I'm writing this post separately because the previous one deserves its own post, but I feel sort of like I ought to comment on the Saddam Hussein thing. I posted the other one first because I figure of the two this one is the more likely to get comments, but let me just say right now that much more of my time has been spent thinking about how much I wanted Esther to be at Disneyland than it has been about Saddam's capture. This is partially because thinking about Iraq generally only succeeds in making me angry and frustrated, and partially because, let's face it, Esther is a lot more important to me than Saddam Hussein.
Anyway, I'm glad we've got him. I think that the military is being quite reasonable in saying to the press that they don't expect this to produce any immediate reduction of terrorism in the area. That's a prediction which I think is self-evident from the circumstances of his capture and statements from insurgents that have been flitting around the news, but I'm glad to hear the military saying it. I don't know if your average officer in Iraq views the press as very small children, but in my opinion they should. I think it's been fairly well established at this point that the major American news organs can't be counted on to infer even very obvious information from the situation in Iraq - or, if they can infer it, they can't be counted on to report to the American public in a way that acknowledges the inference. As far as I'm concerned, the more the military worries about being misquoted by the press or having their remarks used in a way that twists the fact, the better.
I also think that the military is being reasonable in focusing its statements on what seem to be the most plausible effects of Hussein's capture - the sense on the street that the man is gone, and that America a). believes in the best interests of Iraq, and b). is going to win. In other words, I think the military has been quite reasonable in focusing on Saddam's value as a figurehead (and really, without a country, what practical value does he have?). Those are predictions that I hope will come true. The less killing goes on over there, the faster we hand them a government which is willing and able to look out for the interests of Iraq, the better. The more the people of Iraq refuse to countenance the terrorism being directed against the reconstruction of their homeland, the faster that will happen - and hopefully having Saddam as a symbol of American implacability will hasten that.
I also hope it will give the cause of reconstruction a shot in the arm at home. This raises the question of why I care so much (which I manifestly do) about the Iraq war and its aftermath. I could plead Christian charity directed towards the people of Iraq, and to a certain extent that is true. But the truth of the matter is that I feel that the honor and integrity of my own people is at stake. We are a lousy country in a world full of lousy countries. I don't think that we went into Iraq primarily to depose a dictator (although I think we did intend to do that for the sake of that nation's people), or primarily to smash a regime which was a threat to its neighbors (although I do think we did intend to do that) - no, I think we went into Iraq because we thought we would benefit from having a U.S.-friendly nation in the area that wasn't Israel; let's not be silly. And there are lots of other terrible regimes we turn a blind eye to. I know that. Nevertheless, I think that we went in with some honorable motives mixed in with the nationalist ones, and the important thing, in my mind, is that America has a chance to do a truly good thing, something her people can be proud of. I think we really do have a chance to give Iraq a nationhood which will be governed by and for her people, which will create a society where parents can raise their children free from fear and look forward to giving them better things than they had.
More importantly, having smashed the nationhood which used to exist in that area of the world, I don't think we have any honorable choice other than to pursue that chance. If we don't stick it out until Iraq has a government with enough muscle to stand up against the terrorists which are trying to abort it before it's even born, then I think it's pretty clear that the area's going to devolve into Somalia, and that must not happen. We tore down a Bad Thing, that is well - but we can't just walk away or something equally bad (or worse) will take its place. If Iraq devolves into factionalist warfare where no faction has a clear military advantage (we just smashed the only source of clear military advantage in the country) - and in which ethnicity and/or religion can come into play - how long do you think the country will digest itself in civil war? The picture I have from Archimedes on how long civil wars last nowadays is not a pretty one.
I think America has a chance to prevent that, and I hope that the American people have the backbone to give it our best shot. Of course that means that our nation's sons and daughters will continue to die, and our media will continue to shrill about it. But not pursuing the chance that Iraq's reconstruction can succeed means condemning the sons and daughters of Iraq to die for many years to come, in numbers hundreds of times as great as our own people are dying. Our own men and women have training, equipment, resources, and organization that make them more invincible to terrorism than mankind has ever before known how. The people of Iraq do not have those advantages. I hate to sound like John Travolta, but what is all of our power good for if we aren't going to protect the weak from those who would (even unintentionally! I know that many of those "terrorists" are honestly fighting for the cause of Iraq as best they know how) bring the desolation of civil war upon the weak and their descendants, possibly for many generations to come?
And the thing that makes me angry and frustrated is that our military is, in that area, essentially invincible. I hope that people have been paying attention to the news articles and interviews recently which have finally admitted what was an obvious inference from the start: that the insurgents' strategy is not to defeat the American forces stationed in Iraq (as if they could!) but to kill so many of our sons and daughters that the American people demands we pull out. I desperately hope that my nation - my people - will not be scared off from doing the right thing because our troops are being killed in the line of duty. That is not the way to win a fight. I like this quote from the sixth Honor Harrington book on that subject: the secret to winning a fight and coming out alive, it says, is "making up your mind going in that you're not just gonna try to defend yourself. It's deciding right now, ahead of time, that you're gonna kill the mother-fucker if that's what it takes." That is essentially how I view the Iraq situation. If my people can decide right now that we're going to see this through until Iraq's people have their country back, we will win. If not, I am very much afraid that we will pull out and it will be a matter of decades, not a few years, before Iraq is owned by her people once more. And it won't be for any military reason. That unhappy fate will be inflicted upon Iraq because the United States of America, as a people, refused to pay the price of doing the right thing. If Saddam's capture gives the cause of reconstruction a stupid, irrational, political shot in the arm to make that eventuality less likely, then I will be glad.
Two more issues I've been wanting to comment on. Saddam's possible execution? Well, I don't know that the Governing Council's war crimes tribunal represents the Iraqi people per se, and I'm not sure what I think about our attempts to dodge the "commander-in-chief" argument for making him a prisoner of war (the legal consequences of which I am unsure of). I do know that many of the people who are arguing for POW status (and, presumably, for the situation to be handled by parties other than the U.S. or the Iraqi Governing Council) seem to be against execution primarily because they don't believe in killing, ever, and I think that's foolish.
Second, our decision to exclude certain foreign firms from bidding on lucrative reconstruction contracts. I can't say that I really see any injustice in keeping the best contracts for nations which did the work. If a nation didn't fight the war, and if her sons and daughters aren't dying in the Sunni Triangle to protect that war from having been fought in vain, what right does that nation have to reconstruction projects? I hope The Little Red Hen is still being read across the Atlantic.