This weekend I attended a wedding for a friend of mine from college. I hitched a ride with another buddy. My buddy is among the smartest people I know. He scored nearly perfect on his ACT's back in high school and he currently works as a researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology at Northwestern University studying the HIV virus. He has been known to be a sort of ringer in any game of trivial pursuit. He is what I would describe as cerebral and his interests run many topics including of course, politics.
Being in academia, he wound coming down as a straight down the line liberal, elitist, academic in his political point of view. Thus, this made for quite the contrast with my own social conservative, small government, free market, free trade, philosophy. On Iraq, we are at opposite ends of the spectrum and so what transpired in the car was nothing short of a bare knuckles, full contact debate that last a while, two hours by my count.
Initially, my buddy went through several rounds of standard liberal questions asked by anyone that believes that Iraq is a lost cause and only immediate and full withdrawal can do anything productive.
He first wanted me to define victory. I define victory based on a picture that Jeff Emanuel actually posted on Redstate. It was of a sign posted in some sort of a military installation. Victory was defined as an Iraq able to govern itself, at peace with itself, its neighbors and an ally in the war on terror. Satisfied with this answer he immediately querried how this could possibly be accomplished. I went through the clear, hold and build strategy that General Petraeus and how it required door to door searches and eventually spreading security throughout the neighborhoods, and also setting up quasi police stations manned by Iraqis and coalition forces.
He next asked another standard liberal question, "how do you know who the terrorists are?". This is of course another bit of liberal nonsense. This is what interrogations are for. For instance, if you ask a terrorist what they are doing in the home, unless they say they are preparing an attack, they are lying. The trick is to spot the lie.
He moved on to another standard liberal mantra. He said that the nation is ungovernable and that it could only be oppressed. He said the rivalries go back too many years and that ultimately most Shia only want to avenge the deaths of their families and are in constant plot to attack those that oppressed them. This statement struck me as truly unbelievable. What my buddy was saying was that the Iraqi society by and large was EVIL. Think about what he was saying. He thinks that most Iraqis spend their days seeking out those people that they believe had wronged them perviously and looking to murder them. Thus, he believes that Iraqis are by and large EVIL.
He became enraged by my "crude" term. Good and evil to him, and frankly most elitists, is simplistic. Their are complexities to these things. People were oppressed. They were wronged, and their family members were hurt or even killed, and thus the society made them that way. Of course, this is true, however I don't believe for one second that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are looking to avenge their friends' and families' deaths but rather just want to live, go to work and raise their children. My friend disagreed, but mostly he disagreed with the use of good and evil.
Next, he went to another liberal mantra. The Middle East is full of religious fanatics and Saddam Hussein was one of the few secularists around and thus Iran would have made a much more inviting target to attack. This of course, disregards several things, and the most important is that Saddam was still a fanatic, secular or not, and two, had we gone after Iran, Saddam would have grown in strength the way that Iran has now.
My buddy finally went through the myriad of mistakes with the invasion, from porous borders, complicated societal schemes, other threats, the list went on and on, and finally we got to the crux of his arguement, "now can you admit that Bush is an idiot who F$%ked things up beyond recognition and that is the problem"
There it is folks. Ultimately, for a standard bearer liberal, this is what the Iraq debate boils down to. It isn't what is best for the country or how we win, or if we can win. It comes down to getting Bush. I wrote about this phenomenon earlier. Many liberals hate Bush so much that ultimately the debate becomes nothing more than proving how dumb he is. Withdrawal is their ultimate affirmation. Once we withdraw, losing, the Bush's place in history is sealed. They want nothing to do with any plans for victory because those plans also mean a totally different place in history for Bush as well.
There are many problems that I see with this philosophy. The first is the liberals have become full time critics. They spend their days criticizing Bush. They have none of their own answers. For instance, I pointed out that leaving Iraq would be leaving a hornet's nest. To this, my buddy had no answer. He had no answers on any part of the war on terror, he only had criticism. That is what the liberal mantra has become endless criticism of Bush policy on everything but especiall Iraq and the war on terror.
The problem of course is that Middle East is thoroughly messed up. They have elected a terrorist group as their leaders in Palestine, and in Lebanon, a terrorist group holds significant parliamentary power. The rest of the countries have some form of authoritarianism. Their countries are generally poor. They are almost entirely anti Semetic and anti American. Their cultures and societies have simply not progressed in the manner the West has. This creates all sorts of double edged swords when formulating foreign policy to deal with the region.
Yes, it may seem like a bad move now to invade Iraq, but is it any better to leave Saddam in power and wait for the day that he and Al Qaeda got together on an attack. Saddam may have been a secularist, and he may not have had any special love for Al Qaeda, but he frankly worked with anyone that advanced his interest, making him a free agent to terrorists of all stripes. Does this sound like a better plan?
Yet, the Democrats, usually without offering their own plan, criticize every piece of foreign policy in the region. We have such nebulus criticis as we taken our eye off the ball Afghanistan. What is their solution, the equally nebulus, let's focus back on Afghanistan. With regards to Syria and Iran, Bush has either been to conciliatory or not conciliatory enough. Some say he hasn't been tough enough and others say he should meet with them. They disregard every meeting Bill Clinton had with the Syrians that accomplised nothing. On Palestine, they say we should be more even handed, another nebulus criticism. As if listening to the grievances of terrorist ever accomplished anything.
With regard to Saudi Arabia, the relationship is too cozy. In other words, we are too cozy with the Saudis and not cozy enough with the Syrians and Iranians. Of course, if Bush had shunned the Saudis the way he has shunned the Syrians and Iranians, he would just as easily be criticized for ignoring potential allies. With regard to Pakistan, we are suddenly not stern enough. This of course disregards the precarious position of our chief ally there, Pervez Musharraf. Of course, we would all like him to more agressively go after the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but doing so may mean his job and life. Again, there are double edged swords everywhere.
I hope everyone sees a pattern here. It isn't the Bush policies that are the problem, but rather the region itself. There is no good policy with regard to this region, only double edged swords that can be exploited by critics who never feel the need to offer up anything realistic of their own. The minute Barack Obama did his policies were downright childish in comparison to anything Bush has come up with.
Look at the position Israel is in. They occupy Gaza because if they don't their border is wide open to attack. By occupying Gaza, they create resentment in the society. Either way, they are wrong. Any critic could criticize their policy no matter what they choose to do. This is what liberals choose to do. They dismiss such terms as good and evil. Those are too simplistic. They go on and on about the complex natures of societies and threats we aren't dealing with because we are in Iraq. (as if withdrawing from there makes any of those threats any less dangerous) Yet, besides withdraw and surrender, they have no plan. In fact, their one and only plan in the war on terror is withdraw and surrender. We'll see how good a campaign pillar that will be in 2008.