Liberate Us From This Liberation Rhetoric

There are valid reasons why the United States has invaded Iraq. America’s own national security in the era of transnational terrorism and mass-murder weaponry in the wrong hands is a decent argument for pre-emption. At least when you’re pre-empting a thugocracy that has defied United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 and refused to disarm for the last 12 years. And lest we forget, appeasement of pathological despots and mass murderers is never good advice.

The case for “liberating” Iraq, however, is spurious, if well-intentioned.

It is not the job of the U.S. to “liberate” other countries. It goes for Cuba or North Korea or anybody else we know is stuck with a despotic government and a crummy quality of life. It’s still not our job to change their government. And Iraq is no exception. It is the job, alas, of Iraqis to liberate themselves from a rogue regime. Even though we presume to know what’s best for them, it’s not our role to save them from themselves through invasion and occupation.

Of course overthrowing one’s oppressors is a daunting task, but there’s ample precedent.

This is not unlike the formidable charge of the Iranian people, who felt the need to be liberated from the Shah’s powerful regime. Cuba’s Battista and Nicaragua’s Samoza were chased into exile. Marcos was given the Filipino heave-ho. The Berlin Wall came down. The Soviet Union imploded. The list goes on. None required liberating invasions. All required indigenous opposition and subversion — with their own inimitable rallying points and politics.

The liberation of Iraq is not to be confused with the liberation of, say, Kuwait, which had been invaded by Iraq. Any more than the liberation of Belgium or Poland, which had been invaded by the Nazis.

And speaking of Nazi Germany, no, it wasn’t our job either to liberate the German Jews. Holocaust or ethnic-cleansing scenarios can’t be ignored because they are crimes against humanity. That’s why there will always be a need for a worldwide forum and lever, whether it’s a League of Nations or a United Nations. Ironically, that multi-national peace-creating-and-keeping, nation-building, war crimes-punishing option, however frustratingly imperfect, is now close to obsolescence.

Put it this way. If it were the proper role of the American colonies to overthrow the mother country, it is also the proper role of the Iraqi people to unyoke, i.e., “liberate,” themselves. It can be done.

Just not by us.

There are reasons to get physical with Iraq, but “liberating” them from their own government isn’t one.

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