by Mel Griffith
Do you get the feeling that the presidential campaign is stuck in the 1970's and can't get out?
Listening to the campaigns you would think that the most important questions before the country are whether George Bush made all his National Guard meetings and whether John Kerry deserved all the medals he got during his brief tour in Viet Nam. Who cares? What does it matter now? Lets focus on what the candidates plan to do now if elected and how well qualified they are to do it. Probably the most important thing they will need to do is something about Iraq. But it seems that nobody wants to talk very much about it because there simply isn't any quick, simple, easy solution to the problem there. Of course, they told us that even before the war but the war itself went so fast and looked so easy that we got to thinking that everything over there ought to be easy. But tearing down governments and building new ones is a lot like dealing with buildings. Tearing down an old one goes much faster than building a new one. Having some folks around who want to restore the old one instead of building a much improved version doesn't help any. Remember that is was a decade after the American Revolution before the Convention came up with a workable form of government for us. Even then things didn't always go smoothly. George Washington had to send troops to fight the Whiskey Rebellion to establish the right of the federal government to levy taxes. We shouldn't expect instant success in Iraq. But that doesn't mean there is no hope of success. Lots of old enemies get along. France and Germany work together nicely now despite generations of hostility. Even the English and Irish get along most of the time, despite a long history of the same kind of troubles now happening in Iraq.
Given the difficulties in Iraq, should we have invaded in the first place?
Clearly, it was a necessary part of the war on terror. Opinions differ about whether there was any connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda. But if there wasn't, common sense tells us there soon would have been. The advantages of cooperation between the two are too obvious. Each had what the other needed to harass their common enemy, the United States. Iraq had lots of hiding space, money, weapons and training facilities but little way of projecting power beyond its borders. Al-Qaeda, on the other hand needed all these things, but had something Saddam didn't, a world-wide network of undercover cells and a swarm of ignorant fools eager to kill themselves in order to kill random groups of other people so they can go to paradise and consort with 72 virgins. That kind of reward obviously appeals only to the very young. By the way, do female suicide bombers get 72 male virgins when they get to paradise?
Saddam and al-Qaeda had nothing in common except the same enemy, but that's plenty. In world war II the Germans had nothing in common except a desire to conquer the world. No common language, religion, customs or anything else. As a matter of fact, we had nothing in common with the brutal Soviet Union in World War II except a desire to defeat the same enemies. As soon as the common enemy disappeared we became Cold War enemies with the Soviets. Our enemy's enemy is usually our friend but only as long as the common enemy lasts. Saddam and al-Qaeda had a common enemy, namely, us and it is unreasonable to think they would not have come together to try to destroy us. Of course, if they had succeeded in wiping out the civilized world, they would probably have turned on each other.
Some claim that our invasion of Iraq has made it a magnet for terrorists. They are right, but let's not forget that before the Iraq war the magnet for terrorists was New York and Washington. That's not exactly a bad change of location. If the terrorists weren't occupied creating trouble in Baghdad, they would have much more time to plan attacks in Atlanta, Chicago, and dozens of other places in America. When we remember what terrorists would be doing if they weren't busy in Iraq, maybe the problems there don't seem quite as bad, everything considered.