Thursday, January 11, 2007

Line in the Sand

Throughout our lives, we are establishing, maintaining, and enforcing boundaries. Some boundaries are permanent walls and some boundaries are lines in the sand. Walls for some people are lines in the sand for others and vice versa. My marriage is a wall that limits my intimate affection to one person only, my wife. My property line is a wall that limits the benefits and responsibility for my property to me, my family, and our guests. My lunch menu decision is a line in the sand with very little long term consequences.

Throughout our lives, we also reevaluate our boundaries. Some walls become fences with gates, some fences become lines in the sand, some lines in the sand become fences and some fences become walls. Some alliances and friendships grow while other alliances and friendships weaken. My marriage is a permanent wall that will never change, but my property line will almost surely change when it no longer meets the needs of my family.

When President Bush, and the American people through our elected officials, made a decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power as the ruler of Iraq, we established a boundary. Mission accomplished; the primary objective was accomplished when Saddam Hussein took his last breath.

In the process of getting Hussein, Americans established other boundaries. Americans took responsibility for rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure and Americans took responsibility for establishing and maintaining security for the Iraq people until the Iraqi people are able to maintain their own security.

Some Iraqis have their own boundaries, as do the Syrians and the Iranians. Many Iraqis have built walls to prevent forgiveness of the harms caused by other Iraqis, and many of the Iraqis, Syrians and Iranians have built walls to prevent freedom.

If the American boundary in Iraq is a line in the sand, the American boundary in Iraq will be decimated by all of the historic walls in the Middle East that have been built and maintained for centuries. However, if the American boundary in Iraq is a wall that is stronger than the existing walls in Iraq, then freedom and peace do have a chance.

20,000 more troops and a short term commitment in Iraq isn’t even a decent line in the sand. It’s better than withdrawing troops, and it’s better than no commitment, but it doesn’t give much hope to all of the soldiers and Iraqis who have already made tremendous sacrifices to bring freedom to Iraq. Shouldn’t the American commitment to Iraq be a permanent wall and not an insignificant line in the sand?


Anonymous said...

Hi David -- I think the problem is that 20,000 is all we can muster. My understanding is that the redeployment already means that our ability to react to other situations worldwide is compromised.

Gates is now proposing to increase the military by 98,000, so it will be interesting to see if they can meet the higher recruiting goals in the middle of a war and with a tight labor market.

In any case, the Malaki government is basically a front for Shiite death squads. That's what the democratic majority in Iraq chose.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,

You’ve been avoiding the church talk huh? : - 0

I am not certain you are right about Malaki, but I am sure that at this point in the process, there shouldn’t be any uncertainty about him.

I should have also written that we shouldn’t place our hope in Malaki to fix all of the problems. America needs to own the major problems until all of the major problems are resolved, which will probably take decades, not months or even years.

The only way we should ever leave Iraq is when we are permanent friends with the majority of Iraqis. We may need to kill a whole lot of the Sunni and Shia militia, and it may take many iterations, to get to that point.

It doesn’t seem possible, but who could have predicted Japan and Germany would be two of our closest allies after all of the Germans and Japanese we killed in WWII?

Buz said...

Not sure about a lot of things here, David.

I absolutely believe that if the continuing fighting in Iraq is due to agitators coming in from Syria, Lebanon, or whereever, that we should block those people coming in, and we should remove everyone of them from the country, whatever it takes.

However, if the fighting at this point is one group of Iraquis fighting another, I think we should take all our weapons and leave them alone. Let them run out of bullets and beat each other with sticks.

Don't know if you ever saw Superman IV. It wasn't a particularly good movie, but it did have an excellent point at the very end - you can't "give" someone peace. It must be something that they want bad enough to earn on their own. If you give someone peace, they end up not valuing it and it quickly falls to the side of the road. If they want it bad enough to earn it, then they will value it enough to preserve it. The cost of preserving peace is ultimately higher than earning it initially.

I believe that is part of the problem we in the US face. We have been given peace by our fathers and our grand-fathers. They spilled their blood in war to earn the peace we enjoy today. Unfortunately, many of us take that peace for granted. Peace is more than the absence of war, it is contentment, it is satisfaction, it is the freedom from fear that you will be assulted. It is many things.

We are in the process of losing our sense of peace, and how soon before we then lose our peace, and finally our freedom? The only way we will retain any of these is to ... well, you already know, so I won't bore you with the details.


Anonymous said...

Hi David -- LOL. Actually, I did think a lot about the Tribes posting and was going to comment about in-group/ out-group morality and how the 10 Commandments and even Christ's teaching appears to have been intended exclusively for the Jewish tribe (later exported by Paul), but I didn't feel I knew enough about what I was talking about.

The Germany/Japan analogy is a really interesting one. There's a good argument that the Middle East is where Europe was at the beginning of WWI. (

One reason the Germans and Japanese were quick to be our friends was the alternative: living under the Russian Communists.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

I’m not 100% sure either.

I wish we could just dust off our boots and walk away, but I don’t see how we can, now or ever, until Iraq is a free country able to defend itself from the Islamic extremists.

Freedom needs a base in the Middle East. Walking away from Iraq now would set history back 50 to 100 years or even longer. It is possible that Radical Islam will be content with controlling the Middle East, but it is most probable that an American withdrawal will embolden the terrorists in a way that endangers other free countries.

I know we can’t force people to be free or live in peace who choose not to live in peace. However, the Islamic extremists in Iraq need to be defeated by the American military or the battle will spread to other parts of the world. We need to make it clear to the terrorists that peace or death are the only two options since they are trying to make it clear to us that submission or death are the only two options.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,

Do you think we could threaten the Iraqis with France if they don’t shape up?

Buz said...


(Did you change your front page, or is my monitor about to go belly up?)

If we are battling terrorists from all around the Middle East in Iraq, then we need to take the war to their homes. If Syria is sending troops to fight in Iran, then we need to take the fight back to Syria. Otherwise, they have nothing to lose ... it is not their country that is being turning into a smouldering waste.

However, if what is happening is NOT terrorists using Iraq as a battle ground, but rather Iraqui Sunnis fighting Iraqui Shiites, and we are just getting between them, then we need to move out of the way. A wise man does not try to stop two fighting dogs because both dogs will turn on him.

If we are truly concerned that whatever the outcome, when they are done, they will attack us, then fine, let one side wipe out the other, then we will only have 1/2 the people to fight with.

I believe that we were fighting terrorists until the Iraq government was in place, last June or August, or whatever date you want to set for them having seated their parliment. However, since that time, I am less sure that what is going on now is outside terrorism as opposed to the standard "no, I want to be the boss" that we see in so many countries (not ruling out our own ... but at least we aren't killing people yet, with the possible exception of the Clinton regime, if you believe the Little Rock Tattler, and the trail of dead bodies that followed the Clintons into office).

Besides, now that there is no more dictator in Iraq, and the only real thing for soldiers to do is to police the neighborhoods and try not to get shot, I think that we should turn the job over to the U.N. They are real good at police actions ... and who would want to shoot at anyone wearing a powder-blue helmet ... most unsporting.


Rick and Gary said...

Hi David -- Nope I don't think France is much of a threat. But I also don't think this "surge" can solve anything in Iraq or is really meant to. I think it's fortify our position there while we start bombing Iran and maybe blockading them as well. (With the Sunni Saudis jacking up oil production to meet some of the shortfall.

Interestingly, the new Central Command CINC is, for the first time, not Army or Marine. He's a naval aviator (Adm. William J. Fallon)

Buz said...


Question about your use of "line in the sand". My understanding of that phrase is that it was a line of challenge. It was line that was drawn by on person, and if the other person crossed the line it was grounds for a fight. So, if we draw a line in the sand, and our enemy crosses that line, it is time to go to war.

Am I misunderstanding the common use of that phrase, or are you using a different definition for your discussion?


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

I am using “Line in the Sand” to refer to a boundary without any real commitment. It is boundary that is easily changed. A “wall” is a much more permanent boundary.