Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Best Kind of Surge Would be Moral

Why will a surge of military forces in Iraq not be successful? Thomas Friedman says because we don't have the moral high ground. Until we have a "moral surge", we can't hope for success.

When a suicide bomber blows him- (and now even sometimes her-) self in a crowded marketplace, university campus, or funeral procession, why doesn't George W. Bush speak out about it. It's very likely because President Bush has very little capital--at least with the rest of the world--according to Thomas Friedman.

Maybe because there is in the eyes of others around the world some sense of moral justice when these things occur. There is definitely moral outrage at the Bush administration.

Friedman discusses some of the recent grisly mass murders by suicide, and then wonders:
Stop and think for a moment how sick this is. Then stop for another moment and listen to the silence. The Bush team is mute. It says nothing, because it has no moral authority. No one would listen. Mr. Bush is losing a P.R. war to people who blow up emergency wards. Europeans are mute, lost in their delusion that this is all George Bush’s and Tony Blair’s fault.

But worst of all, Muslims, the very people whose future is being killed, are also mute. No surge can work in Iraq unless we have a “moral surge,” a counternihilism strategy that delegitimizes suicide bombers. The most important restraints are cultural, societal and religious. It takes a village — but the Arab-Muslim village today is largely silent. The best are indifferent or intimidated; the worst quietly applaud the Sunnis who kill Shiites.

Nobody in the Arab world “has the guts to say that what is happening in Iraq is wrong — that killing schoolkids is wrong,” said Mamoun Fandy, director of the Middle East program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “People somehow think that killing Iraqis is good because it will stick it to the Americans, so Arabs are undermining the American project in Iraq by killing themselves.”

What would it take for President Bush to gain the moral upper hand? Let's assume just for argument that it's not too late. How about apologizing to the Iraqi people on Iraqi television for the atrocities that American soldiers have committed? How about coming clean about the sins of several previous US administrations and how we have helped over the last several decades to cause the morass that is Iraq? How about apologizing to the Iraqi people for never really having looked at them as equals? How about condemning these murder bombings and making it for once clear to the Iraqi people on Iraqi television that America's purpose is no longer wasting our and their time, but to leave Iraq when they want us to? How about asking them if they still want us there, and respecting their wishes? How about encouraging the American media to show and discuss the grisly truths?

President Bush yesterday appointed a commission to look into the Walter Reed hospital fiasco he said, because it is our moral imperative to provide good care for our injured soldiers. He is correct, but he can go much further.

George Bush, besides not having a plan for the first nearly 4 years of our less than noble endeavor, is conspicuously absent when it comes to morals. For the rest of he world, and for an increasing number of Americans, that is becoming painfully obvious. It's as though most of the time he's been hiding in vice president Cheney's undisclosed 9/11 bunker.

I agree with Thomas Friedman. At this point, even if we did have the 250,000 additional troops necessary to create the appropriate troop-to-populace ratio, we would still very likely fail.

Unfortunately, even wars are 'moral'. In other words, he who has the moral upper hand usually wins. And the Bush Administration currently does not have the upper hand.


Danny said...

Great post Frank. I just wanted to comment on a few things. One, is something that you have written about before, I believe in April of last year, is the "Iraq is another Vietnam" idea. I can't remember what I thought about that post at that time, but I do know that there is another similarity that you don't mention in that post, but mention it in this one, although not linking the two. That is moral support. We lost Vietnam. Why? No moral support. We aren't getting anywhere in Iraq. Why? No moral support. I am not saying that we will lose in Iraq or that it is a lost cause. Call it blind faith, or false hope, but I do think we can pull out of what we have gotten ourselves into. Like you have said before, and you and I both know, there is a lot of good people over there that want the US to get their country on its feet and go home. One of the many things that needs to happen which is in coralation with what you have said, is something that the Bush administration has been doing very poorly if at all, and you have mentioned it before, and that is learn from history. We lost in Vietnam because of lack of moral. We need to find ways make sure that doesn't happen again. I think that what you have mentioned in this post is a good way to "Get one foot in the stirrup," As Pres. Bush might say.

Danny said...

Wish blogspot had a grammar check. It is suppose to say "We lost in Vietnam because of lack of moral support."
I did take english in high school, I promise.

Frank Staheli said...


Excellent points. The more I look at Vietnam, the more I can see how public withdrew its moral support. The whole thing was based on a false premise (Gulf of Tonkin). Similarly, Bush Sr. (according to Barry Lando, Web of Deceit) fiercely exaggerated the Iraqi troop buildup to get the Saudis and other middle easterners on board. In this case, Bush lost a lot of moral support early on by exaggerating WMD and Saddam's ability to attack us locally. He lost a lot more by not having a plan. He's moral gas tank is leaking like a sieve and he does nothing to stop it.

I feel worst for those friends you mention of ours in Iraq who so badly wanted this 'experiment in liberty' to come off successfully. This is why I still hope and pray that it can be successful.

Rich Warnick said...

Napoleon said it best: "The moral is to the physical as three to one."

We knew that, yet went ahead and screwed up anyway.