Obviously James has had more time for reading than I have. I finally managed to finish Gushee’s book, but haven’t gotten any further in God’s Politics. I do share some of your concerns about the war, and in general think that we should be very careful about when we choose to go to war – avoiding it unless absolutely necessary. I’m not sure how much risk there is in Iraq for the same sorts of human rights violations as occurred in Latin America. However, I presume there is at least some risk. Part of the current strategy of the “surge” was to provide monetary incentives to local militia men in order to get them to stop fighting against us and against rival ethnic factions. At present this appears to be working, but it is at least a tenuous arrangement. Hopefully these funds will not be used in the future to fuel more in-fighting.
Given the current situation I feel that it is our responsibility to remain in Iraq and to try to fix the horrific situation that we have created. Essentially this is a “We broke it, we should fix it,” stance. Thus, I think we should focus most of our energies on figuring out how to rebuild Iraq. However, I think it’s also useful to reflect on whether or not we should have gone in there to begin with, and also to question whether or not our leaders had the right motives for doing so. If Saddam had really obtained weapons of mass destruction, then I think there would have been convincing reason to feel threatened by him. It is still not clear to me whether this was simply a failure of intelligence or rather a ploy (based on weak intelligence) to provide justification for a war that was really waged for ulterior motives. In any case, we should have also considered the consequences of creating a power vacuum in a country with such deep ethnic divides. I feel that the plans for rebuilding Iraq were woefully inadequate. I fear that the combination of questionable motives, unilateral action, poor planning for the future of Iraq, and consistent problems with torture and secrecy has actually increased the threat of terrorist attacks against the US. If nothing else it has drastically increased anti-American sentiment in much of the world – a world that was united behind us after 9/11. Many in the Arab world now view us as an occupying force that is involved in a crusade against them. This cannot be helping us in the war on terror. We must remember that the war on terror cannot be fought simply by military means. It is a war of ideas. Right now, I think we are losing that war. Only history will show what good or bad was accomplished by the war. We have at least succeeded in removing a brutal dictator from power. Hopefully, we haven’t replaced him with something worse.
-Matt, the elder brother