At a time when many Americans are worrying about Iraq, should we leave or should we stay, the real issue is Iraq is wasting our time and money and lives. Beginning from the false premise that America’s single biggest issue was the infamous “war on terror”, the Bush Administration has lead the country over hill and dale all around Iraq. Strategically the Middle East is simply not a place to die trying to insert our foreign policy views. Other than oil, there is little or nothing that any American needs from this part of the world. And oil is available and always will be available for a price. That price is a price much lower than the cumulative price America has already paid in Iraq (and we are not close to ending our need to pay) from this unwise and unnecessary war.
The world according to Bush (read Cheney and Rove) changed with 9/11. America was attacked and there would be no stone left unturned until we rooted out these perpetrators. Some response was necessary and the invasion of Afghanistan with full UN support seems appropriate even today. It was targeted and eliminated the open training of terrorists in Afghanistan. What was also needed was some thoughtful questioning of why al Qaeda felt compelled to fly two planes into the twin towers. What drove these people to do such an uncivilized act?
We have been told that they “do not like American life style and values” which is akin to me saying “let’s bomb New Delhi because I do not like Indian food”. There must be some far more basic grievences than our life style and values.
1. Perceived unfairness in favoring the Israelis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
2. Support and protection of the House of Saud (which is probably a grievance that the Saudis have not shared their wealth with the poorer people of the region)
3. Countries practicing capitalism and participating in globalization movements tend to ignore poorer people around the world even while extracting wealth from those people’s lands.
With the availability of weapons and the ease at recruiting the young and the disadvantaged, there will be these groups who purport to have this grievance or that one for years to come. From Southeast Asia through the Middle East to Africa and then onto South America, the fires will burn. How can anyone conceive that the US will hop from country to country putting out these fires of insurgents?
There is no doubt that fixing the Middle East is necessary but it is not the biggest issue facing America. Here is my worry list
1. American maturation so that we can compete peacefully with China and India over the next 3 decades. How do we learn to understand the true motives of each country and how to communicate clearly in a transparent manner to people who possess totally different languages, customers, and histories. How do we compete productively with each country so that we use only our fair share of the world’s limited resources?
2. Regenerate the productive and creative energies of our country and return real growth (not wealth redistribution) to all Americans. How do we educate and employ Americans in jobs that allow them to partake in the country’s overall wealth appreciation? How do we avoid the decay of America’s Industrial and Scientific strength?
3. Rebuild the American infrastructure and bring Americans together again. How do we assure that the social security safety net will be there for all Americans? How do we provide healthcare to all Americans with fairness and dignity? How do we find the middle ground to resolve issue where Americans hold strongly held opposing views?
4. Transition rapidly from a fossil fuel dependant nation to one where alternate renewable energy sources dominate and green house gases are dramatically reduced. How do we reduce our dependence on foreign sourced oil? How do we introduce energy sources based upon solar and geothermal energy sources? How do we develop a respect and appreciation for climate change and the potential catastrophic impact it could have?
The travesty of Iraq is first and foremost the lost opportunity cost. We are fighting a war that never needed to be fought and one that the way out will look ugly and assuredly will please no one. Instead of dealing with the big box issues that loom just ahead and are themselves extremely difficult to see solutions, we have fiddled as America burns. I worry that historians will write that America set sail for second class status when the surge was considered a really new and hopeful strategy.