Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gates' Iraq Agenda Short On Democracy

"I came here with a pretty clear agenda. Mainly I was focused on how we can put Iraq in a place where we can have a long-term stabilizing presence that has broad bipartisan support." -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Def. Sec. Gates laid out his pretty clear agenda and his approach to checking off the agenda's boxes:
  • A continuing U.S. military force that is a fraction of the size it is today.
  • A significant Navy and Air Force presence in the Gulf.
  • No permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.
  • Stronger military partnerships with regional allies so they provide counterterrorism assistance and regional air- and missile-defense systems to keep Iran hemmed in.
That may be a military plan for Iraq the Congress can live with but it sure troubles me, for two reasons.

First, to have spent all we've spent in lives and lucre in Iraq and not have a base to show for it is pathetic. Wimpy, defeatist Congress should not be making this decision; the Pentagon and the people of Iraq should.

It's not likely we'd get or want a base near a major population hub, but a base in the boonies ... say one on the Syrian and one on the Iranian border ... would be an excellent outcome of the war. We should count on those two countries for continued destabilization efforts, and we must be prepared to counter those efforts with more than airstrikes.

Second, stronger military alliances in the region come with a price. No nation there except Israel has any long-term credibility, and we have to consider that the military training and the air and missile systems we give or sell to them today could be used against us come the next Islamist revolution. We need look no further than Iran to know the truth of that.

Will we be able to rely on their counterterrorism efforts, or will they be strictly self-centered, protecting the home turf but not the infidel invaders? Building alliances is obviously an effort that must be undertaken, but for it to be a lynchpin of our post-war policy is troubling -- especially since the strategy will doom the other important effort Gates didn't bother to put on his agenda: Continuing efforts to democratize the oppressed Islamic nations. As the WSJ put it:
For now, that view seems to be translating into a much more pragmatic approach both on the ground in Iraq and back home. As recently as last year, U.S. war plans for Iraq focused on building a strong, multisectarian democracy that would serve as a model for the rest of the Middle East. With national reconciliation largely stalled, Mr. Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, have given local commanders greater latitude to forge alternative strategies that seek to stabilize specific regions across the country as the top priority -- even if it comes at the expense of a strong central government.

That greater latitude is part of the reason why the military situation in Iraq is improving, and maybe an improved situation on the ground will lead to an improved situation in the Parliament, but more likely it will lead only to a situation where we can all agree that things have improved enough that we can depart without guilt or fear of the consequences.

That's not democracy, and that's why I think it's time for a new seat at the Cabinet table. No, not the lamebrained Secretary of Peace the not-too-creative Lefties have come up with. We stopped having a Secretary of War a long time ago for obvious reasons: Defense is the best alternative to war. Peace is not the best alternative to war and never has been, so a Secretary of Peace would simply be the guy who always loses the argument at the cabinet meeting.

What we need is a Secretary of Global Democracy, notched in between State and Defense, to be the champion of the globe's downtrodden and exploited, and to keep our eye on the larger ball: Peace through freedom, the vision Bush once had; the vision that electrified the world.

Paul Wolfowitz is available. Now that would be a confirmation hearing worth fighting for!

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