"The Cost of Freedom"
Fellow sub-blogger Rob and I often disagree about the war in Iraq, and this is another one of those times. In a recent post, Rob respectfully took issue with another mil-blogger's statement that:
"I know that we are fighting here, not only to preserve our own freedoms, but to establish those same freedoms for the people of Iraq. It makes my stomach ache to think that we are helping to preserve free speech in the US, while the media uses that freedom to try to RIP DOWN the President and our morale, as US Soldiers."
Rob responds thusly:
"Iraq has nothing to do with preserving American freedoms. Our soldiers in Iraq are not preserving free speech for us. The invasion and occupation of Iraq have nothing to do with our security or freedom here at home. If we were talking about Afghanistan, I'd buy it. See, Afghanistan is where the group that actually threatened our security by carrying out the 9/11 attacks was based. They weren't in Iraq, until we went in and made Iraq a terrorist magnet."
As Rob disagreed with SGT Long, I respectfully disagree with Rob. Despite the historical revisionism of the left, there were actually several reasons to open an Iraqi theater in the Global War on Terror (discussed eloquently by Steven den Beste here, and less eloquently by me here and here.) Note: If you're one of those who think the only reasons the Administration ever gave for war were WMDs, please read the texts of President Bush's Sept 2002 speech to the UN and 2003 State of the Union address.
I believe wholeheartedly that our mission is Iraq in inextricably tied to defending our freedoms at home. The War on Terror (or, if you don't like going to war against an "idea", The War On Those Who Seek To Re-establish The Caliphate By Use Of Terror) will last a long time; the Iraqi theater, in my opinion, is only the second front of many more to come. Rob implies that there's something wrong with making Iraq into a terrorist magnet; I believe that it's better to kill those people who need killing over there, rather than having even 1 out of a thousand of them come here to attack us, as they would possibly do otherwise. That's how we're defending free speech; by fighting our enemies away from our shores, we can mitigate the need to curtail civil liberties at home -- and if you don't believe that could happen, I guarantee that if we have another major attack on American soil, you'll see Democrats joining Republicans in passing restrictions that would put the Patriot Act to shame. And you know what? If we hadn't gone into Iraq, we'd still be under threat from terrorists seeking to attack us at home. Now, though, maybe our resolve will convince some terrorist leaders that the price they'll pay for attacking the U.S. is too high (you attack us, we'll take out the government that supported you, plus another government that might support you in the future.)
Or maybe not. In any event, we're learning more about what works when fighting war in the 21st century. We've learned not to stack prisoners into pyramids, because the American public won't stand for it. We've learned that you need better plans for the period after "major combat operations" are over. We've learned that there are some allies we can trust, and others we can't. We've learned that the American body politic isn't ready to support some of those actions required to show the terrorist leaders that we really mean business -- yet. All these lessons will come in handy next year... or in five years... or in fifteen years, when we have to open the next theater in the war.
And hopefully, because of the men and women sacrificing so much in Iraq, that new front won't be the American theater.