Sunday, September 03, 2006

So, How's that Working Out for You?

There is being right and there is being bullheaded. When you put these two things together watch out! Ask any parent ushering an unruly child through this life to name the ingredients for TNT. One part tantrum and one part "if you know what's good for you!" Somethimes you just have to do what works and suspend the righteousness of your point. Concede to lead.

Which one of us Earthly parents has not used bribery to get a child to do what we "want" them to do? After standing on our high horse lecturing someone who can't possibly hear the wisdom and brilliance of our every utterance we eventually sucumb to the tactics of the old time Chicago Ward boss. It lends credence to the old phrase - you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Standing there with your arms folded holding to your point in firmly because you are absolutely right (and you are) while your little world crumbles around you doesn't win you friends or influence. A friend of mine sympathizes with me under these circumstances and says "no, listen, you are absolutley right, so, how's that working out for 'ya?"

I am starting to think that our - the United States - ongoing involvement in Iraq is much like that of a parent of an unruly child. That child's name is Democracy, and Democracy is throwing a tantrum. We are standing with our arms folded insisting that young Democracy simply behave and stop acting up. Democracy's peers do not understand her parents and all this freedom stuff. No one in the neighborhood has parents like that, and the other parents don't like Democracy's parents one bit.

What are we to do? The President insists that we are not leaving until Democracy is a stable well adjusted child. Well, we have all seen what becomes of the kid with overbearing parents... Honestly, I think it's time we step back and allow little Democracy to flounder and flail a bit. Let her work out some of the details herself. We can keep an eye out and protect her from the neighborhood bullies - like any good parent would.

I am not calling for the US to leave Iraq to the insurgents and terrorists what I am saying is maybe we should quietly fall back to our bases. I base this notion on an observation made by author and adventurer Rory Stewart. He noted that the Italians, who were in charge of security of a smallish area in Iraq, rarely left their base to do any sort of patrols. This was not due to any brilliant strategy or forethought, but rather it was more conducive to staying alive than the American style of securing an area. Oddly enough the area under the Italian purvue was far more stable and well governed than nearby provinces under American or British authority.

Stewart also noted that immediately after the elections, which were a rousing success, he witnessed what no doubt happened all over Iraq. At the first session of the newly elected regional councils the local cleric/warlord walked in and ousted the democratic idealist and took over the town. No one stood up and insisted in honoring the result of the elections out of fear and an adherence tradition. A tradition that gives power to the biggest bully... OK it's something like our democracy, without the glad handing, smiles and the lies (our bullies are the ones with the biggest wad of cash)!

What Stewart is essentially saying is that we (the West) know nothing of this culture and we ought to step back without insisting that the Iraqi's do exactly what we want and let them "discover" democracy for themselves. Stewart, by the way, is apolitical and is not anti-American/anti-West. He was in fact in favor of taking Saddam Hussein out. And like the Americans he was unprepared for the reality of the devastation of Iraq that Saddam had wrought. Iraq, as we have found out, was a hollowed out shell. Despite all the set backs and the reality of the insurgency and the presence of al Qaeda Iraq need not succumb to civil war. There is a strong sense of nationalism that the US can exploit if we fade back and allow it to flourish. Even though the shiite population has strong ties to the shiite's in Iran there is no love for the Iranian regime in Iraq.

There is a phrase we use to diffuse problems with our children that works as sort of a misdirection when the very presence of a certain something illicits and undesirable reaction - it is "out of sight, out of mind". Maybe it's time for a less visible American presence in Iraq.