arcana imperii :: the book of j


naming the enemy

a panelist on this evening's washington week stated that the US has so far used thirty-three terms «define» the enemy we're fighting in iraq. the implications of naming the enemy are disturbingly serious given what's at stake. this is not just about the security of our homeland and of our citizens worldwide, nor just about the countries and people of the countries touched by our fight against terrorism and our occupation of iraq, but about the fundamental principles of our democracy and the role and responsibilities we impose on our government at home and overseas. it's about whether we can live to up to our commitments and ideals, whether we can accomplish what we set out to do.

what and/or whom are we fighting in iraq? the idea that we went there to fight terrorism has been utterly discredited even though unquestionably we are fighting it when we are dealing with al-zarqawi and his allies.

we are indeed fighting insurgents, but the administration fears the use of the word perchance because it implies accepting or at least seriously considering the view of experts expressing that fighting an insurgency to victory requires nine to ten years and it fears the political risk involved as americans seem more apprehensive than ever about supporting such an enterprise. we'd like it all said and done cleanly and quickly and it just can't and won't be this way this time round. this is quite a harsh notion when we still have to take care of our own country and ourselves.

what if this word-game, the one calling the enemy in iraq saddamists, rejectionists, insurgents, terrorists or any of the other twenty-eight terms applied to them so far, prompts america at-large to ask, basically, what it is we're really doing there when we don't even know whom we're fighting or what the targets really are? ah, therein lies a difference i reckon has been overlooked.

we may not know what to call the enemy, but we do know what they stand for and we fight against that. we fight against threats to our national security, the free-flow of oil, and for stability in the region which can only be achived through democracy and the development of a strong civil society. regardless of whether we had the right to do it or should have done it in the first place, we've toppled a heinous totalitarian regime. we did it without a plan for the following day, which was the most short-sighted, irresponsible and serious mistake of the whole enterprise, again, barring starting the war in the first place, but we've done it. we are there.

we must accept that we can't just pack up and leave. there's no way round this. we must stay the course. i stood against hurrying to war while the existence of weapons of mass destruction was so in question. i stood against it while it was clear that we did not have a plan, that we didn't even have anybody to take the reins of government once saddam hussein's dictatorship fell. pretending that we did in the figure of chalabi is an egregious assault on honesty and intelligence. BUT, we attacked, we invaded, we toppled the regime and occupied the country. this meant that we had to stand behind our troops and demand that our government be true to the principles that should guide it and the commitments it would make on our behalf. but americans in general aren't comfortable with complexity nor seem very adept at judging who can handle it successfully, opting more often that not, for the simple, the plain and the familiar. so last year a large majority voted for the man who would continue the war after claiming victory and still without a plan rather than for another who at least hoped to end it before the mere massive yet still inadequate (in numbers) military presence in iraq became a stronger and more widely accpeted reason or excuse to fight us.

there's been important successes, but still, less than half the funds destined for reconstruction have been spent meaning that among other goals, i believe our efforts to train iraqis to defend themselves and secure peace remain less than satisfactory. this also translates into a failure to mobilise iraqi society to manifest itself massively against the insurgency and in favour of taking their future into their own hands democratically, free from tyranny and terror, supported by its new allies. i do recognise that these tasks are more than arduous in a country where the majority of its people lived under the tyranny, absue and discrimination of a minority; a country further fragmented by tribalism and ethnic and religious differences which can't be overcome overnight. but i'm concerned we are failing to capitalise on the influence of theexisting highly-skilled, educated population and the heroes who have risked their lives to cast votes and will do so again, hopefully in larger numbers, a third time in the upcoming election. i am just thinking of the power massive and public manifestations of support for their own future, not the occupation per se, can have on those determined to derail it, for instance. but how could they know this when they hear that we just want to get out of there as soon as possible?

it's easier to grab a candle and hit the streets to voice our views in our country and other industrialised, democratic nations, when we don't really have to fear being shot by insurgents, when we can do so because we are empowered to do so by our general economic well-being or stability. but iraqis could be encouraged to exercise their new freedom, that there's indeed increased safety in numbers, especially with massive supportive military power in situ.

at the same time, we americans need to accept responsibility for the exercise in nation-building we granted our government permission to conduct, committing to it aware that it won't conclude within months or the next couple of years. the majority of americans chose bush to continue as commander-in-chief and so it's incumbent upon us all to demand he fulfills his duties courageously and properly which means that the administration has to, not only welcome the criticism it has been ignoring for far too long, but consider and implement alternative strategies which seem better than the obviously still non-existing plan. we may not know what to call the enemy, but we do know what our troops are fighting for (and against), we just need to accept it will take longer than some blindly believed and become aware of the sacrifices it entails. we risk becoming our own enemies.

this acceptance gets us all to work for victory and the political lithmus test as we vote for our legislators and the executive becomes whether incumbents and candidates have a real, plausible strategy and can implement it and not whether we should stay or go, simply and... plainly.