Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates penned an op-ed this week to say it's time to negotiate "a basic framework for normalized relations with the Iraqi government." This, they wrote, will "set the basic parameters for the U.S. presence in Iraq," which must extend past 2008 "for progress in stabilizing Iraq to continue."
Has the administration's policy of "surge till they (Iraqis) merge" changed to "keep surging because they're not merging"? Unclear. At the same time, the new framework they envision will not set troop levels, make security commitments or authorize permanent bases in Iraq -- "something neither we nor Iraqis want," they added.
Me neither. U.S. forces should not ordinarily be engaged in nation-building -- sorry, nation-stabilizing -- nor should they ever be engaged in Sharia-nation-stabilizing, which is my core problem with our overall strategy in constitutionally Sharia-supreme Iraq as well as constitutionally Sharia-supreme Afghanistan (not to mention the constitutionally Sharia-supreme Palestinian Authority), but that's another column.
Meanwhile, Rice and Gates are calling for more of the same -- for U.S. "help" to fight Al Qaeda, develop Iraq's security forces and halt Iranian interference. After that? They write: "In addition, we seek to establish a basic framework for a strong relationship with Iraq, reflecting our shared political, economic, cultural and security interests."
If your next question is, "What 'shared' political, economic, cultural and security interests?" I second it. The only unanimous expression of Iraqi political will I know of was a parliamentary vote in favor of Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel. Economically speaking, Iraq is not only an increasingly enthusiastic OPEC player, it enforces the Arab boycott on Israel. And when it comes to "common" cultural interests, Iraq is, as mentioned above, a Sharia-supreme state where one writer was recently found guilty of "blasphemy." Given the Shiism Iraq shares with nuke-seeking Iran, how many security interests does that leave us in common?
Not that many. Maybe this accounts for the secretaries' flat tone of understatement regarding a U.S.-Iraq future. It certainly speaks to my own concern that when we finally walk away from "democratic" Iraq, we are unlikely to leave behind a staunch U.S. ally. If -- when? -- this comes to pass, what lessons will we take away?
Frankly, the same lessons we should have taken into Iraq. Writing in the winter 2007-08 issue of The Objective Standard, John David Lewis offers an illuminating analysis of another U.S. occupation, this one thoroughly successful, in Japan (1945-1952). President Bush, of course, frequently refers to the democratization of Japan as a model for the democratization of Iraq (and the wider Islamic Middle East). But, as Lewis' must-read essay makes historically clear, the president has been comparing apples and oranges.
It isn't just that the total defeat and utter devastation of Japan nullifies the comparison with Iraq (which it does). There is something else. There is the completely different U.S. approach to Japan's animating, warlike state religion of Shintoism, which, not incidentally, bears striking similarities to the animating, warlike state religion of Islam.
In 1945, our government was of one mind regarding state Shintoism. Lewis quotes Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, who wrote: "Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese, is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and as a measure enforced from above by the government, is to be done away with. ... There will be no place for Shintoism in the schools. Shintoism as a state religion -- National Shinto, that is -- will go. ... Our policy on this goes beyond Shinto. ... The dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology in any form will be completely suppressed."
And it was, with fabulous results.
Obviously, there have been no analogous U.S. efforts to "de-jihadize" Islamic public culture even as the United States has spent lives, limbs, money and years trying, essentially, to stop the jihad in the Islamic Middle East -- not even, to take a manageable example, in the U.S.-funded Palestinian Authority, where state-run media continue to incite Islamically motivated violence against Jews and Americans. And then there are all those U.S.-fostered constitutions that enshrine Sharia law -- just the sort of ideological concession our forebears would never have made.
Bottom line? History shows that the conditions that drove the model transformation of Japan do not exist today with regard to the Islamic Middle East. We're going to need another strategy -- for starters, an immigration policy and new laws to halt the creep of Sharia -- to ward off the Islamization of the West.