April 05, 2004

Letter to the Paper XV

Fran Poretto is a very smart man who I normally agree with and was a personal inspiration in my transition from conservatism to libertarianism. I think of him as my friend but even friends can disagree. His proposal for a cordon and ultimatum (now a two part essay) around Fallujah is one of the most wrong-headed things I've ever heard or seen come out of him. Of course, I responded:

I don't think that there is a city in Iraq that is currently monolithic either for or against the US. It's all preponderance and tendency. Now sometimes that tilts far enough to one side that it looks like unity but no society as highly split along tribal, religious, and ethnic lines as Iraq is likely to see unanimity except in highly limited circumstances.

Fran, you have proposed one of the few ways it is possible to unite Iraq against the US and that's why I questioned whether you'd temporarily gone off the deep end in a fit of anger (which, I agree, would be very uncharacteristic for you but everybody snaps at some level of outrage, myself included).

The major long-term strategic purpose of Iraq is to create a society from which we can launch follow on attacks on the non-integrated gap. This requires that Iraq be connected and preferably free, though the actual victory conditions would allow for a peculiarly limited transition authoritarianism that would last until a rising middle class grows tired of a lack of political freedom and tosses the bums out, a la S. Korea. This latter option is a distinctly inferior plan B but it would allow the strategic goal of extending the borders of the non-integrated gap and create more "seam states".

I happen to know a fair bit about Romania and it went through a transition between being deep in the non-integrated gap to being a seam state. I can tell you that it's an awful lot easier to argue for sanity with countrymen who are bordered by functioning, free societies than it is when the same people are surrounded by various grades and shades of dictatorship. As Romania's neighbors progressed, their living example showed that Romania could do better and it has done better as well. A decade ago, political violence in the streets was on the table as a viable tactic. Those days have now passed.

With Iraq as an example, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, even Jordan will all face an improved reform picture. And it is these reforms which will make us able to go after the madrassas that create the next generation of terrorists and suicide bombers.

An ultimatum that threatens an entire city is counterproductive to the larger enterprise and deeply counterproductive at that. We're in a race with nihilistic death cultists. We have to kill their ideologies off as the British killed off thuggee before the general empowerment of first world individuals rises to the level where it is possible for us to individually produce WMDs.

The solution to Fallujah is force, but it is force that is surgically applied and affects only the guilty. Why did we bother building smart bombs if we don't believe in the consistent principle of precise application of force? The doctrine of precision has not failed us yet. There is no cause for us to abandon it.

Posted by TMLutas at April 5, 2004 08:54 AM