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Answering Jed Babbin at Victory Caucus

Not to break off more than I can chew, but Jed Babbin is gettin a little feisty over at Victory Caucus asking for answers, "If that's the way he wants it, well he gets it"

Hmm.  I've been accused of a lot, but not petulance.  And I'm still wondering how people are going to answer my main points.

First, the choice is not between nation building and defeat.  No one has answered my point about the fascination with Iraqi democracy allowing the enemy control the pace and direction of the war.

The fascination currently is not with Iraqi democracy as much as not allowing what passes for Iraqi democracy currently to fail and become a sanctuary for Sunni terror and Al Qaeda and Shia extremists proxying for Iran. The method chosen to transition Iraq from a tyranny and state sponsor of terror was democratization following a military invasion. It was well-intentioned if ineffective thus far. Abandoning our exercise in nation building now would confer victory on AQ and Iran in the battle for dominance in Mesopotamia and worse would give AQ an actual victory in combat against the entire US military machine. All else aside, that is a good enough reason to stay and win.  More of my impertinent retort to one of NRO's finest after the jump.

We gain little by abandonment and would leave exactly what you say is the raison d’etre for our whole effort, the elimination of terrorist states. If Iraq were not a state sponsor it would surely be a state sanctuary absent US forces or a victory allowing us to leave an Iraqi government capable of stopping that.

Second, no one - least of all my distinguished correspondents - gives any reason why we should expect democracy to ever arise in the Arab states or anywhere else that radical Islam takes root.  Merely saying that it's what we want isn't a definition of victory: it's a recipe for quagmire and defeat.

We can determine that democratization was a failure based on the incomplete record of our now barely 5 year old effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, or we can remember that 5 years is a rounding error in history. It is not is a rounding error in politics, but an eternity,  and that is the problem we face. If we had the ability and inclination we could have a democratization experiment in Iraq with a 25 or maybe 50 year time frame. That would allow a real look at whether it was a viable means of combating Islamist terror. We don't have the luxury and we may have to conclude that given the short attention span and lack of stomach of the American people that it was a bad choice as strategy. The current situation is hardly dispositive of democratization as a method, positive or negative though.

Third, what is wrong with leaving once we've defeated an enemy? I refuse to spend one single American life in pursuit of democracy there, or anywhere else.  Once the enemy is defeated, our job as Americans - especially American conservatives - is over.

Only if you take a simplistic view of the job of an expeditionary force out toppling regimes and then shuffling off. I would also point out that this is the Victory Caucus and not the Conservative Caucus so I don't think there should be a requirement that a solution be inherently conservative as much as simply successful. I shared some of your views in that, rather than invade, I supported taking Sadaam and key regime leaders out in a decapitating strike and this technique could easily be adapted for any state sponsoring terror. But will that actually make terror less or more likely? You have no better answer for that than democratization advocates have for their policy. If we are going to take actions to topple regimes sponsoring terror, we need a better end game than here are the keys to your country, good luck. Once we have crushed their state sponsor, they will recruit from those we alienate by taking military action, and set up in what is now a state powerless to stop terrorists from operating in it. So we swap state sponsorships for sanctuaries in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.

Fourth, if we are to implant democracies there, who among us is prepared to commit to what is plainly necessary to do so?  You want democracy in Iraq or Iran or Syria? You'd better be prepared to do what the British did in India.  Several hundred thousand soldiers, tens of thousands of bureaucrats and administrators will be necessary to establish the American Colonial Office, and they will be needed there for a hundred years or more.  If you're not prepared to do that, please do not bother me with thoughts of creating democracy in Iraq, Iran or Syria.

Defeat the enemy and his ideology.  Then come home.  If we have to do it again in ten or twenty or fifty years, so be it.  As Mike Ledeen would say, "faster, please."

You have argued against democratization as a tool to create states that will not sponsor terror after we have decapitated or otherwise toppled their governments. You do not offer a viable plan for victory beyond that. What leads you to believe that after a violent overthrow of a government deranged enough to sponsor terror, that the entity that organically appears would not support or tolerate or simply be incapable of interdicting the terrorists amongst it's population? Your plan only defeats the enemies we can engage militarily and does nothing to combat it's ideology.

I have no way of knowing whether democratization in Iraq or anywhere will work. But our avowed strategy in Iraq is just that and we can either cede victory to AQ and Iran and hope that what arises after the Sunni/Shia battles is something other than a Balkanized set of sectarian sanctuaries, or we can maintain our resolve for at least the short term and aim for victory. That victory may simply be the defeat or marginalizing of Shia militias and Sunni bombers, and may not be a shining example but it would be other than defeat, and that is victory enough in Iraq. Now going forward any and all strategies for dealing with bad state actors would be in play including your whack 'em and walk, democratization and hopefully many others.

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