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IN THEORY:Reflections on war in Iraq

March 17, 2007

We are not the first to misunderstand another culture or underestimate resistance to foisting our "superior" way of life on the natives. Intense religious conflicts do not acquiesce to rationality, and they scuttle hopes that the combatants will be governed by enlightened self-interest. Roses strewn along the path of the liberators soon molder as sworn enemies default to millennial patterns.

Our presence will have exerted precious little that is positive, and we will have left in our wake the senseless destruction of lives and needless loss of property, the exile of millions and the radicalization of multitudes. Meanwhile, Iran will have become predominant and will soon emerge as the greatest threat to humankind the world has ever known. President Bush's lamentable legacy in Iraq will be overshadowed by the horrific fact that it was on his watch that Iran actually attained what he told us Iraq had acquired: weapons of mass destruction.

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We are locked in a life-and-death struggle with the evil practitioners of an evil ideology. As we fought Nazism and communism, so today we battle radicalized Islamism. But we were misled into identifying Iraq as the front in that war. Mark Twain's observation is validated: "The statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation being attacked, and every man will be glad of these conscience-soothing falsities." This misadventure is another in a catalog of human audacity and presumption that verges on folly.

I recall those who declared the Vietnam War to be "winnable," and remember the doomsday scenarios, predicated on the Domino Effect, that Southeast Asia would cascade into a sea of communism if Vietnam were lost. The Middle East, too, is most often impervious to even the most reasoned calculations and considered prophecies. Many before us have invaded this region, only to have their schemes confounded and armies repulsed.

It is as if the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

RABBI MARK S. MILLER

Temple Bat Yahm

Newport Beach

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