November 29, 2005

Rebutting Odom IV

Finally got a link to Gen. Odom's recent column on Iraq. Gen. Odom is a serious man and deserves to have his views addressed seriously. I completely disagree with them.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

3) It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.

3) On the insurgency and democracy. There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave. But that will happen no matter how long we stay. Any government capable of holding power in Iraq will be anti-American, because the Iraqi people are increasingly becoming anti-American.

Also, the U.S. will not leave behind a liberal, constitutional democracy in Iraq no matter how long it stays. Holding elections is easy. It is impossible to make it a constitutional democracy in a hurry.

President Bushís statements about progress in Iraq are increasingly resembling LBJ's statements during the Vietnam War. For instance, Johnsonís comments about the 1968 election are very similar to what Bush said in February 2005 after the election of a provisional parliament.

Ask the president: Why should we expect a different outcome in Iraq than in Vietnam?

Ask the president if he intends to leave a pro-American liberal regime in place. Because thatís just impossible. Postwar Germany and Japan are not models for Iraq. Each had mature (at least a full generation old) constitutional orders by the end of the 19th century. They both endured as constitutional orders until the 1930s. Thus General Clay and General MacArthur were merely reversing a decade and a half totalitarianism -- returning to nearly a century of liberal political change in Japan and a much longer period in Germany.

Imposing a liberal constitutional order in Iraq would be to accomplish something that has never been done before. Of all the world's political cultures, an Arab-Muslim one may be the most resistant to such a change of any in the world. Even the Muslim society in Turkey (an anti-Arab society) stands out for being the only example of a constitutional order in an Islamic society, and even it backslides occasionally.

The anti-american nature of the Iraqi people is very much up for debate. I believe that the nature of our departure is crucial. If the Iraqi government has an army and police force that is capable of fighting and winning and we pull out and continue to provide advice and support, that exit will turn Iraqi opinion in a markedly pro-american direction. If we leave a mess, a bad civil war, and abandon our allies to the not-so-tender mercies of our enemies then our exit will create a much more anti-american Iraqi populace.

It's absolutely false that if we pull out of Iraq, we will not leave behind a liberal, constitutional democracy. We've already established one and its first election is December 15 of this year. Denigrating this achievement, pretending it never happened, is just not right.

The only question is whether this new Iraqi order is self-sustaining. Is the political savvy that defanged Sadr, is pulling in the Sunnis tribe by tribe, in from the cold, the very talents that formed the INC itself all just a series of flukes or are the Iraqi people blessed with a series of secular and religious leaders in this generation that have the critical mass necessary to sustain the constitution that they have already adopted? Is all this political talent just a mirage? I don't think it is. I don't think that the Iraqi leadership is just a bunch of US puppets. They have their own leadership, their own talents, and, objectively, it looks pretty good. If we stay long enough so that they have a decent army and police force and continue to support them with air cover until they get a decent air force, they're very likely to continue the political system that has already been established.

As for the supposed arab incapacity to have a liberal democracy, if they're so bad, shouldn't they be barred the vote here? Of course that would be plain lunacy to even suggest it but it's the logical conclusion of the idea that arabs are incapable of governing themselves in a free, democratic society.

The US has done innumerable things that have never been done before. Being the midwife to Iraqi democracy is no more astounding than digging the Panama Canal or landing a man on the moon.

Posted by TMLutas at November 29, 2005 02:54 PM