Wednesday, December 21, 2005

On the Intersection of Moral and Strategic Interest in Iraq and the Middle East 

Tigerhawk has generated great interest and response from his recent post on defining victory against Islamic jihadism and fascism. Some have questioned whether we "have a dog in this hunt" at all, whether in the end our investment in blood and treasure and domestic civil liberties in Afghanistan, Iraq and other hot spots withstands scrutiny.

Many on the left and right question the entire endeavor and use critiques, principally moral though occasionally tactical and strategic as well, to undermine the effort and attempt to influence direction. Some of these critiques are in good faith; most, in my opinion, are not. They are in fact reactionary defenses of the status quo ante -- and these reactions can come from many quarters. We should not be surprised, for instance, that the CIA or the UN and other existing quasi government bureaucracies leak and obfuscate and cling to the past. This is what bureaucracies do -- they battle against reform. They are never, ever forces for change - in the end, they are forces of reaction. They must be dragged into the future. The same is true today of the Democratic Party, once a social force for positive change, now defending the bureaucracy erected to enforce that change, ossified in place. The leaders of today's Democratic Party were once the youthful vanguard, in the right. Most lack the introspection required to see that they have become forces of reaction and the past -- how else can one square the obvious moral correctness of ousting Saddam and installing representative government in the heart of Arabia, with the Defeatocrats constant whining about an "inability to win"? American proactiviity in Iraq is an obvious and extraordinary good, a moral endeavor if there ever was one, and straight in the center of an area of fundamental strategic interest to the US.

It strikes me that the arguments against the entire endeavor, including Iraq, are being eroded daily, but are fundamentally flawed even when the news is bad, and we suffer setbacks. Again, the Middle East is an area of fundamental strategic importance to the United States, and to the other great and small powers of the world. We cannot minimize or shrink from this truth. We cannot unmake this.

The region became especially so to us in the aftermath of WWII, and therefore our conduct of regional diplomacy was pursued in the context of the Cold War against Soviet communism. We made tradeoffs in that context, supporting tyrants who were anti-Soviet. We can be blunt about this now - we supported immoral regimes as a compromise to fighting immoral Soviet communism - which in the grand scheme - we viewed as an appropriate strategic and moral compromise.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, we have made a slow adjustment to restoring our traditional historical emphasis on supporting democratic reform around the world. The vacuum arising from Communist decline has given rise to ideological competition from jihadi fascism. It even fostered a domestic attack against the US. And in the Middle East, the US did not naturally move to fill the Cold War vacuum, even after the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Right or wrong, the US was euphoric and exhausted with the completion of the Cold War and wanted a "peace dividend." The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan was not followed up by the US with a strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Soviet withdrawal of economic and military support for Iraq and Syria was not followed by a US strategy to fill this void. We conducted a minimalist campaign in 1991 as though the Cold War was still on, resulting in our immoral departure from the region, leaving a tyrant in place to annihilate further his own people.

Nature abhors a vacuum. The US cannot be an isolationist power - there is no such thing. Jihadi attacks still did not fuel a robust US strategy until 9/11. Now we have one. And it complies, I think, perfectly with the twin notions that the US acts in its strategic interest and in moral fashion. Pacifists will argue that war is never moral. And I will simply disagree - wars which liberate people to shape their destiny, which are conducted in a fashion to minimize loss of life, to enjoy self-government and the freedom to realize their own dreams - which shake off tyranny and feudalism -- these are "good wars." And pursued victoriously to assure US strategic interest, such as that in the Middle East, are also "good wars."

As we enter the next phase of change and development in the war against jihadi fascism and work hard to influence the development of the Middle East, we should always try to bear in mind this intersection between moral and strategic interest. It involves clearly distinguishing our values from those of others - no moral relativism allowed viz. the hopes and aspirations of jihadis. This is where the Bush Administration has made its most profound impact - though it won't be universally acknowledged until full success has been achieved - that we have restored Thomas Paine's concept about setting a democratic, representative, universal example of self government. Indeed, let's hope Baghdad becomes a beacon for self government in the Middle East. This will truly be in our interest.


By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Wed Dec 21, 03:21:00 PM:

Man, what set you guys off?  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Wed Dec 21, 04:55:00 PM:

We're embarrassed by TH. Plus I've been working so much overtime for the past 6 weeks I haven't been able to write anything serious and it's driving me literally batsh*t.

Not that I wasn't already on the verge.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Dec 21, 05:08:00 PM:

Call and response riffing.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Wed Dec 21, 05:27:00 PM:

What we need to do is tranquilize TH so we can all get some rest...


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