Religious Liberalism
Thursday, July 19, 2007
More Iraq discussion:

Overwhelming evidence of failure now? Or sometime in the future?

It has been four years and about 3800 American lives. Military spending is a lower percentage of GDP than the early Clinton years. The US is involved in a war that by traditional standards might not even be considered a war. It certainly isn't a Vietnam.

We are willing to run from Iraq. But looking historically, the country is doing better than those that were targeted under our 'War on Drugs.' Colombia was an incredibly violent place for decades - with the one distinction being that no one cared. The US continued to support the country and now, finally, it is recovering. Such a thing didn't happen overnight, and wouldn't have without our support - through many many setbacks. War is a very very difficult business. But we should really give up on all international efforts if 4 years of difficulty will stop us cold. The War on Poverty or Drugs should have been given up many many many years ago on this measure.

Consider: Rio has a murder rate that is almost the same as Iraq. Few people consider Rio to be in a civil war. There is, effectively, a war afoot there - but nobody is asking the Brazilian government to pull away. In fact, it has taken time, but they've cut that rate by some 20% over the last 10 years. However, Brazil and Colombia, for all their issues, aren't nearly as important as Iraq.

The war in Iraq is quite interesting because it is a war of ideas - not of territory. The other side's goal is to maintain chaos and death so that the US will withdraw and the IDEA of US power and dedication to freedom will be forever shattered. This is why Iran is funding both the Sunni and Shia terrorists. They want chaos. This was the strategy laid down by Zarqawi before he was killed - his correspondance calling for it was clear. This is why they bombed the Samarra Mosque (which kicked off the upswing in violence we're still in). The US desire, on the other hand, is to deliver peace under a free government. We don't need to hold the territory either - just pacify it. Failure to do so will be roughly equivalent to withdrawing from Beirut. It will be a clear sign of weakness and it will generate a monster down the road.

It has become far clearer recently that the bulk of Iraqis support the American side of the equation. They may not like America, but they don't want chaos. Moqtada and the Accord Front both rejoined Parliament today. The Sunni tribesman have launched attacks on al Qaeda in lots of their territory. Even Moqtada has stepped away some from his Iranian backers. The locals aren't happy with the violence. The American surge, while INCREDIBLY young, has helped in some areas. The very concept that we will surge has provided support and confidence for our friends to stand up to the terrorists. Not much though, as the Senate and House push for retreat. Mosul isn't suddenly being bombed because people in Mosul have decided to start killing each other. It has suddenly been bombed because people who aren't from there are moving their activities from their 'home bases.' The goons and the gangs are being displaced, but are trying to carry their party elsewhere. This really is progress. The locals in Mosul know their neighbors aren't behind the campaign, and so while it can kill many it will be much harder for it to create war between groups. But it won't be done in 3 months.

The way I see it, the goal isn't to unite Iraq or solve the Sunni/Shia conflict. Such things are indeed beyond us. As I wrote in an earlier conversation (and from here I'm quoting an earlier conversation), the key is to change the methods by which the battle is fought. (see the below message)
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
From a conversation with a left-wing German colleague at work:

The Americans aren't going to solve the Shia-Sunni conflict. I don't think they need to. The key is to change the methods by which the battle is fought.

There was a classic European author (I can't remember who) who said that the reason there was religious peace in Amsterdam had nothing to do with a lack of desire of individual groups to control and direct others. It had to do with the fact that there was a multiplicity of groups - none of whom had the power to dominate. Peace was not through the elimination of faction, but through the multiplication of it. Faction is multiplying in Iraq. There are quite a few parties, the Shia aren't all aligned with each other and neither are the Sunni. Before long, the locals will realize there's no purpose to the fight. This is why the Sunni tribesmen have turned against Al-Qaeda and the other militants in a big way. The fight is being sustained, not by Iraqis, but by foreign fighters - foreign fighters who have no problem killing lots of civilians just to maintain chaos. This was the strategy laid down by Zarqawi before he was killed - his correspondance calling for it was clear. Iran is doing the same thing. If these guys can be slowed down (and I think they can, once civilians can see that America isn't withdrawing and they and their families won't be killed if they resist), then the country will settle into being a very contentious, somewhat liberal, democratic state.

The American role isn't to bring peace to both sides. It is to provide the support necessary to allow a political/religious marketplace to develop. It is like the accumulation of wealth. You can get wealth by stealing it or forcing others to give it to you (the main method for a long time) or you can get wealth by creating value. The market serves as a mechanism to enable the latter approach at the expense of the earlier one. The Americans can provide the conditions, by fighting extremist groups, for this sort of political market to emerge. If this sort of political marketplace can emerge ANYWHERE in the Arab world, it will be tremendously positive for all of us. The example can be greatly helpful to all Arab peoples living under the twin impositions of totalitarian dictatorship or the potential rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arab world trails even Africa in terms of education, for example. There are real problems, but they don't need to be that bad. The Arab world can be a much more pleasent place - and it has been. Muslim countries can succeed in having this sort of marketplace. For all it's problems, Turkey isn't such a bad place. If they had nukes, I wouldn't care. Iran can also have this sort of marketplace - and under liberal leadership I wouldn't care whether they had nukes. Lebanon wasn't too bad prior to the civil war - it was long-term flaws in their constitution that brought them down.

If there can be a marketplace of ideas within the Arab world, the export of a tremendously destructive vision can be brought to an end.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Check out It is a very well produced and thoroughly enjoyable satirical look at the news of the week - combined with a strong interview with a newsmaker. They certainly have a slant (and a fixation on religious totalitarianism), but it is very well done. Enjoy!

A religious liberal is committed both to his or her religion and to the belief that governments are established primarily for the protection of individual liberty and human rights.

Chana is the academic who wrote Liberty, G-d's Gift to Humanity, Joseph relates the ideas to current events and discussions.

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