and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
February #2

One citizen's solution to the mess in the Middle East
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, February 7, 2007

I keep thinking I should have an opinion on what to do about the war in Iraq.

The whole point of democracy is that ordinary voters are smart enough to grasp the issues, and can use their knowledge to make decisions regarding the candidates who will best represent their point of view.

We are told by some analysts that the reason voters elected a Democratic Congress was the war in Iraq. However, I can't help but notice that most Democrats in Congress don't seem to know what to do about it. Neither do most Republicans. But this is no excuse for Citizen Me not to have a solution. Here goes:

It makes more sense that the major issue for the new presidential campaign is the war in Iraq. We need a president with the conviction of George Bush, plus an ability to explain it and carry it out better. No new president, of course, will be able to explain anything to the partisans who, even if national security is at stake, must hate and vilify the president from the other party.

As an independent voter, I'm open to a new president from any party who responds to the few things I think I've figured out about our Mideast policies.

1.) Most Americans agreed with the majority of Washington's politicians -- including those who are now insisting that they were "fooled" -- that it was necessary to go to war in the first place because Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction.

Since we ordinary citizens had to count on our elected representatives to not be "fooled," I don't think we should elect any of these fools our next president. I'll consider those who made an honorable decision based on the only intelligence that was available at the time. I think it must be hard to get good intelligence in closed societies like Iraq, Iran and Syria. And I can easily imagine our regret if the intelligence was right, and we did not respond to it.

Most of us celebrated the quick early win in Iraq with its few American casualties, enjoyed the sight of Iraqis pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein, and rejoiced in their purple fingers as they too enjoyed democracy. Few of us were listening to those who warned of getting bogged down in a possible civil war.

Looking back at what we've now had to learn about the tribal culture in that part of the world, the present state of affairs does seem predictable. I recall that our military was eager to reach Baghdad before the terrible Iraqi summer set in; but maybe we should have waited until fall to read up on some history and weigh the various risks.

2.) I also think we should have waited to get the best equipment and support services for our troops there first. My first doubts came with their requests that their families send them everything from Handi-Wipes to body armor! I know for a fact that our heroic volunteer military should have the best that money can buy.

3.) I'm not influenced by the religious arguments that permeate the region. Just as I don't believe that Allah wants young men to blow themselves up in order to enjoy numerous virgins in Paradise, I don't believe that God has planned this conflict as the beginning of the biblical Armageddon. I'm not convinced that God Himself gave Israel to the Jews, either. Maybe the United Nations should have rejected that argument in 1947 and given them Germany instead.

Turkey picked the wrong side in World War I, so when the British won Palestine they were able to offer it to whomever they wanted. There is still controversy over commitments made by the British in return for Arab help. So though the United States must assure Israel's continued existence, it seems right to find a fair solution to the Palestinian problem.

It also seems that Israel has been trying harder than the Arabs to make this happen, even at risk to itself.

4.) I don't think we went to war for Haliburton; there are nicer, safer places to do construction projects. But our dependence on foreign oil cannot be a good thing. Everyone who blames this for the war should be living in a small apartment, taking public transportation or driving a very small car, setting an example for the rest of us.

Considering the above, I face this reality: We did go to war, we saved Iraqis from a sadistic dictator, and we can't abandon those who helped us who risk a horrible fate if either Saddam's supporters or the fanatic fundamentalist Muslims take over.

So here is the best solution this ordinary citizen can propose: Since we are stuck with this fight, we should pull in our military from the rest of the world's trouble spots (except for the Taiwan Strait because of another long-standing U.S. promise) and let other nations take over our role in Asia, Africa and the Balkans while we focus on making a viable democracy in Iraq. We should all pull together as Americans to get the Middle East job done.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.