Fisking Bob Herbert & Explaining What’s Going On In Iraq

I found Bob Herbert’s editorial in the New York Times yesterday to be particularly grating for a number of reasons. His ridiculous comparisons to Vietnam & his complete inability to grasp the basics of the situation (among other things) make me wonder how he could even hold a job as an editorial writer for the New York Times. Here are few things he said in the article (in italics) and my responses…

“This is a dream for the jihad,” said one high-ranking U.N. official. “The resistance will only grow. The American occupation is now the focal point, drawing people from all over Islam into an eye-to-eye confrontation with the hated Americans.”

Excuse me, but is that supposed to be a bad thing? Where would you rather have Al-Qaeda; getting slaughtered in running gun battles with our troops in Iraq or driving truck bombs into skyscrapers here at home? There are a lot of terrorists out there who want to kill Americans and the more of them we can draw into Iraq and slaughter on our terms, the better. While it’s certainly going to be harder on our troops, they’re well prepared to take on Al-Qaeda while a bunch of civilians riding home on a bus or working in an office aren’t. We’re better off having our soldiers fighting terrorists in the Sunni Triangle than having those same terrorists roaming through the streets of New York & LA and attacking at a time of their choosing. Here’s more from Herbert…

…The American people still do not have a clear understanding of why we are in Iraq. And the troops don’t have a clear understanding of their mission. We’re fighting a guerrilla war, which the bright lights at the Pentagon never saw coming, with conventional forces.

This is common tactic left-wingers use today. When they don’t want to deal with an argument, they simply pretend it doesn’t exist. But since Herbert is pretending not to know why we’re in Iraq or perhaps because he’s actually ignorant of it, I’ll explain.

Bob Herbert may have forgotten this, but back on 9/11 some terrorists flew planes into our buildings and killed a lot of American citizens. The Bush administration then declared a war on terrorism and decided to do everything in their power to try to prevent future 9/11s. In order to do that, they came to the conclusion that they had stop not just Al-Qaeda, but all the terrorist groups of global reach as well as the rogue nations that were supporting them. Long-term, that’s the only way to effectively deal with the situation. If you decide to wipe out Al-Qaeda, but not the other groups, they’ll simply reform with a different name. If you go after the terrorist groups, but not the nations that support them, you can’t possibly get the job done. That’s because you can’t wipe out a terrorist group when a rogue nation is providing them money, shelter, supplies, training, & protection.

We hit Afghanistan first because they were Al-Qaeda’s main base. Iraq was next for a whole host of reasons…

— First & foremost, they were a terrorist-supporting nation.
— Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction which could have been given to terrorists (which I still expect we will find by the way).
— Hussein was an anti-American dictator who hated the US and had reason to cooperate with our enemies.
— If Hussein was gone, we had no reason to have troops in Saudi Arabia. Moving those troops out of Saudi our terms takes away a recruiting tool for terrorists.
— Because Iraq had violated so many UN resolutions, it was easier to build support for an attack in Iraq than anywhere else. For example, even the Brits, Poles, & Aussies wouldn’t have been with us if we invaded Syria after Afghanistan.
— Invading Iraq means we can now easily move troops to the borders of Syria & Iran, two other terrorist supporting nations, if we so wish.
— As a bonus, we got to free more than 20 million Iraqis from tyranny.

Now, we’re remaining in Iraq and helping them build a Democracy because it will…

1) Help insure we don’t have to worry about terrorists coming out of Iraq in the future
2) Because we’re hoping a democratic Iraq will help generate a “reverse domino effect” in the region.

As the rest of the region sees a Democratic Iraq and hopefully (cross your fingers) a Democratic Iran after a revolution within a few years time, Democracy may spread. Yes, that means we’re going to produce more turmoil in the Middle-East by design. But that’s infinitely superior to allowing a region that’s producing terrorists who’re flying planes into our buildings and who will one day undoubtedly walk into one of our cities with a nuclear bomb to remain fundamentally unchanged.

All of this will be difficult to pull off and it will take a lot of time, but clearing the corpses of thousands of Americans out of the rubble while their friends and families mourn their loss isn’t easy either. Back to Herbert…

“One of the many reasons Vietnam spiraled out of control was the fact that America’s top political leaders never clearly defined the mission there, and were never straight with the public about what they were doing. Domestic political considerations led Kennedy, then Johnson, then Nixon to conceal the truth about a policy that was bankrupt from the beginning. They even concealed how much the war was costing.”

I don’t know how many times and ways this can be said, but Iraq is not Vietnam. When I hear people like Herbert obsessively trying to turn every war into Vietnam, I just want to look into their vacant eyes and ask them if they’ve ever read a history book. As Jack Kelly pointed out in the Washington Times,

“In Vietnam, more than 58,000 Americans lost their lives. At the height of the war, 500 soldiers were being killed each week.

In the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation, we have lost fewer men to hostile fire than in a single terrorist attack in Lebanon in 1983. We’ve been losing about a soldier a day since the first of June. At this rate, we’ll reach the Vietnam total in about 158 years.”

Just repeat it over and over Bob, Iraq is not Vietnam, Iraq is not Vietnam, Iraq is Vietnam. Furthermore, make sure to say it out loud since it may do some of your colleagues at the New York Times a lot of good. Now, here’s a couple of paragraphs near the end of Bob’s article…

“The U.S. cannot bully its way to victory in Iraq. It needs allies, and it needs a plan. As quickly as possible, we should turn the country over to a genuine international coalition, headed by the U.N. and supported in good faith by the U.S.

The idea would be to mount a massive international effort to secure Iraq, develop a legitimate sovereign government and work cooperatively with the Iraqi people to rebuild the nation.”

Let me break this down like I’m talking to a child, which is appropriate given the level of understanding of foreign policy Bob Herbert and lot of his ilk in the anti-war movement have of foreign policy; different nations have different interests. Even other nations that have helped us in the past may not share our goals in Iraq. There are many nations, including Syria, the acting president of the UN Security Council, that do not want us to succeed in Iraq. Some of the other nations in the region fear a Democratic Iraq will stir up their own people, some nations resent the power of the US and would like to see Iraq fall to pieces just to hurt our country, & others would be rather have a pliable and friendly dictator in Iraq for economic reasons or because they think it will stabilize the region. Allowing those nations to get involved in the decision making process in Iraq via the UN is a recipe for disaster.

Furthermore, what message are we sending to friendly nations like Poland, Britain, & Australia who put their blood & treasure on the line to fight with us in Iraq if we allow countries like France, Germany, & Russia to have equal parts in the decision making process at this point? If we cave in now, what happens next time we need some help in a situation like this? Why would another country help us if they lose nothing by sitting on the sidelines? If you want to insure that NO ONE will give us more than lip service the next time we go to war (and there will always be a next time), then just listen Bob Herbert’s advice and let the UN run the show.

On the whole, what we’re doing in Iraq right now is slowly, but surely working. Yes, there are going to be more attacks for the Iraqi dead-enders and more terrorist attacks. Furthermore, we’re going to see more stories featuring grumbling and carping from certain segments of the Iraqi population and progress is always going to be slower than we’d like. But over time, conditions are going to improve, we’re going to hand more power over to the Iraqi people, and we’re going to train more Iraqis to defend themselves from these attacks. It’s not going to be easy, quick, or painless, but neither was helping Germany, Japan, or South Korea towards Democracy. A little perspective, something people like Bob Herbert either don’t have or are too partisan to acknowledge, is in order here.

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