Friday, September 30, 2005

Rowing Alone from Dictatorship to Democracy

I just want to give this guy a hug. Or send him a present. Or something.

It seems he set out to break the record for the fastest west to east crossing of the Atlantic by rowboat, but ended up setting a new record for the slowest, almost doubling the number of days he had initially hoped to beat. Bless your heart, Mr. Hicks. I can only imagine that you must be at least a little bit disappointed, but you did it! Two months into your journey, you knew you weren't going to beat the 62-day record, but you kept going. And now, 124 days after leaving the North American shore, you're home. It may have been a pretty dumb idea to start out on such a journey in the first place, but you did, and when the original schedule started to fall apart, you stayed the course.

I guess there's not a whole lot of other places you can go in the middle of the Atlantic, when you realize your journey isn't going according to plan. You just have to keep rowing, and make sure you stay on course. It may take a little longer than you had hoped, but if you stop in the middle of the Atlantic, you're screwed.

You know, I never supported the war in Iraq. I supported the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but can't bring myself to see what has happened in Iraq as directly related to 9/11 or terrorism. Was I president of the Saddam Hussein fan club? Of course not-- he was a coward, a murderer, and a dictator. But there's far too many cowardly, murderous dictators in the world for the US to take out in one war. Does that make me a liberal? I hope not. Does it make me un-patriotic? I don't think so. I love America and all that it is, has been, and can be. Do I support democracy, and would I want democracy for all the people oppressed and frightened by their dictatorial governments? Yes and yes-- everybody deserves freedom. I'm just not yet convinced that it is the role of our military to enforce democracy worldwide.

But the war has been started, and an entire regime has been dismantled. So many of our soldiers have given their lives in this war to ensure that the Iraqi people experience real democracy. The whole world has seen the United States government promise that we'll be there every step of the way. We've rowed out into a very precarious position, but the only option is to go forward. If we turn tail and head back for home, we've failed our nation, the citizens of Iraq, and our military; if we stop short of the goal we will have dishonored those men and women-- fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives-- who have given their all in the name of democracy and freedom. There is no rewind button, only forward (even if it isn't so fast). We have to press on, as efficiently and quickly as is feasible, and pray that with patience and strength, we will finish this race, albeit some time later than originally hoped.

You see, with a task so large, whether it be rowing the Atlantic or re-developing an entire nation's governmental and economic structure, you have to be at least a little bit crazy to think you can do it expediently. Neither one strikes me as the kind of thing you can rush, nor are they things in which you can dictate an arbitrary schedule. You cannot predict and schedule the behavior of insurgents and a newly-formed government any more than you can schedule ideal weather for a trans-Atlantic crossing. Nature is nature, even when it is human nature, and nature carries an inherent element of the unexpected and uncontrollable.

We could stop our part in the war now if we wanted, but the war wouldn't end just because we stepped out of it, anyway. We have to keep our promise. We have to finish the race we've started. And when we do, we may not feel the exuberant joy of a record broken, a prize achieved. We're too far behind our intentions for that. But we will celebrate completion, and there will be resolution and closure. That's the only way it will ever be over.

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