When I was reading a column by Thomas Friedman yesterday about the war in Iraq, what to do next, etc., I could not help but notice that Friedman did not pay any attention to how the world would respond to a US withdrawal with genocide/mass slaughter as a result. When Americans talk about the war in Iraq, they strictly seem to think in domestic (political) terms, not in terms of how the world will respond. Therefore, I decided to publish a post today called “Reality Check.” You can read that post here. From it:
I thought, let me talk with some Dutch people about this. I asked 8 people: only one of them supported the war in Iraq, the other opposed it from the get-go. I asked them what they thought would happen in Iraq when the US withdraws. The unanimous answer: genocide. Who, I asked, would you blame? America or Iraq? The answer: America. So, I also asked them what they thought Arabs, Muslims and everyone else would think of it. The, again, unanimous answer: everybody will blame America, and it will greatly hurt America’s image.
Now – eight people is not exactly a representative poll, but I want to make something clear to all of you: I strongly believe that this is how most people will look at it. Mass genocide will be blamed on the US. Why? If the US would not have attacked, Iraq would still be stable. Yes, Saddam would still be in power, but most people do not look at that (besides, they will also argue that life under Saddam was probably not worse that it is today) – most people simply look at the result.
Now, many Americans argue “we have to bring our troops home: they should not die in a far away country, if we cannot win / bring stability any time soon.” To Americans, this sounds logical. To 5.5 billion other people, this sounds extremely egotistical. The other citizens of the world say “3500?? are you kidding me? Tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, and if you withdraw prematurely, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions more will die, and you complain about 3500??? You started this war in the first place.”
I seem to have hit a nerve; quite some people responded so I posted a follow-up, which can be read here. I sincerely hope all of you will read both posts, because there is something missing from the American debate that should not be missing.
I will be going on vacation for four weeks. When I am back, I will continue to contribute here. I enjoy it here so much, that I do not want to say farewell to all of you.
Have a great summer!