Iraq Study Group – Calling Thomas Jefferson
Next week, the Iraq Study Group, a committee of so-called WISE MEN, will go public on what they feel the United States should do to extract itself from the current civil war in Iraq. I believe that among their recommendations will be:
• Entering into diplomatic negotiations with both Syria and Iran to get their help in settling the violent internal situation in Baghdad.
• The embedding of US troops directly into Iraqi army units to stiffen them up into a more potent fighting force.
The vital question is where does this leave us? I lived through Viet Nam, and I understand the origins of the Korean War. I have also taken the time to study guerilla tactics that were used in Malaysia, Burma, and various African countries. To quote a movie, “Houston, we have a problem”. Our President is asleep at the switch on this one, and is caught up in a cycle of decision making that he doesn’t seem capable of extricating himself from. Our DECISION WINDOW whereby we could have possibly turned Iraq into a democracy has now PASSED. We did in fact win the war. It took 29 days to take control of Baghdad. It could take more than a dozen years at this point with a continued outlay of 0 billion per year, and several thousand American lives per year plus ten thousand American causalities per year to potentially build a democracy – no guarantees though. The question is FOR WHAT?
If the answer is to IMPOSE democracy on a country where Thomas Jefferson and George Washington do not seem to exist, then it can not be done. You are simply beating your head against the wall. This is not an American failure in my opinion. What we were attempting to achieve was simply not achievable. Certainly not without the presence of hundreds of thousands of additional American troops, which is not in the cards? This is a region built on dictatorships. It is no coincidence that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. The argument has always been advanced as to “Whether Saddam Hussein made Iraq, or did Iraq make Saddam Hussein”. After the last three years, the question is more appropriate than ever.
In our country we consider life to be very precious. Don’t go by the headlines in the newspapers. That’s toilet reading. Go by what happens when miners get trapped in mines, or when a woman is trapped in a burning building. What about when a child falls into an abandoned well? Is any thought given to the cost of saving these individuals? The answer is none. Every conceivable way that can be utilized to save lives is grabbed at by the emergency workers. When you look at the Mid East, you realize we are dealing with a region that gives no thought to human life. Wasting lives there is a daily fact of living. It always has been this way, and always will be. I am not a pessimist; I must deal with reality however. In over a half century of living I have found certain notions to be eternally true. One of them is that you can’t ever want more for another human being than that human being wants for themselves. You will simply waste your time, and your energy. People have to be ready to fight for democracy. Nobody in Iraq is willing to wage that fight, except for American soldiers. This is a recipe for disaster.
Every day as Chairman of StocksAtBottom.com I am involved in the stock market. We have a saying in Wall Street, a stock is going to go where it’s going to go. You can not support a stock, unless you are prepared to buy the VERY LAST SHARE. The reason is that once you are done buying a stock, it will trade where it’s going to trade on that last share that you haven’t bought. The analogy to Iraq is that unless you are prepared to kill the very last terrorist, that terrorist is going to remain long after the American presence is gone. I know the President probably sincerely believes that by remaining in Iraq we are working towards the reconfiguration of the government into a democracy. I believe we are simply postponing the INEVITABLE. Right now that looks like a Shia led government in Baghdad with no room for the Sunnis who supported Saddam. In fact, the Shia will continue to kill the Sunni’s and the Sunni’s will retaliate by killing Shia when they can, and our President wants decent young Americans to hang on in between, and get shot at. To quote people smarter than me, “IT AIN’T GONNA WORK”. We are simply putting off what is going to happen any way. The difference is that later, it will be at a greater cost to our brave American soldiers, and our national treasury. This President chooses to borrow the money from foreigners to finance the war effort. He has asked for sacrifice from our troops only, nothing from Americans.
There have been no tax increases to pay for this disaster, only increases in the national debt so that our children and their children will shoulder the burden. The army is now having problems fulfilling its manpower requirements. We are stretched thin. The Iranians and North Koreans know we can not currently wage another military action in either country. We are bogged down in Iraq. The American people on the other hand have shown that they are out in front of their President leading him, as opposed to him leading them which is an unusual situation. The recent Congressional elections clearly demonstrate that the people want a change in direction in the war NOW. If the President continues to stay the course, or dig himself deeper into a hole in the face of the people wanting a change, the complete rejection of the Republican Party will take place in the next Presidential election.
You have to realize that the Republican Party in the last twelve years gerrymandered just about every seat in the House of Representatives in order to maintain control of that body. In spite of the cards being stacked against the Democrats, the people delivered the House to the Democratic Party anyway. This was not a vote of confidence for the Democrats. People were simple voting AGAINST the Republicans, and privately the Democrats will acknowledge this.
The answer is for the President to announce immediately a phased withdrawal and put the burden of building a country back onto the Iraqis where it belongs. It is their country. They must be willing to die for building their own democracy, or leave it to the next dictator to pick up the pieces. It won’t be Thomas Jefferson, he’s just not there.
About the Author: Richard Stoyeck’s background includes being a limited partner at Bear Stearns, Senior VP at Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb, Arthur Andersen, and KPMG. Educated at Pace University, NYU, and Harvard University, today he runs Rockefeller Capital Partners and StocksAtBottom.com
Value Investing at StocksAtBottom.com