I’m going to start with the war in Iraq because, in most people’s minds, it’s the overriding issue in the world today – it is the elephant in the room and it’s almost as if we can’t talk about anything else without discussing this. Everyone from the pundits and politicians to the average Joe on the street has his idea of what we should do about Iraq and they expect me to have mine – but the only honest thing anyone can say about it is that we really don’t know.
Iraq is a country worn down by religious and ethnic conflict, decades of rule by a brutal (US backed) dictator, several years of harsh (US imposed) sanctions, poverty and war (not to mention sixty centuries of violent history behind it all). We stuck our oily military-industrial tentacles into this stew and the result so far has been three thousand Americans dead, up to six hundred thousand Iraqis dead, and a heap of chaos so complex that no person sane, insane, genius or dimwit could wrap his head around it. It’s like that game Jenga where you take turns pulling blocks out of a tower until the whole thing falls down – the US invasion was the final block – and now there are dozens of groups trying to rebuild the country in their own image mostly from afar and often by destroying what the others have built.
There is no straight-forward answer to this problem; so many variables are involved that any proposed solution is going to have substantial flaws and will probably end up causing more harm than good. Like trying to calm a pool of water by pounding it with a sledge hammer, you can’t help but create more waves. The US may have some responsibility to help since we are largely to blame for their current situation, however, it is the Iraqi people who know best how to solve their problems (click here for more on that) and sooner or later we are going to have to get out of their way so they can do it. In other words we can offer assistance and support but not solutions. Ultimately, we will all have to accept the fact that we don’t know what’s best for Iraq and, despite all of our planning and analysis, things won’t end up the way we want.