Tags: Give | Iraq | Chance

Give Iraq a Chance

Wednesday, 21 September 2005 12:00 AM

When supporters of the Iraq war tell opponents and protesters to put a sock and/or a cork in it, suture their lips, clamp their vocal cords, or just take it elsewhere – they don't really expect to be obeyed. But when two of the country's most serious and vocal critics of the war suggest that maybe it's time for the protesters to stand down for a while, their reasons are worth heeding.

Philip Gold and Erin Solaro have been noted in this column on occasion and are (full disclosure) personally known to your Medicine Men. Gold, a former Marine and veteran national defense analyst who predicted an imminent terrorist strike in the summer of 2001, has opposed the war since spring 2002.

"I thought," says Gold, "that it was one lousy idea militarily, politically, economically. Most of all, I don't believe that the United States should be in the business of occupying other countries in order to redeem them."

Solaro, a Seattle-based writer who covered Iraq and Afghanistan as a reporter embedded with Army and Marine combat units, concurs. "Nobody understood that the relevant question was not 'Would Iraqis fight for Sadism?' It was always 'What would Iraqis fight for, or against, after Sadism?'"

For three years, Solaro and Gold have written and spoken against the war, especially Gold in his 2004 book, "Take Back the Right." But now they're saying that it's time for all serious opponents of the war to cool it until next summer.

Their reason is simple. Now is the time to determine, as fairly and accurately as possible, whether or not the Iraqi people want Western-style freedom badly enough to fight and sacrifice for it. The outlook is not promising. But for precisely that reason, Americans should give them every chance and not put pressure on the administration to do anything that might lessen those chances.

There's a major insurrection under way in Iraq, arguably also a civil war. The people will vote on their constitution next month. This document leaves unresolved one vital issue: the exact role of Islam and Islamic law in the government. It is also far from clear that the federal system can work, and whether the government can defeat, disarm or co-opt the numerous private militias that the constitution bans.

If the constitution is adopted, Iraq will hold general elections in December. These will demonstrate what kind of government the Iraqis prefer, indeed, whether they want to remain a unified nation at all. After that, six months will show whether there's anything in Iraq worth further American sacrifice.

"Of course, they won't defeat the insurgency by next summer," says Gold. "Their government will still be settling in. But we'll certainly know whether the people of Iraq – not just the government, the people – care enough to press on. We can't stay there as an occupying force indefinitely, or until some mythical "course" has been stayed. In the end, it's their course. If they ever intend to run it, the time is now."

But if serious critics should give Iraq this chance, they also have the obligation to speak up if the experiment fails. That means, among other things, making sure that the war becomes a major issue in the 2006 congressional elections, and that candidates are required to make their own positions clear.

It also means that serious critics – not the Blame America Firsters or those who hate the president for the sake of the hatred, or those who simply want an American defeat – must accept one unpleasant fact.

Says Solaro: "Afghanistan and Iraq are only the opening campaigns of a very long war. Opening campaigns don't always go well. We have to press on. That requires admitting mistakes when necessary, correcting them, and thinking clearly about what we can and can't do effectively."

Gold has offered a new way of thinking about this struggle in an essay, "To Guard an Era: American Purpose after Iraq," in the September Naval Institute Proceedings, a piece that has begun to attract attention within the Katrina-perplexed Beltway.

For the next nine months, let's give the Iraqi people the chance for freedom we went there to give them. Whatever happens, let's all start thinking about the rest of this war against terrorism that we have no choice but to fight if we value our freedom.

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When supporters of the Iraq war tell opponents and protesters to put a sock and/or a cork in it, suture their lips, clamp their vocal cords, or just take it elsewhere - they don't really expect to be obeyed. But when two of the country's most serious and vocal critics...
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Wednesday, 21 September 2005 12:00 AM
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