There was a penetrating analysis at National Review Online Monday examining the differing plans for post-war Iraq. Written by sometime NRO contributor Jed Babbin, the piece contrasts the State Department’s proposal for how best to govern the country after Saddam Hussein flees or is killed (hint: today is not the day to develop a sudden aversion for capital punishment) with a very different plan advanced by Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense.
Guess which one relies on a lengthy tenure by a military governor?
State, of course. Upholding many decades of fascination with “stability” and “order” in international affairs, Colin Powell’s shop apparently wants a kind of Tommy Franks Pasha to supervise reconstruction and pacification from a headquarters in Baghdad. The Pentagon, on the other hand, wants to move quickly to assemble an Iraqi-led government, at least a transitional one involving ex-pats and tribal leaders to keep things together until elections can be held.
The diplomats – backed up by the spooks at CIA – have a lengthy and plausible list of reasons why representative government in Iraq will have to wait. They say it might give Kurds too much autonomy, thus spooking Turkey, Syria, and Iran. They don’t trust the Iraqi National Congress and other opposition groups. They don’t want to see the new transition government meting out revenge against Saddam’s thugs. Etc., etc.
But the generals have good reasons not to want the job. They argue that a lengthy military administration in Baghdad will confirm all the worst suspicions in the Muslim world, Old Europe, and cloisters of American paranoids in places like Carrboro. It will alienate the Iraqis we will have just liberated. It will only postpone, not resolve, the tensions and disagreements among the various Iraqi factions.
The fundamental point is this: unless America and its allies have as a key goal the creation of a free, democratically governed state in Iraq, then the operation is better off not attempted. The war on terror, of which this would certainly be part, is really a war for freedom against tyrannical ideologies and states that fear and detest it. Yes, these backward and fascist ideologies can manifest themselves in acts of barbarous terrorism, or in actions that support and empower the terrorists. But it isn’t the act of terrorism itself that is the enemy. It is the culture that spawns it.
I don’t believe the culture of terror and repression can stand against freedom. As in the previous Cold War, it may take time and claim its toll. Eventually, however, a war waged to bring freedom to a benighted world can be won. In the long run, war waged to bring “stability” cannot.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.