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July 13, 2005

What Price Freedom?

What have we got for our money? Via Beltway Blogroll comes word that Rep. Diane Watson, a California Democrat, counts the cost.

I think $200 billion for peace and democracy is worth it if we had something to show for it. But we haven't gotten peace and democracy. Instead, the $200 billion has bought us

* Over seventeen hundred Americans killed, more than 13, 000 wounded, and an unknowable number of Iraqi civilian deaths;
* A dysfunctional country that cannot move its political process forward;
* A new haven and proving ground for anti-American extremism;
* An insurgency in Iraq that has not diminished;
* A wellspring of mistrust from longtime friends and allies around the world;
* And a devastating erosion of American leadership and credibility.

Liberals like to throw money at a problem and expect it to go away. Likewise, Rep. Watson seems to think that throwing money at Iraq hasn't brought any of that, so we should cut and run. It's all a money issue. Well, it's not.

First of all, to be honest, the cost is higher than that. She alludes to it in her first bullet point, but frames it in a way to suggest that the $200 billion "bought" those casualties. That's a pretty cold-hearted view of those lives. Actually, those lives are part of the price. Is it worth it?

Did it buy peace? I guess if you think "peace" is simply the "absence of war", no, it didn't. But if you think mass graves and rape rooms are components of a country at "peace", I'd have to take a strong stand against your definition. The war's not over yet, true, but Iraqis are already seeing the benefits of being freed from under a murderous dictator. That's part of what has been bought.

Did it by democracy? I really can't think of a convoluted definition of "democracy" that would exclude what's going on in Iraq today. Instead of a dictator who represented the minority and gassed those who opposed him, you have a government that is working out its own way through debate rather than arms. It may not be moving as fast as Rep Watson would like, but it's still in its infancy, for goodness sake. Democracies don't spring up fully grown overnight in countries that have been ruled with an iron fist for generations.

Is Iraq a haven for terrorists? Yes, but it was that way long before we showed up. Abu Nidal, anyone? Cash rewards to families of suicide bombers? Not to mention that there is evidence of Abu Musab al Zarqawi taking advantage of the safe haven that Iraq provided before the Iraq war. Further examples of Iraq being a terrorist haven can be found here. We didn't "buy" this; it was there when we came, and at least now someone's working to eradicate it.

Have we lost the trust of allies and reduced our credibility? Well, if you're talking about losing the trust of France, who was doing secret, back-door oil deals with Hussein prior to the war, I'd say their reluctance to help out had more to do with that than any loss of trust. The Oil-for-PalacesFood program removed more credibility from those involved. If you're talking about the pre-war WMD intelligence being wrong, everybody was equally wrong about that, even those who now call Bush a "liar".

What Rep. Watson ignores are how much better, in general, the lives of the Iraqi people are. The good news from Iraq hardly hits the airwaves in its proper proportion. Just ask Arthur Chrenkoff, who recounts good news from Iraq and Afghanistan. There's a boatload of good to show for it, in addition to a fledgling democracy that she'd rather discount than encourage.

It's very true that the clean-up after the toppling of Hussein and installation of a democracy is taking longer than anyone would like. This is largely because of imported terrorists like Zarqawi trying to terrorize, not just the coalition, but the Iraqis themselves to scare them into renouncing this new government. So far, however, the political process is moving forward. Key milestones have been hit on time, bombings and assassinations notwithstanding. The prosperity of the nation is on the rise, sabotage by terrorists notwithstanding.

Yes, the price is high. The price of freedom always, always is. Be thankful that Rep. Watson wasn't around to decide whether or not to go to war against King George. If she'd gotten her way then, we'd still be a British colony. The cost in lives was much higher, but it was worth the price, don't you think?

Posted by Doug at July 13, 2005 02:10 PM

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I very much agree with this post. I was thinking about the same issue when I heard about all the billions or $ that the G8 had decided was going to solve Africa's problems. That's the modus operandi of these days, if there's a problem... the answer is more money. I'm sure good will come of the money going into Africa but as we've once again seen in Iraq its usually not as easy as throwing money around. In the economy of human life, the issues are cultural, philosophical, and emotional... not just a lack of funds.

Posted by: Scott at July 14, 2005 04:07 PM