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The trouble with Iraq

The war in Iraq isn't over; far from it. Terrorists linked to al-Qaida have taken over a large swath or Iraq, including the towns of Mosul and Tikrit. This has sent residents away in droves, becoming refugees in their own land. President Barack Obama has pledged support for the Iraqi government in fighting these insurgents. He is exploring military options such as air strikes but is not yet committing to ground forces.

There are two essential problems here. The first is that, in eliminating the Saddam Hussein regime, a long lasting, stable, and democratic Iraq is nevertheless a long way off. After the lives lost and monies spent in getting to the point where that nation is at today, nothing short of doing all we can reasonably do to insure that noble goal is achieved can be considered a victory for humanity much less the Iraqi people. Nor will there be justice for those who gave their lives during the Iraq War, military or civilian. It appears that that means more war.

Yet perhaps the most difficult issues lie in the continuance of terrorism and the nature of Iraqi politics and society. An Iraqi immigrant who works in Detroit and wishes to remain anonymous explains: "Saddam had to go, no doubt about that. But what Americans don't understand is that there are people who only understand harsh rule. While Saddam was in power, despite how bad he was, the country was stable. It was because of his iron fist. There won't be democracy in Iraq without more of that for many years. It will be a slow process."

The lesson here is simple. Freedom means more than the absence of a despot, and is it won by more than good wishes, happy thoughts, and abstract political philosophy. We live in a concrete world and no amount of talk and thought will change that. We must be willing to act or anything we say will be held suspect by those who disagree with us. The sooner we learn this, the more we will actually be able to accomplish in this world.

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