The troops in Iraq, my fellow Polish citizens and others are caught up in a terrible quagmire. Under siege, under fire, under the scorching desert sun. Shot, wounded, dying every single day. Such is war. Of late, voices could be heard calling for a withdrawal of soldiers form the “Mess-o-potamia”, but I don’t think that would be the right thing to do now. Even though, I have been strongly opposed to this war since before it started, I will try to present here my case for why we must stay in Iraq.
It is interesting to note, that the voices calling for withdrawal are not heard that much in Poland. We have always been very fond of America and the prominent feeling here is pride that we can be a part of a great American-lead international operation. You do here those voices from the States, where people seem to be afraid of repeating the experience of Vietnam.
My personal conviction is that the war was started for wrong reasons. The reasons given by the Bush administration did not hold up and this has to be becoming evident, even to the most vehement war-supporter. The alleged links of Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda turned out to be a fabrication. The imminent threat of Iraqi WMDs, which Saddam could deploy in 45 minutes, which left no time for inspectors to look for them, turned out to be based on nothing. The last of the reasons given for declaring war – the need to free Iraqis from tyranny, to show the rest of the Arabic world that an Islamic country can become a stable and free democracy, is slowly crumbling.
It is for the fear that this final reason could fail, that we need to stay. Admittedly, this last reason is not enough to start killing people. If it was enough, then the US could start waging war on any non-democratic country: China, Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Libia, maybe even Russia. This has to be clearly stated and for this reason the Iraq war can and should be denounced. But if we were to withdraw from Iraq now, we would be giving the whole world a sign, that a coalition of democratic countries can attack any other country and wreck it in a meaningless adventure.
I can’t even begin to fathom the consequences this would have. The situation in the Middle East is dangerous already and it would only get worse. If you think that the world is now safer from militant Islam terrorism, just consider how things have changed in Europe. If you haven’t been in Europe lately reflect on this: Poland has always though itself to be an ally of America, even it’s friend (the joke here today is: “I wonder if the Americans fingerprint all of their friends, or just the best ones…”). And yet, if you ask many people here who the biggest threat to peace in the world is, many will say the United States. In fact over fifty percent of Europeans view US as the world’s biggest threat. A situation like this, just would not have been possible under Clinton.
So consider all this newly created anti-American sentiment in Europe (amongst friends) and imagine how the people who considered you their enemy must now feel. And just try to imagine what would happen if we now left the stirred up Iraqi bees’ nest. The only way the US is safer now is due to fact that the terrorists have a place where they can “bring it on”.
I sincerely hope that Iraq will soon find peace. Hopefully within 10 years or so, all of the local strongmen and their armies will be eliminated or pacified, the nation will elect a government, adopt a constitution, establish and enforce a set of laws. Hopefully a decade from now, Iraq will look like today’s Afghanistan, or even more optimistically will be on it’s way towards something resembling a Turkey-like secular democracy. I hope that will happen, but it will require time, patience, lives, money and strategic planning overwhelmingly more intelligent then that of the Bush administration.
If my optimistic vision comes to pass, we will be glad, because another democracy will join the ranks of the global order. Even other Arabic states will have to admit that Iraq was given a new chance, a choice and freedom. Whether this will be a good thing or not is a matter of personal belief. Many people in the Arab world do not consider a secular democracy to be the best of all political systems. If you look at Turkey, you will see many people promoting a tighter integration of religion and state. Many believe that personal liberties in the West have become overly exaggerated. They condone near-nudity in advertising, liberal attitudes toward sex (at the beach many of their women bathe in clothes!), pursuit of money above all else and other attributes of the “Great Satan”.
And yet we tend to believe that democracy can be exported as a package deal. Here, have voting rights, freedom of speech and “Sex in the city”. We (especially Americans) need to realize that there are countries in the world, which may not wish to import our lifestyle wholesale. There are even some countries which are doing very well without democracy… Are we going to attack China because it is a communist state? Or will we try to be their friends and look the other way when they suppress the their citizens’ human rights, because they are a good trading partner? There are countries in the Middle East which need our help, but not all are ready for it. The countries which need us are not Iran and Syria, but Israel and the-future-state of Palestine.
The conclusion is that even though the war in Iraq was a huge misjudgment, we must now stay there for as long as it takes. There is no hypocrisy in saying this, just common sense.