Saturday, September 18, 2004

From Eric and Jennifer

I received these two interesting emails from Americans, I want to share them with you. the first email is from Eric, the second is from Jennifer. I wrote a reply but I will post it in a next article. I like to know your opinion about them .

Rose,
I'm motivated to e-mail you because of your critical comments about the US intervention in Iraq - Aug 24 entry, I think. I don't necessarily agree with some of your points (such as, the US meant to turn Iraq into the Big Terrorist Fight), but I think your view is still a step in the right direction. Why? Because what matters here is not Americans congratulating or criticising ourselves over the mission. Unfortunately, since we're in a heated presidential election, we Americans are talking a lot these days. What really matters isn't talk, it's getting the job done in Iraq. When we can be plain about what we're thinking, like you were, we can get to talking about productive action.

Still, I'd like to say in our defense insofar as US mistakes inside Iraq, past US nation-building missions weren't perfect, either - even the famous success stories like Germany, South Korea and Japan. In particular, I think about Korea, well, because I served in Korea while I was a soldier. Under UN control, South Korea went through a HARD transition after WW2. In fact, the Korean War was fought 5 years into the UN/US mission in Korea. That's not to excuse American mistakes in Iraq or to say I think there will be a civil war in Iraq. Just that the US has travelled a hard road in the past with other nations while helping their transitions. The best hope I can offer is to imagine where those nations were at the start, and then look at where those nations are today. Through years of cooperation, through much adversity, we have helped build success stories, the kind of success (most) Americans are hoping for Iraq.

We're trying. I think most of the mistakes haven't been sinister or anti-Iraq . . . I'll put it this way, 'It's not you (Iraq), it's us (US).'

First, when Clinton downsized the military in the 90s, we were fooled by Yugoslavia into believing we owned a nation-building capability that we no longer had, not for something as big as Iraq. Second, the CPA I believe was idealistic and well-intentioned, but it got its priorities wrong, and it wasn't practical nor efficient enough with the abundant Iraq-investment resources given to it. Third, if you study our modern American history, you'll recognize the trend that has caused us to make the kind of mistakes we also made in Iraq. Many soldiers I served with in the 90s felt deeply we SHOULD HAVE, as you pointed out, removed Saddam from power in Desert Storm. They honestly felt bad the Iraqi people had to suffer under Saddam and sanctions after 91 because the military wasn't allowed by our leaders to finish the job. You may not believe it, but American soldiers are mostly compassionate people. Why didn't we take out Saddam in 91? Two reasons. One, American presidents after the Vietnam War, until George W. Bush, desperately tried to avoid the next Vietnam War, and in 1991, Bush's advisors were afraid of the Vietnam War happening in Iraq. Two, Bush (again, the father) was trying to build up the multinational community after the Cold War, and he believed that if he continued the attack to Baghdad to remove Saddam from power - against our coalition partners' wishes - he would lose the multilateral progress from Desert Storm. Even today, many Americans believe sanctions are always better than war, and say Saddam could have been toppled without war. Many Americans who are anti-war think we were wrong to end the sanctions and forcibly remove Saddam from power. I believe after 10-plus years of that harmful policy, we needed to end the sanctions. And, it would have been irresponsible to end the sanctions while leaving Saddam in power. America has been irresponsible enough with Iraq, and it's past time to do the right thing - my opinion.

Here are some links to help explain my perspective, and in some ways, the American and/or presidential perspective for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

My Perspective: 9/11 forced us to reevaluate US interaction with the Muslim and Arab world, with the UN/US Iraq mission at the top of the list. Our nation's leaders were faced with 3 options: A. Continue indefinitely and head-lining the corrupted, provocative, harmful and failed sanctions and 'containment' mission. B. End the mission and release Saddam from constraint, in power and victorious. C. Give Saddam a final chance, and if he triggered the final enforcement step, go ahead with regime change and nation-building.

Without the 9/11 impetus, I believe we would have continued option-A indefinitely, long past GWB, and the thought disgusts me. Only one of those 3 choices is both morally defensible and provides a practical path to a better future. It's possible GWB chose 'C' for less than noble reasons, but it is still the noble choice. For years we upheld the easier wrong in Iraq; I credit GWB for placing America on the path of the harder right.

A Strategic Perspective. Dr. Thomas Barnett's article expresses my strategic belief. The evidence points to Bush Jr's belief in a similar strategy. Mr. President, Here's How to Make Sense of Our Iraq Strategy: http://www.keepmedia.com/pubs/Esquire/2004/06/01/463656


President Bush Jr speech: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/06/20040602.html

Tom Junod, despite disliking Bush Jr, discusses the bad morality of inaction and the good morality of Operation Iraqi Freedom: http://www.keepmedia.com/ShowItemDetails.do?refID=19&item_id=505604

President Clinton Operation Desert Fox Speech, 1998:
http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/12/16/transcripts/clinton.html

President Clinton Signs Iraq Liberation Act, 1998: http://www.fas.org/news/iraq/1998/11/01/981101-in.htm

That's quite a bit, Rose, to get to what I really wanted to ask you. Maybe you can talk about this in your blog, too. Practically, what do you think Americans and Iraqis (as persons, peoples and nations) should be doing right now to move Iraq forward in all the vital phases - economically, socially, security, etc? Not just the Americans in Iraq, but the Americans like me in the US. More of a curiosity question - what would you like to see from other nations, your neighbors, Europeans, China, etc? What would you like as the long-term plan for Iraq?

Sorry for the long e-mail. I hope you got through it okay.

Eric (USA)

an email from Jennifer:

Dear Rose,

I can't tell you how happy I am to have found your blog. I guess let me start with, I am a 27 year old American woman, with a 3 year old daughter. I'm married to a military man who had deployed there many times. I have many friends and spouses of friends over there at so many times, and for some reason, no matter how hard I try not to... I can't stop myself from watching the news networks to see what has been happening, or at least what they tell us has been happening. I can tell you that from my viewpoint, I'm so confused. I understand your comment about not being pro-war, but that doesnt make you pro-American. Well perhaps I dont understand it from your feelings, but I can sympathize with the situation as a mother and a wife. People coming into your country under the terms of making it better for you, when most of them havent lived a day of their life in your shoes.. so how can they possibly know and understand your culture and your life to make it any better. It frustrates me to no end listening and reading and watching... and never really knowing how much is filtered through our news media. How the people of your country truly feel, day to day while living through this. My friends, being mostly military, dislike my views.. but I've often said the World Trade Center attack was America's wake up call.. we were almost asking for it. Not that the situation here has to do with yours directly, but that we Americans had gotten so egotistical of ourselves that we thought we were above annihilation. And what scares me most about this war that we are waging throughtout your world, is this. Has our ego once again gotten too big? How many enemies are we making by trying to adjust someone else's life?
You Rose.. You are a woman, with a child, living day to day.. With our upcoming elections the news is clouded with slander and heroics trying to win votes. But what I want to know, from a normal woman living her life is... what are we really doing over there? Politics surrounds everything and it seems to block out the simple things that we simple people who do live in America don't hear about. Do you hate seeing troops? I can't imagine hearing bombs and guns, but do you associate those things, with the men an women who have been taken from their families here because they've been told they are doing something good? Is it the people? Or the politics that cause the not exactly Pro-American view you have? Please? I would love to hear from you. Some REAL connection to a world away, where my families are being affected, perhaps not as extremely as yours are, but affected none the less.
I have weblog too.. Mine is full of flippery and jokes, I use mine to bring a bit of humor to myself. But I would love and deeply appreciate your input. And if you would be willing to write me back.. and tell me.. from a woman's view how you feel.. just your feelings. I would post it on my blog to share with the other spouses of military members?
Would you mind?
Thank you for your time
Jennifer
Las Vegas



167 Comments:

Blogger mtnyogi said...

OK you asked for my opinion, so here goes.

First my opinion on Eric's email.

First of all, I don't remember seeing any "critical comments about the US intervention in Iraq" on your blog. Did I miss something? I couldn't find the "Big Terrorist Fight" in your posts. Eric's email is rather long and disconnected. He seems to be apologizing for US mistakes (without naming any) on the one hand, but trying to justify our actions on the other. Then he seems to try to deny the possibily that Iraqis have made any mistakes: "I'll put it this way, 'It's not you (Iraq), it's us (US).'". I haven't tried to follow the many references... All in all, he seems to be denying that Iraqis have anything to do with what's going on, that it's all in U.S. hands. Seems a little egotistical to me...

Now Jennifer. Her husband is a "military man". It's not clear whether he's presently in Iraq, doesn't sound like it. I'm an American. She's an American. I spent 4 years in the Air Force many years ago (never seeing combat). Our military takes its job very, very seriously. We play to win. We don't mess around. War is not a joke, not something to be taken lightly or casually. We hope that we don't have to go to war, but we are prepared in case we do.

We are both citizens of this country and have a vote and a voice as to what goes on here. War is not something that anybody in their right mind wants for us or anybody else. If we must do it, we want to be very, very sure that we are doing it for the right reason. Understand that the U.S. may now be spending more on its military than all of the other nations in the world combined. Now try to imagine that you had a say (even a small say) in what this sum of the world's military would do. That is a very, very serious responsibility. Now add to that the fact that her husband is a "military man".

As I understand Jennifer's question, it is: "are we doing the right thing by this war" and "are we conducting ourselves in an honorable manner"? This might also be understood as, "is my husband being ordered to ride the white horse (the hero's horse) or the black horse (the villian's horse)"?

As she points out, the media here is largely negative. It is hard to see the whole picture, good and bad, through our media. I don't think that she wants you to say things that aren't true just to make her feel better. If we're riding the wrong horse, she needs to know about it. If we're riding the right horse, she needs to know that too. She's hoping that based on your similarities in age and family that you will be honest with her.

Now I want to say on my own behalf, as a U.S. citizen with a vote on what this military does, that I, and most other Americans, sincerely hope that this struggle leads to a peaceful and prosperous Iraq. It is clear to all that there are many possible outcomes to this struggle. None of us wants to see Iraq fall into chaos. None of us wants to see Iraqis being killed by terrorists and criminals. None of us wants to see the lives that have been lost and the sacrifices that have been made, both Iraqi and U.S., to have been for naught.

9:31 PM  
Blogger strykeraunt said...

Rose, If I read the response correctly, I tend to hold the same opinion that was stated by mtnyogi in regards to Eric and Jennifer's emails; and also in regards to her own opinion. I too was confused about the comment from Eric, " I'll put it this way, 'It's not you (Iraq), it's us (US)."

To add more to my own opinion, I am still not sure whether the timing was right in regards to the choice to go into Iraq. I do however believe (based on my own limited knowledge)that we could not continue indefinitely with sanctions against Iraq...that sooner or later someth other action would need to occur. Unfortunately, the sanctions were not working because in the end the people we wanted to hurt the least ended up being the ones who were hurting the most...the Iraqi people. I don't see where Saddam or any of his thugs suffered at all under the realities of the sanctions. The Oil for Food program was supposed to be for the Iraqi people but ended up only benefiting Saddam and his associates. And shame on any company or country who participated in any shady deal with Saddam in regards to the sanctions and Oil for Food program.

In regards to the American soldiers who have been there and are currently serving in Iraq, I truly believe that they ARE serving honorably. It would be so much easier for the American soldier to just take over the areas that are causing such problems, but it would also result in the greatest loss of civilian life. Instead they have taken a more conservative approach and the end result is increased injury and loss of life for the American soldier and the increased barrier to effectively rebuilding of Iraq. How can that ever make them a "dark horse"? I have never personally experienced the sadness before that I have felt for the last couple of years. There are no true winners in war.

P.S. I want to also emphasize that I don't recall any critical comments from you either.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Hi,

Rose was kind enough to publish my e-mail on her blog and write an in-depth response. I'll add some comments that I hope may clarify some things I said.

First, Rose's blog entry I reacted/responded to was on Aug 23 (not Aug 24, as I originally guesstimated). No, she didn't say "Big Terrorist Fight", that was my phrasing for her point regarding her belief that the US intentionally (if passively) brought terrorists to Iraq in order to battle out the global war on terror in Iraq. There was no need for me to enumerate US mistakes in Iraq; Rose already has her own ideas on that subject. Though I may not agree with all her points, my purpose is not to argue against her views, but rather provide a context for why the US has made mistakes in the mission.

As Americans, we can no longer indulge our Vietnam War phobia and avoid our system flaws in the context of our global leadership role - no more Somalias. My point to Rose was that the major mistakes we have made in Iraq (ie, inadequate security post-major combat phase, shortage of quick-hitting economic 'quality of life' projects, inefficient use of allocated resources) were due to our own system flaws (ie, the "it's not you, it's us" statement) and not ill-intent, as Rose suggested.

Are we in-process of fixing those flaws? The debate is fierce between those who want to live in the pre-9/11 past and those who wish to move forward, but yes, evidence suggests at least the military is evolving to the needs of the mission.

Second, if you haven't done so - read the linked articles. If you only read one, the MUST-read is Thomas Barnett's strategic overview, which evidence strongly suggests is this President's strategy for Iraq. You won't be sorry. I'll put it this way: whereas it is understandable for a traditional American conservative (say, Pat Buchanan) to oppose Operation Iraqi Freedom, any real American liberal should support the mission.

The Clinton links explain the point we had reached with Saddam before OpIF; ie, by 1998, regime change and reform was officially stated as the only viable solution to the festering Saddam problem.

The Bush Jr speech link explains his framework for winning the war on terror both causally and symptomatically, in accordance with our highest Wilson/FDR/JFK liberal traditions of the past century.

Of note, here is an excerpt clearly referring to past US policy mistakes on Iraq and the need for change:

"For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability, and much oppression. So I have changed this policy. In the short-term, we will work with every government in the Middle East dedicated to destroying the terrorist networks. In the longer-term, we will expect a higher standard of reform and democracy from our friends in the region. Democracy and reform will make those nations stronger and more stable, and make the world more secure by undermining terrorism at it source. Democratic institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight; in America, they grew over generations. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have found, the only path to true progress is the path of freedom and justice and democracy."

Other points.

Oil. Oil is an implicit issue in any oil-producing region, and economic security is vital to everything else, eg, no money -> no charity. That said, Iraq's oil belongs to Iraq by US and international sanction. Second, Iraq's economic viability via oil export, internal economic infrastructure reform, and debt forgiveness is a (the?) major component of the US-led mission, which of course is near-impossible if security fails, ie, the terrorists succeed. Third, US oil supplies are diversified and not dependent on Iraqi oil. Fourth, the US has an effective business relationship with OPEC, which includes nations unfriendly to the US who still are as eager to sell their oil as we are to buy it. (Friendly trade relations with Saddam is a big reason why some nations opposed OpIF.) Fifth, even if the US had left Saddam in power, he would have had more need to sell his oil to the US than we would have to buy it.

Security. The need for forward deployed "military bases" is directly related to exigent security need. For example, the downsizing or elimination of bases in Western Europe and Korea due to changed security needs. Example2, the sole purpose of the military mission in Saudi Arabia - since ended - was to conduct the UN/US sanction/containment mission in Iraq. With the change in how the global economy works, cost/benefit analysis precludes 19th century imperial 'ownership' strategy. Security strategy for the globalising 21st century is far more cooperative and community-based, eg, Korea or Kosovo. Again, read Barnett's overview.

Iraq-US partnership. Do I think Iraq's democratic, globalised ascension can occur by American force alone? Of course not. In our other great nation-building successes, America provided Opportunity, protection and vital, multi-area help. Ultimately, success depended on the indigenous peoples of those nations. If the Iraqi people fail to carry their nation-building load in partnership with the US, then the Iraq mission will fail.

Main obstacles. I am fully aware that any failure in Iraq can-NOT be credited to the US alone. There are dangerous, capable forces who 100% oppose the successful growth of the 'new' Iraq, and what that success would mean to their global goals. That's why the enemy kills civilians, aid workers, politicians, police, worshippers, what have you - ie, Iraq's nation-builders - in such large numbers. Their greatest fear is not the US, indeed US 'occupation' presence by itself aids terrorist recruitment. Their greatest actual fear is what the US occupation threatens: a democratic, globalised Iraq as a strong influence in the heart of the Arab world, a nexus of Islam and modernity, healthily 'connected' (in Barnett-speak) with the globalised world. It is in the extremists' absolute interest to kill that type of Iraqi rebirth. Conversely, it is in the anti-terrorist globalised community's self-interest that the new Iraq succeeds.

Finally, a little of my own background (which I asked Rose to remove from my original e-mail). I am an Army veteran, who did the bulk of his service as an MI troop in Korea. I know as well as anyone the exceptional quality of our soldiers; I'm still young enough where our soldiers in Iraq were once my peers and colleagues. The ROK's history and nation-building model informs my understanding that short-term flaws and difficulties do not, and should not, preclude long-term success. Rose could find common ground with a 1946 Korean mistrusting US intent in (South) Korea, but we - Koreans and Americans together - earned success the hard way there.

As Americans, it does us no good to overlook our own weaknesses. The enemy knows our flaws, and understands the stakes in Iraq, far better than most Americans. If we are going to succeed in Iraq and the global war on terror, culturally, we need to kill our Vietnam War phobia; systemically, we need to fix our flaws at least insofar as nation-building; and most of all, we need to be ready to earn this, even and especially, if it takes "a long hard slog" (Rumsfeld-speak).

As for Rose and the Iraqi people, they need to overcome their own mistrust and misgivings over the US because they will bear the greatest cost of this mission's failure, as well as enjoy the sweetest fruits of its success. They need to become more proactive as partners to the Americans and other nation-builders in Iraq, both in defeating our shared enemies who oppose the new Iraq, and in building that new Iraq.

A choice between regression and a better world, a future worth creating, is confronting us at this point in our global human history, in Iraq. Unfortunately, there are no cheap, no easy answers here. The terrorists will make sure of that. We will have to earn our collective future - Iraqis and Americans together.

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ErrorDocument 403 /errordocs/403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /errordocs/404.html
ErrorDocument 405 /errordocs/405.html
ErrorDocument 500 /errordocs/500.html
ErrorDocument 501 /errordocs/501.html
ErrorDocument 502 /errordocs/502.html
ErrorDocument 503 /errordocs/503.html

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