Alright, listen up, warmongers. I’ve decided to help you. No, really. You can thank me later.
I’m not doing this out of any sympathy, or because you shamed me into it. As a friend put it several months ago, Iraq is “your goddamn mess you be constructive.” He was a bit generous, though, to assume that you guys could be constructive, that you could think your way out of a wet paper bag instead of just bombing it back to that Stone Age you laptop LeMays are so fond of. You have demonstrated at every turn that problem-solving is not your forte, and now some of you are running scared. From the Moonie Times to National Refuse, there has been an outbreak of antebellum amnesia, a malady I suspect will soon rival avian flu for contagiousness. I won’t forget how you sold this war, nor will I stop reminding everyone else. But out of patriotism with no partisan interest whatsoever I will help you avert the comeuppance you so richly deserve.
Here’s the bitter remedy, in three doses:
1) Withdraw completely from Iraq.
Now, you can keep American forces there indefinitely if blood, money, and time are no object (as they rarely are when they belong to someone else). Let’s say you’re willing to expend 30,000 American soldiers, trillions of taxpayer dollars, and 20 years, plus whatever domestic blowback such an occupation will entail. Heck, let’s say you’re willing to expend even more. The insurgents won’t be able to defeat you militarily. But at some point you’re going to have to leave, switch from Pause to Play, and let the Iraqis succeed or fail at independence, independently. Why not now, before the toll rings the public’s bell?
Your pride is going to sting a bit, as well it should, but not nearly so much as it will if you wait until a Beirut-style bombing finally occurs. Ponder that eventuality for a moment.
What will fill the vacuum? Civil war? Iranian theocracy? A terrorist cesspool? (Oh wait, you’ve already managed to create that last one.) Who knows. I’m not gonna kid you, either: there’s going to be some pain, for which you’ll always be partially responsible. If some Iraqi orphan who lost his family to your bombs and sanctions decides to exact some unspeakable vengeance 10 years from now, it will be partly your fault. But as long as you’re there, pouring gas on the stovetop, every blaze is entirely your fault. Once you leave, the onus for putting out fires will fall on the Iraqis. And given the attention span of the American public, most voters will forget your culpability within months.
Furthermore, though a decent outcome in Iraq is far from certain, the slim chance it does have depends upon your leaving. Mind if I borrow a little Straussian wisdom for my best-case scenario? It goes a little something like this: You begin withdrawing now, slightly ahead of the bogus June 30 deadline, citing the irrepressible nature of the current uprisings. It won’t be true, of course you could “win” these particular skirmishes through attrition or annihilation, and everyone knows it. The insurgents are praying that you’ll go Rambo and martyr them. Don’t oblige them. Just pack it up, have the band play “The World Turned Upside Down” as you leave, and let the Iraqis call Fallujah their Yorktown. The radicals have seen the devastation you can wreak on their country should they decide to get sassy later on. The Shi’ites and Sunnis, drawn together by their hatred of occupation, will find a way to coexist probably through some sort of home-grown federalism that also solves the Kurdish problem. Eventually, Iraqi elites will develop an Ameriphilia comparable to our own Anglophilia. Average Iraqis will show Americans the same stupid deference that Americans show Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens.
Pretty rosy, huh? But it won’t work if you stop there.
2) Kick Israel off of the dole.
There’s no reason to be nasty about it. You don’t have to single out Israel, nor should you. Simply announce an end to all foreign aid (as I recall, that used to be a major goal for conservatives). See ya, Egypt. So long, Uzbekistan. Later, Haiti. The handouts benefit neither them nor us.
The same goes for Israel. As I wrote last summer,
“Ironically, all of that money has retarded the growth of a viable Jewish state in the Middle East. By enabling Israeli leaders to act like bullies, American aid prolongs Israel’s painful adolescence and creates the illusion that the country never has to grow up. Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Benny Elon live in a fantasy world where, thanks to U.S. favoritism, Israel will never have to get along with its neighbors. Can such a nation survive? If nothing else, demography and economics suggest otherwise.”
Aid to Israel is a prime source of Muslim hostility toward the U.S., but surely a mirror effect also exists. How much can it benefit Israel, which at least confines its pestering of Muslims to a limited area, to be at the end of the Great Satan‘s leash?
An independent Israel and an independent Iraq would finally have something in common, which is always a good starting point for peace. At the very least Iraqi rabble-rousers would have little ammunition for an anti-American jihad.
So far, so good, right? And the last part is the easiest.
3) Define the capture or death of Osama bin Laden as the endgame in the War on Terror.
The only way to extract yourselves from this absurdity is to redefine the mission. Bin Laden authored the 9/11 attack, not Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Hizbollah, ETA, or the Irish Republican Army. Reassure the Muslims (and everyone else) that you plan to catch the perpetrator and go home, not invade the world. You might be surprised by how cooperative some folks will be especially your weary hosts in Central Asia.
I know, I know, this plan pales next to a “World War IV” or a “clash of civilizations,” but it has the slight advantage of actually being winnable. Even if you don’t apprehend Osama, you can keep his network disrupted until the old codger bites it.
So there it is hostilities reduced, attacks averted, and justice served, in three easy steps. I doubt you’ll take a single one of them. But never say that I was not constructive.