My Take On The Iraq War

As many of you know I have always been against the Iraq War. I also recognize that there is a large segment of Americans that support the war. Many of them do so because of political philosophy or because in some way they believe that not supporting the war is tad amount to undermining troop morale. I don’t believe that is the case but this post is not for that discussion. One reason why the anti-war movement has never elevated above minor protest and editorials is because by in large the cost of the war is abstract to most Americans.

Let's face it, $6 billion per month means nothing to most of us. It is a number that is as important as the increase in GDP or Fed interest rate hikes. All those numbers impact our lives, but they aren’t as striking as receiving a 10% wage reduction losing a job.

President Bush made a political calculation that the American people would support the Iraq effort as long as they were not asked to make any sacrifices. Therefore, the burden of our foreign policy is squarely on the shoulders of a few hundred thousand soldiers and their families. A draft to lessen that burden or a tax increase to fund the cost of the war would have raised the intensity of the anti-war movement. President Bush knew this and here we are.

I don’t think most Americans respect the complexity of Iraq. I don’t believe the Bush administration respected the complexity of Iraq. When told of the difficulties they would face and the required troop level needed for success, the Bush team balked and silenced the dissenters. This is especially true for
General Shenseki who estimated that it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. The Bush Administration didn’t appreciate that and instead opted for General Tommy Franks estimates.

After Saddam’s fall, the occupation began and Paul Bremer went on to make serious mistakes in Iraq. The first was not containing the lawlessness that ensued after the fall of Saddam. The second was the De-Baathification of Iraq’s political structure. This eliminated the most experienced bureaucrats from the political and reconstruction process. There are a host of mistakes that Bremer made that led to the situation we have now. You can read a detailed report

The war started on March 20, 2003 and since then we have endured over 2100 American casualties and countless Iraqi casualties. The President has set the course for dramatic changes in 2006. Based on news reports, it looks as though the Pentagon will start troop reduction early next year and by the time the mid-term elections roll around, I suspect we will have less than 90,000 troops in Iraq. I believe it is safe to say that 2006 will be the most important year that determines the outlook for Iraq’s future.

Contrary to what most right-wingers say, the level of American involvement in Iraq will be determined by the realities of American politics and not the reality of what is taking place on the ground in Iraq. Most right-wingers ignore the complexity of the situation instead opting for powder puff facts noting how many schools were built or how many new businesses were created. Although there are many good things happening in Iraq, it is happening under precarious conditions and with a destabilizing political undercurrent. It is the undercurrent that will determine the future of Iraq and if it is able to prosper as a country or divide itself into ethnic regions.

The sectarian violence and the security forces dominated by militias do not bode well for the country. I believe the violence would be greater if not for the presence of American troops. The reconstruction is still slow going do to the violence and the Shiites and Kurds are positioning themselves for Civil War and some form of independence from whatever central government the Iraqi Parliament forms.

This is the reality of Iraq as we speak. It is far more complicated than what the media presents and Bush has been very successful with keeping Iraq in the abstract with most Americans. This is sad because there is more to this story than the number of troop casualties, how many provinces are safe and number of good news stories shown on cable news. But that doesn't seem to resonate with most.


6 Responses to My Take On The Iraq War

  1. Dave Miller Says:
    James, great post and good analysis. One of the things most gratifying to me has been how our soldiers seem to have been isolated from personal criticism, as opposed to what happened in Vietnam. Even those opposed to the war can be supportive of that.

    I believe your best point is the underlying assumption that people are truly unaware. To be knowledgeable takes time and most people just want to believe everything will be alright, because they don't have the time or effort to think on this stuff. Bush has done a great job in keeping the sacrifice to a relatively "few" Americans and that has kept the real toll out of sight and out of mind for many.

    It will be interesting to see where all of this leads us as we enter the election year, 2006 and then move to the presidential contest of '08.
  2. bold as love Says:
    911 deaths - 3478

    Troop deaths – 2100

    3478 died on September 11, 2001 doing nothing more than going about their everyday lives. 2100 soldiers have died while in the process of attempting to bring about a stable, secular, rule by law, Iraq.

    Will this plan work? At best I give it a 40% chance of success. Is the right thing to do right only when the odds are in your favor? If we don’t try, who will? Regardless of how it will turn out the opportunity was there and we are trying to take advantage of it. Whether you agree or not about the war there is one great truth- We would be a nation of short-sighted cowards if we did not attempt what we are attempting in Iraq.

  3. Zoozan Says:
    'Is President George Bush already thinking of life after the White House? While he still has a full three years of his term left, his spokesman has revealed his holiday reading list contains a biography of Theodore Roosevelt's life after leaving office' The Independent

    We can only hope
  4. Cynthia Says:
    James, it's not that the anti-war protests haven’t been significant it just hasn't been publicized. Many believe based on the way mainstream media behave, the Right is totally controlling them. Here is a list of impeachable offenses, which shows someone cares, however it is not being publicized.
  5. James Manning Says:

    I think your approach is what I am talking about. When we speak of number of deaths, we speak of them in the abstract. We haven't personally buried these men nor have we any real sense of what is happening in Iraq. To say we have an opportunity to do something is different than actaully understanding if we should do it.

    Cynt, you are right. I've seen several anti-war protest but the media has been silence about them. But I think they would be on the level of the Vietnam protest if Bush were to ask Americans to sacrifice something.
  6. Shavonne Says:
    Bush wouldn't allow the media to take pictures or shoot footage of the flag-drapped coffins that came back from Iraq.

    Bush can't control where the media goes in public places but he can make military bases off limits to the public.