Sunday, July 15, 2007

Iraq: Our Responsibility as Voters

Though the news media has excoriated Washington for the fiasco in Iraq, the ultimate responsibility for this disaster rests with us, the American people. Why? The government has merely done what we wanted it to do. We live in a democracy, and the government serves at our pleasure. If the direction of the government displeases us, then we vote the offending politicians out of office.

Exercising the right to vote carries a heavy responsibility. A voter must study the issues and keep abreast of current events in order to make an informed choice.

Yet, most Americans reject the responsibility of suffrage. They ignore current events and cannot be bothered to study the issues. [1] According to a survey in 2006, 63% of young adults -- the likeliest source of future military draftees -- could not locate Iraq on a map. [2] Equally shocking, 64% of all Americans could not identify the president of Russia, our strategic partner in
dealing with North Korea and other rogue states. [3]

Most Americans view politics and voting as a game: a sports match between the Republicans and the Democrats. Roughly 61% of Americans tend to mindlessly vote along party lines. [4][5] Instead of studying, in-depth, the relevant issues (e.g., transforming Iraq into a democracy), many Americans simply parrot the official line of their favorite party or their adored commentator (e.g., Sean Hannity). They mock and lambaste the opposing party. The whole process is just good, clean fun.

This willful ignorance leads to our supporting the wrong foreign policy. According to numerous polls in 2003, the American people firmly supported using a too small military force to invade and occupy Iraq. The idea of war on the cheap appealed to us, and President George Bush eagerly obliged. Though he executed the war and subsequent occupation, we -- the American people -- bear the ultimate responsibility for the outcome because he simply did what we wanted. We gave him our approval by re-electing him and his pro-war Republican colleagues in the 2004 election.

The postwar occupation of Iraq went horribly awry. Neo-conservatives touted post-war Japan and post-war Germany as the model for the occupation of Iraq. Being ignorant of world history, the American people bought this nonsense. We simply did not know that the correct model is the Japanese occupation of Taiwan.

After imperial Japan took control of Taiwan, Tokyo stationed soldiers on the island at the ratio of 1 soldier per 60 Taiwanese. [6] Using this troop strength to crush the occasional violent uprisings, Tokyo successfully transformed Taiwan from a barbaric society into a Western one. Applying the Japanese lesson to Iraq, we can conclude that the non-Kurdish part (numbering about 22 million people[7]) of Iraq needs 370,000 Western soldiers to transform the nation into a prosperous, Western democracy. [8][9][10]

Yet, Washington deployed only 170,000 soldiers (including ones from the "Coalition of the Willing") and told the Iraqis, "You build a democracy. You are in charge." The American people cheered this simple-minded approach to nation building. The result is a violent civil war. What else would you expect from the Iraqis? They lived their entire lives under a brutal dictatorship and lack any experience with Western liberalism. Meanwhile, 3200 American soldiers have died for nothing. An additional 24,000 soldiers have been seriously wounded and will need lifelong medical care. [11]

For decades, educators have warned us that American ignorance of world history, geography, and current events will exact a high price. Today, we pay the price in wasted lives.

Twenty years from today, we will pay the price again. Pushing Iraq out of sight and out of mind, we intend to promptly exit Iraq -- after we completely wrecked its society. We intend to leave the Iraqis to wallow in the devastation of sectarian violence. An Iraqi child growing up in this violent mayhem will become an angry adult in 2027. He will likely commit violence against American citizens on a massive scale. Will we Americans then cry, "We are innocent!"?

There is no clean, easy solution to the Iraq fiasco. There are only difficulty choices, of which 2 are the following.

Plan #1: We ramp our troop commitment to 370,000 soldiers for a multi-decade occupation. We push aside the Iraqi government and run Iraq as a colony. Taking a cue from the Japanese, the American military must occupy Iraq for, at least, 20 years in order to enable an entirely new generation of Iraqis to grow up in a Western society and to learn how it operates. At the conclusion of 20 years, we can begin transferring the reins of government to democratically elected Iraqi politicians.

Plan #2: We pull all our troops out of Iraq. As they withdraw, we welcome, to the United States, any Iraqi who wants to flee Iraq. The number of refugees admitted to our nation may number several million. For the next 20 years, we pay financial compensation to the Iraqis who choose to remain in Iraq. To finance the compensation, we levy a special Iraq Compensation Tax on all American citizens. The funds from this tax would be used by the Iraqis to try to rebuild their society. General Colin Powell did say, "You break it, you own it." Now, we pay for it.

Both plans restore normalcy to the lives of most Iraqis, but plan #1 achieves the superior result: a prosperous, Western democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Achieving this Western beachhead requires a multi-decade occupation, and it surely requires a military draft, which most Americans oppose.

So, only plan #2 is realizable. This plan specifies not only exiting Iraq but also making amends for destroying Iraqi lives. Many Americans may cringe at the idea of welcoming Iraqi refugees and paying financial compensation. Well, that is just too bad. Ignorance (of world history, geography, and current events) and an irresponsible attitude towards voting have a price. Would we prefer paying some compensation and admitting some refugees, or would we prefer to confront, in 2027, an Iraqi suicide bomber whom, in his childhood, we abandoned to the violent mayhem in 2007?

1. The Department of Defense publishes a field manual for counterinsurgency. The document prescribes an occupation ratio of 1 Western soldier to 50 inhabitants. [12][13]
2. When the Iraq war began in 2003 March, 68 percent of Americans supported the military operation. 83 percent believed that it would succeed. 65 percent were proud of the operation. [14]

1. Laura Miller, "America the ignorant", Salon, 2001 September 27.
2. "National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study", The National Geographic Education Foundation, May 2006.
3. "What Americans Know: 1989-2007", The Pew Research Center, 2007 April 15.
4. Heidi Przybyla, "Republicans May Need to Soften Message to Win Back Independents",, 2007 November 21.
5. "Strength of Partisanship 1952-2004", The American National Election Studies, 2005 November 27.
6. Kiyoshi Ito, "Chapter 5: The Republic of Taiwan", Taiwan History, 1996 July (translator: Walter Chen).
7. "Iraq", The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, 2007 April 17.
8. Andrew Lee Butters, "Kurdistan: Iraq's Next Battleground?", 2007 April 12
9. Judith Miller, "Kurdistan", "Wall Street Journal", 2006 October 28.
10. reporter, "The Number of Soldiers for a Successful Occupation", 2006 September 17.
11. "Iraq Index", The Brookings Institution, 2007 March 29.
12. Michael R. Gordon, "News Analysis: In Baghdad, pressing to meet new standard", "International Herald Tribune", 2007 January 18.
13. Mark Benjamin, "Bush's new friends: The Sunnis", "", 2007 September 5.
14. Keating Holland, "Poll: Confidence in Iraq war down sharply", CNN, 2007 March 18.


Anonymous said...

Since you asked, I'll take the 2027 option.
For one thing, AQ bombers would no doubt be part of the immediate immigrant contingent.
Second, a lot can change in 20 years--and in accord with your assessment, it can only get better.

There are other,more subtle options such as those put forth by In effect, working out an arrangement Iran and Saudi for the future of Iraq.
You give no credit to the fact that Iraq was no picnic before our invasion. Sadam managed to kill off quite a few of his own each year, not to mention child rape, mass execution, etc.

All things considered, your glib set of alternatives lacks contextual completeness. This isn't the Saturday afternoon movies with white hats and black hats. It is the real world, full of complexity, multi-causality and does not lend itself to the simple minded, morality play you seem to live in.

bar said...

"The government has merely done what we wanted it to do. We live in a democracy, and the government serves at our pleasure. If the direction of the government displeases us, then we vote the offending politicians out of office."

Absolute and utter bullshit. You have followed the "democracy" bait hook, line & sinker.

In fact, it could be argued that a country like Saudi Arabia or Syria is more democratic, where tribal voices are the democratic voice.

If you want democracy, then give the people online voting along the line of the California "propositions" model, allow the people to sack the president like the Californians sacked Grey, and like the Venezuelans might have sacked Chavez.

Nah, the USA is not democratic, it's not even a good example of a representative democracy.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Just read your response to the Washington Post article 'A Promise to Keep Up the Pressure'.

You claim that Iraqi refugees have the right to attack American voters, as long as they do so under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. Yet article two of the fourth Geneva convention forbids violence against noncombatants. So (all moral problems with your argument aside), what you said was pretty much gibberish.

Anonymous said...

The American people are responsible for (losing) the Iraq War?

What has Bush asked from Congress that he has not received? Did he ask for a draft? Or a war tax to pay for the war.

This essay of yours is horseshit, I'm sorry. It's arises from an unwillingness to pin reponsibility on the leadership of this country, which is in turn entrusted with upholding the Constitution.

Your essay reads like the Captain of the Titanic blaming some machinist's mate for running into the iceberg. Did the machinist's mate play a role? Sure. But ultimate responsibility lies with man in the Captain's Quarters.

Anonymous said...

Did you write that article in the comments section of the WaPo on the fallacy of immigration? Amazing. I'm sending to everyone I know.

reporter said...

An anonymous person wrote, "Did you write that article in the comments section of the WaPo on the fallacy of immigration?"

I did indeed write the article (at 3:20:07 PM EST on 2007 November 22 in the "Comments" section of the report titled "Immigrant Paperwork Backs Up At DHS" on the web site of "The Washington Post") that begins by stating, "The implication that the American economy with its 300 million citizens needs immigrants is a lie. Read 'The Economic Fallacies of Desperate Foreign Labor' @ ."

I actually support immigration but oppose the economic lies used by many immigration advocates to support an open-door policy. Such dishonesty interferes with the creation of proper immigration policy.

In my article in the "Comments" section of "The Washington Post", I explain a key economic fallacy often used by the immigration advocates. Please feel free to forward the article to your acquaintances and to refer them to this blog.

Also, please read the essay titled "The Economic Fallacies of Desperate Foreign Labor" at on this blog.

Lisa said...

Hi--I saw your comment at the WaPo today. You have some good points.

We welcome you to visit us, at rangeragainstwar.blogspot