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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Examining the Legacy of the Iraq War

Whenever I hear a liberal rant about the Iraq War, I am always reminded of this 1864 Democratic Party Platform.

Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States.

Resolved, that the direct interference of the military authorities of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware, was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and a repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.

Resolved, that the aim and object of the Democratic party are to preserve the federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired ; and they hereby declare that they consider the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution; the subversion of the civil by the military laws in States not in insurrection; the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force; the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press; the denial of the right of asylum; the open and avowed disregard of State rights; the employment of unusual test oaths, and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms in their defense, as calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

It's remarkable how if you were to replace the Civil War in this platform with the Iraq War how similar it sounds. Harry S. Truman left office in 1952 with approval ratings that would make the current President appear popular. He was also mired in a protracted war that the public had soured on. Any protracted war always costs the President in their popularity currently, however the only thing that costs their legacy is losing. Ultimately, Truman was vindicated by history and his policy of containment became a Doctrine for future Presidents to follow. About 33,000 American soldiers died in the Korean War however history hasn't tarnished Truman's legacy with the dead. Rather, the dead are honored for bringing a sustained and continued peace and Democracy to South Korean. Many more died in the Civil War and yet Lincoln has long been lionized as the President that kept the Union together and ultimately ended the evil of slavery.

There are several reasons for this. The first can be found in a very famous quote by Winston Churchill

history is written by winners

Lincoln won the war and thus was able to write history in his favor. While a strong argument can be made that Korea was fought to a draw, Truman was also able to write history favorably accentuating the positives of this draw and minimizing the negatives. The second reason is that the positive outcomes are generational while the blood is temporary. To this day South Korea remains free and we remain a nation free of slavery. The benefits of victory in each war continue indefinitely while the blood stopped as soon as the wars stopped.

While Iraq will continue to be demonized during this time, I believe that ultimately history will judge Iraq in much the same way as these other two conflicts. In the Wall Street Journal today, there is an excellent opinion piece that captures just how much the country has evolved. Recently, the Iraqi courts held a second trial for Chemical Ali and he was once again found guilty of genocide, this time for his role in squelching the uprising of 1992. The other part of the piece focuses on Mithal Al Alusi, who is parliamentarian who visited Israel in 2004. Terrorists wound up killing two of his kids as revenge. Opponents attempted to throw him out of the parliament, but the courts stepped in and called this action unconstitutional. While Iraq still hasn't yet recognized Israel, both these cases capture just how far the country has come.

It simply can't be quantified what the benefit to the world is to turn a tyranny into a Democracy. Iraq is not only turning into a Democracy but a very sophisticated one at that. Some used to complain that Iraq would merely become a puppet of Iran. Those folks had no understanding of the sophisticated nature of Iraq. Iraq is an amalgam of many competing factions and only a minority have the agenda of being a satellite of Iran. The Shiites themselves, the ones most closely alligned with Iran, are made up of several competing factions and most of them want no part of being a satellite of Iran. The Shiites include a very powerful subset of Secular folks who have an entirely different agenda than folks like the Prime Minister Maliki. Even Maliki himself is moving Iraq in a direction far away from Iran. Only the Sadrists want this and they have long been marginalized.

Iraq will turn into a parliamentary system likely even more sophisticated than some of the most vibrant parliamentary systems in the world like Britain and Israel. They are headed to be a sophisticated if not imperfect Democracy. To turn a vicious and tyrannical enemy into a Democratic ally cannot be quantified. The benefits of this to Iraq, the Middle East, and the world at large can also not be quantified. For generations to come we will treat Iraq as an ally. The civilized world will treat Iraq as an ally. Iraq will become an example to struggling Democracies and tyrannical regimes alike. It will become the example of what can be if you embrace freedom and Democracy. The legacy of Iraq will one day go the way of other victories of war and that is a legacy that ultimately lionizes the war, and all those that contributed to its victory. (including said to say to you liberals the current President, George Bush)

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