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Iraq isn't the time or the place to learn patience

Reader comment on item: U.S. Needs To Learn Patience [in Iraq]

Submitted by John Hadjisky (United States), Nov 30, 2004 at 19:45

Of course Americans could do with more patience. Who couldn't? But we live in a system in which, for better or worse, significant elements of our foreign policy change every 4-8 years (or less, if there is a major shift in a mid-term election, or in our polls or our media's flavor-of-the-month reporting).

During the Cold War, there was a broad, deep, and bi-partisan consensus that endured for at least a generation. But such a consensus is the exception in a pluralistic, democratic society, rather than the rule. It is much more the real in such historically patient countries such as China or Russia.

I am cautiously optimistic that there is a broad, deep, and bi-partisan consensus for the "war on terror", but even there, the consensus must grow deeper so that the war on terror remains a war on Islamism, and not a meaningless "war" on a mere tactic. It must also not be law enforcement action.

While we sure wish it were otherwise, the consensus on Iraq specifically is no where near as deep as the consensus for the war on terror. Given that reality, it is puzzling to hear Dr. Pipes, who himself was at best luke warm on the Iraq project to begin with, to now imply that it is realistic to call for patience and postponment in Iraq. Can we afford to be patient for aother 6 months? Probably, absent a major crisis such as a sucessful WMD attack, with massive casualties, on U.S. soil. Will 6 months be *enough*? Dr. Pipes implies that it will, but I don't see the data to back this up. Why not 12 months? Why not 18?

Patience and a strong hand *will* be required in order for democratic instututions to emerge and take root in Iraq, i.e. to avoid the trap of one vote, one time, then president-for-life. But, the scheduled national elections are only a step on this road. If Iraqis consistantly poll in favor of long-term democracy but a short-term strong-man, why not have that strong-man be an *elected* strong-man?

Keeping (and exceeding by several days) our earlier promise to return soverignity to Iraq led eventually to the in-country consensus that negotiating with terrorists in Najaf, Fallujah, etc. was a dead end, hence the current military actions. I see little reason to conclude that breaking our promise now will somehow create a stronger consensus in-country, and even if it does, the value of that will be more than outweighed by the morale and propeganda boost it gives to our and the Iraqis' enemies. In the aftermath of the victories in Fallujah and elsewhere, the trick will be to keep the enemy off-balance and reactive until after the election. Boycott, smoycott! A less perfect election, on schedule, is better than a possibly-more-perfect election that may never come.

The true need for patience will be after the coming Iraqi election, when Americans and Iraqis must persevere together long enough to ensure a *second* Iraqi election, not to mention the many other institutions of democracy. The goal MUST be for that second election to occur on the scheduled date (whenever that is...), and not a day sooner or later.

Together, Americans and Iraqis both will (re-)learn essential (and probably timeless) lessons about the true value of a deadline.

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