Brit Tim Hames of the UK Times Online responds to colleague Matthew Parris who urges Britain to abandon their commitment to U.S. foreign policy goals in Iraq:
I am not inclined to castigate the US Administration for what has occurred in Iraq. As Matthew correctly says, it is far from obvious that deploying many more troops after Saddam Hussein was toppled would have made sense, or that the "de-Baathification" of the Iraqi Army and bureaucracy was a miscalculation. For a start, "de-Baathification" was scarcely a deliberate US policy. These institutions simply disintegrated when their leader disappeared. The largest single mistake, in retrospect, rests elsewhere. The problem has not been the Bush Administration underestimating how much Iraqis might come to loathe the West for the "occupation" but a failure to grasp the extent to which, thanks to Saddam, Iraqis had come to fear and hate each other.
That inter-communal hatred is the present cause of Iraq's troubles. American soldiers have died in tragic numbers this month not because of any so-called insurgency that wants to drive the US out of Iraq but because they have been attempting to prevent rival religious and sectarian militias from killing their enemies. The effort to hold together a central government in Baghdad (a drive, ironically, designed to reassure the defeated Sunnis) does not command sufficient consensus to sustain it.
What needs to be done now, as James Baker, a former US Secretary of State, appreciates, is to secure a decentralised settlement and convince the Shia majority to divide the oil revenues in a way that each camp will consider fair. In such a situation, as Kim Howells, the Foreign Office Minister, has outlined, US and British forces could be withdrawn steadily throughout 2007 without chaos.
I would not bet against Iraq's future. That country retains extraordinary attributes. To declare it dead and buried a meagre three years after Saddam's demise is, to me, premature folly.After all, would the recovery of Germany and Japan have been anticipated in 1948, three years after their surrender? Or the fate of Russia accurately assessed in 1994, during the chaos of the Yeltsin years, three years after the Soviet Union was disbanded? Or would anybody have expected that China would be where it is today in 1992, three years after the Tiananmen Square massacre?
The question that those of us in the pro-war camp have to confront is whether by, say, 2010 Iraq, the Middle East and the wider world will be demonstrably the better for Saddam's overthrow than if he and his sadistic sons had been left in power. My answer to that question remains, unambiguously, in the affirmative.
There it is then. Others can choose to condemn the Americans and head for the lifeboats, but not in my name. The offer of Mrs Beckett's assistance is kind, Matthew, yet I do not seek the shelter of a liferaft. I will stay with the ship and take my chances. If the vessel does ultimately capsize, despite my expectations, I will throw a bottle over the side containing the message: "I still think that 'we kicked the door in' is a more noble sentiment than the Little Englander's cry of 'leave those foreigners to their misery'."
Would that our own Democrats and our own media had as much sense and as much loyalty as does Mr. Hames.