Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Taking responsibility

At this point, the only reason I can see for remaining in Iraq is that we made the mess there and it's our duty to take responsibility. If it isn't our fault, it isn't our problem. Or at least, it's no more our problem than genocide in Sudan, horrific torture and repression in Burma, the tenuous grasp Haiti has on a democratic government, the bizarre repression of North Korea, persistent tensions and repression in much of sub-Saharan Africa, and who can forget China, the source of moral and political angst. There are lots of problems that need solving, and the only reason that Iraq should top the list is that it's our fault it's collapsing into civil war.
That's why I find it problematic that Bush Blames Hussein for Iraq Instability:
President Bush today blamed the recent sectarian violence that has roiled Iraq on Saddam Hussein, rejecting criticism that the United States' 2003 invasion and continued military presence is tearing the country apart.
He argued that Saddam Hussein had spent so much time pulling the nation apart that the US bears little or no blame for it.

I read this piece right after I read Riverbend's story about the latest edict from the Ministry of Defense:

"The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians do not comply with the orders of the army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area.”

That’s how messed up the country is at this point. …

It confirmed what has been obvious to Iraqis since the beginning- the Iraqi security forces are actually militias allied to religious and political parties.
Is that Saddam's fault? No. It's true that Saddam divided the nation along sectarian lines, as did the British before. So what? And it's true that Saddam used the military to further these ends, and we knew that would be a problem. The State Department organized Future of Iraq project put on page 1 of its volume on Defense: "the Iraqi army of the future cannot be an extension of the present army, which has been made into a tool of dictatorship. It will not be possible to rebuild the Iraqi nation and society… so long as the army is not prepared for or supportive of such a change." The document then spends 73 pages, derived from months of work by people who knew the country, describing how to make that happen. We didn't follow that blueprint. That's our fault, and we have to take responsibility for it, and that's why we can't leave yet.

If it isn't our fault, let's move on. Arguments about the internal stability of Iraq can just as easily be made about Haiti or Mexico. If we got more involved in politics south of the border, pushed for economic reforms in Mexico, helped them rewrite their laws to improve wages and working conditions, we could eliminate all the illegal immigration by making people want to live and work in Mexico. Economic instability has actual consequences for this country, and it isn't our fault, either. Sure, it would be a massive violation of national sovereignty and an act of abject imperialism, but Iraq has given us great practice with that.

(I feel obliged to point out that the last paragraph is not offered as a suggestion, but as a critique. Please don't invade Mexico.)