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April 18, 2003
The Past or the Future?

There is a meme afoot that must be killed, smothered now, before it is allowed to go any further.

After the looting of the Baghdad museum, a recurring theme in the media (as partially detailed by the Media Research Center) is "the US cares more for preserving Iraq's oil fields than for preserving its culture."

Well, perhaps this need not be killed, so much as converted. Fortunately, this can be done without a lot of argument, discourse, or other hullabaloo.

The correct answer when you hear accusations that "the military cares more about protecting the oil than the museums" is "Damn straight it does."

Given the forces available in Baghdad, could the museum have been protected? Sure. A platoon of Army MPs or Marines could have done the job admirably. But can the critics really be so dim as to think that GEN Franks' staff expected anything like the looting which has occurred? Some civil disturbance, sure, but if examined honestly, even the critics have to admit that no one, not even a very large set of staff officers, can anticipate every eventuality. The result of this episode, from the military's point of view, will be lesson learned, let's move on.

But this ignores the bigger issue: given a finite set of resources, what is more important to protect? Oil or antiquities?

It's actually a little more complicated than that. Perhaps the question could be better phrased; for "oil", substitute "a nation's only natural resource."

Taken to its logical conclusion, the question boils down to "is it more important to preserve the possibility of a prosperous future, or to potentially condemn a nation to years of a poverty brightened only by the opportunity to see reminders of the past?"

If the answer isn't blindingly obvious, your name is probably Peter Jennings. Or maybe Robert Fisk.

America should be less concerned with the museums than the oil: the former is the Past, contributing nothing to the people of Iraq except dreams of past glories, while the latter is the Future, with the potential to make the Iraqi people the most prosperous and free in the Persian Gulf region.

Posted by Russ at 12:28 PM, April 18, 2003 in Nat'l Security

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