Saturday, December 15, 2007

Do You Want the US to Win or Lose In Iraq?

US supporters of the occupation of Iraq from time to time accuse opponents of hoping for defeat for the United States. I have not seen a good answer to this accusation so far. I gather Juan Cole's response is to challenge the questioner to produce a definition of victory. Once a definition is spelled out, every definition of victory that has been presented so far can then convincingly be shown to be implausible. But that is a complex, multi-step process that Juan Cole can follow because he's bright. It is more likely to confuse than convince Americans who have vastly less background knowledge and interest in foreign policy than he has.

My answer is to give my own definition of victory. To the question "Do you want the United States to win the war in Iraq?" my answer is "Yes. I want the United States to win by establishing a secure democracy in Iraq."

But part of victory is that if Iraq's voters not want foreign troops they have the right and the power to instruct the foreign troops to leave. The United States has said it would remain in Iraq as a bulwark against Iran. If Iraq is a democracy, and Iraq's voters do not want to be a bulwark against Iran, Iraq will not be a bulwark against Iran.

In meetings late Wednesday with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Gates said the United States viewed Iraq, despite the close ties between some in its Shiite-dominated government and Shiite Iran, as a bulwark against Tehran, said a senior Defense Department official.

"Our Arab friends tend to see Iraq in the context of the new challenge from Iran," the official said. "That’s clearly the Saudi perspective. So the secretary was able to reassure them that we want an Iraq that is a barrier against Iranian expansionism."

Part of victory - part of creating a democratic Iraq - is giving up the idea of Iraq will or should, against the will of its voters, support the US vision of the Middle East.

Part of victory - part of creating a democratic Iraq - is accepting the idea that Iraq's voters may support Hamas and Hezbollah. Part of victory is accepting that Iraq may not accept a two state solution in Israel. Accepting that Iraq may not agree that Israel remaining a Jewish state is more important than returning the refugees. Accepting that Iraq may see the thousands of people killed by Bin Laden on 9/11 as a smaller crime than the thousands of people killed by Bush as a result of the US invasion of Iraq or by Olmert through the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

Part of victory is the creation of a state that has the right to choose to be more helpful to Iran than it is to Israel, the United States or Saudi Arabia. And the fact is that Iraq's voters are likely to exercise that right if they are given it.

If supporters of the occupation want more than that, and they do, what they want is not the creation of a stable and democratic Iraq. What they want can only be given by an authoritarian dictatorship like those of Egypt and Jordan. What they want is to replace Hussein with a pro-US Hussein. Not only is the goal of supporters of the occupation immoral, but it is structurally impossible to accomplish - as Juan Cole can point out.

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