When the liberation of Iraq began in March of 2003, it was obvious to anyone who spent a substantial amount of time in the anti-Communist, pro-China-democracy community that the war would split the movement like a ripe melon. As someone who co-founded the China e-Lobby specifically to bring anti-Communists of all political stripes together, I dutifully avoided the subject as much as I could within the C e-L confines (outside the confines was another story). While it pains me to abandon that now, and effectively force the entire pro-democracy community to focus on this divisive issue, I feel I have no choice. The events of the last few weeks have made it abundantly clear to me: the pro-China-democracy community must come out in favor of the mission to build a democratic Iraq, and the China e-Lobby is now doing just that.
I write this knowing full well democracy in Iraq (or to be more precise, a republican form of government there) seems more elusive and less likely now than at any time in the last three-and-a-half years. However, I fell like I have no choice; the alternatives to a genuinely free Iraq would be disastrous for those of us who wish to see China freed from the Communist regime that currently imprisons it. Here are the reasons why.
Iran and Syria: Since "realism" seems to be in vogue these days, let's not forget one very important reality - the mullahcracy of Iran wouldn't be anywhere near as powerful as it is today with support from Communist China. Likewise, Syria's ties to Tehran and Beijing easily pre-date the current Iraq war. At present, the Bush Administration has been content to ignore the ties these two regimes have with both the Communists and the terrorists who are killing Americans in Iraq (second and fifth items), but we can't. The fact is, an Iraq under the thumbs of Iran and Syria is a de facto Communist Chinese proxy via remote control.
We cannot abandon the Iraqi people twice in two decades without repercussions: In 1991, as the Iraqi people rose up against Saddam Hussein, then-President George H. W. Bush publicly blessed the rebellion, than refused to do anything to help it. Millions of Iraqis remember the ensuing carnage bitterly. Letting the mullahs of Iran and the Ba'athists of Syria take the lead in bringing "stability" to Iraq will curse the Iraqi people once more. How would other allies respond to this kind of weakness from America, particularly our most important potential friends, the peoples of captive nations? The dictators of those nations will see, too, and they can tell their people America no longer cares for the oppressed peoples of the world. The effect in Communist China could be devastating. Millions of Chinese desperate to be free of their Communist overlords will be told - explicitly by the Communists and implicitly by the the U.S. itself - that America no longer cares what happens to them.
Contempt for the value of democracy outside of Europe will flourish: As more Americans try to determine what tactical mistakes were made in the liberation of Iraq, some are coming to the conclusion that the Iraqi people themselves are the problem (Charles Krauthammer in the Manchester Union-Leader, Ralph Peters - as cited by John Podhoretz in the New York Post - and John Derbyshire in National Review Online). As I mentioned above, "realism" is on the rise, and underlying much of it is the notion that self-government is just not possible or preferable among the Arabs. It doesn't take much to see where this is heading: the same people who denigrate the prospects for democracy in the Middle East will be just as cynical toward the Chinese people; in fact, one pundit - Arnaud de Borchgrave (fourth item) - is already saying that. So, in addition to being told the U.S. has no interest in helping them, the Chinese people will be told they are politically inferior to Americans. Is that the message we really want to send?
A defeat is a defeat is a defeat: No dressing-up a withdrawal from Iraq will change the fact that Iran and Syria will have won, and we will have lost. Communist China will certainly look to build upon the victory of its Middle Eastern proxies. The regime will also likely continue to build its ties to al Qaeda, which will certainly claim its part in the terrorist victory.
Now, I'm not saying a pro-democracy activist in China will suddenly decide it's time to look for the Party card; the Chinese people have too much pride in themselves for that. However, the pro-democracy movement in China will be dealt a crippling blow to morale if it sees America unwilling to persevere in Iraq. This could lead them to lower their sights, reduce their demands, and otherwise postpone the day when Communism ends in China. That means the regime will have more time to continue arming terrorists who wish to kill as many Americans and others from the democratic world as they can find.
I know many in the anti-Communist community opposed the liberation of Iraq, and many still do. I believe, however, that this is based on the errant notion that the fate of democracy in Iraq and the fate of democracy in China are separate and unrelated. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Instead of leaving the nascent Iraqi democracy to the terrorist wolves, the United States should make clear to Iran and Syria that we will never leave Iraq until after they do. This will probably require taking action to liberate Iran and Syria, much like taking action against the Nicaraguan Communists was required to get them out of El Salvador in the 1980s (National Review Online).
I know I'm asking a great deal of the anti-Communist, pro-democracy community from a political perspective, but I feel I have no choice. The end of Iraqi democracy will set back the cause of freedom around the world, including and especially in China, and the democratic world will never be secure until China is free. We cannot and must not allow the Iraqi people to be abandoned.
Therefore, I hereby beg my fellow anti-Communists to join me in supporting the continuing effort to liberate Iraq, and demanding the Bush Administration not abandon the Iraqi people.