War on Terror: July 2007 Archives

Thomas Sowell aims his laser-like brain at the situation in Iraq and how political decisions led to the current messy situation and how stateside political pressures are about to make things worse.

Here's the heart of the column:

Nations cannot be built.

You can transplant institutions from one country to another, but you cannot transplant the history and culture from which the attitudes and traditions evolved that enable those institutions to work.

It took centuries for democracy to evolve in the Western world. Yet we tried to create democracy in Iraq before we created the security — the law and order — that is a prerequisite for any form of viable government.

Having made democracy the centerpiece of the reconstruction of postwar Iraq, Americans have been hamstrung by the inadequacies of that government and the fact that our military could not simply ignore the Iraqi government when its politicians got in the way of restoring law and order.

People will support tyranny before they will support anarchy. Both can be avoided by creating an interim government based on competence, rather than on its being an embodiment of democratic ideals.

Sowell gives several examples of nations that weren't at all democratic 50 years ago but are there now or are at least headed in that direction.

Hong Kong under British rule is an example of how a society can have freedom and stability without democracy. Hong Kong was ruled from London, and the residents of the Crown Colony had no say in their laws or leaders at all until the last few years before the handover to China. But life, liberty, and property were protected by due process of law. If you entered into a contract, you knew it could be enforced. Economic activity was generally free from heavy-handed regulation. The colony thrived and was an enclave of liberty.

It was a mistake for US politicians to hold elections and create a new Iraqi government as quickly as it did. And before anyone blames the neo-cons, the idea that free and fair elections are all you need to create a free society has a long pedigree, going all the way back to Woodrow Wilson. The notion that occupation should be brief, and that elected locals should be put in charge as soon as possible, is an article of faith in Western foreign policy that dates back to the decolonization movement that followed World War II.

What we should have done is to treat Iraq and Afghanistan as trust territories -- not owned like a colony, to be exploited for its resources, but held in trust for the peoples of those nations, governed by the US with a view to their long-term interests. Democracy would come eventually, but not until the rule of law was well established.

Sowell's assessment of the problems with too quickly reestablishing a democratic form of government doesn't mean that he supports leaving now, and he makes a pointed diagnosis of the intentions of some members of Congress:

What has gone right is that the Iraq war is already over. Our troops won it. But our politicians may once more lose the peace — and with disastrous consequences for us and for the world.

Peace has not been achieved in Iraq, though pacification continues — always at a cost in American lives — and shows signs of progress, much to the dismay of those who have bet their political future on an American defeat.

Defeatists have not yet had the courage to directly ensure defeat by cutting off the money to continue military operations in Iraq.

That would be taking responsibility for the defeat. What would serve their political purpose better would be to legislate preconditions for the spending of military appropriations that would make defeat inevitable, but let it be seen as Bush’s defeat, not theirs.

Along the Del Rio sector of Texas's border with Mexico, the Customs & Border Patrol is actually prosecuting illegals who immigrate for economic reasons, and they're finding it makes it easier to spot and deal with those who immigrate for nefarious purposes. According to Chief Agent Randy Hill:

“Our number one priority is protecting our border from terrorists, then criminal aliens, and third drug interdiction. What Operation Streamline has done is removed the ‘clutter’ of economic refugees from our primary mission. When we relieve ourselves of dealing with a large influx of economic refugees, it allows us to concentrate on border security priorities,” he said.

“Economic refugees” in the Del Rio sector are mostly Mexican and “Other Than Mexican” or OTMs, illegally entering the country looking for better paying jobs and opportunity. The CBP uses the term “economic refugee” to differentiate between a unarmed, non-dangerous illegal alien and what they call a “criminal alien,” or an illegal alien with a criminal rap sheet in the U.S. or some other country. Operation Streamline has reduced the flow of economic refugees to almost a trickle. Apprehensions for the Eagle Pass area of the sector are down a whopping 77 percent this fiscal year. Across the sector, apprehensions are down 61 percent this year.

Illegal entry comes with a sentence of two to four weeks in jail, followed by deportation. Re-entry after deportation is a felony and could bring a sentence of up to two years. Those arrested are fingerprinted, and a background check is done. They appear before a Federal judge within three days of arrest.

You're probably wondering what I was wondering -- you mean that wasn't already being done? Here's the typical sequence of events prior to Operation Streamline:

  1. Apprehension in the field.
  2. In-process at CBP field office.
  3. Suspect given a future court date for removal purposes and the defendant signs a promise to appear. Defendant released on own recognizance into the U.S. if OTM. Most Mexican nationals were transported and released in Mexico. Most OTM defendants were never seen again.
  4. Prosecution was reserved for violent offenders, gang members, suspected narcotics smugglers, and those with a history of repeated immigration offenses.

(Via MamaAJ in the comments at Hot Air.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the War on Terror category from July 2007.

War on Terror: May 2007 is the previous archive.

War on Terror: August 2007 is the next archive.

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