From my one reader (other than me) comes this comment to Iraq – In Which I Settle My Account:
Still left with what would have been a better option. I wonder if it’s nearly an “no-win” situation. The trade offs (as in “there are no solutions to problems only trade-offs”) in a case like this seem always bigger and more costly than any possible benefits.
Good points. At some point while writing that previous post, I found myself losing interest and just sort of letting these same questions lie. Let me see if I can address them now.
First of all, I can still remember the immediate aftermath of 9/11. There was a lot a of anger back than. From all quarters. Bush had pretty free reins to do whatever he found appropriate. OK, not nuclear weapons (inasmuch as they would not have been useful anyway), but pretty much anything in those first few weeks as long it was done quickly. The apparent unity of purpose would not last long.
In addition Bush had to do something. To do nothing was, at the very least, a political disaster: there would be no second term if “nothing” was done. And it had to be obvious. A rain of cruise missiles with no apparent result was not going to be sufficient. Someone had to die – preferably Osama bin-Laden.
So, with these requirements in hand, the Bush Administration proceeded to spend the next year and a half making virtually every mistake possible culminating in the invasion of Iraq. For example, the USA PATRIOT Act (ie, “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001″ – cute, huh), because real patriots have nothing to hide from their government, right? Or how about the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its autistic child, the Transportation Security Administration or TSA.
And on the foreign policy front, Bush & Co doubled down the massive and expensive invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan with attempts to build shiny new democratic republics of Iraq and Afghanistan in/among cultures that have little interest and ability to maintain them (of course, one could argue that after the last 50 years we ourselves have shown an inability to maintain even our own).
And, of course, all while talking up Islam as “the religion of peace”.
That Bush chose as poorly as he did is very unfortunate. Very unfortunate indeed.
To be honest, I don’t know what all we could’ve done; at least in terms of naming a comprehensive program of policies and actions. I don’t know have all the information available to me that Bush would’ve had nor the staff to collate, report, and interpret it. I do know this, however: one thing, the primary thing, would’ve been to and continues to be to stop treating Islam like just another religion. It isn’t, it never was and, any adherents residing here in the US (the West in general) should be looked at with suspicion. Even more so their mosques. Communists were treated this way and rightly so; I don’t see the justification to treat Muslims any differently.
Second, seal the borders. Especially for Muslims.
And then third, come up with actual plan to accept legal immigrants, lots of legal immigrants, those who want to come here to work, settle in, and integrate. And ship the bad ones back from where they came and kill (aka execute) the ones who’ve murdered or otherwise killed while here. I don’t know what to do with illegals otherwise; I’m willing to listen; but after the borders are sealed. And no, I wouldn’t require that all immigrants turn in to little Bobby and Suzy Suburbs, but I can tell you that the preferences list has western Europeans highest, followed closely by east Asians. And Indians, the non-Muslim ones.
Fourth, come up with an actual doctrine and policies as to what to do with Muslim countries. A few things to remember. They don’t like us; they may respect us, fear us even, but they don’t like us. They won’t ever, we’re in/of dar al-harb – the “house of war”. Moreover, if Muslims don’t like us, they dislike each other even more. Many, most (all?) Muslim lands are conglomerations of multi-layered tribalism that are in constant bloody turmoil: we can’t keep up with their activities because they can’t. The only things we should be doing are making sure that any actual enemies are dealt with appropriately and any friends are rewarded. For example, given what was known about Al Qaeda and bin Laden already in the 90s, it is ridiculous that when Clinton had the chance to kill bin Laden, he didn’t. Play these tribes against each other so they stay splintered and weak and focused on each other: not us. Don’t worry about what they think of us, one of the world’s great nests of conspiracy theories is the Middle East. It doesn’t matter what we do, they’ll make up shit anyway, so do what we need to do.
Fifth, protect our Judeo-Christian heritage. Stop apologizing; there is nothing for which to apologize. You may roll your eyes but it’s what got us here today. And if you want to know just exactly how superior it is to all the other cultures of the world, then remember this: the whole rest of the world either emulates us or wants to move in with us, so clearly it’s something they’re not. That is, us. Moreover, the apologists and their ilk are the very reason we have so many Muslims: they were invited.
But what about something quick, impressive, and exploding? Meh. Take the political heat and don’t do anything. If the polcies above were (are!) implemented, the heat wouldn’t be that great. People would see we’re serious. OK, OK, and “a rain of cruise missiles with no apparent result” in Afghanistan and anyplace else we might think there were are terrorist bases. Or just people who sworn us to be enemies.
And finally, just because I’m at it, scale way, way, way back on the federal police forces and their alphabet soup agencies. (including those armed forces in federal agencies not usually thought of as needing arms). The idea is to design a set of policies and goals for a federal police force, if there must be one. Border security, federal crimes investigation, etc… I get it, we need these functions. But, for example, if we have a Coast Guard, do we really need a Border Patrol? Or a Customs? Or an FBI with a DEA? Or a CIA and a NSA? And bring back the old Dept of War. That’s what it is.
In short, there were things that Bush could’ve done. Less dramatic and less cathartic certainly, but much more useful and without any of the fairy-tale beliefs about creating a better, happier, friendlier Middle East with our friends the Muslims as a goal.