The Quagmire Times, Today’s Edition

You know, it’s frustrating sometimes…

You’re trying to explain to someone just why Bush’s foreign policy is wrong, and you get a blank stare, a complete lack of recognition. Sometimes, it’s even someone who thinks that we should get out of Iraq. It’s great that pretty much everyone but the wingnuts is on board these days with getting out of Iraq, but they have to understand the reasons why, or there’s a fear that another president in the future may repeat this exercise in stupidity.

Our foreign policy is so wrong on so many levels, that it’s often difficult for people to understand. But once in a while, as you’re perusing the news, you see several stories that just make you perk up; that, if you put them all together, the boneheadedness of the Bush foreign policy becomes crystal clear.

Today is one of those days.

The New York Times reports that:

Iraqi soldiers took control of the last bastions of the cleric Moktada Al-Sadr’s militia in Basra on Saturday, and Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad strongly endorsed the Iraqi government’s monthlong military operation against the fighter.

By Saturday evening, Basra was calm, but only after air and artillery strikes by American and British forces cleared the way for Iraqi troops to move into the Hayaniya district and other remaining Mahdi Army militia strongholds and begin house-to house searches, Iraqi officials said. Iraqi troops were meeting little resistance, said Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry in Baghdad.

Despite the apparent concession of Basra, Mr. Sadr issued defiant words on Saturday night. In a long statement read from the loudspeakers of his Sadr City Mosque, he threatened to declare “war until liberation” against the government if fighting against his militia forces continued.

Now, this is a wonderful development, right? The Iraqi army was able to take out Sadr’s people and displace people the Bush Administration is telling us are "bad guys," so this is progress.

Nope. Not progress at all.

First, after five years, the Iraqi military still needs outside help in driving  a militia out of a moderately populated area. There is no way it should take five years to train Iraqis to be a military force in their own country. Think about it; if a truly democratic country populated with patriotic people can’t put together a fighting force strong enough to repel invaders to their own country, then who can?

Second, why doesn’t the presence of Iran in the above story bother anyone? Iran is "endors(ing)" the operation against al-Sadr? Let’s think about this for a moment. Iran and the United States are on the same side, basically, when it comes to Iraq, but Iran is too "evil" for us to talk to, to perhaps even get some help from them, so that we can pull out of there? Doesn’t that serve as a clue to the "black-and-white" thinking people that, perhaps, relations between countries are more complex than the whole "we’re good, they’re bad" thing the Bushies have pushed for eight years? The Bush foreign policy tactic of not talking to anyone who isn’t 100% behind us as an ally is just plain stupid, and the Times article proves that. Talking to Iran about how they can help in Iraq would seem to be imperative, and yet, we treat discussions with the United States as some sort of sacred concept, not for the "unworthy."

There is a third element in the above that should puzzle the reader, though, and that is al-Sadr’s use of the term "liberation." His people want liberation from the Iraqi government. Isn’t that odd, given that they’re supposed to be a democracy?

This is the problem with the Bush foreign policy, in a nutshell. We have to be open to discussions with absolutely everyone in the world. We cannot simultaneously insinuate ourselves into world affairs, and isolate ourselves from the players because we don’t like some of the things they do. Plus, we can’t treat situations around the world as simple, because problems rarely are. What we are dealing with in the Middle East is the result of millennia of interference and conquest by powers from outside the region, and the suppression of tribal and ethnic conflicts. And we have to understand that democracy is not something that can be forced on a people if they don’t want it for themselves. You can’t invade a country and impose democracy on them; democracy is something that has to come naturally, from the people participating in it.

Iraq cannot have a functioning democracy at this point in time. There are three very distinct religious and ethnic groups in Iraq, and there are factions within all of those groups, as well. Until they settle their differences, which will take a lot of time, and result in significant relocation and blood spilled, a functioning democracy is just not going to be successful in Iraq.

Bush’s foreign policy is a failure of monumental proportions, because it simply cannot accommodate anything resembling nuance. Moreover, the "arrogant American" model of foreign policy is destined for failure, just as every other arrogant superpower has failed before us. We should have learned that lesson from Vietnam, we must learn that lesson from Iraq.

1. We cannot impose democracy on Iraq. Only Iraqis can do that, and we have to recognize that democracy among ethnic groups suppressing hatred of each other may not work out.

2. We must talk to everyone in the Middle East, and not just the Israelis.

3. We have to understand that everyone who’s fighting in the Middle East, including those we cavalierly label as "terrorist," thinks of himself as a "liberator," or "freedom fighter." We have to understand that, and we have to deal with it on that level.

4. War of any kind must be a last resort, and should be in response to a direct threat only. This concept of "preemptive war" is appalling, and we should never engage in it, under any circumstances.

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