In a January 10th speech, President Bush outlined his new plan to rescue Iraq from the bloody sectarian warfare that has gripped Baghdad since 2005. Bush’s plan calls for an additional 20,000 U.S. soldiers to be sent to Iraq to help quell the violence. His supporters are guardedly optimistic that the strategy can succeed. His critics say the plan is too little, too late.
There is a problem with the President’s plan, however that problem lies not with the strategy it proposes, but the goal at which it aims.
Why are American soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq? Is it in order to crush a dangerous enemy, as was our goal in World War II? No, says Bush. Our goal is to advance “liberty across a troubled region,” to help the people in the Middle East as they “raise up just and hopeful societies.” Our purpose in Iraq is not to defeat a threat but to ensure “the survival of a young democracy.” Bush has abandoned the goal of American victory for the goal of spreading democracy.
When Bush uses the term democracy, does he mean an American-style secular system that protects the individual’s right to life, liberty, and property-or does he mean a system in which the majority has the power to impose its desires on the minority? Bush answered that question himself. When asked what he would do if the people of the Middle East want to democratically elect Islamic theocracies ruled by Sharia law, he responded, “Democracy is democracy. If that’s what the people choose, that’s what the people choose.”
And that is what the Iraqis chose. Last year, they voted for a constitution that made Islam the supreme law of the land. The same occurred in other regions where the Bush administration actively encouraged democracy: Afghanistan’s new constitution enshrines Islamic law; the Palestinians voted for rule by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas; elections in Lebanon gave members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah seats in the Lebanese government.
Bush claims that by creating democracies in the Middle East, we are strengthening American security. But the truth is the opposite: the mission to spread democracy is making the United States less secure. And all the while, more and more of our brave soldiers are being slaughtered by the same Iraqis Bush has sent them to “liberate.”
Only willful blindness can enable Bush to maintain that democracy in Iraq will lead to American security. American security requires defeating political Islam, not encouraging it. Creating Middle Eastern democracies is not a means to Bush’s goal-it is his goal. And it is a goal he pursues at the expense of America’s security.
Nowhere is Bush’s disregard for American security more clear than in his policy regarding Iran. Iran is the father of political Islam and the chief source of the ideology of Islamic totalitarianism. The U.S. State Department has consistently identified it as the number one state sponsor of terrorism. A U.S. federal court ruled recently that the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1996, which killed nineteen U.S. servicemen, was authorized by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The Iranian government is committed to pursuing nuclear weapons, and it openly admits it is committed to destroying America’s ally, Israel. And, as Bush himself pointed out in his speech, Iran is helping to fund and arm the Iraqi insurgency, which has murdered thousands of U.S. soldiers.
A country that funds and arms terrorists, that funds and arms the Iraqi insurgents, that is openly trying to secure nuclear technology, and that is the main ideological source of totalitarian Islam is a country that is effectively in a state of war with America. If American security were one’s goal, then crushing the Iranian threat would be one’s chief aim. Yet Bush has taken no action against Iran-and assures us he has no plans to.
Bush’s policy of creating democracies is suicidal. But what political alternative is there to this suicide? The Democrats say that America needs to forget about achieving victory and get our soldiers out of Iraq as fast as possible. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommends that America admit its failure and implore Syria and Iran to help stop the violence in Iraq. Such “solutions” represent a policy of defeat. They leave unpunished and emboldened the insurgency that has murdered thousands of American soldiers, and do not address the wider threat of Islamic totalitarianism.
Neither the left nor the right offers us a strategy aimed at victory over our Islamist enemies. One side demands our troops be sent home in humble defeat-the other side demands they be sent home in body bags.
A strategy for victory in Iraq, and in the wider war against Islamic totalitarianism, must begin by rejecting Mr. Bush’s self-sacrificial goal of bringing democracy to the Middle East. It must make our first priority crushing the enemy-in Iraq, Iran, and in any other nation that threatens American security.
Mr. Wooden is a writer.