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America's compassion in Iraq is self-destructive

By Elan Journo
web posted January 17, 2005

The horrific suicide bombing in December of a U.S. mess tent near Mosul and the assassination on Jan. 10 of the deputy chief of Baghdad police -- the second Iraqi official murdered in five days -- are further indications that the war in Iraq is worsening. Things are going badly not because, as some claim, the United States is arrogant and lacking in humility -- but because it is self-effacing and compassionate.

The Bush Administration's war in Iraq embraces compassion instead of the rational goal of victory. Such an immoral approach to war wantonly sacrifices the lives of soldiers and emboldens our enemies throughout the Middle East to mount further attacks against us.

Regardless of whether the Iraqi dictatorship should have been our initial target in the war against totalitarian Islam, when in the nation's defense a President sends troops to war, morally he must resolve to soundly defeat the enemy while safeguarding our forces and citizens. But America's attention has been diverted to rebuilding Iraqi hospitals, schools, roads and sewers, and on currying favor with the locals (some U.S. soldiers were even ordered to grow moustaches in token of their respect for Iraqi culture, others are now given cultural sensitivity courses before arriving in Iraq). Since the war began, Islamic militants and Saddam loyalists have carried out random abductions, devastating ambushes, and catastrophic bombings throughout the country. That attacks on U.S. forces (including those engaged in reconstruction efforts) have gone unpunished has emboldened the enemy.

Early and stark evidence of the enemy's growing audacity came in March 2004 with the grisly murder and mutilation of four American contractors. Following the attack, U.S. forces entered the city of Fallujah vowing to capture the murderers and punish the town that supports them. But such resolve was supplanted by compassion.

In the midst of the fighting the United States called a unilateral ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid in and to enable the other side to collect and bury its dead. The so-called truce benefited only the enemy. The Iraqis, as one soldier told the Associated Press, were "absolutely taking advantage" of the situation, regrouping and mounting sporadic attacks: as another soldier aptly noted, "It is hard to have a cease-fire when they maneuver against us, they fire at us." As the siege wore on, the goal of capturing the murderers quietly faded -- and the enemy's confidence swelled.

Neither the later offensive on Fallujah in November nor any of the subsequent incursions have quelled the insurgents: witness the unending string of car bombings and (road-side) ambushes. Why?

Because in Fallujah and throughout this war the military (under orders from Washington) has been purposely treading lightly. Soldiers have strict orders to avoid the risk of killing civilians -- many of whom aid or are themselves militants -- even at the cost of imperiling their own lives. Mosques, which have served as hideouts for terrorists, are kept off the list of allowed targets. Military operations have been timed to avoid alienating Muslim pilgrims on holy days.

There is no shortage of aggressors lusting for American blood, and they grow bolder with each display of American compassion.

Consider the shameful tenderness shown toward the Islamic cleric Moqtadr al-Sadr, who aspires to be the dictator of an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. An admirer of the 9/11 hijackers, Sadr has amassed an armed militia of 10,000 men (right under the noses of our military), and demanded that Coalition forces leave Iraq. On the run for the murder of another cleric, he took refuge with his militia in the holy city of Najaf, which has been surrounded by U.S. troops. Rather than attacking, however, the United States agreed to negotiate. It is as absurd to negotiate with and trust the word of a villain such as Sadr as it would have been to negotiate with Nazis bent on wiping out Allied forces in World War II. It is shockingly dangerous that the United States allowed a mediator from Iran -- part of the "Axis of Evil" and Sadr's ideological ally -- to assist in the negotiations.

In the end Sadr was allowed to walk away along with his armed militia; his agreement to disarm them has -- predictably -- gone unfulfilled.

For the enemies of America, Iraq is like a laboratory where they are testing our mettle, with mounting ferocity. The negotiations with Sadr; the half-hearted raids on Fallujah; our timid response to daily insurrections throughout Iraq; America's outrageously deferential treatment of its enemies -- all of these instances of moral weakness reinforce the view of bin Laden and his ilk that America will appease those who seek its destruction.

If we continue to confess doubts about our moral right to defend ourselves, it will only be a matter of time before Islamic militants bring suicide-bombings and mass murder (again) to the streets of the United States.

Though Washington may be blinded by the longing to buy the love of Iraqis, our servicemen know all too well that (as one put it): "When you go to fight, it's time to shoot -- not to make friends with people." In its might and courage our military is unequaled; it is the moral responsibility of Washington to issue battle plans that will properly "shock and awe" the enemy. Eschewing self-interest in the name of compassion is immoral. The result is self-destruction.

Elan Journo is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Send reactions to reaction@aynrand.org.

 

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