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Why attacking Iraq made sense

A woman living in East Vail sent me an e-mail asking, “If all Middle East countries that harbor terrorists were responsible for 9/11, why did we invade Iraq?” The following is my reply:Dear Gail, let’s first frame this issue within its proper context. The name “War on Terror” is a gross misnomer. The true and accurate designation for this conflict should be the War against Militant Islam because terrorism is not an enemy – terrorism is a tactic. We didn’t fight kamikaze-ism in the Pacific during World War II. We fought the Japanese, who used kamikaze tactics as a weapon. Second, this is an asymmetric war, which requires an asymmetric strategy. So the real question isn’t how do we stop the tactic (terrorism), but rather how do we eliminate the militant Islamists who use terrorism as a weapon? Deductive reasoning tells us that to eliminate a condition, we must first eliminate its cause. But how does civilized society put an end to the Middle Eastern social milieu of poverty, hopelessness and despair (the root causes of militant Islam) and replace it with a culture of hope and opportunity?To answer that question we must first look at the realities of the region. With the exception of oil, Middle Eastern nations contribute little of value to society as a whole. The sad truth is that the Middle East ceased being a contributing region of the world sometime around the 8th century, when mosque and state were combined. A similar theocratic dynamic occurred during the Spanish Inquisition, when the Catholic Church was the power behind the Spanish throne. Italy and France flourished during the Renaissance, while Spain with no separation between church and state was mired in persecution and oppression.Third, for hundreds of years the West didn’t care much about a bunch of Arabs in the desert until oil became the most precious commodity on earth during the middle of the 20th century. But by then, years of internecine feuding among Islamic sects, with its attendant social stagnation, had already taken its toll.That’s the situation we’re dealing with – so how do we resolve it? Allow me to make use of an analogy: Gangs are a small and dark aspect of our society. To the average person living in Sarasota, Des Moines or East Vail, a gang is a gang is a gang. But to the members of the Crips, Bloods and Latin Disciples, they are as different as night and day. Same with militant Islamic sects. Only local communities can clean up their neighborhoods, and gangs will flourish in South-Central LA and East St. Louis until the citizens of those communities eliminate the problem themselves. Doubling the number of police in those neighborhoods won’t make the streets any safer, just as a million troops in the Middle East won’t stop terrorism until the Arab world chooses to eliminate it themselves. In other words, grass-roots problems require grass-roots solutions. But most Middle Eastern governments are similar to spoiled “trust-funders” inasmuch as they’ve never had to actually pro duce anything because their wealth (oil) was given to them by the caprice of nature. As a result, these governments have been unwilling to redress their problems, i.e., a burgeoning population of angry and uneducated young males, few jobs, a paucity of human rights and the oppression of women.Then came 9/11. While Iraq didn’t attack us, at least three militant Islamic sects had already declared war on us beginning 25 years ago in Tehran, with the unequivocal promise of more horrific attacks in the future. Those realities led to the doctrine that the most certain way to defeat militant Islam as an ideology was to change the culture of the region to one where such atrocities and affronts to civilized society were unacceptable. Initiating democratic reform was chosen as the strategy to accomplish this. The U.S. and the coalition could have invaded any number of countries in the region to start the process. But Iraq was the best (albeit less than perfect) choice because Saddam Hussein was reviled by the world, he openly sponsored terrorism, he paid suicide bombers thousands of dollars to kill innocent civilians, he flouted 14 U.N. resolutions, and his human rights violations were egregious.Also, because Iraq was the most secular of Arab societies, it was widely accepted that its people would embrace democratic reforms more readily than other Arab nations. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, every major intelligence agency in the world believed Saddam had or would soon possess weapons of mass destruction that could be handed off to terrorists. Simply stated, Saddam gave the world numerous defendable reasons to topple his government.We must also remain cognizant that our enemies are clever strategists, and part of their strategy was to leave us with NO STRATEGY to fight them. The last thing Osama bin Laden bargained for was George Bush responding to the 9/11 attacks by removing the totalitarian regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and allowing the seeds of freedom and democracy to take root. Bin Laden hoped the American response to 9/11 would be more feckless expressions of outrage or that we would lash out and start a holy war in the region, which is exactly what would have happened if we attacked every country that harbored terrorists.War is always ghastly. As a veteran who has experienced combat first hand, I wish there was an easier way to fight this 21st Century horror. But endless rounds of condemnation and ineffective censure by the U.N. won’t win a war that must be won. Only action will. I have yet to hear of a viable alternative to the course the president has chosen.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.netVail, Colorado


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