one and drape themselves in the flag as if it would repel the consequences of their bad judgment.

We enter what can be called the post-bravado stage. Both the left and the right should remember that the war in Iraq is not an ideological war of Democrats against Republicans. This war is no longer about WMD’s. It’s not about retribution for 9/11. It can barely be argued that it’s even about lessening the global influence of terrorists anymore.

Liberals and conservatives must resolve our Iraq mission, and soon, or we may never have the chance again: re-stabilizing the country of Iraq in order for US troops to leave it in a condition that is better for its people, the region, US interests, and the world must be the priority. There’s no reason a discussion of strategy for this goal need be a partisan issue. We all want this war to be over, and we all want the world to be a safer place when it happens.