The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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A twilight anniversary

In the interest of dignity, I’ll refrain from undertaking an “editorial war” with George Henson. I’ll say only one thing: if one is going to put forward arguments, one must be ready to defend them, even if they are not one’s own. I made my points in my previous article, so we’ll resume regular service.

The past four years have seen Iraq as a depressingly consistent news item. A corrupted state, political and religious infighting, and dissolving American and international will contribute to a gloomy outlook on the Mesopotamian state. As the four year anniversary of the conflict passes, then, one could be forgiven for believing Iraq is entering a twilight state – the dusk before the pitch black of the night.

Yet there is also dark before the dawn. As reluctant as one should be to rely on metaphors to address life-and-death international issues, this one is surely appropriate.

Admittedly, there have been and continue to be many things wrong with this administration’s approach to Iraq. Those are well documented. What is missing is a wider perspective of the conflict.

The first major steps toward peace and progress often occur while the most horrendous tragedies and aspects of the conflict are still prevalent in the news. These glimmers of hope are often swallowed by the depressing darkness the media force upon the public. News of escalating death tolls and video of roadside explosions make much more entertaining news than peace summits or cabinet reshuffles. This should encourage all of us to not just skim the headlines but to delve deeper into the latest news.

There are bright spots in Iraq. Most notably, the Iraqi people have been able to choose their own government. Self-determination is the most important step in resolving a conflict, especially this one. The roots of this conflict, though varied, largely stem from the conflict between Sunnis and Shias that resulted from Saddam Hussein’s reign. During his time as dictator, the minority Sunnis controlled the overwhelming majority of military and civil power, while Shias were prevented from holding government or military posts as well as being “discouraged” from holding professional jobs, such as physicians or lawyers. After Saddam fell and a new government was elected, the Shias’ representation became proportional to their population. After decades of holding supreme power, a few extremist Sunni groups responded by violently lashing out at Shias, targeting their mosques, schools and public transportation. Shortly thereafter, Shia groups began undertaking a tit-for-tat campaign of violence, which has escalated into the sectarian warfare so endemic in the country today.

Hand in hand with self-determination is the expansion of several fundamental freedoms, such as universal suffrage and freedom of the press. The trial of Saddam and his conspirators was also a major step for the rule of law in Iraq.

This seems to be where the issue gets confusing. One cannot solve the minutiae before laying groundwork. One cannot resolve specific legal crises without a comprehensive and free law. One cannot attempt to defuse representation disputes without a constitution that guarantees democratic representation and subsequent elections that put action to those words.

Therefore, although the news coming out of Iraq is gloomy, and is certain to remain so for some time, we must remind ourselves of our ultimate goal in Iraq: to provide justice and democracy for the Iraqi people.

Some will retort that this is not possible while Iraqi neighbors are killing one another by the dozens every day, and this is true. Iraq may not be fully secure and stable for decades to come. But our ultimate goal is not to provide for a stable state, because doing so now would require martial law. Martial law does not lay down any foundation that is necessary for long-term peace, such as the civil advances mentioned earlier. It merely provides short-term security at the price of long-term stability. It is much better to have a somewhat unstable yet free society than a stable yet oppressive one.

Ultimately, we would do well to remember that American armed forces can provide short-term peace but can do nothing to resolve the underlying causes of the violence. This is up to the Iraqis and other Muslims. As horrific as it is to watch countrymen die in the streets, Iraqis must not lose focus on solving the long-term crisis, or they are doomed to a perpetual cycle of violence.

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