Saturday, September 10, 2005

Can We “Civilize ‘em With a Krag” ??

One of our often-stated arguments for remaining in Iraq is the desire-and need ( for the sake of lasting peace in the region ) to assist the Iraqis in setting up a democracy.

I have no quarrel with such a goal-but do wonder, considering our situation at home ,how long we should commit troops there.

History suggests setting up a democracy – and stamping out terrorism – can be a long, daunting chore.

In the Phillippines , for example , we tried – starting in 1901 – to set up a model democracy, and to eliminate the threat of the (militantly Islamic)

A popular barracks song during that era was “Damn,Damn,Damn the Filipinos !” – and its chorus contained this memorable couplet:

“Underneath the starry flag
We’ll civilize ‘em with a Krag*…”

*The Krag was the Army service rifle at the time.

We did set up a democracy , but , after we returned full sovereignty to the people of the Phillipines in 1946 , it became a rather shaky structure : with wealthy oligarchs on one side , and the communist HUK guerrillas – who were largely Moros - on the other.

The HUKs were defeated , but became the Moro Liberation Front. About a decade ago , that front began to fracture along religious lines , and morphed into the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front – still very much a terrorist organization - is closely allied with a Filipino al-Qaeda group, called Abu-Sayaaf (spelling varies); and, between the two groups,has effective control of the southern end of the Phillippine Archipelago. It has even opened negotiations with the Government of the Phillippines for formal,permanent governing status !

To my way of thinking, the sooner the Iraqi people set up a functioning government, and establish their own military forces, the better.

Iraq is a tangled web of conflicting interests: Ba’athists displaced from power ; Sunni Islamists who want to set up a Caliphate ; Shi’ite Islamists who want the same thing – but run by Shi’ites; Kurds, who want full autonomy – and access to Iraqi oil revenues ; and last-but-not-least : outside nations that want to exploit Iraq’s resources, and will gladly fund any group they think can help them.

The Iraqis themselves are going to have to figure out how to manuever through these ever-grinding tectonic plates ; and, although we should be willing to rescue them from outsiders ,our own national needs must become paramount.

We can’t always “civilize ‘em with a Krag” !


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