This is a long one. Forewarned is forearmed.
I begin by noting that I'm a monarchist.
Well, that's not precisely correct; it's no more accurate than saying I'm a theocrat, an oligarchist, a republican, a democrat, a plutocrat, or even a certain kind of fascist. What I am is someone who does not believe that government needs to be responsive to the people it governs; rather, it needs to be the government to which the people consent. Thus, as I once remarked offhandedly, I'm not opposed to theocracy per se; I'm only opposed to it insofar as it is not the form of government to which its people have consented. Calvin's Geneva, while predictably awful, was legitimate. Based on how the Iranians act, their government is legitimate. The iron test is not voting or some other positive means of assent (although that is a useful measure); a mere negative test, i.e., a lack of a sufficiently large insurgency or insurrection, is sufficient to make the point.
There are certain forms of government, however, which no matter how legitimate, are simply unacceptable, and must be brought down by all means necessary, either because of the human toll they inflict on their own citizenry; because of the dangers they pose to others; or more often than not, both. Thus, the Soviet Union. Thus, Hitler's brand of fascism (but maybe not Mussolini's). Thus, frankly, whatever it is that Kim Jong-Il is running in North Korea, and the People's Republic of China. And, thus, Saddam Hussein's regime.
I'm not going to bother proving all of that; that would result in a thousand irrelevant discussions that step past where this is going. My essential point is that I generally subscribe to the idea that men should be able to sentence themselves to Hell if they so desire, but that we are our brother's keeper when other men are sending them to Hell on Earth. The government of Saudi Arabia, while repellant on a number of levels, appears to be a fairly consented-to one, and for all their small-level atrocities, they don't aim high; as such, it's not our problem. Hussein, by contrast, not only reveled in the little tortures that made his life bearable, he was unapologetic in his view that the rest of the immediate area belonged to him, and he was willing to get it.
Thus, whether or not he had weapons of mass destruction, he regularly tortured his own for fun; he invaded other countries; he undermined the much-ballyhooed sanctions regime to the point where it was a mockery of our power and the power of the (heh) international community; he gassed, he shot, he murdered en masse; and let's be frank, one way or another, he would have had a nuke pointed at us or Israel or both at some point.
Suffice it to say that I have and had no quibble with eliminating that psychopath once and for all.
I'd go a bit farther, in fact: Although I had and have serious doubts about its ability to work, I'm entirely comfy with giving a run at "planting" democracy in Iraq. The reason is because such an idea is, counterintuitively, profoundly conservative -- or more accurately, its impetus is.
My good friend Paul Cella is fond of saying that the Iraq War is a profoundly unconservative one; indeed, he goes so far as to say that it is Liberal. We disagree on this point because the most fundamental Conservative insight is that men are entirely fallible, and keep making the same mistakes again and again. Recognizing those past mistakes, and trying to avoid them (while realizing that your chances are slight), is one of the most conservative activities possible.
We did the Realpolitik thing in the Middle East starting with FDR and one of the original al-Sauds. The net result was despotism unchecked, constant war with Israel, mass murder, theocracy (frequently preferable to the only alternative on the ground), terrorism, inflated oil prices, war unyielding, and, finally, thousands dead on our shores.
The belief that continuing that path would yield a different result is the classic definition of madness. It is not conservative; it is insane.
I add that a very good reason to try what we did is that there are no really new events in history; and one of the great lessons of history is that when a superpower gets punched in the nose, it generally responds with a massacre of whoever was dumb enough to take that swing. Quite simply, while I love my countrymen dearly, I'm not convinced that one nuke floated into Baltimore Harbor would not produce an undeniable demand to turn the Middle East -- and the millions of innocent men, women, and children living there -- into a shiny, well-irradiated parking lot. And if we didn't try something different soon -- I believe this to be the key Bush insight -- then that parking lot was in the undeniable future.
As a Christian, I'm also compelled to note that recognizing that we are our brother's keeper is sort of entrenched as a 2,000 year old teaching, which sounds suspiciously conservative to me.
But all of this is beside the point, now. And it's because of the consent of the governed.
All of the calls for a "Sherman style" general who will ride roughshod over the Iraqi insurgency are pointless. All of the calls not to "cut and run" are irrelevant. We lost the Iraq War last week, because we, as Americans, elected to lose.
I know, I know. The Democrats say they won't "cut and run." Some manner of Republicans, embracing the belief that hope can triumph over experience, believe them, and, showing signs of early madness, suggest that the Democrats don't dare cut and run.
This is foolishness of the first order, and I would respectfully submit that the American people are not so stupid as that. The Democrats' unabashed foreign policy platform since Nixon first pasted them on a Presidential run has been "no American wars." They don't hide it. They got elected en masse in 1974 when Americans knew (or should have known) that the Democrats would abandon the South Vietnamese to mass slaughter and gulags. They made no secret of their positions, and if Americans thought they were repaying the GOP for Nixon, they assuredly didn't care that they were condemning millions to death and torture. The most bellicose Democrat President since 1968 couldn't bring himself to put troops on the ground if there was any chance that their blood would flow. While it's fair to say that the Democrats haven't exactly articulated any meaningful plan with regard to Iraq, they weren't required to do so; they did what any good opposition political party would, and simply stomped their feet and said the opposite of the party in charge. And what they said, removed from all the pretty dressing, was "cut and run." Or redeploy somewhere five thousand miles away. Something like that.
And the American people heard them. Oh, we can sit here and come up with dozens of reasons why the GOP lost last week, and God knows I have a nasty post just waiting to share my thoughts; but at the most basic level, whatever other motivations voters had when they went to the polls, they knew -- or if they had active brain cells, which the overwhelming majority do, should have known -- that every time they pulled the lever for a Democrat, they voted to run tucktail.
In other words, there will be no March to the Sea Through Sadr City. There will be no vicious ground campaign. There will be no long-term assistance to the Iraqi government, even though they seem to want it, because the American people have had enough. Pretending otherwise is for the politicians. Eventually, we will have a point where the popularly elected Democrats in Congress put forth a budget with no appropriations for the war in Iraq. The popularly elected (through the electoral college) President will either sign it, or he will shut down the government. George W. Bush will not shut down the government.
We are basically looking at a situation where black has a queen, a rook, and its king, and white is left with only its king, and we're watching just to see if black is competent enough to steamroll white into checkmate without stalemating him first.
One of our best commenters is fond of predicting the decline of the Pax Americana, and the rise of India and China. I have often disagreed with him, but for a very limited reason: India may or may not rise, but China's doom is written on the wall. Anyone reading through my comment exchanges with him will note that I never say it is because I expect America to continue prevailing of its own weight. Roughly half of our country would be perfectly at home in Europe, if Europe offered the same amenities. They do not have more than one or at most two children. They favor heavy government intervention, relatively high taxation, forced preservation of land that isn't theirs, socially liberal policies, and European bloodlessness to the murder of innocents in different countries. While I disagree stridently with their ideas, that does not make them immoral; its makes them highly rational, but ultimately doomed to head the way of Europe. All humans, as I've noted before, are scum; that half of the country's manifestation as scum merely has the side effect of electing Democrats does not make them more or less scum than the rest of us.
And they just set our foreign policy by convincing enough of their fellows to agree with them.
The problem, of course, is yet another of those history lessons: When a giant -- an empire, a superpower, what have you -- slinks away from a battle, the world knows the giant is weak, and begins tearing it down in every way possible. Behold Rome when she started erecting walls. Behold the Mongols when they started entrenching. Behold the Crusader kingdoms, the Soviet Union, the Byzantines, the Holy Roman Empire, various Chinese Dynasties, the Ottomans, the Spaniards. When a superpower embarks on a military adventure, it must win, or watch its own doom writ on a wall.
Ronald Reagan knew this. Jimmy Carter did not. George Bush, I suspect, knows this. Nancy Pelosi does not.
And so, if I thought we had popular will behind us -- because we only act at the consent of the governed -- I would say we must push on, and leave Iraq in better shape than it was. We must be prepared to mix blood and peace as need be, whether that means slicing Moqtada al-Sadr's throat or shaking hands with him, so long as we win. And when Iraq has a government to which its people can consent, and which threatens no one (especially not us); or if the Iraqi government asks us to leave; then, and only then, should we withdraw. To do otherwise is to leave our fellow men to blood and terror. To do otherwise is to surrender any pretense to authority -- not "moral authority," which is merely Leftese for "agreement with the Left," but rather the kind that actually bends other nations to our will in ways great and small -- on the world stage. To do otherwise, frankly, is to prepare the nuclear launch codes for the day when New York City is so much glowing rubble.
But this is 1974, not 1980. Good or bad, right or wrong, our system has just informed us that today is the day when we abandon Iraq. I frankly wash my hands of it, but there is no denying the popular will.
Thus passes the Pax Americana, because of the consent of the governed.