Tag Archives: GWOT

Why I am a neo-con (even though its failed so far)

So the majority of America seems to think this is a total dead-end. Iraq is crashing and burning, the Arab Spring is spiralling into sectarian violence, and back home in America almost everyone, liberal and conservative, is washing their hands of neo-conservatives. The liberals (sensitive to post-colonialism and Lenin’s Imperialism) always thought this was a bad idea, and now the conservatives have given up on it too. The two leading contenders in the GOP are currently Trump–who is just another liberal masquerading as a conservative–and Ted Cruz, who is a real conservative–but of the old isolationist variety.

I see why.

Our Bush Administration attempts at the democratic experiment in Muslim populations has failed absolutely.

So…the question is, why did it fail so bad?

The liberals have it easy. They can say they were always against the war before they were for it, or were conned by the evil Bush machine of lies, because after all evil-America-was-just-after-the-oil. It’s a comfortable myth: democracy hasn’t failed, just nefarious American greed. And if you are into Marxism, you can tweak this to be just another case of capitalist imperialism.

But the conservatives have it hard. We know we weren’t after the oil. We know the Bush administration had integrity and competence, we know we tried. So what happened?

Well… as a grey-haired Russian Israeli told the confident highschooler me years ago (during the Bush administration): “They are Muslims. Freedom and democracy will never work with them. Their culture is too different. They are not capable of it.”

I just smiled at him, with a smile that meant “you’ll see.” I was so sure he was wrong…. And here we are.

And so have the conservatives concluded, by and large. The Neo-conservative experiment is over, George W Bush’s legacy is thrown under the bus, and “it’s time to just stay away from those Muslim folks. We are through with them. We’ve packed up and gone home and are trying to recover from that traumatic affair the best we can, and by golly, we don’t want them coming here. Because, if they really are so incapable of democracy, then we need to keep them out to at least preserve this corner of the world. We tried to save theirs and failed, now let us just defend our own!”

And the liberals jump up and down and say, “see, we told you so, we knew you always were a bunch of xenopobic racists!”

But everyone is giving up too soon. We had a 15 year experiment, and now everyone is sure it was a failure. Fifteen years is a very short time. I’m only 28, and I vividly remember this whole GWOT from start to finish. I remember the twin towers like it was yesterday, the political wrangling in the senate, the interminable declarations, the invasions, the giddy victory, the elections and the purple fingers, the delirious happiness, and then it all crashing down. OK, so we learned you can’t set up a democracy cowboy style, with a quick hit and run, smashing the dictator and riding off into the sunset. We should have stayed (like Bush wanted to!), we should have stayed for a few more years. Because we did not give them a long enough chance. Can’t we just try it a little longer?

I can’t give up. Liberal non-interference (like the western anthropologist who watched the African woman get eaten by a crocodile) is not an option. Conservative isolationist nationalism is not an option.

The conservative response to the Syrian refugee crisis struck a raw nerve in me. I am an absolute, extreme conservative. And here I was disagreeing with my own people. Because the Syrian refugees… Look, refugees, that is what my family was. On my mother’s side — they were Koreans who owed their lives to American intervention not once but twice. First they were Koreans living under a brutal Imperialist Japanese occupation, which only ended because of WWII. And then they were Koreans running from the “North-Korean”(really, mostly Chinese) communists. If America hadn’t sent her men into “some foreign damn-fool war” as the isolationists yapper about, millions more would be dead or in slave labor camps. My Korean relatives fled from communists. And (in contradiction to western elites with their romantic marxist illusions) the communists were damnably brutal, they preached a creed of hate and treated men like animals.

And that is just on my mother’s side. On my father’s side– my grandfather was Jewish (though he converted to Christianity as a teenager). His mother’s family had fled from Russia/Ukraine at the turn of the century during the antisemitic pogroms (the same world as Fiddler on the Roof). And–if America hadn’t let them in–they certainly would have all been gassed by Hitler’s SS in the 1940s when the Third Reich took the Ukraine and Poland.

So if it weren’t for American intervention–multiple times–my ancestors would all likely be dead, or in some slave labor camp. When I see the image of the American Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima, I see my saviors, who literally bought my freedom by their blood.

Look, I’m not being romantic here–in some ether land of ideals–this is a literal, physical fact. American soldiers bought my freedom by their blood.

Do you understand? Do you understand why I can’t accept the death of the neo-conservative movement? America, the world needed you and it still needs you. America, don’t give up now.









The soldier is Maj. Mark Bieger (in Iraq)


Major Mark Bieger found this little girl after the car bomb that attacked our guys while kids were crowding around. The soldiers here have been angry and sad for two days. They are angry because the terrorists could just as easily have waited a block or two and attacked the patrol away from the kids. Instead, the suicide bomber drove his car and hit the Stryker when about twenty children were jumping up and down and waving at the soldiers. Major Bieger, I had seen him help rescue some of our guys a week earlier during another big attack, took some of our soldiers and rushed this little girl to our hospital. He wanted her to have American surgeons and not to go to the Iraqi hospital. She didn’t make it. I snapped this picture when Major Bieger ran to take her away. He kept stopping to talk with her and hug her.

The soldiers went back to that neighborhood the next day to ask what they could do. The people were very warm and welcomed us into their homes, and many kids were actually running up to say hello and to ask soldiers to shake hands.

Eventually, some insurgents must have realized we were back and started shooting at us. The American soldiers and Iraqi police started engaging the enemy and there was a running gun battle. I saw at least one IP who was shot, but he looked okay and actually smiled at me despite the big bullet hole in his leg. I smiled back.

One thing seems certain; the people in that neighborhood share our feelings about the terrorists. We are going to go back there, and if any terrorists come out, the soldiers hope to find them. Everybody is still very angry that the insurgents attacked us when the kids were around. Their day will come.

[Post Script]
The reaction to my photo of Major Bieger cradling Farah, the little girl who died in his arms, provoked a flood of messages and heartfelt responses from caring people around the world. I have spent the last several days trying to read every message, and respond to as many as possible, but the flow has finally outpaced me, much as the swiftness of a river will finally defeat even the most determined swimmer.

This morning there was a banging on my door. It was “Q,” loaded for battle, weapon in hand, wearing the military radio headphones with the microphone that wrapped around his face. Bang, Bang, Bang! Q hit my door.

“Mike! Where are you?!”
“Hold on,” I said, opening the door.
“Why aren’t you ready! Grab your gear . . . we’re going!” My worn-out boots sat empty in the corner.
“I can’t go today,” I said, glancing in the direction of my laptop.
“Just tell them I can’t go today.”
“Okay!” And Q trotted off back to his Stryker, leaving me behind. The soldiers rolled out on their mission without me.

And now I sit here, answering a few final emails, while the men of Deuce Four patrol in Mosul. My hands may be here, but my head and heart are on the streets in the struggle. I’ve been riding the wave of interest and feedback from that photo, but I need to get back to what I seem best equipped to do–posting dispatches about what is happening here in Iraq. I will continue to read every message, and I offer my sincere thanks in advance for everyone who takes the time to send one, but, alas, with this dispatch, I must swim to shore.

–Michael Yon