January 13, 2007
There Is No Freedom Without Order
The day after President Bush announced he would send more U.S. troops to Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appeared on Capitol Hill to generate support for the plan. During an exchange with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, Rice engaged in the type of word games that drives common sense and sanity up a wall.
Rice disagreed with Hagelâ€™s assessment that the introduction of more troops was an â€œescalation.â€
Hagel asked, â€œWould you call it a decrease?â€
Riceâ€™s response was preposterous: â€œI would call it, senator, an augmentation that allows the Iraqis to deal with this very serious problem they have in Baghdad.â€
Yes, the situation in Baghdad is serious and Bush Administration officials should not defend this critical and necessary action by pretending they are playing crossword puzzles with Members of Congress. Rice made herself look ridiculous.
Bush is escalating U.S. forces in Iraq, and itâ€™s about time, because for too long the insurgents and terrorists have not been dealt with effectively. Rice should have said, â€œYes, Senator Hagel, the president is escalating our troop strength in Iraq because the violence continues and the will of the enemy has yet to be broken.â€
During his speech, Bush said, â€œWhen I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. â€¦We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops. But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad - overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made.â€
The notion that merely creating the apparatus of democracy would magically bring people together was a dream. Absent order and stability the decorations of democracy are but vapor.
Democrats are not alone in their opposition to Bushâ€™s change in strategy. Senator Hagel said, â€œI am opposed to the escalation of American involvement in Iraq, including more U.S. troops. â€¦We cannot escape the reality that there will be no military solution in Iraq. â€¦Instead of increasing our troop presence in Iraq, we should be focused on helping the Iraqis find a political solution and creating a policy that allows us to leave Iraq honorablyâ€¦â€
There will be no conclusive military solution for Iraq, but a military solution is necessary to establish the stability that will permit a political solution to take root.
Iraqâ€™s situation as a fledgling democracy is far different from colonial America but the similarities between the two with respect to the business of nation-building are relevant. Americaâ€™s Founding Fathers knew the political alternatives to stability and order are chaos and anarchy. In 1786, Daniel Shays led a rebellion in Massachusetts. Shays and his followers were demanding an end to imprisonment for debt and a halt to the foreclosure of farm mortgages. Creditors believed their property rights were being violated. The new nation was operating under the Articles of Confederation and as the rebels seized courthouses the federal government stood by helpless. The Massachusetts militia suppressed the uprising. A stronger federal government was needed. The Constitution would replace the Articles and the new document would place the federal governmentâ€™s sovereignty above state sovereignty and establish a balanced executive-legislative-judicial model of government.
A test would come in 1791, when the Whiskey Rebellion erupted on the Western frontier. The federal government imposed a 25 percent tax on corn products, which hit the edge of the new nation particularly hard. Corn whiskey was an important commodity, taking the place of money for farmers who had no cash. Violence broke out in the Pittsburgh area and in Kentucky where rebels terrorized tax collectors and shut down courts. President Washington extended amnesty to those involved if they would lay down their weapons and surrender. The offer was rejected.
Whatever one might have thought of the tax, Washington knew, â€œIf the laws are to be trampled upon with impunity, then there is an end put, with one stroke, to republican government.â€ Washington sent troops to end the rebellion.
Due to the efforts of al Qaeda, insurgents and militias, chaos has overtaken efforts to rebuild Iraq and create a stable government that can deliver security to its people. Some things do not change. Until the lawless elements are eliminated, Iraq will remain a broken nation. While acknowledging the many important differences between the birth of the United States and the birth of a new Iraq, parallels exist, among them: Absent order there is pandemonium.
Bush said, â€œThe consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq. â€¦The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time.â€
Despite the wearisome voices of those who label Iraq â€œa war of choiceâ€ those have always been the unbending realities of Iraq.
Bush said the tactics that will be employed now will differ from previous efforts: â€œIn earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, weâ€™ll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods - and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.â€
It is impossible to win a war when you declare a portion of the battlefield is off limits to your forces. That is no longer the case and it will make a difference.
The United States has not achieved its objectives in Iraq because it has tried to conduct a polite war in which sensitivities are indulged. The enemy has not burdened himself with such courtesies. Bush says this will change. Americans should be united in the hope that 20,000 additional troops will be sufficient to establish security and that Bushâ€™s escalation is not too little too late, because there has always been far more at stake in Iraq than the future of Iraq. ### Joseph Bell has hosted a radio talk show and is a former editorial writer/columnist for several Connecticut newspapers. A former liberal Democrat, Bell has not been on the conservative side of the aisle for very long. He voted for Clinton/Gore in 1992. Abandoning the convictions that he had held and defended through adolescence and into adulthood was not easy. Sincere soul-searching and a commitment to distinguish fact from fiction compelled him to accept that liberal ideology was bankrupt.