Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Relevance of Iraq

Thomas Friedman is a guy seems to travel everywhere and have conversations with everybody who’s anybody. Having read his recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, I’ve been following his columns in The New York Times. His opinions about things may not always be right on target (in my humble opinion), but they’re usually interesting.

Here’s a piece
that’s changed my thinking a little on American’s continuing presence in Iraq. Believing as I do that we intervened in that country at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and for the wrong reasons, I’ve been pretty much convinced that we should get out of there as quickly and completely as possible. Friedman makes a case that what happens in that country in the months and years to come will have implications for our long-term interests and the stability of the world order. I think it’s worth a read.


Idna said...

Thanks, Jane, for the link to the excellent Friedman article.

He states some very important ideas: Transform Iraq and it will impact the whole Arab-Muslim world. Change Afghanistan and you just change Afghanistan. I totally agree with this. Iraq and Afghanistan are two very different countries. Iraq is much more in the 21st century, shall we say. Most of the Afghans live in remote villages, are illiterate, have no mass communication capabilities, so many have no idea what the U.S. is doing there. They are seen as just the latest in a long line of historical invaders.

Have you read Matthew Hoh's resignation letter? Interesting view from someone who was there:
(If this link is cut off and doesn't work, just go to Washington Post and search for Matthew Hoh)

Friedman says: Iraq is a microcosm of the whole Middle East, and if Iraq’s sects can figure out how to govern themselves — without an iron-fisted dictator — democracy is possible in this whole region.
And quotes Iraqi President Maliki: “The most dangerous thing that would threaten others is that if we really create success in building a democratic state in Iraq,” said Maliki, whose country today now has about 100 newspapers. “The countries whose regimes are built on one party, sect or ethnic group will feel endangered.”

Makes sense to me! It also made sense to George Bush: He believed that"...the future of the Middle East does not belong to terror -- the future of the Middle East belongs to freedom." He also believed that because of "... our strong belief in the transformative power of liberty, we're helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East. A free Iraq will fight terrorists instead of harboring them. A free Iraq will be an example for others of the power of liberty to change the societies and to displace despair with hope. By spreading the hope of liberty in the Middle East, we will help free societies take root -- and when they do, freedom will yield the peace that we all desire."

Incredible, isn't it, that these statements made in March of 2008, where so roundly criticized and tossed aside because of the person uttering them. And now, the same ideas are embraced and seen as making a lot of sense.

Amazing, how the same message is seen in such different light because of the messenger. Maybe a good thing to remember when rejecting facts that come from "suspect sources" like FOX news, for example.

Six said...

I have not read the recent one - however I did read 'The World is Flat' a while back and I found myself learning a little about globalization and agreeing quite a bit with him - although I think he misses the mark quite a bit on the role of the government in bigger picture. That and I fell asleep more than once reading it.

I am curious about his new book, but ironically much of 'The World is Flat' was highlighting the successes of what amounted to a peaceful revolution in India where they were able to transform themselves from a true third-world, unstable, nuclear-armed country that perpetually seemed on the brink of war and in opposition to much of the US policies to become the emerging, developing pro-US country and major partner to us they are today taking huge steps in the right direction. This was done NOT through the barrel of a US gun, but through good trade relations and good economic policies. He must have forgot about what he wrote then when thinking about Iraq in this column.

While Friedman paints a rather rosey potential outcome if only some stars align - the bottom line is that we should not be there participating in what amounts to nation building through the barrel of our guns. Just because we made the mistake of going in there to begin with does not mean that we should continue to keep and send US Troops for some pie in the sky arrogant myth that all we need is to just be there a little longer, a little longer, a little longer and then somehow this country will turn in to something like Germany or Japan is today - or even India for that matter. Are you prepared to have your brothers, sisters and children - perhaps thier children- there for another 50 years? Because much LIKE Afg, that is what it will take.

Six said...

Idna - great article on Hoh - I actually read this earlier this week and hoped to see a little more in the news about it.

I especially like his point about 'valley-ism' which highlights our complete lack of understanding of the area and the culture there. I beleive many of his points about it being a civil war and not something we can solve through the use of our military also applies to Iraq.