The following is an email reply to a commenter on the Froggy Ruminations thread linked in my last blog entry. It was too lengthy to incorporate into the thread:
The question was: "From a strategic standpoint, does it benefit our soldiers to convince the Iraqi people that we are extremely brutal?"
Resist the urge to analyze the Iraqi people through the frame of reference of your own cultural experience.
How many of your immediate family were murdered by arbitrary actions of your own government last year? Coworkers? Friends? How about the year before that? I'd bet that you have both your hands and ears and don't carry a badly healed fracture or scar inflicted by a bored FBI interrogator, either.
You have a voice. You have rights. You live in a society where violence is an abberation. In fact, it's such an abberation that we even incorporate graphic fictionalizations into our most popular entertainment. It's a vicarious novelty to the vast majority of our population because excepting criminals and their victims ,physical violence is unconsciously ruled out as an option among civilized western culture. It happens,yes, but in a democratic republic where the rule of law is based on individual sovereignty and unalienable rights we police, judge, and incarcerate evil doers as much as we can.
What of the Iraqi people? They've never been citizens - maybe subjects. I think they are more accurately described as victims of their own birth, culture, and situation.
We fight the implacable barbarian elements of Ba'athist holdouts and their Islamofascist terrorist cocombatants on one hand while on the other attempting to restore enough security and basic infrastructure for the former serfs to experience the rewards of democracy that we take for granted.
The Iraqis know exactly how the old regime conducted business. They know that in their neighboring countries the same paradigm holds, too, with the exception of Turkey. They also understand more clearly than more than a slim minority (as evidenced in our last election) of our own citizenry that there are some opponents that are immune to anything but brute, naked force.
My stock analogy for the nature of the threat in rebuilding Iraq is this: It only takes one angry drunk uncle with a shotgun to fuck up a wedding reception. Expand that to a community or a nation, and you have Iraq.
The Iraqis are rightfully appalled at what is happening right now. They have no community social memory of peace or security. My own opinion is that they remain unconvinced we won't finish the job, and that scares them worse than any contemporary violence does. The behavior of our occupation forces and the associated reconstruction element has been aimed at organizing them to lead their own country as soon as humanly possible. That effort has been going on for two years, across the entire nation, at the expense of blood and treasure on our coalition's part NEVER seen before in an Arab nation.
I believe there has to be a positive effect to that. Once again, an opinion...but I think it reasonable.
And last but not least, your question was "From a strategic standpoint, does it benefit our soldiers to convince the Iraqi people that we are extremely brutal?"
From a strategic standpoint it is vital that the Iraqis know we will do what is necessary to allow their transition from serfdom to citizenry. That goes for the innocents as much as for the insurgents. To decline conflict with the insurgency would be a declaration that other peoples' freedom are secondary to our comfort and security.
That's not what the Bush Doctrine is about. We aren't going to perform a righteous beatdown on a random group of thugs and walk out of the ring to our own applause like some cheesy WWF stage production. We aren't doing the 'realist' foreign policy anymore. It is in OUR interest that we don't ever go back to Iraq...or Afghanistan...or anywhere else that shits out terrorist movements, leaders, and regimes as a result of despotism or dictatorship. No more pet dictators.
The Bush Doctrine is the most visionary liberal foreign policy initiative ever attempted by a western democracy, just in case you were wondering. That's not opinion, that's a fact. Chirac and Schroeder are conducting their policies on a plane that wouldn't be out of place originating in Liege, Belgium, in the late 1800's. They stand behind the old dogma of masters and slaves.
We want neighbors, thanks.
We face a known breathtakingly dangerous foe with a very vague mailing address. We have at our disposal the most lethal weapons ever fielded by a nation at war...and instead of annihilation of the population from where the threat springs, our goal is liberation.
Liberation of nations and tribes, possibly an entire culture and even a great religion. Only time will tell.
It is in our vital strategic interest that all the peoples of the Muslim arc know and believe that we are committed to protecting ourselves. In all honesty, the last three decades showed the serfs little evidence that we did. Even a shepherd on a hill in Syria understands that aggression unchecked invites more aggression.
You used the word "brutal" to describe our conduct. I agree. I just remind you that that is the nature of war and that brutal, naked force and nothing else is the tool that will bring decision to this conflict. Ignoring the escalation of Islamic violence that began in the seventies - THAT was a terrible mistake on our part.
We beat the terrorists on their ground or we fight them here. It's an easy call for me to make.