Catch a tiger by the tail and never let it go

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    From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

    The U.S. victory in Iraq poses that great question every tiger hunter must ultimately face. Once you’ve caught the tiger by the tail, just what do you do with it?

    You can’t let go of the tiger because if you do, it could very well turn around and eat you, or at least anyone else in the vicinity.

    You can drag it to a cage and shove it in, but you can bet if you do, you’re going to have one very unhappy and potentially dangerous tiger; you’d better be prepared to feed and take care of it, and, most of all, watch it to make sure it never gets out.

    You can shoot it, but if that is what we intended all along, why go through the trouble of catching it?

    You can declaw it (except in Malibu), feed and pamper it until it grows fat and lazy, and loses interest in causing any more trouble. Or, you can throw it in a cage with a bunch of other tigers, equally as dangerous, and let them spend their energy eyeing each other suspiciously, and occasionally tearing each other up.

    We have the same set of choices available to us in Iraq because we have caught the proverbial tiger by the tail. Even though it is absolutely embarrassing that we can’t seem to find any weapons of mass destruction, I think most Americans still think the war was a good idea.

    For one thing, we have sort of let the world of the Middle East know we are very serious about people attacking us. And, encouraging or abetting terrorists in their battle against the U.S. is a very poor policy for any nation to pursue. This is a definite plus for us-all we had to do was cock an eyebrow at Syria and the country suddenly became very agreeable.

    It’s true that many in the Middle East now think that Bush 43 (George W.) is a despot, but so what? Most Middle Easterners already live in a world populated by either secular or religious despots, and despite all this talk about the Arab Streets, I don’t see that the streets have done much to get rid of any of those despots. My guess is, their view of an American despot-enormously powerful, capricious and unpredictable, weaving plots-is fairly consistent with everything they already believe about the world of power politics, so why let it upset us that they may not think we’re being democratic?

    The truth is, democracy has no place in the Middle East right now. That doesn’t mean it might not in time, but for now, it’s meaningless.

    Just think of the things that are required in a Western-style democracy:

    • First, the majority rules, but there are limits on what that entitles them to do.
    • The majority simply can’t vote to kill the minority, lock them up or just get rid of them because they find them disagreeable. Does anyone believe, given the opportunity in Iraq, the Shiites wouldn’t get rid of the Sunni or the Kurds?
    • In a democracy, a minority has the right to become a majority. They usually do it by putting together a coalition. For example, in Iraq, perhaps the Kurds and the Sunni, and some sects of the Shiites, could cobble together a majority coalition to take power. Does anyone really think that wouldn’t start an ethnic or religious war?
    • In a democracy, if the majority loses an election, it steps aside and the new majority takes over and organizes a new government. They can’t arrest the opposition, prosecute them for past sins (with some relatively minor exceptions), confiscate their property, or prohibit them from future opportunities to get back into power. In other words, the rules stay the same. None of that applies in the Middle East, and, at the rate they’re going, it won’t apply for a few hundred more years. For several hundred years Catholics and Protestants killed each other with abandon, and I suspect the same would happen in the Middle East.
    • In Western democracies, the armies are politically neutral and supposedly nonpolitical, although some might challenge that today. In the Middle East, the armies appear to be tribal, ethnic and very much involved in the political process. There doesn’t seem to be much of a concept of the nation state, and serving that state.

    So let’s be blunt. Despite the entire PR we’ve put out, we didn’t liberate Iraq for democracy. We conquered Iraq. It is true, in the process we rid the world of one very nasty SOB, but we did it for our own reasons, which I’m still trying to figure out. And I suspect we’re going to rule Iraq pretty much the way every conqueror has always ruled. We’ll help create a government with all the opposing groups in it, and then we’ll play all of them against each other. It’s really not such a bad thing because if we don’t do that, they’d be killing each other in short order, which is one of the reasons they need our troops to keep the peace. We’ll also take some of that oil money and see that it really does get to the population because, as I said earlier, we want to make sure they stay pampered and well fed.

    In time, they’ll develop some democratic institutions that actually function, and they’ll kick us out. Or, more likely, we’ll agree to leave, but I’m guessing it’s going to take longer than anyone is predicting. Until then, the job is going to be tough.