Sunday, January 08, 2012

World: Iraq and the Vietnam Analogy

The US fought in Vietnam for a long time.  The last American troops left in 1973.  In 1975, Saigon fell.

Will Iraq be like Vietnam?

Some will say that South Vietnam's collapse was inevitable and that the American presence there just delayed it.

Some will say the same of Iraq.  The argument goes that Iraq was destined for civil war without a dictator like Hussein ruling with an iron fist. 

What is the "answer" to the historical "what if" regarding the Iraq war?

What would have happened if there was no war and Saddam Husein remained in power?
 
How would Afghanistan be today if instead of invading Iraq we had put in more troops in Afghanistan earlier on?

Would the governments of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have fallen without the Iraq invasion?

Some will say, eventually Hussein would have died or someone would have staged a coup and civil war would break out with the support of the neighboring Iranians.

Some will say, whether American troops stayed in large numbers or not, the Taliban would have made a comeback sooner or later because the neighboring Pakistanis support the Taliban and enough people within Afghanistan want them in power.

Some will say that Egypt, Tunisia and Libya's authoritarian governments would eventually have died of old age or be overthrown by Jihad minded revolutionaries.  In either case, Jihad minded revolutionaries would take over eventually.

"Nation building" is very difficult.  Were the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq doomed to failure in the long run after the short term successes of ousting the Taliban and deposing Hussein?

Would it be cruel to suggest that the success stories of post-World War II Germany and Japan came as a result of the Allied armies essentially laying waste to both countries and forcing them to rebuild from scratch?  America defeated the Tailban and Iraq military forces on the field.  But those battles resulted in nowhere near the type of destruction the German and Japanese armies and population centers experienced.  Is it possible that nations can only be rebuilt into a new society if the old one is utterly destroyed?

Or is there something uniquely problematic about the Middle East and Central Asia?

Was nation building a fool's errand?

If this is the case, then the US should give up on Iraq and let them have their civil war and wait for the bloodied survivors to emerge.  Likewise, the US should leave Afghanistan and let forces in Kabul fight it out with the Taliban and wait for the blooded survivors to claim victory.

Is this the most moral thing to do?

Under this approach, the only scenario where US forces would intervene is to bomb and raid terrorist training camps that would probably start appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I suppose if chemical weapons factories started showing up on satellite photos, those too would be legitimate targets.  But otherwise, the US should leave them alone and let them kill each other until they decide to stop when they have bled enough.

Is this more moral than what we have been doing?

Which is more moral, the inaction of the pacifist or isolationist or the intervention of the US global policeman?

This is depressing.

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