Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

THE WAR -- The Money [Part 23]


Frederick Kagan (author of Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, 2007) stood firm on “Mission Accomplished” day. In a nutshell, victory in Iraq remains within reach, all that is good and true will follow.

The many who pushed this disastrous war, true believers and deceivers from the start, are now reduced to turning their past lies into future truths. The madness of all this was presciently, if inadvertently, skewered by Lewis Carroll in the 19th century. His “When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.” is probably one of the most quoted lines in contemporary political analysis. In Kagan’s case, it catches the authoritarian logic and tone of one who led us into the dark wood of war without even the bread crumbs provided Hansel and Gretel.

Here’s Kagan’s latest rickety prop to a war that could never be “won.” One senses in it the laying of the groundwork for the Right Wing Warrior nonsense that will come with our final withdrawal. The blustering spouts of how the left “lost” Iraq, plunged that country into chaos, and upset a smoothly running plan to create a democratic and peaceful middle-east. It will all flow with the darkness and force of the oil profits of Exon.

For five long years the United States presence in Iraq has attempted to build dreamy sand castles without the aid of reason and ignoring the weight of reality. Here’s Kagan’s Op-Ed in full. Lewis Carroll responds in bold type. Ridicule can never replace the pointed labor of reason or the careful sifting of reality, but it does provide a respite from the madness.


The New York Times, May 4, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Don’t Drain Iraq’s Cash
By FREDERICK KAGAN

THE way forward in Iraq must proceed from the recognition that the surge, of which I was an early proponent, has stabilized central Iraq, reduced violence overall and provided space for the Iraqi government to undertake important reconciliation efforts.

[“What I tell you three times is true.”]

Continuing along this path to success requires maintaining our counterinsurgency strategy and committing to see Iraq through its democratic transformation, with parliamentary elections scheduled for late 2009.

[“I think I could, if I only knew how to begin. For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”]

There is one obstacle to success, however, that we must avoid. Having failed to legislate retreat, some members of Congress are exploiting Americans’ economic anxieties and insisting that the Iraqi government help defray our costs in fighting our common enemies.

[“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”]

Yes, the war in Iraq is expensive (though hardly the hyperbolic $3 trillion some have suggested), and the desire to reduce that expense is reasonable. Iraq has a lot of money from oil, and we should do what we can to help and encourage the Iraqis to spend their money on rebuilding their country whenever possible.

[“His answer trickled through my head - Like water through a sieve”]

But a dangerous note has crept into the discussion, a tinge of imperialism, in fact. The argument that Iraq should use its oil revenues to pay the United States sounds like the ultimate proof that we invaded Iraq for mercenary reasons.

[“'But I don’t want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked. 'Oh, you can’t help that,' said the Cat. 'We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.' 'How do you know I’m mad?' said Alice. 'You must be,” said the Cat. 'or you wouldn’t have come here.'”]

If it insists that Iraq underwrite American military forces, Congress would do catastrophic damage to our image in the world, particularly the Muslim world. America does not go to war for profit — ever. We should not make it appear as if we do.

[“Be what you would seem to be - or, if you'd like it put more simply - never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”]

FREDERICK KAGAN is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute
[“Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”]

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