[NB: Having taken your comments to heart on the post below, I'll get to working on some stuff, in the meantime, I wanted to toss in my 2 cents on the blogging brouhaha d'jour]
The Guardian recently ran a segment with 60 letters from various Britons regarding President Bush's visit to the United Kingdom. One of the letters
is from Salam Pax, in which he criticises the US for the reconstruction, in a particularly condescending and juvenile way. Many people took umbrage at the letter. I think, once the dust settles, that the irritation derives less from the existence of dissent and more from the tone and assumptions underlying the nature of the specific criticism leveled. In particular, Lileks thoroughly voiced
his disgust in no uncertain terms. Roger Simon saw the article and picked up
on the theme as well. Daniel Drezner, however, disagrees
emphatically with Lileks' take on the letter.
Among other things, Drezner states the following as one of the reasons he disagrees with Lileks:
"...Salam and his buddies would never have taken up arms to overthrow Saddam. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that back in 1991, when President Bush encouraged ordinary Iraqis to overthrow Saddam, the results weren't so good.
Bush's call worked perfectly. Seventeen out of eighteen provinces were in open revolt. Hussein was at his weakest. And what did the United States do after our call was answered by the Iraqi common man? Did we help in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 1991? Nope. We looked the other way while Hussein violated the no-fly zones to put down the Shi'ites, Marsh Arabs, Kurds, etc. We did it for realpolitik reasons, many of which the current Bush administration, to its credit, seems ready to reject. But we, the United States, did it. Why, on God's green earth, would anyone ever choose to rise up after that Mongolian cluster-fuck of U.S. foreign policy? "
I'm not really that interested in sharing my opinions on who's the asshat today, but Prof. Drezner's statement contains some, um, historical misinterpretations that I wanted to clear up. I wrote the bulk of this material in a comment on his site, but wanted to actually proofread and polish the text, so this is why I've revisited the issue here.
The US never permitted use of the no-fly zones for suppression of the rebellion or anything else. What Prof. Drezner might be referring to was the use of armed helicopters, particularly in the south of the country. However, use of the helicopters was permitted under the Safwan (Cease-Fire) Agreement, negotiated by Gen. Schwarzkopf. During the cease-fire negotiations, the Iraqis asked if the no-fly zone restrictions would apply to helicopters as well. [NB: I don't remember if the no-fly zone in the north applied to helicopters or if it was universal]
The Iraqis indicated that they would need helicopters as interim transport, since many of the bridges had been blown, and Schwarzkopf assented. Unfortunately, that was merely a ploy to use helicopter gunships in counter-insurgency operations.
Secondly, contrary to what some may remember of the history of the US in Iraq since 1991, the establishment of the no-fly zones did, in fact, allow the Kurdish insurrection to succeed, and they were an essentially autonomous part of Iraq, not at all beholden to Baghdad. In fact, the Kurdish areas are now among the most prosperous areas in Iraq, despite 12 years of sanctions, simply because they have avoided the most deleterious effects of mismanagement during the interregnum.
Third, although Prof. Drezner may claim that the reasons behind the refusal to intervene in Iraq were all realpolitik one must remember a few key facts. The best recap of the reasons that we didn't go to Baghdad in '91 are, ironically enough, the very same objections we heard about going to Baghdad in '03. In other words, we weren't going to go because we didn't have a UN mandate, we listened to the council of the Arabs and Europeans, we were afraid that the Arab street would rise up, we thought that it would result in a civil war and would destabilize the region, and finally, we were afraid of another Vietnam. So, for some commenters, an internal consistency check might be in order.
Fourth, Prof. Drezner raises the question "Did we help in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein? Nope." Umm... sir, are you being deliberately obtuse here, or am I just reading this wrong? I think the US did a great deal to help in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, such as destroying his armed forces, humiliating him in front of the world, energizing the people to revolt, making Iraq an international pariah, and imposing a strong sanctions and inspection regime. I was rather under the impression that the '91 uprising would have never occurred had it not been for the Gulf War. So, yes, we did help.
Furthermore, many may not be aware of the coveactivitiesves that occurred in mid-90s. Among other things, in 1995, a CIA Operations Officer in Kurdish Iraq had been in contact with three separate movements to unseat Hussein. A general approached the gentleman and indicated that a military coup was in the offing, should some visible sign of support be given. Chalabi was also working in Iraq at the time to orchestrate an uprising, although the amount that he would have actually been able to bring to the table was unknown. Finally, the Kurds were planning a major offensive to the south and were looking for material support. It was entirely within the realm of reason to push all three efforts simultaneously. President Clinton, for whatever reason, declined to support any of the movements and pulled the CIA out of Iraq.
Perhaps Prof. Drezner are right in an apparently unintentional sense. The US, in 1991, supported an uprising that ultimately failed, because we, among other things, were unwilling to launch a war of aggression without any legal pretext (like the violation of 16 UN Resolutions). We did, however, fail to encourage several uprising that had the chance to succeed in 1995.
Or, if one looks at it another way, is that yes, many Iraqis had the courage to rise up, even after 1991. Granted, these attempts at freedom all failed miserably and fell on deaf ears throughout the west, but the simple fact is that we saw fit to let them die without lifting a finger, despite our willingness to claim Human Rights as a causus belli in Kuwait under George H. W. Bush, Kosovo under William J. Clinton, and Iraq under George W. Bush.
So back to the fundamental question of who should have laid whose life on the line and whether or not this willingness (or past history) has some bearing on the right to voice opinions (no matter how ill-mannered or badly phrased), is simply that Iraqis did rise up during the nineties. I'll leave the discussion of who is or isn't an asshole as an exercise to the reader.
So, in closing, I quote the comment I left on Drezner's blog: "Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi, I'm not interested in telling people "Fuck You" or pointing out who is and who isn't an asshole. I just thought that some of the darker recesses of this discussion needed some illumination. Perhaps not unlike Baghdad."
UDPATE 16:00 21NOV03: In Prof. Drezner's comments, SWO guy notes
that the Coalition that liberated Kuwait and had the power to go for Baghdad included such luminaries as Syria, Egypt, and France, in addition to the US and UK, but magically this "failure of will" is the fault of the U.S. So much for multilaterialism.
UDPATE 16:26 21NOV03: James Joyner of Outside the Beltway gives his input
. Interestingly, he cites the Colonel Jessop character from the movie "A Few Good Men"
as follows: "[M]y existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said "thank you" and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand at post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."