Five years of wingnuttery

Ned Ryun, former White House staffer and son of fmr. Rep. Jim Ryun, thinks Iraq is just like Germany:

The Dems think they?re going to really nail McCain on his 100 years of war in Iraq comment. Can I just say Germany, Korea . . . still there, folks. I would question why we?re still in Germany, but that?s besides the point. The point is that, for better or worse, when we come into a region to provide stability, many times that translates into dozens of years. So McCain was being realistic about Iraq. When you look at Germany and South Korea, they are still free nations and democracies. I have a feeling that we will do the same in Iraq: be there for dozens of years to help make it a stable, thriving democracy.

These same comparisons were used to sell the war also. It was going to be just like the occupation and reconstruction of Korea and Germany, except without the messy war beforehand. Five years later, we can judge that hypothesis to have been falsified. This doesn’t surprise most early opponents of the war, and apparently doesn’t register with its current supporters.

We’ll skip past the part where I wonder why Ned, a strapping young man who was 31 when the war in Iraq started, has passed up the chance to be part of the awesome experience of living in Iraq and helping it be just like Germany or South Korea. That’s between Ned and his own conscience. (And no, the fact that he’s got a wife and kids is no excuse. Plenty of the soldiers in Iraq are in the same boat, and there are plenty of grieving widows, widowers and orphans who wouldn’t know why that excuse should have worked for Ned and not their loved ones.)

Even if we skip past answers involving hypocrisy or cowardice, there are some pretty obvious and sensible reasons. Ned may have known, as did the war’s opponents, that the occupation of Iraq would not be an adventure in rose petals and cheap oil. Iraq is an ethnically divided nation with no political tradition of political liberalism to fall back on. Saddam Hussein systematically disassembled whatever national unity ever existed in Iraq, and it’s a state which colonial powers carved up in a way that maximized internal tension, so there wasn’t much to destroy. South Korea already had an established liberal democracy before North Korea invaded, and Germany had a tradition of constitutional democracy as well. Restoring or preserving a pre-existing system in a nation which recognizes its unity is far different from creating a nation and a government from scratch. As proofe, we need only look at our abject failure to create a successful government in Iraq, or to stop the civil war underway.

At this point, our military has been engaged in active military operations for longer than the declared war on Germany, and longer than active fighting in Korea. There’s no sign that the civil war in Iraq is winding down, or that American combat operations can be scaled back or stopped. Some might think that difference bears some significance.

When McCain talks about 100 years of war in Iraq, no one thinks he’s talking about 100 years of permanent bases and joint exercises with NATO allies, or even 100 years of patrolling a DMZ that functions as a lovely nature preserve. He’s talking about another 100 years of mortars blowing up mess tents, IEDs on roadsides, and American troops standing between warring religious sects, being killed by bullets meant to settle a conflict stretching back to the days shortly after Muhammad’s death. It may be hard for a political apparatchik in the GOP to see how that differs from Germany, but I assure you that voters see the difference, with only 6% supporting a US presence in Iraq for longer than 5 years.

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