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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The War in Iraq and the War on Terror

On Sept. 11th 2001 we learned that the gathering problem if Islamic Terror was no longer something we could ignore. Several obvious steps were taken to combat this threat including the destruction of the terror training camps in Afghanistan, and multi-lateral efforts by many countries to stop the flow of terror funding. However, I believe, and I don't think many disagree with me, that these efforts did not deal with the 'root causes' of Islamic Terror. For me, the War in Iraq is an effort to deal with these root causes. In my analysis, Islamic Terror is caused by a number of factors. A general feeling of impotence, Arab societal acceptance of violence, tribalization, and a habit of blaming on external forces for internal failings are among the most significant. The best way to combat these factors is reform of Arab governments to a democratic model with guaranteed human rights. For many years the Arab world has increasingly failed. Despite (or perhaps because of) their vast resources of oil their economies are in a shambles. Unemployment is rampant and a vast demographic bulge is increasing the pressure on an already failing system. Additionally, militarily they have suffered crushing defeat after crushing defeat. Compounding this feeling of failure is a glorious history of an advanced and powerful culture. This feeling of failure creates hopelessness and anger as well as a disdain for the current world. The best way I know of to counter this desperate feeling is to change the reality of their failed and near-failed states. This can only be done by a capitalist free-market economy where property rights are assured and a fair legal system is in place. All current Arab governments are more or less totalitarian. There are few checks and balances on those in power and opposition is destroyed in a violent manner. This leads to a culture of violence being the only way to solve disputes. Additionally, much like with people who are victim of child abuse, those who are abused are likely to go on and abuse others. The solution to this problem is a government that will allow for the people to express their will while maintaining the rights of minorities and the people having confidence that this will, in fact, happen. Tribalization in Arab countries is also a result of the totalitarian nature of the Arab governments. As perhaps best illustrated by the government of Saddam Hussein the easiest way for a totalitarian government to remain in power is to exploit factions and set them against each other, punishing and rewarding different groups and making every effort to exploit feelings of fear. Once again, a system that will ensure basic rights for all will go a long way to alleviating this problem. Lastly of the factors I am considering here is the idea that outside forces are responsible for internal failures. This mindset has been actively pursued by these totalitarian governments to channel the people’s hostility and anger over the failure of their societies away from the government toward an outside source. The US and Israel are the most common targets of this propaganda. Self-determination and true success of their societies will hopefully reverse this trend over time. In addition, a free press will be much more likely to focus on fixing problems from within rather than blaming external influence. While it would be ideal for all the Arab countries to spontaneously reform and become democratic with guarantees of basic rights this is not likely to happen on its own. In Iraq especially it seems unlikely that any internal revolt would have ever succeeded and with the growing threat of Islamic Terror the United States could not wait for such reforms to happen on their own. Hopefully though, a single successful Arab democracy can be an impetuous for change in the region. Iraq was the obvious choice. Saddam Hussein had few friends in the Arab world, was in violation of international agreements, was widely viewed by the populous of the free world as a villain who would not be missed and a substantial portion of his own people would welcome a force of liberation. Even with these advantages we knew that this transformation would not be easy. Obviously the jury is still out on whether Iraq can be successfully transformed into a successful democratic nation. Even if it is possible, will we have the will to see it through? Lastly, will this new Iraq have the effect on the region that I hope for and will this in fact lessen Islamic terror? I believe that to all of these questions the answer is yes.


Blogger Aric said...

I don't really agree with all of your points:

First of all, the idea of rampant unemployment, while it sounds good, can be somewhat misleading. Here are the unemployment rates reported by the CIA for some countries in that region:
Kuwait: 7% (80% of labor force foreign)
Saudi Arabia: 25% (35% of labor force foreign)
Iran: 16%
Yemen: 30%
United Arab Emirites: NA (73% of labor force foreign)
Jordan: 25-30%
Syria: 20%
Lebanon: 18%
Libya: 30%
Egypt: 12%
Qatar: 2.7%
Although these numbers seem fairly high, compared with the rest of the world, they are not overly so. The world average is roughly 30%, with most countries hovering between 10 and 25%. Many of those other countries do not have terrorism problems.

The idea that there is blame for external forces for internal problems is correct, but also misleading. It is misleading in the sense that there HAS been a high degree of external meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, compared to what you might see in Western Europe or the United States. When Israel was created, it took through armed combat land that was ceded to the Palestinian State. Although arguably justified, it was specifically prohibited at the time. In the 1950s, the U.S. and British overthrew the Democratically elected leader of Iran when he nationalized the oil industry. In 1956, England, France, and Israel invaded Egypt after Nasser closed the Suez Canal. Events such as these, combined with continued U.S. support of Israel despite Israel's continued violation of U.N. resolutions vis a vis the Palestinians still stirs up resentment against the U.S. and others. Finally, the U.S. invasion of Iraq proved the point as far as "external interference" is concerned. While totalitarian, the average person in Iraq under Saddam could generally count on food on the table, schools, a job of some sort, and a stable electricity supply. None of those things is true under the U.S. occupation. Is that an unfair comparison? Maybe. Is it one that many Iraqis are now making? Absolutely.

Well, that's it for now, as my battery is running out of power, and I have to do homework. I'll comment more if I have more time.

5/19/2004 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Random Gemini said...

To some extent, I agree with what you have to say. But I don't believe that a democracy in Iraq is the solution to all of the ills in the middle east. Lately, I've been taking a hard look at Saudi Arabia, and I do think situations there are something that cannot be overlooked if we are to see a peaceful middle east in our lifetime.

5/19/2004 02:40:00 PM  

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