Monday, November 22, 2004

Security & Freedom

It is known in politics that there is no permanent friendship but mutual interests. I’ve been thinking what sort of interests may incite the US and UK administrations to keep on backing the ambitious Iraqis for better society. The answer came from Washington last week. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair held a press conference on November 12th.

Mr. Blair said
“ … we have to complete our mission in Iraq, make sure that Iraq is a stable and a democratic country. And I have no doubt at all that whatever the difficulties the terrorists and insurgents, supporters of Saddam Hussein may pose for us, that we will overcome those difficulties -- ourselves, the multinational force, together with the Iraqi government -- and ensure that Iraq can be that democratic, stable state that the vast majority of Iraqis, I know, will want to see…”
Nice words which raise hopes of a brighter future.

A question resided in my mind for long time till the early days of the invasion last year which says ( What makes the US and UK knock Saddam down?).

Saddam served their interests since the early days of his time in power. For example, he fought Iran for them. It is not a secret, Saddam said it clearly “We are fighting Iran on behalf of the civilized world”.
He made it justifiable for them to bring their forces to the region, which floats on oil, after he invaded Kuwait. Even in his last days, he offered them free Iraqi oil for keeping him in power.

Isn’t it better to put someone in power who can maintain their interests regardless the way he rules?

A pressman, in the conference, asked a question coincides with my query. He said
“ What if the Iraqis come up with somebody who's not friendly to the United States, is not a democrat, but it's peaceful, is this something you can live with?”

Mr. Bush answered
“…the Iraqis will have come up with somebody who is duly-elected. In other words, democracy will have spoken. And that person is going to have to listen to the people, not to the whims of a dictator, not to their own desires -- personal desires…”
I don’t know whether Mr. Bush knows the conception of Iraqis, and Arabs, of possessing power or not. It is the concept of the Sheikh who gains power and to grasp firmly, never let go till death.

Anyhow, one should have faith in change. This can be observed in Bush’s words
“…. I readily concede there are skeptics, people who say democracy is not possible in certain societies. But, remember, that was said right after World War II with Japan…”

US & UK represent, together, an influential factor in Mideast and in the world, so no one can plan for a country without taking this factor in his calculations. I’m saying so to put aside comments say (Iraqis have to decide their future), which I admire highly. One should be pragmatic and tries to understand the strategy of the influential factor.

Now let’s see what the new strategy in the region is. It is, according to Mr. Blair
“…there was a view in foreign policy that you dealt with countries on the basis of whatever attitude they had towards you, but really whatever they did within their own countries, that was up to them, and didn't really make a difference to your long-term relationship…” and “…it does mean that there's been a shift, and I think a shift quite dramatically, since 9/11 in the thinking that is informing our view of how we make progress…”
It seems that the events of 9/11 are paradoxical, (Should we thank Bin Laden for his crime?haha..)

A clear point is to be said by Mr. Blair
“…That's why in Iraq we decided when Saddam was removed, we didn't want another hard man coming in, another dictator…” .
It is a firm rule to be followed from now on, but is it a matter of morality. In politics there is no morality but there is interests. Interests is the pivot of politics. So, what kind of interests that makes Mr. Blair set this rule.
He added
“…The people want the freedom (referring to the Iraqis). What we recognized, I think, today, is that we're not going to have our security unless they get that freedom…”

He made it clear (our security=their freedom). Thank you Mr. Bush. Thank you Mr. Blair.

31 Comments:

Blogger Louise said...

Ibn AlRafidain, you've nailed it. This the best summary of the who matter I have read to date. Well done!!

4:26 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

"Our security=Their freedom"

That's Texas shorthand for "If they are not free and friendly and become a terrorist state, we will have to protect ourselves from them". My quote, supposing correctly, I can assure you, that America and her Friends WILL protect themselves.

Everyone in Iraq (and the surrounding countries) must understand that if America and her Friends don't win the war against Terror and Terrorists, that Islam and all it stands for is finished and will be destroyed, along with many of the people in the world. This is because America WILL NOT perish, America will protect its people and the counties that are its Friends Even if it means killing hundreds of thousands of people in the rest of the world.

If the terrorists explode a bomb (or other WMD) in America or one of its friends countries it will START THE NIGHTMARE.

No one wants it to come to that, so anyone and everyone must destroy terror and terrorists where ever they are. Its not just up to us, its up to you and average countrymen, like your family and friends.

When America revolted against the English, we had no military, it was formed from the people. People like your family. You must do your part, without the support of the Iraqi people, freedom will not happen.

Read THE LINK BELOW (BE SURE AND READ THE COMMENTS)if you have any doubt what will happen if America doesn't win the wars against terrorism. You are either with us or against us.

"Pondering the Nightmare"
http://froggyruminations.blogspot.com/

This is my Post

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How strange! I had almost these exact same thoughts yesterday.

9/11 changed everything. Just like Pearl Harbor, it awoke the sleeping giant. And we (all nations) are realizing painful lessons.

I believe the UK and the US have realized that when we support non-democratically elected dictatorships to our OWN GAIN, it always comes back to bite us. But when we support democratically elected leaders, truly coming from a free people - those free people will do the right thing as long as their elections are without negative outside influence.

Halfway around the world and we're thinking the same thing! How cool is that!

5:25 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

There I go again. My mind is always way ahead of my fingers. who = whole

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ibn_Alrafidain, another great post. I really learn a lot from your blog- including how to think differently about Bush- a president who I generally do not like and worry is ruining our country and yours. You give me some hope that there is a different way to look at this war.

I do hope that our presence in your 'neighborhood' CAN eventually give Iraqis the stability and safety all humans deserve. A peaceful democratic government would be icing on the cake in my view, given how violent things have become. (I do tend to believe that a peaceful, democratic government is a basic, fundamental human right-- but I'm trying to be realistic about how this will all work.)

We have a saying here, that to make an omelette one must first break some eggs. But still, I am sick to think of how many people are suffering right now because of the current state of affairs...and I am sorry for all the years that Iraqis have been subject to the effects of US foreign policy that has usually been (as you describe so well) gauged to what's best for US (and Western) economic interests- like our earlier support of Saddam Hussein.

I am guardedly optimistic. You have my readership, for whatever that's worth :), and all of Iraq is in my prayers. Please keep blogging!

Beth

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS: It is frustrating that Bush didn't really answer the question, though, about accepting a duly-elected leader who might not be friendly to the US. He didn't really confront that issue in his answer, did he?

Beth

8:06 PM  
Blogger Ibn_Alrafidain said...

Papa Ray,
Thanks for visiting my blog frequently. I like your comments and weblinks you introduce to visit.
------------------------------------------
Louise,
I can feel you visiting and reading my posts, you iraqi blogs adict. Thanks for the encourgement.
------------------------------------------
Beth,
Excellent PS. I have the same question about not being firm in the confrence by Bush, even when he spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
------------------------------------------
Thanks to all the visitors and I hope you find my blog useful.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

The question was posed whether the US would accept a democratically elected leader opposed to US policy. The answer is 'yes'.

We can go back to our history of nation building to find the answer. The US was central to the creation of democratic governments in Japan and Germany (and to a lessor degree in France's 5th? Republic) after WWII. The push for democracy came largely from the threat those two countries posed to us during WWII (much like the threat America viewed after 9/11). These countries have often been at odds with US policy since. We have not gone back to rebuild those nations.

I think the basic idea is that no matter how anti-American these nations become in their rhetoric, they will not actively support the destruction of America and our shared ideals. France, Germany, and Japan have been active in varying capacities in the halt of terrorism. Let us not forget that France downed a few planes that were a terrorist threat to the US not too long ago.

I think our administration's opinion (and mine) is that a democratic society is good regardless of the leader. It sucks that France hates us so much, despite our historic assistance to that country, but as long as France encourages a democratic society within her own borders we have nothing to fear. Democratic societies do not go to war with each other (there is historical evidence) and do not actively pursue the destruction of other democratic societies.

So I do not think President Bush would oppose a democratically elected leader in Iraq that opposed some US policy. I know it can sometimes be hard to believe (MainStreamMedia) that America is truly acting in the interest of the Iraqi people to improve security for 'Freedom Loving Peoples' around the world, but that is why I support President Bush's administration. I think many other Americans would agree. Our security equals their freedom.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Terrence O'Connor said...

I Think that the US and Uk will be a long time friend of Iraq. It may be hard to grasp the concept that the Western World and the Middle East can have actual Allies. I believe the forward thinking in your Blog needs to be more wide spread instead of the radical ideology that seems to plague the middle east.

The US and UK also need to force people in our contries to be more tolerant with other cultures. Our cultures will never be one in the same, but I believe that as long as we act civil and with decency then there are no boundaries between our friendship.

I also do not think that the Iraqi people will elect a brutal dictator (only time will tell). Also with the check and balances that are present in your new government, I do not think radical rule will survive. I think Iraqi's have found there voice and hopefully will use it to shout their desire for freedom and respect instead of violence and oppression.

There are only 10 weeks until the elections. Are you excited? Are there any candidates that are gaining support?

Your Friend

Terrence O'Connor
Phoenix, Arizona

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a very succinct eloquence even though English probably is a second language. I might just register a username because of wanting to comment! I'm a half-Iraqi descendent living in the states.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Thank you Mr. Alrafidian, I don't post in many places, except I do post on websites that have to do with Grand Parents fairly often. I have 3 Grand Sons and 1 Grand Daughter (She is the light of my life and reason for living).



My Worry for them is overwhelming at times. I can only imagine (No I can't,Really) how parents and grandparents feel and worry in Iraq and that area. It makes me so afraid but that fear turns to such great anger. Anger at such stupidity, ignorance and intolerance.

The WSJ is one paper I don't read. I am too poor to own stocks and have no investments other than a small savings account for my Grand Daughter, but I was reading some blogs and several linked to this:

http://tinyurl.com/3whf3

Its a long piece covering I think six topics on the state of Iraq at this time (Of course its only the authors opinion). I have read it twice and am trying to get confirmation from other sources.

I, like others that are not there, read this and hope that the words and thoughts are true. But I don't know. Perhaps you can read and offer your thoughts.

Wishing you the best for you and yours.

This is my Post

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

7:43 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

One more post and I will leave everyone alone (at least for today).

The history of the Americans and the English is long and complicated. Most only know that the Americans had a war over the repression and taxing of the American colony and that after many years of terrible fighting and suffering American won its independence. There was more to the story, and still is. There is still a bond, a bond of blood and beliefs.
------------------------------------------------------

Mr. Tony Blair, of the United Kingdom, (or England,if you wish), made a speech back in 2003 to the U.S. Congress.

Here is a link to that speech. It is not really all that long, once you start reading. I read elsewhere that he wrote over 90 percent of this speech himself, AFTER he had arrived in the U.S. (and that some of it was "off the cuff" while he was speaking).

I can not tell you in words how much I admire and respect this man. I only wish I could talk to him and offer him my hand and tell him, " Thanks from this Texan for your friendship and your courage".

He said:

"We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind--black or white, Christian or not, left, right or a million different--to be free, free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.

That's what we're fighting for. And it's a battle worth fighting.

And I know it's hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to, but always wanted to go...

I know out there there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me? And why us? And why America?"

And the only answer is, "Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do."

And our job, My Nation that has watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you.

You are not going to be alone. We will be with you in this fight for liberty.

We will be with you in this fight for liberty. And if our spirit is right and our courage firm, the World will be with us.

Thank you."

READ THE REST:

http://tinyurl.com/66wkm

Today, right as I write this to you, The British are fighting (and dying and suffering terrible wounds, right along with our Troops), GOD PLEASE BE WITH ALL OF THEM !

This is my post

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

8:12 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

The WallStreetJournal is an excellent news source that does not follow the MainStreamMedia. If you do not own stocks or have the money to buy a subscription, there is another way to get news from this source. Go to:

opinionjournal.com

Columns from their editorial page, as well as online journalists are posted here. I try to read it daily.
It's better than watching CNN or reading the NewYorkTimes.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi.

There is much more to Iraqi's freedom and the U.S./U.K's motives to freeing Iraq that is immediately clear.

First of all, Bush is clearly a Regean admirer. Regean was the champion of Democracy against the communist threat, now Bush sees himself as the champion of democracy against the Islamic extremist/stalin dictator of the Middle East. The motivation isn't oil or any such thing - America is already awash in oil and doesn't need to send off 1300 of it's Sons and Daughters, plus countless billions, to get a little bit more.
These men want to be remembered like the leaders before them of being champions of their cause.

Secondly, security. You have hit the nail on the head here. The reasons there is hatred and terrorism against the United States (and Israel) comes down to a few things.
Poor education, poor employment, and poor economics. They become jealous and hateful of people who have more money etc than them.
A generally lower standard of living also turns people more to fanatical religion and other such causes. It's the same reason many people join the army because 'they want something better in life'.
The best way to end all this is to drag the middle east kicking and screaming into the 21st centurary by building hospitals, schools, employing citizens, and giving them a higher standard of living.
Now I realise Iraq and the Iraqi people wern't exactly hotbeds of terror, but it is a foothold. If Iraq and Afghanistan turn out to be 21st centurary democracies, it may inspire other Arabs in the area who long for freedom to do the same, a bastion of hope so to speak.

It looks good for Afghanistan, and Iraq will be free because the people want to be free.

Cheers
Dave

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corrections to my above post:

Sorry, I posted Reagans name wrong ;)

And 'Send away 1,400' I meant send away the lives of 1,400'

Cheers
Dave

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave and others make some good points, but I feel the need to comment on the comments...

First, we should make a distinction between the US invasions of Iraq & Afghanistan and the after effects of these invasions. Because of the presence of the very Islamist, extremist Taliban in Afghanistan, it seems like Afghanistan was a welcoming place for Islamists of many nationalities to come train (Osama bin Laden for example). It made some sense to go into Afghanistan after 9/11 because of a direct relationship between the situation there and the threat (and reality) of terrorist activity in the US. In Iraq, however awful Sadaam Hussein was (and I know he was), the country was more stable and NOT open to lots of Islamist fundamentalists. And, of course, there was no tangible connection betw. Hussein and Al Quaeda, no WMD, etc.

Iraq is now much more open to Islamist groups, folks from BOTH inside and outside Iraq, who are pursuing a global political/relgious agenda which includes the eradication of Western cultural influences in the Islamic Middle East- that would probably include Western style democracy. That is something important to remember, even if the bulk of Iraqis want to have a free and open democracy. It's a reality of the world situation, and our actions may be making the anti-Western sentiment of the fundamentalists- and maybe non-fundamentalists, too- worse.

There is a worldwide movement towards Islamist fundamentalism which combines religion and politics- including government by Islamic law. It is both within the Middle East and in the Islamic diaspora, as France, Germany, Spain and Holland have recently experienced in a variety of ways. I'm sure there is more to come for those countries. (It's been easy for Europe to act as if the US just had a big target on its forehead, so to speak, because of our rather checkered past in the Middle East, but the Islamic fundamentalists are struggling in Europe against European society as well.)

We in the west really need to get our heads around this. There is a large portion of the Islamic world that will only be more anti-western the more we try to intervene in places like Iraq. We keep saying we want to make a free, open, democratic Iraq that looks like the US. To some ears, that sounds like we want to bleed the country of its culture, heritage, and religion.

We don't see it as bad to install a democracy, but remember- we do keep saying that we're over there to change the place! And some of those folks are saying that they don't want our kind of change! (Democracy is really NOT compatible with fundamentalism, either Islamic or Christian, IMHO.) We need to get this into our sightlines in order to make realistic decisions about what to do or not do in the Middle East, rather than spouting lofty ideals that we have only ever half-assedly lived up to in reality.

We also really need to remember the long history of our (American) meddling in the internal affairs of other nations, including Iran, Iraq, and so on, which have had long-term disastrous consequences. Our CIA trained Osama bin Laden. We supported Sadaam Hussein up through the Iran-Iraq war. We supported the Shah of Iran, who WAS NOT democratically elected, and we orchestrated a 'coup' to destroy the democratically elected government of Iran in the 1950s and place a Shah back on the throne! We have NOT been noble supporters of all folks yearning to be free and democratic--far from it.

People who know the history of US foreign policy are only being realistic to question what the US motivations are now and what will happen next. I appreciate and second the feelings of many of my fellow Americans who post here, who wish for democracy and freedom for Iraq, but we need to stop being naive. What Bush and company say to us about why we're in Iraq may be part of the truth, but it is probably not the whole truth. (I agree with many posters that oil is not likely the only reason either, but it is not an entirely insigificant fact that there's oil in Iraq. After all, there are even worse human rights situations and even worse dictatorships that we are happy to ignore in oil-less countries. And look at Bush's domestic policies- he wants to drill in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge and I guarantee he's not looking for democracy there!)

To suggest that our history is one long noble sacrifice to help other countries be free and have human rights flies in the face of the facts. Particularly in Africa (read up on the Congo sometime), the Middle East, and Central America. Yes, we helped rebuild Germany and Japan after WWII because it was in our economic and security interests to do so. But remember- we STILL have military bases in Germany and Japan that are not particularly popular with their DEMOCRATIC societies - but we've not pulled out, either.

Ibn-Alrafidain, I guess I turned your blog into my soapbox. Oops! Stepping down and cooling off now. Waiting for your next post.

Beth

PS: I do want to say that I do believe America HAS done good things in the world on occasion. I have hope that America can ultimately help Iraq. And I do believe that our men & women in the service would like to do some good over there. But as is probably clear, I passionately believe we have to look at the situation with our eyes OPEN in order to make the wisest decisions to make that happen--which is what makes this blog such good reading.

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Beth, some good points, but I'd like to add some things for you to think on.

Firstly, the United States is acutely aware of Islamic influence in Middle Eastern policy, and I believe Iraq in it's new constitution accepts the right of Islam to take consideration in the laws of Iraq, but the fact that Saddam was anti Islam does not make him a good person to keep around.
There was no bargaining with Saddam, there was no diplomatic leverage without force. Saddam didn't denouce 9/11, Saddam was an enemy much like Italy was in WW2.

Bush and co obviously feel that Islam HAS a place in the world, and they have more confidence that Islam will rout out it's own extremists and help these nations prosper. Islam isn't the enemy, it's the ideaology of a few that are.

Also your point about America supporting dictators, well, that was during the cold war. The cold war is over and times change, also America was at the bottom of a long list of benefactors to Saddam, with Russia and France coming first. Saddam was always considered rogue by America considering he was supported by the Soviet Union, and remember that Iraq for along time was an ally of America :)

Bush's motives are quite clear to me. He wants change and reform in the middle east. Not change from Islam, but change from oppression, terrorism, and poverty. If the future democracies of the Middle East chose Islam then so be it, but as long as they have the choice to chose Bush and the American people [And Tony Blair etc] have done a beautiful thing.

1:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Argh sorry, I should proof read more carefully.

"and remember that Iraq for along time was an ally of America :)" should be "and remember that Iran for along time was an ally of America :)"

Sorry

Dave

2:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,
I appreciate your response to my post. I'm quite sure that Bush and Co. are not anti-Islam...but the point I was trying to make was that there are serious legions of Muslims who DO think that Western culture broadly speaking and Islam are incompatible, and that therefore, the US pushing our agenda (even if it is a GREAT agenda) in Iraq and elsewhere is anti-Islam. And that by nature it's kind of a tar-baby situation...the more we try to fix it the more we break it.

I don't believe that Islam in general is incompatible w/democracy (look at Turkey) but I do think that the fundamentalist movement that spawned the two rounds of World Trade Center attacks and other conflicts in Europe as well as the 'insurgency' in Iraq believe very deeply that democracy and their idea of Islam is incompatible. And I would tend to agree that their Islamist theology is not compatible with a democratic system that tolerates differences and protects minority interests, and so on.

I appreciate your point about the Cold War influencing the decision to support dictators. But that to me doesn't change the fact that there are plenty of folks living in the Middle East who remember our previous engagements over there and don't trust us. Why should they, really? It's all well and good to talk about our values but we haven't lived up to those values in that region before. And that history is important. Others who post here suggest we will be tolerant of an anti-American, democratically elected leader; however, the democratically elected leader of Iran in the 50's was friendly to the USSR so we sided with the Shah and booted the duly elected president. Which all goes back to a previous post by Son of Two Rivers on mistrust, political expediency, and so on. Even if the Cold War is over, I don't think the utilitarian, my-enemy's-enemy-is-my-friend approach to world affairs has changed much.

Beth

2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Beth.

I don't agree with your comment that there are scores of Muslims that are anti-democracy.
I think many Muslims thrive for a democracy or more to the point freedom, I think it's the hardline minority that make the most noise that ends up across the oceans to our TV screens.

I think the agenda the U.S. is pushing in the Middle East is not anti-Islam, but anti-fundamentalist Islam, and because that group is the most radical they are kicking up the greatest fuss. There is a silent majority however that you must factor in, and with the massive number of blogs coming out from Iraq that silent majority is getting more weight behind it.

I have a Palistinian barber who came to New Zealand to enjoy the freedoms of our country and our democracy, he is pretty anti-American and a devot muslim (and has teached me a lot about Islam), now while he doesn't represent the whole Arab world, he seems a classic example of your every day Muslim Arab.
I am a Christian, and we respect each others point of view and learn off each other, that is an example of freedoms and democracy working the way it should and why it can work in the Middle East.

You have hit the nail on the head about the fundamentalist movement being anti-democracy and civil liberties in general, but they're just throw backs of a 7th centurary society that with globalization, the internet, and other world wide flows of information the Middle East can no longer live in a 7th centuary bubble.
The invasion of Iraq and the modernizing of it's society and culture is only going to speed up the modernization of the entire region.

Yes there is a lot of mistrust in the Middle East, and most of it warrented, but I feel that Iraqi's and certianly Afghans are coming to terms with America, and I believe Bush's intentions are much better than any other President before him when it comes to the Middle East.
The fact that U.S. forces are still in Iraq despite so much bad press, international outcry, and outcry on the home front suggests that their motives are not just political, but there is a real will in the current U.S. administration to bring change - for the better - to the Middle East.

History can give us lessions, but you must remember the context. While I do have some critism for the 91 foriegn policy towards Iraq, I am now looking back with hindsight of course, however before that most of U.S. foreign policy was based on defeating the Soviet Union and to compare it today is Apples to Oranges.
I personally think a lot of U.S. foreign policy has been shaken up since 9/11, and the cold war has been buried in the halls of history.

I also personally feel that just because there is the potential to make things worse in the Middle East, is no reason to ignore the problem. Quite frankly the United States ignored the problems in the Middle East for 30 years of terror attacks and other warnings, so something must be done.
The Iraqi, Afghanistan, and American people are extremely lucky they have a President who has a spine and does what he thinks is right - for better or for worse.

History will be the greatest judge, and judging by history things will turn out well for Iraq and Afghanistan, hopefully the entire Middle East.
Europe was dragged, kicking and screaming out of oppression when no one thought it was possible, and so can the Middle east, but hopefully without the same rivers of blood in the wake of Europes liberation.

All it takes is a vision and a will to execute that vision, and President Bush has made his vision and will clear, and so too the American people on Nov 3.

Soon it will be the Iraqis turn, and based on the outcome the war will be half way won.

Cheers
Dave

3:05 AM  
Blogger Scott from Oregon said...

Good job. Ibn....

4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,
Thanks for your reply. I must admit that I am really changing my attitude about the Iraq war and the American presence there in the past few weeks. I was not a fan of George Bush and was really unsettled by his re-election. Still not really a fan, but am beginning to consider whether I have misjudged his foreign policy. (I am quite sure I have not misjudged his domestic policy, but that is a whole other story.)

It was in the aftermath of the election that I began reading Iraqi blogs. And it has been eye opening. Like many here have mentioned, you just don't get much nuanced info from major media outlets.

You make a very good point that I frankly had never considered when you say that the continuation of this policy towards iraq in the face of so much European and domestic opprobrium might show that there is more than simple self-interest going on here. I am not sure I believe it yet but I will really have to think about that.

And, I REALLY don't mean to imply that all Muslims are anti-democratic or fanatics or what have you. Islamist fundamentalism is a growing worldwide movement, however, with a not inconsiderable number of followers- I think that's fair to say. Maybe not as many as it seems when I watch the evening news, but not inconsequential either. And it is a reality we will have to deal with in a lot of the world in the coming decades.

But you also make a great point that we cannot sit around not doing anything for fear of making a situation worse when it is obviously getting worse anyway.

Finally, I am an historian by training and profession so I tend to believe that history is NEVER thrown out on the dustheap, so to speak. My whole career is spent looking at how the past relates to the present (though I'm not an historian of either the Middle East or the 20th century) and I'm still not convinced that American policies in the ME during the Cold War are irrelevant now.

OK, I'll stop, I promise!! I am really enjoying this blog, meeting other folks who care, and getting different points of view. I'm learning a LOT. And apparently getting addicted. ;)

Beth

4:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Beth,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I do agree with you on many points myself actually.

Firstly, the press. I live in New Zealand, and I a exposed to virtually only one side of the story (CNN and BBC) in a very liberal country.
At first, I disliked Bush too. Bush was a 'Republican' and like most non-Americans 'Republican' sounds bad compared to 'Democrat', we don't really understand what the parties stand for or mean.
However as I have learnt about American politics, and witnessed Bush's Presidency the man has grown on me as a man of conviction, something very rare in polititans today.
A lot of international hatred towards Bush and conservative Americans is born out of misunderstanding and a opinionated media, which every day acts more like high funded blogs (no offence to bloggers ;) ).

I also agree with your point that fundamentalism Islam is becoming wide spread - and that it doesn't fit the mould of Democracy at all.
This is again why the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is so important because someone has to offer something better to these oppressed people. Although arguably as you have pointed out radical Islam would have never taken over Iraq while Saddam was in power, it still is no excuse to leave him there (that is cold war thinking Beth - see below ;)
This reminds me a lot of how Christianity spread in the beginning [and was exploited and twisted], you being a historian will be familiar with this.

I don't think that Cold war thinking and policy has completely gone (my earlier comment was probably over-stating it a bit much), but after 9/11 there is definately a shift in priorities. The CIA reforms going on right now are a clear indication of this, Rumsfelds changes to the military, America is changing gears to meet the new threat, and it's foreign policy is changing too. The whole Bush policy towards 'old' Europe is probably the biggest indication of cold war policy is on the back foot, and the fact they removed Saddam despite the fact he was a solid wall against Islamic fundamentalism. Perhaps it's just a simple matter that Bush thinks this is a war on 'terror' simple, and does not want to believe it is a clash of idealogies between extremist Islam and 'the rest'. I think this is good, because the less you try to turn something into a war against Islam the less chance it will happen. Again I feel the good people of Islam will hunt their own demons in the end, time will tell.

I do see your point though, will the United States resort to more the more shady side of ethics to win the war against terror? I don't know. I think it's a little more black and white now that it was during the cold war. It's governments vs non-goverments, it's easier to pick sides now, there isn't any middle ground to terror.
It's not so much as bullying nations into two opposing sides under grand alliances, as all soverign nations oppose terrorism at least in public, and in theory are on the same side.
Of course Iraq[Saddam] chose differently. Saddam, while maybe not involved in terror NOW (although Saddam was definately a big funder of the PLO - a big player in the war on terror and the reason for it's existance), he was a supporter at least publically of terror in his support of 9/11. He was a declared enemy and for no reason apart from that he had to go. If your nation is attacked by whatever means, and other leaders out there express support for this attack, they are fair game.
This is not just a war against Osama Bin Laden, as WW2 was not just a war against Hitler.

As you can see your statement about history and how the past relates to the present is very true. I think many people around the world are uncomfortable about another global conflict, we've had three in the past 100 years and we thought we were above that, we were just getting over the last one and we finally felt safe! But sometimes war comes to you and you just can't go on sticking your head in the sand. It is America's ability to stand up for itself and fight for what it believes in that keeps it where it is today, let alone where the west is today.
Many Europeans like to think that their peaceful penisula today is all their doing [never again and all that].
In part it is, but it's their younger brother over the Atlantic that has had a pretty big hand in helping, and I think it is foolish for them to bite the hand that feeds them.

Interesting times ahead indeed.

Cheers
Dave

5:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admitt though, that if a 23 yearold from New Zealand has to sit here and explain the reasons for Bush going to war in Iraq, and so many Iraqi's, Americans, and the rest of the world confused and arguing over why, there is obviously something seriously wrong with the White House's PR department.

The case made for the Iraq war was probably one of the worst PR efforts in the history of man-kind.

Oh well, sometimes the ends justifies the means. :)

Cheers
Dave

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,
Re Saddam: "That is cold war thinking" -- TOUCHE.

:)

Thanks for a great, interesting exchange. I appreciate it!
Beth

5:07 PM  
Blogger Ibn_Alrafidain said...

Beth, Dave
It is a thoughtful debate. I'll try to keep on blogging and I'm really delighted that you, Beth, would use my blog as your soapbox. You, and all readers, are welcome.

Ibn-Alrafidain

5:10 PM  
Blogger Terrence O'Connor said...

I think you also have to look at the war in Iraq from more than just a War of Freedom. I have served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. And spent quite a bit of time in the middle east.

One major thing to take into account is the strategic aspect of placing a large miltary presence in Iraq. Grab the closest map to you and look at the Areas in which we are able to place a large military force now.

As Pres BushStated in the days after Sept 11th there is an axis of evil and he laid it our for us that daqy. He said this is going to be a long war that will take many years, at least 10. As of now we have Iran surrounded with our military. we have Syria covered as well. If you think that Iraq is the last stage od this war you are sorely mistaken.

What America needed was a strong foothold in the middle east to "shake things up", from a logistical stand point the war in Iraq is brilliant.

Like my current boss says. "do good, but also do well"
You can accomplish two things at once, we are trying to help the Iraqi people by liberating them but we are also doing well for our military plan. I think Iran is already feeling the walls caving in on them, and if the do not then they soon will.

I think Bush has pulled the plug on radical islam, and is moving toward a day when people to not have to get limbs chopped off as punishment for small crimes, and women will not have to be held down due to lack of education. We will fight opression with force and hold back not mercy on those that want to rule by imposing fear on others.

Like Pres Bush has said recently "freedom is on the March" Either you are for Freedom or against it, and people need to decide this real soon.

I have great faith that the people fo Iraq will join us in this fight and they will live in a great world where they can worship Allah in a peaceful manner. Islam is a religon of peace and teaches great things but we need to stamp out the extremist that are teaching the opposite of what Islam stands for.

I hope to travel to Iraq one day and meet all of the people that are keeping me informed through this wonderful world of Blogging. Thanks for reading this

Your Friend

Terrence O'Connor
Phoenix, Arizona

10:05 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

I was quite impressed with the discussion between Beth and Dave. I hope this helps your understanding of what Democracy can bring as far as discourse Ibn AlRafidain.

I wanted to add something to this discussion. I know at times I write about high principles of Freedom, Democracy, Liberty, and Justice. It may seem naive, but I am a student of the world. I did not come up with these ideas in a box. I read and study and listen to a variety of ideas. My parents are basically socialists and my siblings are fairly conservative. I go to a liberal university and I read conservative publications.

I think it is important for people to discuss the basis for a Free Iraq. While I will not judge another's culture, I do believe there is absolute 'good' and 'evil' in the world. There is no question that Saddam is an 'evil' man. Democracies can screw up and make the wrong decisions, but public opinion and morality will not let government stray to far in its policies. That is the promotion of 'good'.

It is really easy to to write off America's policies as self-serving. I know that I voted for President Bush because I believe in the truth of Democracy. I tell other people this. I think many Americans voted for President Bush for the same reason. I believe President Bush thinks in this same fashion. Sure, creating a society of Democratic citizens will be tough at times. But it can work. And fear that we might fail is nowhere in my mind. If people lived there lives with the fear of failure always in the back of their heads, nothing would ever be accomplished.

Sometimes you have to stand up for something you believe in. And this is something I am willing to fight for. When I am done with school I am not going to focus on money. I intend to get involved with the spread of Democracy in whatever capacity I can. It is one thing I can do for the Freedoms I have enjoyed in my life. And this is not naive. It is well though out.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is known in politics that there is no permanent friendship but mutual interests".

This is not entirely true in the U.S. While individual politicians here certainly operate that way, we the people do not. Those politicians we admire the most do not. These include Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and many, many more.

There is such a thing as doing what is right because it is right. But to a world that only believes in self interest, such a message cannot be believed. So, we must say we are really doing it for our own security. We could have protected our nation by simply closing our borders. It would have been easy and inexpensive; it would also have been wrong, an abandonment of the very things we hold most dear.

The difficult thing in the U.S. is getting a consensus on what is right and what needs to be done when there is so much awry in the world and in our own nation. It explains the slowness of some of our operations.

From Arthur Chrenkoff's blog "Good News from Iraq, Part 15", in the words of an American soldier:

"Stan Coerr, a Marine helicopter pilot who went into Iraq in the first wave of the Coalition troops, reflected recently on his mission:

"For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused - but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

"I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis."

End of quote.

On Thanksgiving, it is particularly pertinent. Our forefathers risked and often gave their lives in order that we might be free. We do not think it is too much to ask of us to do the same for our neighbors. Today, halfway around the world is still our neighbor.

That our former enemy and occupier is now our staunchest ally and that we, in the U.S., see Great Britain more as our mother country than as a former enemy is the proof of the power and decency of that endeavor.

To those who today can only see self interest, your great granddaughters will nonetheless see as I do. People can change, they have nobility of spirit and in the light of freedom it can be seen and experienced. It may take time, but that is something we have and something else to be thankful for.

gail

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth, while some of your criticisms of U.S. foreign policy hold merit, I worry that they might cause undue pessimism for Ibn and other Iraqis. The Cold War is over. The concerns that led some in the U.S. to support dictators as long as they were anti-Soviet no longer obtain.

Look, we entered into an alliance with Jospeh Stalin in WWII, even tho he was a mass murderer and totalitarian monster. He helped us defeat fascism, and so we sealed that distasteful deal. Wrong? Maybe. But we thereby defeated Hitler and Imperial Japan; those forces killed millions and would have continued to do so had we not intervened. Life does not always offer pure choices.

Ibn has evinced a sophisticated understanding of politics as being a matter of naked interest. Usually, that is so. Idealists do hold some sway, but they succeed when their ideals are compatible with those of the pragmatists. Both pragmatism and idealism dictate supporting a democratic Iraq that enjoys the rule of law and protection of individual liberties.

Finally, W is a True Believer, and total idealist. Many in his (my) country find that revolting. But I'd encourage Ibn and other Iraqis to rely on that fact. W really and truly thinks that democracy under the rule of law, spread around the globe, makes us in the U.S. safer. "Girlie man" tho it may be, I think he is right, and in any event, his stalwartness there is good news for Ibn and Iraq.

--Mona--

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mona,
Thanks for your comments to me on Son of Two Rivers' blog. I appreciate what you say, and my intent is certainly not to discourage Iraqis from believing in the possibility of democracy in their country. Far from it. I hope democracy succeeds there.

I just think the world situation is far more complex than many people acknowledge. What started me posting was frustration that fellow Americans post on a variety of Iraqi blogs to say stuff that amounts to, basically, "be democratic or we'll kick your ass some more" or "America is just great and you better believe it." That kind of talk doesn't really help matters, in my opinion. I do think it's possible, however, to be up front about and accepting of flaws and failings and still believe in the goodness of a country and its style of goverment.

I also want to point out that though the Cold War is over, there are many, many people in the current administration who cut their foreign policy teeth on the Cold War. Condi Rice's PhD is in Soviet studies, for example- and Rumsfeld, Cheney, and other very influential policy makers first worked for Nixon in the Cold-War era White House. It may mean nothing, but lifetimes of thinking in certain patterns may also mean that there is only one way that these guys are used to operating. In other words, if the only tool in your toolkit is a hammer, does every problem start to look like a nail?

This is not to say that the war in Iraq doesn't have its own idealistic - or ideological- underpinnings. I think it does. And actually, I don't know whether it's better (practically or morally) to gauge foreing policy on self-interest or ideology. Ideology is what led the US to side with brutal dictators and monarchs rather than democratically elected leaders for the 'greater good' of some abstract idea of preventing the spread of communism. On the other hand, self-interest is what keeps us in bed with the Saudis, who are hardly leaders of democratic egalitarianism and freedom.

So I don't really have a solution, only some observations. And, though my posts have been specifically about US foreign policy, there are many instances of many countries doing bad things to and in other parts of the world and forming shady alliances- the US is hardly unique in that regard. It seems to go hand-in-hand with the modern world, and nationalism, for better or worse.
Beth

8:31 PM  

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