Monday, February 27, 2006

Bill Buckley: Have We Failed in Iraq?

Bill Buckley, one of my mentors and heroes, believes that the US is facing failure in Iraq.

The Bush administration's policy in Iraq is based on President Bush's belief that every person has a God-given right to live in a free society and a God-given desire for freedom.

Bill Buckley argues that the continuing attacks of terrorists and inability of Shiites and Sunnis to come together have led Iraqis to blame the US for the violence and division in their society. Because of Iraqi inability to come together and peacefully form a government, the attempt to establish a democratic government in Iraq can already be judged a failure. In his February 24, 2006 column Buckley writes:

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. . . . Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

The Iraqis we hear about are first indignant, and then infuriated, that Americans aren't on the scene to protect them and to punish the aggressors.

I wonder if we aren't expecting more of the Iraqis than we expected of another almost failure--the US in the 19th century. Not only did division threaten for decades, but eventually we fought a bloody civil war with almost half a million casualties.

My great-great grandfathers fought on opposite sides in the Civil War. One of them, David Williams, had to flee with his family from his Arkansas homestead (a life-long dream which he poured his heart and soul into gaining) because of the marauders who operated freely near the end of and after the war. His brother-in-law, John Boen, was killed in 1865 by lawless bushwackers. And those are two examples from a very small sample--one family history.

Iraq is not weathering something new. And, they have not yet entered into a bloody civil war the likes of what our Union endured. If we were able to overcome the horrors of civil war, could it be that Iraq also might be able to survive one? We're not even sure that they will have one. At this point there is sporadic violence, but not anything close to formal civil war.

Even if Iraq does enter civil war, and the Sunnis come out with unofficial second class status, is that really all that different than what the South endured for a hundred years or so after our Civil War? Would a Shiite dominated Iraq be an automatic defeat for democracy in Iraq? I don't think so. A Northern-dominated Union is a stained legacy, but not a defeat for democracy in the U.S.

Iraqis need to deal with what separates them--as the North and South dealt with what separated them. If Iraqis can do it through diplomacy, all the better. If they can only do it through violence and more violence, they may have to follow the road we followed of a real and bloody defeat of the minority by the majority.

Hopefully, Iraqis will do much better than we did. But violence and civil war do not necessarily mean the end of democracy or of freedom. In fact, one struggles to think of a great democracy that has not had to go through conflict and bloodshed to survive, except for a case like Japan where democracy and a free society were imposed by force.

I think calling Iraqi democracy a failure is premature. But then, I have the same presuppositions as President Bush--not to mention Thomas Jefferson and our founding fathers.

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