Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iraq War - My Memories and Analysis

My basic call on Bush's Iraq War was right - I opposed the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz arguments to topple Saddam by force. Why did I oppose? Fundamentally, having recently migrated from India then - around 6 years before the start of Iraq War - I had my sensitivities of a Third World Person intact. In that worldview you do not put 'your soldiers feet on foreign ground' unless you are attacked. Toppling Talibans in Afghanistan was justifiable in a sense (though looking back I feel there were other smarter ways too) since Talibans protected OBL. But there was no such case against Saddam Hussain. I felt Bush Administration had time to pursue UN backed efforts to force Saddam come clean about WMD. I also felt that initiating Iraq Ground War did not justify when one did cost-benefit analysis. Saddam was dangerous, but then there were, and there are, so many other regimes which are always a threat to USA and West; but you do not go in all such cases to invade those regimes. Few more things influenced me in opposing the Iraq war - a scathing editorial in the print edition of San Jose Mercury News and Paul Kgruman's arguments in New York Times.

But then overall Bay Area was opposing the war. San Francisco had 2 huge rallies in opposing the war as a part of world wide demonstrations. I attended one of them. We were around 100,000 folks on that bright day. To date, participating in that public rally is my most cherished political moment in this country. I distinctly remember that rally because then 'West Wing' popular Martin Sheen recited Ravindranath Tagore's famous poem 'Where The Mind Is Without Fear'. Tagore's that particular poem has a special place in my life. My father has been a private English Language Tutor back in India, a famed tutor in his own right. We had this poem in our text-book and I remember when my father movingly taught that poem to my class. So hearing that poem recited by a famous Hollywood Liberal from SF podium - one can imagine how thrilling that would have been to a newly migrant from India who was not even citizen then.

When I look back, I am glad that I was on the right side of the History. Where I missed, and at times I regret about that, is the later part - about the Surge which Bush ordered immediately after 2006 election despite the Pelosi Victory and when Rumsfled was kicked out. At that time I was deeply moved by Joe Klein's account of James Fallows 'seminal' work about Iraq War. I believe that is the time when Senator Harry Reid declared on the Senate floor that 'America lost the Iraq War'. That is the time Joe Biden proposed 'division of Iraq into 3 separate regions' and I fell for that. Biden and his liberal supporters proposed Kurdish Iraq, Sunni Iraq of Anbar and Shiite Iraq of Basra and Southern regions with Baghdad divided or shared.

Why do I regret that? I think that was the moment which manifested the 'worst defeatist' tendencies of Liberals in this country and I would have wanted to avoid that. My position is, it was absolutely wrong for Bush and America to start the ground war to topple Saddam; but once you start a war you do not want the 'only indispensable power of this world' to re-live another Vietnam. Howsoever discredited George Bush is; Americans and History owe to him that he did not make Iraq war another Vietnam for America and surge helped in that. I would have loved to distance away from defeatist tendencies of Democrats. But I got enraged, like most other Liberals, that just after the thumping defeat of Bush at hands of Pelosi Democrats; the commander-in-chief dared to pour more American blood and treasury in that bottomless pit of dragging Iraq War. I think Bush was very much aware how unpopular he was and how disliked the surge decision would be. But he doubled down, in his famous fashion, and made his all out, honest efforts to retain remaining Credibility of America.

The thing is, you need to have lived many years outside of this country to understand significance of America keeping its commitment and keeping unity of Iraq despite colossal cost. At times I doubt whether Liberals, and lately even few Republicans (the flavor of the month Senator Paul Rand); understand the two most significant strategic achievements of America in the first decade of this century with lasting effects:
- that once started, America does everything possible to take its foreign intervention to a logical end (transition of Iraq to post-Saddam world as a single country is much better outcome than Biden's partition of Iraq in 3 separate regions), and
- it does not matter how many years have passed or political leanings of American Leaders in between, America will not stop in bringing justice to those who harm their own people (killing of OBL).

As President Obama takes this much saner turn in America's Foreign Policy - being tough when needed and 'leading from behind when applicable' - gradually America's credibility will continue to improve based on  above mentioned foundations. (Too bad that America however would not get any such manageable success in Afghanistan, clearly Obama Administration undermined what harm overlooking of 'corruption does' in an occupied country. But that is a topic for another blog post.)

Update - Don't get me wrong, I love VP Biden and especially his recent leadership in dealing with Congress. It is just that his 'Iraq call around the surge time' was wrong.

No comments: