The Consequences of
Did Bozeman’s City Commission Think Things Through?
BY DAVID S. LEWIS
The Bozeman City Commission recently took upon itself the issue of Iraq, passing a resolution by a 3-2 vote that the United States should initiate a prompt and orderly withdrawal of troops from the country. Leaving aside the question, for the moment, of whether such a resolution falls within the city’s jurisdiction (Bozeman’s mayor Jeff Krauss, who refused to sign the resolution, says it does not), let’s examine the consequences of a U.S. withdrawal, which ought to be any thinking person’s approach to an issue upon which so much depends.
History and common sense tell us that power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Pull out the keystone of an arch and the entire arch collapses. Then the only question is, who will pick up the pieces? The fall of past dictatorships in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and in Iraq itself—where ethnic and religious blood feuds had been suppressed by brutal totalitarian rule—inform us best about the future, and serve as a virtual crystal ball for those who would take the time to examine history.
Yugoslavia quickly plunged into political and eco-nomic chaos after the death of Marshall Tito in 1980, and emerged as a killing field by means of ethnic cleansing under Slobodan Milosevic, who exploited ethnic and religious hatred to take power. Afghanistan also devolved into civil war once the Soviet puppet regime was driven out, and as the United States disengaged. Then the Taliban took control, providing a base for Osama bin Laden and state sponsored operations for al-Quaida and their Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 Americans in New York City. In Iraq, Sadaam’s demise unleashed deep historical antagonisms in that country, which, absent a strong well-organized regime, have yielded virtual civil war and anarchy—now exacerbated by an increased al-Quaida presence along with Iranian and Syrian sponsored suicide bombers, terrorists—or whatever you prefer to call them. Note that U.S. troops continue to be deployed in all three countries, with Afghanistan having been a prime example of what takes place when America disengages, and Yugoslavia (now Kosovo, Bosnia, etc.) being a prime example of what happens when it does not, the former having been ceded to militant radicals who planned Sept 11, and the latter, once the scene of mass murder and ethnic cleansing, now enjoying relative stability.
Without question, the speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, absent a strong centralized government there, will mean the collapse of the U.S. backed Iraqi regime, societal chaos, and the rise of the most sinister, aggressive, and well-armed forces now on the ground. The Balkans, Afghanistan, or for that matter southeast Asia (with Vietnamese and Cambodian genocides in the wake of U.S. withdrawal) tell us how Iraq will look should the U.S. abdicate its roll. In all likelihood, as happened in Afghanistan, a regime will take power that actively directs terrorism against U.S. citizens—the al-Quaida sponsored movement engaged worldwide in acts of terror before the U.S Invasion (New York City in 1993, Bali in 2002, etc.).
The Bozeman city commission, with the passing of its resolution in favor of U.S. withdrawal, is saying, in effect, So, what? Iraq is none of our business. And their position, given the difficulties our country has faced there, resonates for those weary of war. In other words, it makes sense emotionally, and for many it makes sense ideologically, but does it make sense rationally?
Looking more deeply into our crystal ball, let’s say the three commissioners get their way, and by so doing—sorry, you just can’t get around it—they would facilitate the aims of Osama bin Laden, his plan for an Islamic state in Iraq, and his campaign of terror against the United States. After, say, two years of civil war and anarchy, a Taliban style government seizes power, or one dominated by Iran (a sponsor of suicide bombers and terror in general), leaving al-Quaida intact and fortified, if not actually in power. As the situation devolves, with extremely radical elements strategically poised to control much of the world’s oil supply, the price of oil doubles, maybe triples and quadruples, creating financial panic and hardship worldwide. Emboldened, and rolling in petro dollars, al-Quaida (and those connected to it) does what it did in the past after attacking U.S. targets with impunity (the U.S.S. Cole, the World Trade Center in 1993, the Kobi Towers, etc.), and what is has said it will do in the future, only this time with far more resources at its disposal. It increases terror attacks on U.S. and western targets, on innocent civilians, and high profile western symbols, necessitating U.S. military intervention in Iraq again in the future; or, worst case scenario, it draws us into a broader war involving Israel, which bin Laden, recently, again vowed to initiate.
These eventualities are not hard to foresee. They aren’t even predictions, they are realities now set in motion. If you’ve ever seen a ball rolling across the street into traffic, why, unless someone intervenes, should you expect it to turn around and roll the other way? And while the present leadership in the Oval Office (leadership is too strong a word) leaves much to be desired, any future administration will face the same threat, as will the American people. And any administration would be irresponsible and failing in its foremost duty to protect its citizenry by not addressing the threat now in the most aggressive and deliberate manner. More over, the sacrifice of the dead and wounded who have already told us where they stand on Iraq requires that we do not simply walk away because the task demands tenacity.
But how long does America stay in Iraq? It’s a good question. The answer, though, must not be based on the ideological whims of three city commissioners, or even on the ever changing sentiments of the American people. A realistic understanding of the consequences of any action the U.S. might take must determine the answer to that question. Unfortunately, our country was led into war by a president now considered a bumbler, an unfair characterization only to the degree that he has failed to effectively lead his country during wartime (a war he started), and to the degree he respon-sibly determined the military requirements necessary for success, neither of which he accomplished. And this president, mind you, after starting a war in the Middle East, one requiring profound leadership skills and political acumen, admitted, unbelievably, that commun-ication is not his strong point, a sad state of affairs for any student of history, devotee of common sense, or American patriot.
American boots on the sands of the Middle East mix like oil and water, admittedly, certainly in the minds of many who live there. But now that “the surge is working” as Democrats John Murtha and Harry Reid concede (which renders the Bozeman City Commission’s resolution all the more questionable), a surge that should have taken place four years ago (if the U.S. were to invade at all), the U.S. must do everything in its power to stabilize the country and leave a strong regime behind before drawing down troops, a prospect that may now be feasible, in that Sunni tribes in western Anbar province have formed a coalition against al-Quaida-linked insurgents, which U.S. officials credit for deeply reducing violence in the province. The U.S. military has been working to form similar coalitions in other areas of Iraq, and it has seen a dramatic reduction of violence in Baghdad.
Given bin Laden’s own words, he and al-Quaida attach great importance to the tribes that have turned against them, and to the general sense that Sunni communities reject al-Quaida more and more across Iraq due to the torture, mass graves, and bombings it has inflicted upon them. As bin Laden said in a recent tape, in which he vowed the destruction of Israel in order to rally his fleeing cohorts in Iraq: "Our duty is to foil these dangerous schemes [of a national unity government], which try to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq."
And what bin Laden fears most now seems achievable, a government uniting Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis, which has been the goal of the U.S. all along (a worthy but difficult one) and which ought to be the goal of reasonable, progressive-minded people who can set aside their distaste for George Bush and embrace the values of peace, stability and freedom.
Is everything rosy in Iraq? —No, violence may have dramatically decreased, but it is still an every day occurrence, yet the Bozeman City Commission’s resolution could not have come at a more inauspicious time in terms of current events and how their vote is perceived. It seems the three commissioners would pull defeat from the jaws of victory, or at least the prospect of victory—victory in Iraq being defined as enough stability to allow the U.S. to reduce troops dramatically, if not completely, while Iraqi’s manage the security of their country. And that’s what Americans in general ought to support—liberal, conservative, or what have you—in light of the high stakes and the sacrifice of so many brave Americans.
That ought to have been the position of the Bozeman City Commissioners, for it is the only responsible position, and that’s leaving aside the fact that three commissioners presume to speak for the majority of people in Bozeman on matters of foreign policy.
Editors Note: Lest some find positions taken here hawkish (they’re not, merely realistic), next month we will present developments pertaining to peace and how it can be achieved non militarily (though following a concerted use of force)—such as is currently taking place in a large Muslim nation which the editor has visited and to which he is personally connected, where former high profile terrorists now denounce terror as haram—against Islamic law, owing to the initiative of a democratically elected Muslim leader.
Note: it has been The Montana Pioneer’s long standing editorial policy to avoid topics unrelated to Montana and the local area. With the Bozeman City Commission’s resolution, however, a discussion seems required on the matter of Iraq and related issues.