Peace through victory - the American way.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Three Years On.

Three years ago today American troops toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, a symbolic victory in the campaign to overthrow Saddam's regime and liberate the Iraqi people. American troops got to Baghdad from Kuwait, where more than a decade before they won a war and drove Saddam's army from its occupation of that country.

America's military action came after more than 10 years of low-level combat between Saddam's regime and the United States during which American planes dodged Iraqi anti-aircraft fire while patrolling the skies of Iraq enforcing no-fly zones. The United States and Great Britain established these zones to prevent Saddam from using his Air Force against the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south. Under American and British protection the Kurds achieved a degree of self-government and independence from the central government.

Since the liberation all of Iraq is under American protection. Iraqis have achieved a degree of self-government denied them by Saddam's regime, which treated them as subjects. Since the liberation Iraqis have been empowered to act as citizens. Iraqis have voted in free elections for a constitutional assembly, a new constitution that protects the rights of all Iraqis, and for a new parliament that represents all Iraqis. Sectarian, ethnic, and political differences, coupled with a constitutional requirement of 2/3 majority approval in parliament, have stalled the formation of a new government.

After defeating Iraq's Army, American troops have fought revanchist Baathists and Sunnis angry at being toppled from their dictatorship over the Kurds and Shiites. Sunni Islamists from other countries have also come to Iraq to fight a holy war against Americans to further their dreams of establishing a theocratic dictatorship over all Muslims. Iran continues to support insurgent groups against the United States and the new Iraqi democracy in order to further its own goals of expanding its Shiite form of theocracy.

Three years on, America's work in Iraq remains unfinished. America's immediate mission of removing Saddam from power was accomplished quickly. Viewed narrowly, America won the war three years ago when Saddam was toppled and later captured. But America's strategic objective is far from fulfilled.

Since 9/11 America is fighting a war against terrorists and the countries that support them. Both Iraq and Afghanistan supported terrorist groups and both governments had fought against the United States: Iraq directly in the Gulf War and during the 10 years that followed the Gulf War, Afghanistan by proxy with its support of Al Qaeda. Thus, America's two military campaigns since 9/11 have toppled two very different regimes each of which supported terrorist groups, and each of which was an enemy of the United States. In their place are budding democracies allied to America.

America's first military campaign in the war liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, a theocratic and fascist dictatorship. The second military campaign in the war liberated Iraq from the Baathists, a secular and fascist dictatorship. The strategic objective in each case was to leave behind a democratic government allied to the US. The rationale underlying this objective is to create American allies in the Muslim world and to plant the seeds of a democratic alternative in the region. This is a long-term strategy for fighting terrorism and flows from the idea that democracies typically don't fight each other, that dictatorships create and support terrorist groups, and that democracies typically don't.

Just as it was not known whether America's containment strategy would succeed in defeating communism when it was first implemented, it's not known now whether America's strategy of replacing dictatorship with democracy will succeed in defeating Islamist terrorism. Time and American resolve will tell.

-tdr

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