It seems hard to believe I’ve already been home almost two months. The first two months in Kuwait seemed like two life times. These past two months seem like two weeks. Interesting, our perception of time.
Another Japanese has been taken hostage in Iraq. This time a backpacker in Iraq as a tourist. I have to wonder at the common sense of some Japanese. In the past we had an 18 year old boy and several others in Iraq on their own who were captured and held by insurgents. Now again we have a young man apparently on a backpacking trip in Iraq. Vacationing in a war zone. Hum? The tour possibilities seem interesting to say the least.
Care International shut down its operations in Iraq after its leader was captured by a terrorist organization. They join MÈdecins Sans FrontiËres on the list of non-governmental organizations that have departed Iraq due to lack of adequate security in the region. This seems to conjure the question. Are American/Coalition forces capable of providing adequate security in Iraq so that these organizations and others can go in and do their jobs?
I believe the answer is yes, Coalition forces can provide adequate security as soon as that becomes their primary focus. Military and political leaders at home have to stop worrying about what will provide the most favorable news stories and start focusing on what is required to secure Iraq so that a democratic government can be built. The job of the coalition military forces in Iraq is not to build electric plants, restore water systems, rebuild the health care system or rebuild Iraqi schools. Military forces are not trained for any of these responsibilities. Military forces are trained and equipped to take and secure areas of operation by force.
As a general rule the military organization capable of the most force wins. If you and I are going to fight and you bring a gun and I bring rocks the only way that I am going to win is if you do not or cannot fire your gun accurately. If you choose to “give peace a chance” and try to reason with me while I busy myself with throwing rocks at you, eventually you and peace will lose because you will be dead. The moment you decide (or rather realise) that I am not interested in participating in any kind of dialogue with you and use your gun effectively you will win. If there are more players in the game and I am the only one prone to the use of violence, you will now have an opportunity to “give peace a chance” with the other players. If there are other players thinking about using violence, they now have to consider that my use of violence was ultimately ineffective.
If anyone is to be successful in building a democratic form of government in Iraq it has to be made clear to all players that the only way to participate in government is through the democratic process. Those who try to circumvent the process through violence and terror need to be dealt with swiftly and with finality. Threat of violence, use of violence, and terror to influence the process of building a democratic government cannot be successful. Those who use such tactics, those who support the use of such tactics must be neutralized swiftly and effectively. It must be demonstrated to all of Iraqi society that this form of participation in the governmental process is unacceptable and intolerable.
The problem is that rebuilding electrical plants, schools, medical facilities, etc. makes for much better press and media coverage than using force to deal with those who would like to subvert the process of building a government by the use of force and terror. Rebuilding the infrastructure provides much better photo opportunities than killing terrorists. In fact, the entire business of war is — and in fact very much should be — very distasteful to anyone who sees it. Even to those who make war their business.
For those who make war their business it is necessary to find a way to come to terms with the nastiness of the job. Most soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are able to participate in the execution of war without becoming monsters. But there will always be some who find it impossible to not be consumed with the evil that is war. Those who become consumed by the evil of war make for very nasty press such as those involved in the Abu Ghraib prison incident. I believe that there are a lot of things that can be done to prevent people in the military from becoming monsters. While I am sure there is more to the Abu Ghraib incident than has been made public to date, it seems clear to me that the military command structure could have done more to protect and assist the soldiers involved.
While I was in Hawai`i I noticed that a lot of people there have magnetic ‘stickers’ on their vehicles in the form of a yellow ribbon. They say “Bless Our Troops” or “Support Our Troops”. What does it mean to support our troops. I think it means that we demand that the government, the politicians, do what is necessary to provide the best possible chances of success or demand that the government cease involvement and bring the troops home. This is not a sliding scale but rather an either or deal. And if it is truly about the troops then we need to suffer the government’s decision. This means that in support of the troops, if the government will not cease involvement then, regardless of what we think about that involvement, we must demand that the government do what is necessary to provide US troops with the best possible chances of success. To do anything less is to commit US forces to increased chance of losing their lives needlessly.
Coalition forces in Iraq should be focused entirely on the security of the region. This should come before all else. If coalition forces provide effective security there are non-government organizations that will handle the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrastructure. These organizations are better prepared and equipped to rebuild Iraq than military forces. And there are no non-government organizations that can handle to security as well as coalition military forces. Enforcing the security will be bloody, horrible, terrifying business not because the coalition forces want it so but rather because terrorists do not understand any other language.