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American appeasement in Iraq

By Peter Schwartz
web posted April 12, 2004

As U.S. soldiers respond to attacks in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq, many commentators warn that a forceful, self-assertive campaign to wipe out the militant resistance would be disastrous. Disaster may indeed be looming -- but only because of a lack of self-assertiveness by the United States. We are inviting failure in Iraq, and in our overall war on terrorism, by conducting a campaign that is hopelessly apologetic and appeasing.

The Iraqis have long produced despotism. But instead of being morally confident in our right to establish a government that is no longer a threat to anyone -- Iraqi or American -- we are deferentially asking the Iraqis for permission to proceed. Afraid to offend them, we are reluctant to defend our interests and to uphold our values.

For example, we did not appoint the members of Iraq's Governing Council based on their commitment to freedom; instead, we sought ethnic and religious "diversity" in order to placate the tribal and political factions that dominate Iraq. The 25 members include: the secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party; the founder of the Kurdish Socialist Party; a member of Iraq's Hezbollah; and a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution -- a group, funded by and partly founded by Iran, advocating an Islamic theocracy.

Is this an assemblage that is going to create a free Iraq?

An Iraqi militant with a rocket launcher, left, fires at US forces in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in this image made from televisionon April 8
An Iraqi militant with a rocket launcher, left, fires at US forces in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in this image made from televisionon April 8

To assuage the United Nations, we are asking for its aid in postwar Iraq. Is it conceivable that this organization -- which helped keep Saddam Hussein in power and whose membership includes the world's bloodiest tyrants -- could lead Iraq to freedom?

On the military front, our soldiers face continuing attacks, but political considerations prevent us from disarming the populace. Attendees at funerals and weddings regularly fire automatic weapons, as their means of "emotional expression." We are at war, but our military planners apparently believe that a methodical, house-to-house search for guns -- let alone a disarming of private "militias" in Fallujah and elsewhere -- would be too "intrusive." Iraqis -- again, brandishing automatic weapons -- stage public demonstrations designed to incite violence against us. Yet none are arrested, presumably because we don't want to be regarded as overly assertive.

This same, self-effacing policy is being practiced in Afghanistan, where the problem of "offended local sensibilities" -- as a recent N.Y. Times article describes it -- has led our policymakers to transform our soldiers into goodwill ambassadors, "whose focus is less on capturing terrorists than on winning public support."

Is it surprising that the Taliban appears to be successfully regrouping?

In logic and in justice, there is only one means of "winning public support," in Afghanistan or Iraq: eradicating every trace of the former enslavers. If that is not sufficient, then the support is not worth gaining. Our only concern should be toward those who value freedom enough to recognize the inestimable benefit our troops have given them. As to all the others -- they need not like us, only fear us.

In Iraq we started by apologizing for our presence, when our invading soldiers were ordered to jeopardize their lives rather than risk harming civilians or damaging mosques. We have deposed Hussein -- but we are still apologizing. We are unwilling to ask Iraqis to bear the costs of their liberation. We are endorsing the very statism we are supposed to be overthrowing as we permit the Iraqi government to own the oil supplies and to remain in the coercive OPEC cartel. We are appeasing the Shiite clerics who regard us as the infidel enemy. This conciliatory attitude only emboldens the enemy, thereby encouraging resistance and inviting disaster.

Upon ousting the governments of Germany and Japan in World War II, we did not proceed on tiptoe. We did not express regret at having to stop traffic, search homes and shoot fleeing suspects. We were morally certain -- certain that their system was wrong and ours right, certain that their system threatened us and needed to be eliminated. As a result, the enemy was eventually demoralized, allowing freedom to take root. The identical approach should be adopted now.

In postwar Japan, it was Gen. Douglas MacArthur who unilaterally drafted a new constitution -- over the objections of many Japanese -- and paved the way for a radical shift from tyranny to liberty. Emulating MacArthur, by imposing upon Iraq a U.S.-written constitution that champions the principle of individual rights, including the separation of mosque and state, would be an ideal means of asserting our interests -- along with the interests of those Iraqis who genuinely value freedom.

Peter Schwartz, editor and contributing author of Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution by Ayn Rand, is chairman of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Copyright © 2004 Ayn Rand® Institute, 2121 Alton Parkway, Suite 250, Irvine, CA, 92606. All rights reserved.

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