October 21, 2006

Winning the Peace

Bush is meeting with his generals today, and insists that they are only re-thinking the tactics to be used in the Iraq war, not re-assessing the overall strategy. That current strategy is to keep our young men and women in the middle of the fiasco, trying to mitigate against the violence until order suddenly springs from chaos. There are only two ways that chaotic societies like Iraq can become stable: through draconian oppression or through organic evolution. For example, Iraq itself had been stable under a ruthless monster of a dictator until we de-stabilized the society with our invasion. The only way that order can quickly be brought again to that chaos is through tough, restrictive laws that treat everyone as a potential criminal or terrorist. The alternative is necessarily a gradual approach, probably taking decades, where a fairer, more democratic stability could be achieved as everyone in Iraq begins to believes that prosperity and justice can be furthered better through peaceful means than through violence. What informs and undergirds a peaceful society is actually trust -- trust that your neighbor will interact with you fairly and consensually. This trust is not something that can be imposed from without. It grows organically, gradually inside each individual, as one generally begins to see the absence of injustice and coercion in his own everyday circumstances. Once this trust has been broadly established, it is actually difficult to destroy it. So, if our strategy is to mitigate the violence in Iraq such that this trust can increase to a self-sustaining critical mass of peace, we have a very long haul ahead of us. Bush's team may very well have understood all of this -- that it would take decades to build that stable, democratic Iraq. If so, they lied to us.