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Ask Auntie Pinko
January 8, 2004

Dear Auntie Pinko,

I guess I would considered a "moderate Republican." - socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I was led to this site by a good "liberal" (socialist, really -by her definition not mine!). I was expecting this column to be very "left leaning" but what a nice surprise - it's not. That doesn't mean I agree with everything you've said as I've scanned through your archives but it makes for an intelligent, lively debate which is pleasantly surprising - if rare. I have a couple of questions.

1) While I did vote for Bush in the 2000 elections and would rather not re-live the Florida re-count (yet again!), don't you think it's time that Democrats everywhere move on? While I don't agree with the assertions that have been made, I do believe that if they do want to take back the White House, Congress and Senate that they need to focus on the present and quit living in the past.

2) One of my biggest gripes with the Democrats (Dean especially) has been this obsession that we need to involve the UN in the handling of Iraq. They have proven (in my view) over and over again that they were unable or unwilling to enforce the sanctions of the 1991 Gulf War and Kofi Annan had once said that Saddam was a man "I could do business with." While we may disagree on the Iraqi War, the aftermath of the war, and the insurgency that continues to go on (and some issues I would agree with you on, I'm sure), I find the UN to be completely out of its league - especially knowing that of the 17 members of their new committee on the future of Iraq, not one is an Iraqi. The UN folded its hands for 12 years while these atrocities were going on and never did a thing about it.

Wells, ME

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your kind words, although Auntie is a little miffed at the accusation of not being particularly "left leaning." Unless perhaps you mean that I'm not actually leaning, but have firmly established myself in leftwards territory? If so, thank you! I consider myself highly typical of large numbers of people who self-identify as being ideologically to the left. And I think it's a wonderful, meritorious place to be - progressive, thoughtful, adventurous, altruistic, pragmatic, visionary, steadfast, sensible, and empathetic.

Now, on to your questions:

First, Auntie disagrees with you that in order to succeed in the upcoming elections, Democrats must focus on the present. I think we need to focus on the future, because that is what matters most: will our children live in a better world than the one we live in today? While the past four years have resulted in some terrible damage being done to both the quality of our world, and the quality of America's democracy, Americans are most inspired by hope for a better future.

This doesn't mean, however, that we should ignore the past, or "move on" as you put it. America's freedom - the confidence, even the very capacity, of our citizens to renew our self-government as the Constitution provides - was damaged. To many of us, that is an issue grave beyond the consideration of temporary political advantage or disadvantage (and it is not only Democrats who are worried about this, Steve!). While I deplore attempts to cheapen and exploit this issue from both sides of the political aisle, I cannot agree that it is something that can be "moved on" from, without serious examination of how was allowed to happen, how to keep it from ever happening again, and how to restore the confidence of all Americans in our electoral system.

Now, as far as the UN and the reconstruction of Iraq is concerned, I'm not sure that believing that Saddam Hussein was someone with whom business could be done necessarily disqualifies any world leader from being involved in the reconstruction. It was not all that long ago that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld were "doing business" (very profitable business indeed) with Mr. Hussein, at the very moment he was applying weapons of mass destruction to his own people. A great many world leaders have done business with Mr. Hussein (not to mention other gruesomely brutal tyrants.) While I would love to see more world leaders allowing their humanitarian ideals to guide their economic, political, and diplomatic actions, I don't think we yet have a critical mass of leaders who can exemplify such a model in practice.

It is Auntie's personal opinion that, regardless of what help we can arrange from the UN or other nations individually, the United States and Britain, and we alone, have the primary responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq. This is on the "you break it, you buy it," principle. We are morally obligated to provide restitution to the people of Iraq for the damage our war has wrought upon the physical and spiritual infrastructure of their country.

Having destroyed their (terrible, brutal, and tyrannical - but functional) infrastructure of domestic order and security, we are now faced with the insurmountable challenge of trying to rebuild the entire national infrastructure in an environment of conflict and chaos. And the Iraqi people have no trust in our motives or our capacity to abate that conflict and chaos sufficiently to allow the rest of the rebuilding to proceed.

In other words, we're not going to be able to fix what we broke with bullets whizzing and car bombs exploding. But the harder we try to control the whizzing bullets and exploding bombs, the more mistrust we provoke.

We can't clean up the mess until some level of order is restored, but it should be pretty obvious by now that the harder we try to restore it, the worse the chaos is going to get. (Remember the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting the results to change?) The only way we could effectively restore order would be to reinvent ourselves as Saddam Hussein - brutal, repressive, and tyrannical (all in the name of "democracy," of course.) And the economic and moral costs of such an effort, not to mention the loss of life, would be completely unacceptable.

So we're not the best candidates for restoring order. And it would be a surpassingly tough challenge for anyone suspected of being our stooges.

Well, Steve, there's no way anyone could suspect the UN of being our stooges (unless of course we tie too many strings to whatever funding we provide them to help us clean up the mess.)

Now, it's possible that we could persuade a coalition of nations not necessarily under the aegis of the UN to take on the task. But the problem with that is that we have pretty much blown our budget of any international good will and cooperation we might be able to apply to building such a coalition diplomatically. We might, if we wanted to put enough cash into it, be able to buy such a coalition - but then they, too, would be suspected of being our stooges, and their task would become impossible.

Auntie is certainly willing to consider other alternatives, but so far nothing really possible-sounding has surfaced. So for now, I'm willing to quit living in the past as regards the UN's abysmal record of enforcing the post-Gulf I sanctions, and focus on the future. Thanks for asking Auntie Pinko, Steve!

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