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2007 February 17 Saturday
Why Let Iraqis Settle In US While Sending US Troops To Iraq?

Reacting to the news that Bush wants to scale up immigration from Iraq to get out people who collaborate with the US in Iraq Lawrence Auster sees a direct connection forming between the "invade the world" and "invite the world" policies at the heart of the current US government's approach to foreign and domestic policies.

It used to be that America’s complementary policies of “invade the world” and “invite the world,” though they were going on simultaneously, took place in different “rooms” of our national consciousness, as it were, and most people didn’t associate them with each other or think they were causally related. But now the two policies have moved so close to each other that people can’t help but see their relationship and be troubled. Thus an L-dotter writes:

Not many voters in the USA are going to understand why the Administration should see sending many thousands of American troops into harms way in Iraq and at the same time be allowing thousands of Iraqis to enter the USA as “refugees” from Iraq. That just does not make sense.

What is most notable about all this is just how incredibly different the Iraqis are from America's famed freedom-loving Founding Fathers. Why aren't the Iraqis staying in Iraq to fight for freedom in Iraq? Freedom is worth fighting for if you really love freedom. But how many people really love freedom? Bush, the neoconservatives, and quite a few liberals hold that the vast bulk of the world's peoples love freedom as much as Americans do. This is the universalism at the heart of modern liberalism (and neoconservatism is a branch of liberalism - not of conservatism). In the universalist liberal most people in every country of the world are potential Americans and they are only not Americans due to an accident of birth.

The Iraqis clamoring to leave Iraq rather than fight for freedom against sectarian religious militias and theocratic insurgent bombers tells us that Iraqis differ in some really fundamental ways as compared to America's founding fathers. When American revolutionary Nathan Hale was captured by the British for spying and they decided to kill him in 1776 he made the famous statement:

I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.

How unlike Nathan Hale are the Iraqis. At this point Iraqis are saying:

I regret that I can not leave my country because I care more about my life than fighting for the freedom of my people.

The Iraqis who support the American presence are saying:

I regret the Americans won't give more of their lives to make my neighborhood safe because I do not want to give any lives of my family to restore order.

What amazes me about the intellectual state of America is that there are Americans who are gullible enough to agree with these Iraqis.

Bush wants to let the collaborators come to the US. Some Iraqi collaborators are thinking:

I regret I have but one country to give up for the good life.

Or how about: for collaborators

I regret I do not have control of more of my country to trade for the good life.

Why aren't we telling these collaborators to stay and fight for their own country?

Iraqi exiles in poorer Arab countries such as Jordan and Syria are thinking:

I regret that wealthier countries won't give me more opportunities for an even better life.

How about the perspective of Iraqi Army enlisted soldiers?

I regret the Americans want me to give my life for my country. Why won't they give their lives so I won't have to?

The Iraqis exiles in general are saying:

I regret the conditions in Iraq. But I highly value my life. You don't honestly expect me to risk my life for something as worthless as the government of Iraq, do you?

The secular agnostic and atheist Iraqis:

I think I only have this life. You don't honestly expect me to risk that?

The Iraqi Sunnis are saying:

I regret we do not have many more Sunni lives to give so we can dominate the Shiites once again.

The Iraqi Muslim clerical warrior leaders are thinking:

I regret you have but one life to give for my religion.

The tribal sectarians are thinking:

I regret I have but one life to give for my sect/clan/tribe/extended family.

Al Qaeda bombers are thinking:

I regret I have but one life to give for only 70 virgins.

Then there are the Kurdish pesh merga fighters:

I regret I have but one life to give for my country, Kurdistan.

This is crazy. I say we tell the Iraqis to stay in their own country and fix it. If they refuse then why should our soldiers pay the price and why should we let Iraqis come to America?

Thanks to Bob Badour for helping me rift on Iraqi variations on Nathan Hale's quote.

Update: How about George W. Bush?

I regret the Iraq invasion was not the easy popularity booster I thought it would be and I regret that the Iraqis aren't doing what I think they ought to do to make my invasion a success.

By Randall Parker    2007 February 17 08:00 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2006 November 07 Tuesday
Steve Sailer: Political Correctness Keeps Us In Iraq

Steve Sailer argues that George W. Bush justifies US intervention with very liberal and unconservative beliefs about humanity.

Why are we in Iraq? There are many reasons, almost all of them bad.

But the one that deserves recounting is this: supporters of the war successfully bullied many skeptics into silence by declaring that anyone who doubted that Iraqis were ready for democracy was a racist.

Thus in a February 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, George W. Bush said:

"There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. [Applause] … It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world—or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim—is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life."

Similarly, in August 2003, the Daily Telegraph summarized a speech by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to the National Association of Black Journalists: "Critics of US policy are racist, says Rice" [By David Rennie]. An extract:

"Black Americans should stand by others seeking freedom today, she went on, and shun the 'condescending' argument that some races or nations were not interested in or ready for Western freedoms. 'We've heard that argument before. And we, more than any, as a people, should be ready to reject it,' she said. 'That view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East.'"

So supporters of the invasion intimidated onlookers by insinuating that unbelievers in the bright promise of Arab democracy were despicable bigots. Then they went on to spout even more bizarre nonsense about how Iraqis, a population notorious even among Arabs for their self-destructive homicidal lunacy, were practically New Hampshireites in their readiness for self-rule.

For example, Mr. Bush told the AEI:

"The nation of Iraq—with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people—is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom [Applause]."

Are Iraqis "skilled and educated?" The literacy rate in Iraq is 40.4%, according to Mr. Bush's own CIA.

The need to defend liberal myths about human nature is a major reason why the Democrats have not been more effective in their criticisms of the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq and the Middle East. In the minds of many intellectuals on the Left better that US foreign policy stay totally messed up than that truths about human nature that challenge liberal assumptions make it into mainstream newspaper reports and political discussions.

The big gains the Democrats have made in Congress place them in an interesting position. They have ridden to power as a result of popular anger about the course of the Iraq war. But can the Democrats manage to extricate US forces from Iraq without admitting that some nations lack the necessary conditions to become liberal democracies? Never mind that this lack is obvious in Iraq. You probably aren't going to hear Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pontificate about how we should cut our losses in Iraq since democracy and Arabs are not compatible. She isn't going to say we should just let non-Western illiberal people go their very undemocratic and very unfree way. Leading liberals are not going to admit that their secular faith is not the universal aspiration of all the peoples of the world.

You aren't going to get much reality on Iraq from the mainstream media or politicians of either party in Washington DC. But you can read about reality on the web. Start with my posts John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq (admittedly he writes for the New York Times but his arguments are rarely repeated elsewhere), Pessimists on Muslim Democracy, Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition?, Pope Benedict Sees Islam Incompatible With Western Societies, Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development, and History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy.

Also see the consang.net map Global Prevalence of consanguinity.

Myths are killing and maiming lots of American soldiers and Iraqis. Hasn't the cost of these myths gotten too high? Greater honesty and realism would save lives.

By Randall Parker    2006 November 07 07:32 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2004 September 15 Wednesday
Endless Supply Of Brothers And Cousins Fuels Iraq Insurgency

Steve Fainaru reports for the Washington Post about the fighting around the Sunni Arab insurgency stronghold of Tal Afar (a.k.a. Talafar or Tall Afar). Tribalism makes whole villages into the insurgency.

"The village. He wants you to arrest all the men in the village," the interpreter told Army Capt. Eric Beaty, commander of Company C, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.

"They're all bad?" Beaty asked.

The interpreter consulted The Source. "Yes, all bad," he said.

"Well, what we'll do is we'll put you up on the top of the Stryker, and you can tell us where to go left or go right, okay?" Beaty said.

Reading the article I didn't feel much confidence that the Iraqi informant had such a firm grasp on who the insurgents were. Was he just eager to get paid money for sketchy intelligence he had accumulated? How'd he know who to pick out of groups? Had he seen these people before?

The fact that US soldiers have to use interpreters to communicate with dubious informants try to identify insurgents in villages shows just how futlie US efforts are at this point. Identification of just who is active in the resistance is an extremely difficult job and requires a large amount of local language and cultural skills and local knowledge of the sort that police investigators accumulate. The US military is not trained for counter-insurgency at the level it would need to be done in order to be done well.

Pfc. Mario Rutigliano, 19, of Clifton, N.J understands something that the neocons in the Bush Administration are too ideologically dense to figure out.

"We need to get some music in here," Rutigliano said as the Stryker rolled toward the village.

"Yeah, we do," Cate agreed.

"You lose your mind if you take this stuff too seriously," Rutigliano said.

Rutigliano said he thought the Stryker Brigade had defeated local insurgents, but he predicted they'd be back. "It doesn't matter how many we kill, they'll always keep coming back," he said. "They've all got cousins, brothers. They have an endless supply."

See also Insurgency In Iraq Like Self-Replicating Virus and John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and Steve Sailer's Cousin Marriage Conundrum.

Last night ABC News showed footage from within Najaf. Najaf was seriously trashed. Lots of multi-story buildings are torn to shreds. The Iraq post-war deconstruction is making a lot of progress in Najaf. To slightly paraphrase a Vietnam War quote, we have to destroy the city in order to save it. Except of course it hasn't been saved. There are plenty of insurgent Mahdists ready to fight another day. A couple of ABC reporters had embedded with the US military and gone around Najaf with them during fighting. The lady reporter (whose name escapes me) said that at this point there are few opportunities for reporters in Iraq to go into the field because it is too dangerous. So they have to embed.

The brothers and cousins are unemployed and the continued war is damaging the economy still further. Little money has been spent on reconstruction. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. The devil is busy. Saddam, not Chris, has Satan's ear on Iraq (anyone get the ref?). The Bush Administration wants to shift $3.5 billion in reconstruction aid toward security.

Including previous reallocations, the administration hopes to redirect more than 20 percent of $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds to cope with an escalating insurgency and the glacial pace of rebuilding. With two weeks left in the fiscal year, and 11 months after Congress approved the money, only $1.1 billion of it has been spent, because of attacks, contracting problems and other unforeseen issues, according to figures released by the State Department.

John Derbyshire (who continues to support the original decision to invade btw) has written a speech for George W. Bush to deliver after the election to announce US withdrawal from Iraq.

I do not believe anyone could say that we have stinted in these efforts to help restore Iraq's ability to function as an independent nation. If, following our withdrawal, Iraq proves unable so to function, I do not believe the U.S. could be fairly blamed, nor do I believe the American people will blame their government. We have done our best for Iraq.

There is, however, a limit to what we can do, and a limit to the patience of our own people. If Iraqis cherish their nation, they must themselves be willing to sacrifice for it. If Iraqis wish to be citizens of a peaceful and prosperous country, they must themselves work hard to those ends. Many Iraqis, of course, are so willing, and indeed many have sacrificed their lives to those ends in this past year and a half. However, Iraq will only be a single nation, and at peace, if the overwhelming majority of Iraqis sink their differences and join together in a spirit of patriotic solidarity to preserve this nation. If Iraqis are not willing to do that, then there is no hope for Iraq, either under occupation or free from it.

We do not hear "Give me liberty or give me death" uttered by Iraqi fighters rushing to oppose tribal rule and theocracy. Instead we hear something that sounds more like "Give me victory over the infidels and revenge for the death of cousins Abdul and Akmed or give me martyrdom."

By Randall Parker    2004 September 15 11:41 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2004 March 20 Saturday
Clans, Mullahs, Corruption Are British Problems With Basra Police

Peter Almond of UPI reports on various challenges faced by British occupation forces in southern Iraq as they try to train and deploy a new Iraqi police force.

British and Coalition Provisional Authority officials say the mullahs intimidate the police, and when troops catch religious representatives watching the police at vehicle checkpoints -- ostensibly to identify leading members of the Baath Party -- they chase them away.

Those mullahs are going to keep trying to increase their influence. But they have two big competitors: corruption and clan loyalties. Note that they face little competition from civically minded individuals and groups of the sort that try to keep government honest in many Western countries.

On the bright side the British think they've convinced the new police force to not assault suspects.

Their British trainers say the Iraqis are struggling with Western concepts of civil rights, but appear to understand they can no longer assault suspects and throw them into prison without charge.

Any bets on whether the Basra police will continue to restrain themselves once the British are gone?

Clan loyalties, the result of webs of obligation that result from the practice of cousin marriage, make the police resist obeying orders coming down official chains of command.

Admitting that there has been a problem with soldiers ignoring their immediate officers in favor of lower-ranking individuals who are higher in the clan tree, he said he has insisted on following the chain of command and that 20 soldiers had been fired for corruption in the last two months.

All of this was predictable in advance and there were commentators who did predict it. Iraq may be able to remain a nominal democracy once US forces are drawn down. But the possibility of civil war is very real and failing that expect at the very least rampant corruption and cronyism combined with growing clerical influence which will translate into much greater suppression of women than occurred during Saddam's rule. Christians and other non-Muslims will also be worse off.

For a good starting point on why consanguineous marriage is an obstacle in the way of attempts to build a democratic and non-corrupt government in Iraq see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and follow the links from there to previous posts on the topic. Also see the post Pessimists on Muslim Democracy.

By Randall Parker    2004 March 20 08:10 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 September 27 Saturday
John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq

The New York Times has an important article by their reporter John Tierney on the practice of cousin marriage and how it poses an obstacle to any attempt to try to create a civic democratic culture in Iraq. (free registration required) (or find it here, here, or here)

"Americans just don't understand what a different world Iraq is because of these highly unusual cousin marriages," said Robin Fox of Rutgers University, the author of "Kinship and Marriage," a widely used anthropology textbook. "Liberal democracy is based on the Western idea of autonomous individuals committed to a public good, but that's not how members of these tight and bounded kin groups see the world. Their world is divided into two groups: kin and strangers."

Iraqis frequently describe nepotism not as a civic problem but as a moral duty. The notion that Iraq's next leader would put public service ahead of family obligations drew a smile from Iqbal's uncle and father-in-law, Sheik Yousif Sayel, the patriarch in charge of the clan's farm on the Tigris River south of Baghdad.

This is an important article. Be sure to go read it in full. It is great that the Times is publicising this problem to such a large and relatively influential readership.

Tierney quotes from Steve Sailer's January 2003 article (same article here) in The American Conservative which describes the problem that cousin marriage poses for American ambitions to reform Iraq. For more on consanguineous marriage and the problem that consanguinity poses for any attempts to create a liberal democracy in the Middle East see my previous posts and their links to relevant articles by Stanley Kurtz (who Tierney also quotes) and others: Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development, Consanguineous Marriage Perpetuates Violence In Muslim Mindanao, Stanley Kurtz on Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, Stanley Kurtz: After the War, and Iraq Reconstruction, Neocolonialism, Political Beliefs.

By Randall Parker    2003 September 27 03:00 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2003 June 09 Monday
Byman And Pollack On Building Democracy In Iraq

Writing in the Summer 2003 issue of The Washington Quarterly Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack make the case for creating a democracy in Iraq. (PDF format)

Claiming that building democracy in Iraq after the U.S.-led war to depose Saddam would be easy or certain—let alone that doing so might solve all of the problems of the Middle East overnight—would be foolish. Nevertheless, the arguments advanced by skeptics exaggerate the impediments to building democracy and ignore the potential impact that a determined United States could have on this effort. Iraq is hardly ideal soil for growing democracy, but it is not as infertile as other places where democracy has taken root. Iraq’s people are literate, and the country’s potential wealth is considerable. A prop-erly designed federal system stabilized by U.S. and other intervening powers’ military forces could both satisfy Iraq’s myriad communities and ensure order and security. Creating democracy in Iraq would require a long-term U.S. com-mitment, but the United States has made similar commitments to far less stra-tegic parts of the world. Creating a democracy in Iraq would not be quick, easy, or certain, but it should not be impossible either.

They argue that the model followed in Afghanistan of a consociational oligarchy of tribal, religious, and other group leaders brought together to form a national unity government will not work in Iraq because after Saddam Hussein came to power he killed the strongest leaders of the traditional groups under which Iraqi society was organised. In urban areas all the power brokers were part of the regime and hence are not suitable to be brought into a new government.

Their argument for the success of democracy building efforts in other parts of the world does not sound so convincng when one sees the extent to which some of the countries which are nominally democratic are lacking when examined using various measurements of freedom and good government. See the UN Human Development Report 2002 (2.7 Megabytes in PDF format or individual chapters can be downloaded separately). The chart which compares 173 countries by various measures of political development starts on PDF reader page 52 or document page 38. However, Panama (which the United States did invade in recent history) scores better on a number of measures than Mexico (which the United States hasn't invaded for a long time). One might construe some of the results in that table as a call for more invasions. After all, Mexico borders on the United States and the limitations on freedom there make problems for the United States that can be seen on our southern border.

Another problem with their argument is that while they make reference to the problems that tribalism poses as an obstacle to the development of democracy they really do not address the argument that consanguineous marriage is the biggest obstacle to the development of democracy in the Middle East. See also here and here for more on this argument. They make the argument that the Kurds have achieved some measure of success in developing democracy in the north of Iraq. It would be interesting to know whether consanguinity is any lower among then Kurds than among the Iraqi Arabs. It would also be interesting to know whether there are differences in consanguinity rates in urban versus rural areas of Iraq and whether the rates are falling.

They make a good argument from history that the US has previously seemed to be unwilling to maintain a long term presence in a country and yet in spite of initial pronouncements to the contrary went on to do just that:

A final argument against democratization for Iraq is that the United States’ own lassitude will lead to an early withdrawal, leaving Iraq’s democracy still-born. The claim that the United States would not be willing to sustain a lengthy commitment has been made—and disproven—repeatedly. In his new history of U.S. decisionmaking about Germany after World War II, Michael Beschloss relays countless incidents in which senior U.S. policymakers, in-cluding President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asserted that the American people would not be willing to keep troops in Europe for more than one or two years. Beschloss quotes then-Senator Burton Wheeler (D-Mont.) charging that the American people would not tolerate a lengthy occupation of Eu-rope, which he called a “seething furnace of fratricide, civil war, murder, dis-ease, and starvation.”12 Similar statements are made about Iraq today by those who claim that the United States will not be willing to do what is nec-essary to help democracy flourish in Iraq.

They make the very important argument that the cost of failure is too high:

Failure to establish democracy in Iraq, on the other hand, would be disas-trous. Civil war, massive refugee flows, and even renewed interstate fighting would likely resurface to plague this long-cursed region. Moreover, should democracy fail to take root, this would add credence to charges that the United States cares little for Muslim and Arab peoples—a charge that now involves security as well as moral considerations, as Washington woos the Muslim world in its war on terrorism. The failure to transform Iraq’s govern-ment tarnished the 1991 military victory over Iraq; more than 10 years later, the United States must not make the same mistake.

The essay is 18 pages long but worth a read. Also, the UNDP document is quite long but the meat of it is in the table I pointed you to.

By Randall Parker    2003 June 09 11:35 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 January 22 Wednesday
Tribalism Is Alive And Well In Iraq

For many years Saddam Hussein actively worked to undermine the authority of tribal leaders. But starting around the time of the Gulf War Saddam switched course and began to actively support tribes as power centers. This promises to make US occupation and creation of a democracy much more difficult.

"The government even came to my family and said, 'We'll give you land, money, weapons and salaries to reorganize your tribe, but your allegiance will be for the government, for the Baath Party and President Saddam Hussein,' " said Hassan, the sociology professor. "They were ready to give us a tribal seal and a stick and a shroud, and even a monthly salary."

Residents of Baghdad have increasingly begun identifying with their tribal groups, sometimes choosing the places they shop and eat by the owner's tribal affiliation. Jassim, whose village is about 25 miles north of Baghdad, said many members of his tribe live in the city but regularly return to the village for tribal ceremonies and to resolve disputes.

"If you have a car accident, you don't sort it out in the courts anymore," said Wamidh Nadmih, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. "Even if you live in the city, you sort it out in the tribe."

If you understand why tribalism is an obstacle to democratization and are interested in the prospects for democratization of the Iraq be sure to read the full article. Also, be sure to read Stanley Kurtz on the reasons why the creation of liberal democracy in Islamic lands is so problematic.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 22 08:24 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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