Good God, Y’all, What is It Good For?
Opposition to the war in Iraq seems to be the new progressive Mantra. Whenever the question is raised about who progressives are and where their power base is, the War in Iraq is invoked as if it was some all-unifying issue presumed to galvanize all progressives and lead on to certain victory in the polls. At this point, war opposition is not in the policy analysis phase; it’s not even in the slogan or a chant phase. It is an article of faith, not to be questioned.
So when I heard on NPR, “in the next 30 minutes, General Zinni discusses his new book The Battle for Peace,” I was hooked. It was the classic “driveway moment”, a phrase coined by National Public Radio listeners to describe that moment when their commute is over but they can’t get out of the car because they are mesmerized by the radio.
As one might expect, Zinni, as a military guy, is in favor of a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. But he has a few twists. For starters, he says Rumsfield should be fired. First, because of accountability. Too much has been blamed on the fog of war; there needs to be accountability for negligence of decisions. Second, because America needs a new face without baggage and ties to the old policy. Secretary of State Rice says mistakes were made, but they were ’tactical’ and not ‘strategic’ mistakes. According to Zinni the mistakes were 1) disbanding the army 2) de-Bathification 3) exiles placed in leadership roles were not credible or acceptable to the Iraqis.
Zinni also says there are differences between the Iraq situation and Vietnam. In 1968, it became apparent that pulling out of Vietnam would not have consequences for the region, dominos wouldn’t fall, and a pullout would not affect the survival and security interests of the U.S.
Zinni sees the repercussions today as being much greater, and the situation still more than salvageable. It is in our economic and political security interests to try to salvage it. Iraq sits in the middle of the Islamic World, a region with explosive issues and a region that dominates a large percentage of the world’s oil resources. Iraq is central to the Middle East, on the major trade routes. Leaving Iraq now would create another sanctuary for terrorists in the core of the Middle East.
Zinni says democracy is insufficient. Iraq needs institutions to cope with a hostile environment. Elections are not equal to democracy. We need to build international rapport and empower local and regional institutions. In the long run, a crisis will cost more than prevention.
The National Public Radio website has posted an excerpt from the book.