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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Instapundit is doing a symposium on Iraq and is looking for suggestions on ideas besides "cut and run" and "stay the course." Here's one: focus on creating and supporting dreams for the Iraqi people as individuals and stop trying to woo them as playthings of the imams.

On the ground, of course, we've been putting in power plants, re-laying streets, securing businesses, etc. But there's a disconnect when we turn around and try to get this or that imam or mufti on board as though the Iraqi people were mere reflections of the mosques they went to. For some, that may be the case. But that's one of our big problems, and when we give those who follow this or that imam a bigger voice by doing things this way, we get in the way of what we need to be promoting: secularization.

Everyone looks at Iraq now and forgets that alot of Western Europe looked the same way not that long ago. Sunni and Shia aren't that different from Protestant and Catholic, except that in an age of nukes we need a better solution than letting the bloodshed run its course as an Enlightenment finally dawns.

Had there been a 21st America handy to get messed up in it and a 21st century Europe to crow at the Yanks' foolishness, the French of today would have been looking back on their ancestry at the time of the religious wars and announcing that the France of today could never come, that religious superstition was too deeply ingrained for the likes of those fools to ever appreciate the messages of Locke and Voltaire. Admittedly, they never did fully comprehend the message of Adam Smith, but France made it into the 20th century, and the Middle East can too. The question is: How can we help?

The biggest place we can help the Iraqi people is by giving them bigger and better lives outside the mosques. We should be using the aid agencies and State Department to get the infrastructure in place for a life rooted in commerce, rather than religion. The goal is to get parents saving for their kids' college, instead of cow-towing to the local imam to get them into masjid. As such, our military should focus on protecting businesses, markets and civil institutions, doing their best to make sure that whatever might befall you at a mosque, you're safe getting groceries. We should deport bothersome foreigners, arrest those involved with crimes and shoot those who openly try to rend the whole of the social fabric. But beyond that, we should stay out of it, letting the Iraqis live with whom they elect, but always reminding that we only protect the Iraqi people, not those who claim to speak for them.

Such an approach, if a catchphrase is sought, might be "Cut loose," rather than "cut and run." We need to cut loose the Iraqis from their past and their present, from the goons of yesteryear and the imams of today. The best path to this is not to try to foster harmony between the sectarians in the hopes they'll stop shooting each other, but to make them stand side by side, as do the Protestant and Catholic leaders of today, wondering how to get people interested in God when they could be listening to their iPods or checking their bank balances instead.

posted by gbarto at 1:31 PM  


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