Here’s a question for you: rounded to the nearest kilo, how many troops have died in Iraq? Two thousand, as we all know. Here’s another: How many more hours of electricity does the average Iraqi home get now than under Saddam? Don’t know? Then how many democratically elected members of the interim Iraqi parliament are there? Still nothing? How many Iraqi businesses have started up since the end of the war? Not even an estimate?
It’s not that you’re stupid; it’s just that here in the United States we’re only treated to a body count – a cost/benefit analysis minus the benefit. The number of bombings and when, where, and how many are dead, irrespective of any larger sense of the situation, is considered “news,” rather than what it is: an inert and unexamined statistic.
For example, most of the violence in Iraq is in the Sunni areas. The Wall Street Journal editorial page maintains that the Dinar is stable and real estate is becoming competitive. Immigration into the country is positive. The rate of attacks on troops has decreased and Iraqi security almost entirely oversaw the recent election in which Iraqis, even Sunnis, overwhelmingly participated. Context, perhaps?
Given this progress, the push to quit in Iraq is disturbing. The media is heralding the upcoming ‘2,000-dead” mark as if our ten-based decimal system has metaphysical significance, rather than being an arbitrary cultural invention. Forget that army reenlistment in Iraq (yes, voluntary) is among the highest in the army. It seems many Americans don’t care about such facts. Iraq has been officially labeled a quagmire by the powers that be, and this may turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once people have accepted a venture as failed, they don’t invest in it the resources necessary for its success. Whether it’s conservative isolationists or liberal neo-Marxists, the pressure to withdraw early threatens to destroy Iraq’s progress for want of a little more.
Maybe Iraq would continue becoming a liberal democracy without U.S. help, as its prospective constitutions aims. But perceptions are important, and it’s doubtful the average Shiite or Kurd really believes Iraq will succeed once abandoned by the U.S. And with the American deterrent removed, the Sunni and foreign terrorists will probably have the impunity to start that ever-postponed ‘civil war’ naysayers have been predicting since 2003.
After World War II, the U.S. rebuilt Germany and Japan for almost a decade. In Vietnam, 58,000 American lives were lost with none of the progress we’ve seen in Iraq. We obviously don’t share that bygone stamina, but more unfortunately, we also don’t appear to share the same faith in democracy. If Iraq fails, the next wars with foreign enemies will have none of that altruistic spirit; we’ll shoot to kill enemies, then leave the nations ruined, remembering our doomed, previous attempts at democratic reform. I hope the opponents of the democratizing campaign in Iraq reflect on how much their bad-faith arguments may cost the world. Iraq must succeed – and to do that, we must remember the progress we have made. After all, if a bomb kills 10 people, but everybody still votes in the election a day later, who’s really winning the fight?
Paul Jones is a junior political science major.