Tempering Ambitions

Posted by permission from Dr. Daniel Pipes. Its appearance is independent of this blog, and should not be construed to either agree or disagree with the opinions expressed on this blog, or on any other website.

by Daniel Pipes
National Interest
November/December 2006
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/4112

Whether the Iraqi expedition is judged a success or failure depends almost exclusively on the views of Americans-not those of Iraqis, other coalition partners, or anyone else. So, fellow Americans, let’s debate the topic. My take:

It was right to pre-empt Saddam Hussein before he could oppress his Iraqi subjects further, invade another country, deploy more chemical weapons or build nuclear weapons. The world is a better place with this abominable thug in jail, not lording it in his “presidential palaces.”

Alongside the easy and fast victory over Saddam Hussein, the Bush Administration made a critical conceptual mistake-raising short-term expectations too high. Nomenclature alone required Operation Iraqi Freedom to quickly produce a vibrant, healthy, open, calm Iraq, with anything less constituting failure. Talk of a “free and prosperous” Iraq serving as a regional model foisted ambitions on Iraqis that they-just emerging from a thirty-year totalitarian nightmare, saddled with extremist ideologies, deep ethnic divisions and predatory neighbors-could not fulfill.

As Iraqis failed to play their appointed role, frustration grew in Washington. Deepening the trap of its own making, the administration forwarded these ambitions by bogging itself down in such domestic Iraqi minutiae as resolving inter-tribal conflict, getting electricity and water grids to work and involving itself in constitution writing.

Had the U.S.-led coalition pitched its ambitions lower, aspiring only to a decent government and economy while working much more slowly toward democracy, Iraq’s progress over the past four years would be more apparent. The occupying forces should have sponsored a democratically-minded strongman to secure the country and eventually move it toward an open political process; and this approach would have the benefit of keeping Islamists out of power at a moment of their maximal popular and electoral appeal.

The basic coalition message to Iraqis should have been: You are adults, here is your country back, good luck. Transfer some seed money and station coalition forces in the deserts with a clearly defined mandate-defend Iraq’s international borders, ensure the security of oil and gas exports, search for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen, prevent large-scale atrocities.

These should-have-beens remain relevant as 2007 approaches. The administration can still frame the debate in terms of U.S. interests, not Iraqi ones. It can contrast Iraq today with yesteryear’s totalitarian model rather than a potential ideal. It can distance itself from Iraq’s fate by reminding the world that Iraqis are responsible for shaping their destiny.

But the administration shows no signs of gearing down its ambitions in Iraq along these proposed lines. Should it stick with its unrealistically high goals, I fear failure then looms. The implications of that failure, as in Vietnam, will primarily be domestic, with conservatives and liberals returning to their pre-Reagan battle stations and the United States reverting back to what Richard Nixon in 1970 dubbed its “pitiful, helpless giant” status.


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Posted on November 15, 2006, in News and politics. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It was right to pre-empt Saddam Hussein before he could oppress his Iraqi subjects further, invade another country, deploy more chemical weapons or build nuclear weapons.

    wow Mr. Pipes can claim all he wants that he’s an “expert” on the Middle East, but this statement is the worst analysis I have ever seen from an “expert.” Oppress his Iraqi subjects further? Invade another country? Deploy more chemical weapons? Build nuclear weapons?

    Man he bought into the propaganda real bad. He really has no sense of reality. Here’s the real question: What was the likelihood of Mr. Hussein doing any of the things Mr. Pipes claims as justification for th war of choice?

    Oppress His Iraqi Subjects Further

    Further than what? When was the last crackdown? 1991. At the behest of the Bush administration (poppy), the Shi’ites revolted against Hussein, thinking they would get support from America. They didn’t. They got slaughtered. Since that point, most of what Hussein did to his people is pretty common among all dictators that the United States supports (Uzbekhistan anyone? Egypt anyone?). Hardly a burning excuse to rush to war.

    Invade Another Country

    What was the likelihood of Iraq invading any country in 2003? Let’s look ahead, what about 2007? 2010? I am reminded of what Secretary Colin Powell said in Egypt in February 2001. Powell said:

    We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions — the fact that the sanctions exist — not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq…

    Seems to me that Iraq wasn’t really a threat to her neighbors. At least, if we take Mr. Powell at his word. Unless Mr. Powell was lying….

    Deploy More Chemical Weapons

    When was the last time he deployed chemical weapons? 1988. What was the likelihood of him deploying them anywhere anytime soon? Well, I go back to what Powell said.

    He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq…

    Last one:

    Build Nuclear Weapons

    I again go back to what Powell said. I don’t need to repeat it again. The Niger yellowcake attempt is a forgery. The aluminum tubes were for conventional weapons. etc etc

    How can Mr. Pipes claim he is an expert in the field when he so clearly ignores facts? How can you, as a true patriot, Mr. LDSPatriot, follow a man who so clearly does not know what he is talking about?

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