Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why We Must Stay

When some consider a long-term presence in Iraq as unacceptable even when we've sacrificed much already in lives and treasure to achieve what we have, my mind boggles. These people are so wedded to their war opposition that they oppose even the prospect of a Korea-like presence for decades to come where few lives are lost in order to preserve our gains.

Despite our success, we still have an Iraq with ethnic divisions heightened by Saddam's misrule and years of jihadi terror. And we have an Iraq that needs to distribute money reasonably fairly within a new democratic framework. We need to ensure rule of law so that politics decide who gets what and politics are considered the only legitimate means of making such decisions. That is why we need to stay in Iraq.

Because even the appearance of "stability" is no such thing when politics are just the easiest means of distributing money, and if you lose in politics, the guns come out. Like Kenya:

Kenya hid its problems from the world very well. Usually the top African destination for tourists, Kenya cultivated an image abroad of moderate politics and ethnic tolerance. Having a one-party state run by strongman President Daniel arap Moi from 1978 to 2002 contributed to this sense of peacefulness, since dissent and protest were illegal and quickly swept out of public sight.

Today, Kenya's two top political figures – President Mwai Kibaki and populist opposition leader Raila Odinga – both continue to claim to have won the Dec. 27 presidential elections. Their intransigence has helped ignite bitter ethnic clashes that have left more than 850 people dead since the vote. Even so, a large and growing chorus of Kenyan and international experts agrees that Kenya's road map to peace is both clear and achievable.

"We don't expect the deal to come in one week," says Fran├žois Grignon, Africa director for the International Crisis Group. "What we do expect is a breakthrough to allow a process to address the long-term issues."

The risks of a prolonged impasse were made plain Tuesday when an opposition parliamentarian was gunned down outside his home in Nairobi in what Mr. Odinga called a "planned political assassination." Ethnic fighting quickly broke out in slums throughout the capital as news of the killing spread. The unrest came as police and military forces tried to quell a fresh wave of reprisal killings in Rift Valley towns where the president's ethnic group, the Kikuyus, are dominant.

The stability of benign strongmen is over-rated. Funny enough, even while dead Saddam still cultivates an image of moderate politics (even women were equally persecuted!) and ethnic toleration (the Shias enjoyed their proper status peacefully!) among a number of Leftists.