Thursday, September 11, 2003

The War: Scoring America's progress since 9/11

The Patriots for the Defense of America have released a scathing scorecard on the progress of the war, giving the Bush Administration’s efforts a D+.

Contrary to the leading pro-war voices, we will find that on many important fronts, American policy is failing miserably. Contrary to those who characterize America’s war as overly aggressive or unilateral, we will argue that the war has hardly begun. And contrary to those who argue that war is anathema to morality, we will argue that at root, the American reluctance to commit fully to war stems from a failure of moral clarity.
I agree. Despite a clunky grading methodology (the Patriots acknowledge that questions of life and death can not be graded on a five-part scale, but employ it nevertheless) their report offers several astute observations. I found this point on the administration’s Iraqi reconstruction efforts to be perhaps the most salient:

[I]t is not the rebuilding of Iraqi economic infrastructure, but the rebuilding of a government charged with the protection of Iraqi lives and property that should be a concern for American occupiers. As recent attacks on oil pipelines have demonstrated, insurgents will destroy any rebuilt infrastructure in the attempt to foil American success. It is the insurgents, then, who need to be targeted by a strong, American-led, military government. It was wrong to portray the Iraq war by the moniker “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” because its aim should have been to protect American lives. But if we intend to stay in Iraq, it is a government protecting Iraqi freedom that will be required, not one concerned with the impossible and undesirable task of creating and running a centrally planned economy.
This point reminds me that historically, the Marshall Plan is overrated. While it is remembered for providing American funds for the reconstruction of Europe, what is forgotten was the importance of the American-led effort to reconstruct German political institutions in allied control and the importance of NATO. The Marshall Plan applied to East Germany would have born no fruit.

The Patriots are also critical of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war in Afghanistan.

From the beginning, the United States chose to fight a proxy war in Afghanistan, by exploiting the assistance of the Northern Alliance, rather than taking direct military control of Afghan territory. The inevitable result of this policy has been continued control of the vast majority of the country by a hodge-podge of warlords. This has meant that the pro-American Karzai government controls little beyond the region of Kabul. It has meant that warlords have been free to oppose the central government, fight among themselves, and permit the presence of terrorist groups often under the influence of foreign powers. Examples of this last include the resistance of the Iranian-linked forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in western Afghanistan, and the continued infiltration of Taliban forces into southern Afghanistan from Pakistan.
The Patriots go on further to examine US policy in Iran, North Korea, which either have or are on the threshold of having nuclear weapons, and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Palestine, all breeding grounds of terrorism, as well as questions surrounding our military readiness and dealings with the UN and other nations.

The lesson of 9/11 is that the US can ill afford to underestimate the threats arrayed against it. Yet despite two years passing since the attacks, the US remains adrift with an ad hoc foreign policy without coherent theme or execution. Islamic theocracy and communist dictatorships still continue to threaten American safety. Both are animated by the use of brutal force to achieve their ends. The American response ought to be unequivocal—we must see every threat before us and refuse to yield in the face of it. Ultimately, this is a question of moral clarity, a clarity that at this point, America seems to lack.

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