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What War in Iraq?


Democrats have been preparing to take over Congress for about two weeks now – fueling a national debate about what to do about the war in Iraq. Frankly, I, for one, have not been impressed by the options. But the lack of direction in the debate may not be Democrats fault if you consider that there may be no such thing as a war in Iraq after all.

There are basically three scenarios being offered for the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq. Republican Senator John McCain and other suggest we ramp up the number of troops to eradicate our enemy with one final push. The President seems to be favoring a gradual ramping-down where some presence will be necessary since, after all, we’re building permanent bases. Some Democrats, like Sen. Barack Obama or Rep. John Murtha, say we should just get the heck out of there, if not now, then in six months.

By and large these are all false choices, because, as I see it, there is no war in Iraq at this point.

When I think of “war,” I think of guns and bombs and tanks and planes and things that go “boom”. But I also think that there has to be an enemy to be fighting. Wikipedia is more diplomatic about it: “War is a conflict involving use of weapons and physical force by states or other large-scale groups, coinciding with a lack of dialogue between the parties. Warring parties usually hold territory, which they can win or lose; and each has a leading person or organisation which can surrender, or collapse, thus ending the war.”

These concepts of war clearly applied to the first months of American involvement in Iraq when we were working to liberate the people of Iraq from the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein. But at some point everything changed. Perhaps it was when we captured Saddam Hussein, or maybe when George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” that whatever is going on in Iraq ceased to be a war as it’s usually defined.

At this point, most of what our troops are doing is not engaging in “war” or any kind of combat. It’s time that the President and Military leaders clearly recognize this and rename the mission to something like Operation Rebuilding Iraq.

Surely there are dangers – as we see in the tragic reports of our soldiers dying – but we’re engaged in reconstruction, not warfare at this point. The Sunnis and Shiites will battle not over religion, but over limited resources, as they did tragically over the weekend. That warfare will continue as long as their future is seen as a zero-sum game. Iraquis need to be convinced that they will all be better off by “growing the pie” rather than arguing over how to slice it – or worse yet, blowing it up.

If we fail to recognize that the nature of our role in Iraq has changed, we will lose a war which we weren’t even fighting. Put the situation in an historical context – it’s 1947, not 1944, and Iraq is Japan or Germany – and you’ll see my point

When we look at the options on the table for our future in Iraq, we have to look at history. After World War II, we stayed in Japan and Germany and helped these nations rebuild because we saw it as important in element of our grand strategy during the burgeoning Cold War.

That was a hard-won lesson. Thirty years earlier, in the aftermath of World War I, the Allies – France, the U.S. and England – left a defeated Germany in tatters. Germans resented their treatment after “The War to End all Wars” and their economy quickly fell apart, allowing for the rise of National Socialism and, eventually, the Second World War.

If you believe that we can learn from History, we might look to the past when choosing our options in the War, er, reconstruction, in Iraq.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 8:58 AM | Permalink

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