Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Wall Street Journal

Brett and I got a free subscription to the Wall Street Journal through some sort of frequent-flyer thing. She really wanted to get a newspaper so she could keep up with the...uh...news. The thing is, we're really New York Times people when you get right down to it. We don't have enough money to really be interested in most of what the Journal writes about.

The other thing is that I really like reading opinion pages. Mostly, the Times opinion pages (most of which I can't read for free on the web anymore.) So...here, on day 4 of our subscription, I got too mad not to write a letter to the editor.

This is in response to a vehemently pro-Bush, pro-war piece by George Melloan called, "Yes, Virginia, the U.S. has a War Strategy," in the Global View column.

The text of my letter:
George Melloan's take on the Bush doctrine and the administration's recent retread of its policies seemed forced and shrill to me. I believe that all of us understand the "Bush doctrine," and, for a long time, a great many of us supported it. The problem with Iraq is that it never truly fit into the doctrine; Iraq, one of the most secular states in the Middle East, was never home to as many jihadists as Lebanon or the Palestinian settlements. Saddam Hussein himself was indeed a sponsor of terrorism, but almost exclusively against Israel, which was, until Iraq's destabilization at our nation's hands, the nexus of terrorism attacks in the Middle East.

To see matters most clearly, compare the campaign in Iraq with that in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, American and NATO forces intervened against a regime which had been criticized repeatedly by nations around the world, even Islamic states, and which had a direct connection to terrorism. Despite the problems inherent to regime change, the world (and the citizens of Afghanistan) are better off because of that invasion.

I believe that more and more people are finding it hard to make a similar statement about Iraq. The invasion has destroyed the world-unifying momentum created by September 11th, eroded our nation's moral authority, and worst of all, inflicted terrible costs on the people of the Iraqi nation.

But how does this affect our strategy for rebuilding Iraq? In a sense, not at all. But at the same time, how can Iraqis forget the horrible casualties of the "shock and awe" campaign, experiences of midnight raids against innocent citizens because of bad intelligence, and the images of Americans playing cruel games with prisoners in Abu Ghraib?

The Wall Street Journal's opinion pages should take into account that, at least in the case of Iraq, the administration's thinking may be so deeply flawed that whatever strategy they promote cannot provide a solution.

Ethan Hartman
Napa, CA


I think when you get down to it, there are two basic problems with Iraq. First off, George II should have picked a different country from George I, even if they did try to kill his dad. Secondly, the idea of invading another nation to stop terrorism is really a stretch, I think. In addition to the moral issues about removing another country's right to self-determination, it's hard to argue that it's effective. 9/11 was done by like 20 guys, mostly Saudi. We're not invading them. The British subway bombings were done by Brits. I forget who did the Madrid train attacks, but I can remember one thing about them: not Iraqi. What's more, none of these were the army or defense forces of any country.

Terrorists are criminals: they are individuals who participate in a spectacular category of crime, and should be treated as such. They should be apprehended by criminal authorities, and tried with all the rights due to the accused. Sometimes there may be sensitive information in these cases, and only then should the record be closed.

Another thing: in The Front, the 1976 movie about the 1950's blacklists starring Woody Allen, there's a line from the investigator that I couldn't help but notice:
We're in a war, Mr. Brown.
Against a ruthless and tricky enemy
who will stop at nothing...
...to destroy our way of life.
This is, more or less, Bush's line about the terrorists, and if the McCarthyists used the same one, it must be pretty facile. It got me thinking, though -- what if it isn't our way of life that they hate, but when our country takes ill-considered and arrogant actions like, say, invading their country?
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