Friday, March 17, 2006

Tommy's Toy Soldier Wars

Tom, Tom, Tom. For a man of obvious intelligence, you sure do leave a lot of frayed holes in your Ivy League armchair analysis of Iraq and Iran. (See Friedman's op ed below.)


(1) Where do Osama bin Laden and his Terrible Terrorists fit into your picture? They seem to have disappeared from your consideration as magically as Osama vanished into the mountains of Pakistan. I thought we were supposed to be fighting a War on Terror, Tom? So where are the terrorists?

(2) I am sorry to say, as I would like nothing more than to see the U.S. "succeed" in Iraq (although I'm certain our two definitions of "success" would be quite different), success is about as likely in Iraq as the Cubs winning the World Series.

(3) Your toy soldier bring-on-another-war-with-Iran mentality reminds me of my brother playing war games with the same--as a 7 year old--and shows about the same depth of thought. Plus, your lusty love affair with war explodes so blatantly off the page, I actually wanted to run for cover.

(4) You continue to ape the administration's bogus objective of bringing "democracy" to Iraq. The Iraqi political candidates were American installed puppets, the elections were probably a lot less reliable than our own (which are totally unreliable), Iraqis continue to be tortured and murdered, we're building permanent military bases in their country, they've asked us to leave and we won't, the "free" press prints propaganda they are paid to print by the U.S. Government--need I go on? That's democracy?

(5) Underlying everything you profess is the erroneous assumption that the good ol' USA still holds the international moral high ground, giving us authority to meddle in the affairs of others less moral than ourselves. Hardly, Tommy. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, rendition, torture, cover-ups, Katrina, warrantless spying--in case you hadn't noticed, these things have taken their toll.

(6) Unbelievably, you continue to glom onto a neo-conservative, pre-emptive, war policy that was initially flawed in its reasoning and has since been proven wrong. Remember Iraq, Tommy? It's hardly a freedom fest.

(7) Where does "diplomacy" fit into your scenario? Oh, I forgot, you guys think it's smart to bomb first and talk--not later--but never. Not smart, Tommy. Remember Iraq?

(8) Allies? Do we even have any allies left? And if we do, do we give a goober what they think? Iraq, Tommy. Iraq.

(9) Your agenda seems to be, "Woo hoo, let's make another war!" I know how much you guys enjoy the killing and all, but where ya gonna get the troops, Tommy? They're stuck in Iraq. And Afghanistan. And we're short troops in both those places. In the meantime, the National Guard troops are dying over there, when they should be alive over here--protecting us from those evil, wild-eyed, terrorists you keep forgetting about. Funny how you keep forgetting about them, Tom. Makes us wonder what all this war is really about.

I do agree with you on one point, Tommy-boy. Getting out of Iraq would be great--for everybody concerned.

As for succeeding in Iraq, you and your chicken hawk friends have pretty much bombed to Hell any possibility of that.

Finally, regarding Iran...God help us if we continue with your morally void, pumped-up, pre-emptive policies-on-steroids.

Hey, a thought: since all you guys--King George, VICE, Rummy and the gang--so enjoy playing your war games, why not volunteer to be on the front lines? Right now! Wouldn't that be fun?

America's Iran Policy: Iraq
By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
The Bush White House issued its latest national security strategy doctrine yesterday, and it identifies Iran as the "single country" that poses the greatest danger to the U.S. today. The report, however, doesn't say what exactly we should do about Iran. But here's what I think: The most frightening, scary, terrifying thing we could do to Iran today — short of an outright attack — is to get out of Iraq.

The second most frightening, scary, terrifying thing we could do to Iran is to succeed in Iraq. The worst thing we could do, though, the thing that would make Iranians the happiest, is to continue bleeding in Iraq and baby-sitting a stalemate there. In sum, since we are not going to invade Iran, the best way we can influence it is by what we do in Iraq.

Let me explain: I am not in favor of withdrawing from Iraq now — not while there is still a chance for a decent outcome. But if we did pull out of Iraq, it would make life incredibly complicated for Tehran. There's a lot of cheap talk that Iran was the big winner from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Don't be so sure. Hundreds of years of Mesopotamian history teach us that Arabs and Persians do not play well together.

Right now, the natural antipathy and competition between Iraqi Arabs and Iranian Persians — even though large numbers of both are Shiite Muslims — have been muted because of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Both sides can focus their anger on us.

But as soon as we leave — and you can bet the house and kids on this — the natural rivalry between Iraqi Arabs and Iranian Persians will surface. Culture, history and nationalism matter. Iran and Iraq did not fight a war for eight years by mistake, or just because Saddam was in power. Once America is out of Iraq, it will not be a winning political strategy for any Iraqi politician to be known as "pro-Iranian" or, even worse, as an instrument of Tehran's.

If we were out of Iraq today and Iran had to manage the chaos there, on its border, it would be a huge, energy-draining problem for Tehran. Iraqis, in case you haven't noticed, have a rather violent, independent streak. Anyone who thinks Iraq is some overripe fruit that will fall into Iran's lap as soon as we leave, and obediently stay there, doesn't know Iraq or Iran. Iraqi Arab Shiites did not wait for centuries to rule Iraq in order to turn it over to Iranian Persian Shiites. Not a chance.

In their superb, must-read, military history of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, "Cobra II," Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor explain why Saddam always wanted to keep the world in doubt about his W.M.D., even when his cupboard was bare: it was to deter Iran. Remember, Iraq and Iran each used poison gas against the other in their war. The last thing Saddam wanted was to let Iran know he was out of gas. Gordon and Trainor quote the Iraqi military intelligence director as telling U.S. interrogators after the war: "What did we think was going to happen with the coalition invasion? We were more interested in Turkey and Iran." All geopolitics is local.

Also, if the U.S. were out of Iraq and the U.S. attacked Iran's nuclear facilities with airstrikes, Iran would not be able to retaliate with its missiles against any large concentrations of U.S. military forces nearby. That, too, would give the U.S. a freer hand to deal with Iran's nuclear threat.

The only thing more frightening to the Iranians than the U.S. leaving Iraq, would be — and this is my preference — the U.S. succeeding in Iraq. Iraq has already held two elections in which anyone could run and vote. This stands in sharp contrast with the elections in Iran, where only conservatives approved by the ayatollahs can run. Iraq has a flourishing free press. Iran's insecure ayatollahs have shut down their critics.

The more Iraqi Shiites are empowered in a democratic Iraq, the more Iranian Shiites will ask why they don't have the same rights as the folks next door. Also, the major spiritual centers of Shiite Islam aren't in Iran, but in Iraq. The more the Iraqi Shiite religious centers are revived — with their particular Iraqi Shiite strain, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which says clerics should stay out of politics — the more the Iranian mullahs will see their influence diminished.

So getting out of Iraq would be a good anti-Iran strategy. Succeeding in Iraq would be even better. The one strategy that won't work for us, but would be ideal for Iran, would be for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as bleeding sitting ducks, baby-sitting a stalemate and absorbing everyone's wrath — including the wrath that would naturally be directed at Tehran.

Photo credit: Thomas L. Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Related articles:

U.S. and Iranians Agree to Discuss Violence in Iraq

Kurds Destroy Shrine in Rage at Leadership

Democracy Push by Bush Attracts Doubters in Party

Iraqi Parliament Opens, With a Warning

Talking Points: 25 Key Questions on the War in Iraq

At Least 86 Found Shot Or Strangled In Baghdad

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