Why is Iraq so hard?
This was a question, Ralph Peters answered in an op-ed published in the New York Post. Peters cited the "strategic errors of the administration, the pernicious effects of the media and factional hatred within Iraq". Also corruption, poor leadership and bloodlust of Al Qaeda all made matters worse.
His solution is that the US should adopt more ruthless methods including torture if lives can be saved. Peters thinks that the US troops should go on more frequent patrols which of course require more troops than what the US has in Iraq now. His solutions are all military in nature.
They are not wrong but cannot work because of the constraints the US army labors under. I will attempt to answer Peter's question, "Why Iraq's so hard?" by looking at things from another angle.
The reason, why Iraq is so hard is not because the US lacks military power or brave soldiers but because American is a democracy. That is the short answer. Now allow me to elaborate.
Peters mentioned the pernicious effects of the media. Well that is true and its part of democracy to have a free press. Why is the press so negative and unsupportive of the war effort?
Firstly, its the nature of the press to report bad news. All attempts to start a good news newspaper have failed. People love to read bad news. A story about a mother and child safely walking down the road in Baghdad does not make it to the front page or the evening news.
But if they were blown apart by suicide bombers, then it makes the news. As Bernard Lewis has pointed out (1), "Most of Iraq are functioning rather well." But the news media is only interested in reporting on those parts that are not functioning well.
Secondly, newspapers sensationalize the news in order to boost circulation and hence profits . Thus calling the Iraqi situation a 'civil war' helps grab the attention of the reader. I think it is closer to Tombstone or Dodge City in the Old West than a Civil War. Calling it a civil war would be news to the Iraqis as I pointed out in an earlier article (2).
Only 27% of Iraqis think that a Civil War is going on, compared to 61% who do not. So the news media thinks they know better than the Iraqis who live there. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story. We need to boost our ratings or our circulation.
Compounding the problem are the votrepreneurs (politicians) who feed on the drum beat of bad news like sharks - in this case, the Democrats. As stated in earlier articles, the way the system work is that opposing votrepreneurs must undermine each other by portraying each other as failures. In so doing, you pursuade voters to switch sides.
Success and failure is to a large extent a matter of perception. It pays for the Democrats to create in the minds of the public high expectations of what success means. So if everything is not hunky dory by next Thursday in Iraq, then the whole war is a failure. Any success is ignored. Never mind that a dangerous dictator, Saddam Hussein is gone. Never mind that Iraq has its first elections and taking its first fragile steps to democracy.
Better get out now. Never mind if Iraq ends up under the control of Radical Islamists and becomes a terrorist Disneyland in the words of a terrorist expert, Rohan Gunaratna. (3) This is his prediction if US troops were to leave. After losing Afghanistan, Radical Islamists would have gained a better, richer country - oil rich Iraq. This is the same kind of people as those who attacked the US on 911. While they may not belong to the same formal organisation, they are united by the same ideology.
The problem is that votrepreneurs cannot see beyond the next elections. The Presidential election is coming up next year and the Democrats are anxious for the US to lose the war or at least perceived to be losing the war. This would boost their chances of winning. This is not so far fetch. During the Cold War, Ted Kennedy went to Moscow to encourage the Soviets to be tougher to Reagan instead of making concessions! (4)Perhaps he genuinely believed that the Cold War tensions were Reagan's fault. But as a sceptic of human nature, I think it is safe to assume that people are easily pursuaded to adopt a belief that is advantageous to themselves.
Fortunately, he failed and President Reagan went on to win the Cold War. His success in dealing with the Soviets enhanced the popularity of the Republicans - something I am sure an old hand like Kennedy knew would happen and not in the interests of the Democratic Party.
One of them would probably be the
if America loses the War.
It was not in their interests then for a Republican President to win the Cold War against Communism. Similarly, it is not in the interest of Democrats for Bush to win this war against Radical Islamism.
Thus we see that democracies are inherently unsuited for waging war. While it makes democracies more peaceful, it also makes them vulnerable when danger threatens. Democracies have checks and balances like a free press and oppostion parties. Each group fights for his own interests and in so doing prevent a dictator from emerging. But it should also be recognised that the press in fighting to boost its circulation sensationalize and distort the news and opposition votrepreneurs fighting to get elected hampers the war effort against a dangerous enemy who is out to destroy you.
(2)What Civil War?
(3) Expert: Iraq terrorist Disneyland if US troops leave
(4)See page 254 of the book, 'The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister.
Ted's overture to the Soviets