Sending More Troops: The Bigger Issues

Dudley Weeks, Ph.D.

President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq brings to mind a few pertinent quotes.

"If you don't change direction you will end up where you're headed." (Confucius)

"Wearing side blinders may be good for some horses....unless the race track is headed off a cliff." (Yours Truly)

"A duck's egg will never hatch into an eagle." (Aristotle)

"The world needs and can tolerate both ducks and eagles....and if you were an eagle, you would not take kindly to a duck trying to make you become a duck....and vice versa." (Yours Truly)

"To take away the cause is to take away the effect." (Aquinas)

"To throw good money after bad is foolish enough. But to throw bad money after bad, well, that's downright stupid." (an investor friend of mine who is now stone cold broke)

"To take all you want is never as good as to stop when you should. Wealth, power and pride bequeath their own doom." (Lao Tzu)

"The limits of my language are the limits of my reality." (Wittgenstein)

"Dead people can't vote." (Yours Truly)

(Paraphrased liberally) "If there is one grey cow in the field, it is false and foolish to believe all cows are white." (Popper)

"Violence breeds more violence, and is an empty substitute for a wise, constructive, comprehensive policy." (Yours Truly)

Do these quotes have anything to say about the war in Iraq and the sending of additional troops? I think they do, but I will not insult your intelligence by giving you my explanations. Those of you who have been reading my commentaries over the years know I have spoken out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq since the early 1990s. Sadly, the disaster I and others consistently predicted has come true. The current conditions were virtually inevitable given the invasion and the ineffective follow-up policies.

The invasion was perpetrated on false premises, lacked a peacebuilding strategy, and completely ignored the realities of the Iraqi society. And now Bush continues his failed policy by sending more American troops. The results of the 2006 elections give the hint that the American people are finally acknowledging the long string of falsehoods Bush has tried to force on his own citizens, "Saddam has WMDs." "Mission accomplished.". "Opponents of my policy want to cut and run." "We are ordained to bring democracy and freedom to the entire region." "Terrorists are causing all the problems." "There are only minimal civilian casualties." The list goes on and on. However, we must go farther than simply realizing the falsehoods and failed policy. There are other important issues involved in the plan to send additional troops.

1. Sending more troops conveys the terrible message, "The U.S. policy in Iraq has been correct, and if we just keep it going a little longer, we will 'succeed." And what Bush means by "success" is as confusing and unreliable as the rest of his Iraq policy. Even if additional troops might temporarily put a partial lid on the boiling pot that is post-invasion Iraq, the ingredients in the pot do not want to become the kind of soup Bush is trying to cook. The Bush administration should never have tried to be the soup maker, and, hopefully, has probably destroyed its credibility as a cook anywhere in the world. The tragedy in Iraq clearly shows that the recipe created by Bush or any U.S. president cannot and should not be forced on the world.

2. In recent polls, most Iraqis state that one of the major causes of the continuing violence is the presence of the U.S. military. Many Iraqis and commentators such as myself also point out that the American occupiers do not understand the dynamics of the Iraqi society, never will, and often seem disinterested in doing so. Additional troops simply add to this lack of understanding. A lot of the violence being done by Iraqis, even that portion directed at their fellow citizens, is aimed at getting rid of American control so Iraqis can finally be in charge of determining their own future. Iraqis know they must use their own substantial intelligence, skills, and resources to design and develop a society of their own making, They cannot do that with the U.S. hovering over every decision and situation.

3. The resources required to deploy and sustain additional troops---personnel, time, attention, money---exacerbates the already devastating drain on resources caused by the Iraq war. Those resources are needed to address other crtitical issues, both domestic and international. Even those people who support the way Bush has handled the "war on terrorism" have come to realize that the war in Iraq has hurt the war on terrorism. It has occupied vast resources, and most certainly has given birth to a whole new set of terrorists. Sending more American troops gives terrorists additional targets, and, just as critical, more justification for using U.S. policy in Iraq as a rallying cry for more anti-Amercian terrorism.

The current mess in Iraq is the direct result of the ill-advised invasion and occupation, and the way it was planned and implemented. Once a political, social, economic and military quagmire becomes as deep as the one in Iraq, there is no quick-fix solution. Attempted solutions from outside parties have even less chance of being effective.

So where do we go from here? Certainly not sending more troops to continue the same incompetent strategy. A withdrawal of U.S. troops and influence? This will have to occur eventually, because until U.S. presence is all but gone, Iraqis will not take charge of their own rebuilding. If the withdrawal is a kind of slow, dribble-out process, I fear not much will change. A total, immediate withdrawal has dangers, too. All of which proves again how foolish it was to invade and occupy, thereby trapping both the U.S. government and the Iraqi people in the current quagmire. The hope for the new Iraq to become a fully functioning society has been set back by the Bush invasion. Sure, Saddam is gone, but look at the aftermath.

Based on my experience in the region, I believe Iraq needs for new leaders to emerge, leaders who are at least tolerated by the various religious, ethnic and political factions, leaders definitely not suggested or supported by the U.S. Those leaders exist in Iraq, but have little incentive to step forward as long as they feel the U.S. will try to use them as puppets in (a) the battle for oil; (b) the ill-advised attempts to establish American hegemony in the region; (c) as U.S. allies in a "war on terrorism" that does not understand the roots of terrorists and terrorism, and doesn't seem to care to; and (d) as leaders who will receive U.S. aid only if they adhere to American policies in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

I think it may be a sad fact that the best thing American citizens can do at this stage is the following: engage in thorough dialogue about why the invasion of Iraq was doomed to failure, and to let our votes and efforts prevent leaders like Bush who promote those attitudes and policies from ever gaining power again. Citizen pressure may have helped end the Vietnam War, and citizen pressure may help lessen America's involvement in the war in Iraq. But that will not establish what is needed: a commitment to conducting foreign policy in a significantly different way. Without that, we will simply be having this same dilemma when, in ten or fifteen years from now, another U.S. president invades another country using many of the same attitudes and policies.

Dudley Weeks

Copyright 2006: Domestic and international law prohibits the public use of this article without the written permission of the author. Any reprint must bear the author’s name and notice of legal restrictions.)