Bush Did Not Get Just The Geography Wrong On Iraq
There are reports Bush-Cheney started looking for excuses to declare war on Saddam as soon as Bush got into office. It has to be noted Saddam attempted an assassination on Bush Senior some time in the 1990s when Bush Senior went on a visit to Kuwait. It was a plot that went nowhere, but Clinton did send in a few missiles in retaliation. "Not enough," Bush Junior said while campaigning for president in 2000.
The direct and indirect costs of the Iraq War have been estimated at three trillion dollars by the likes of Joseph Stiglitz. That is a ton of money. I am going to argue that sum played a key role in sending the US economy into the tizzy that it is in right now.
The verbal assaults by the Al Qaeda on Barack, the US drone strikes inside of Pakistan, neither have surprised me. The war the Al Qaeda declared on America a long time ago was an ideological war. Two vibrant, opposing ideologies continue to be very much at loggerheads.
Barack immediately started doing what he said he will do. On Guantanamo and torture, on Pakistan. The biggest downside of the misadventure in Iraq has been the Al Qaeda got pretty much a free reign in the stateless parts of northwest Pakistan from where they continue to plot. In his latest tirade Bin Laden has talked of going into "new directions." As far as Bin Laden is concerned, the entire world is a stage. He does not have to strike inside America to prove the resiliency of his organization.
It is hard to fight an unconventional war with a conventional army, with conventional tactics. Iraq was Looking Tokyo Going London, but it was also conventional. You were in a hurry to bring down a state. The Al Qaeda is stateless.
Barack might end the war in Iraq, and he might close Guantanamo, and he might end torture as a tactic, and he is hugely popular in the Arab world, and he might get the geography right in terms of a renewed focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I fear he might get the details wrong.
A big chunk of the work in Pakistan is political. How do you bring the Pakistani army completely under the parliament? How do you bring the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, usually called a state within a state, completely under the Pakistani parliament? The ISI gave birth to the Taliban, but back then that is what the US wanted, the Soviets had gone amok in Afghanistan.
And it would be a mistake to think the Al Qaeda exists only in a particular, rugged province in Pakistan. It is stateless, it is global. It is an ideology seeking converts, seeking the disenchanted, the angry few. They don't even need direct communication half the time to do what they need to do, which is to stage "spectacular" attacks, like the one in Mumbai, London.
I have long maintained the only way to conclude the War On Terror is by bringing about a total spread of democracy in the Arab world. There is a progressive, proactive way to do that that is nothing to do with the Al Qaeda, an organization of a few thousand individuals in an ocean of a billion Arabs/Muslims.
As in, there is not a Bush way to build democracy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, just like there was not one in Iraq. There is a progressive alternative.
Harassing Arab Americans have been a bad idea. Talking disrespect of Islam as a religion is a bad idea. And the Palestinian plight is a permanent thorn. That has to be resolved. It is a good sign that the first foreign leader President Barack called up was Abbas.
Three major world religions clashing is not a pretty sight. There are complex emotional threads entangled. The situation is volatile, has been for decades. The task is tough. The communists claimed godlessness, the Islamists claim God. At some level that makes their ideology more challenging.
The idea remains to help make the mainstream Muslims feel their destiny is in their own hands. The hard work of peace, the hard work of state building, the hard work on education and health, the hard work of prosperity.
It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be swift. Moments might feel like reverse progress. But it is necessary work, the central challenge in global politics today.
If and when we start seeing more democracies in the Arab world, you can expect the largest political parties to be as steeped in Islam as you could argue the Republican Party in America is steeped in Christianity. Turkey is a case in point.
What the Palestinians are going through right now is worse than apartheid. It feels like a case of child abuse. The Germans abused the Jews so the Jews are going to abuse the Palestinians. Where is the logic in that?
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