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July 30, 2004

why invade iraq?

I have been dismayed, of late, to see who's backing away from the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. I don't mean to pick on manasclerk, but his recent post about Richard Clark's book got me thinking about this.

I can understand why liberals are up in arms about this armed conflict. They have several reasons to be dismayed by it, not the least of which is the possibility of success in the venture. Bush has proposed a profound shift in our approach to terrorism. It's akin to Reagan's showdown with the Soviet Union, which as we know, was ultimately successful.

But conservatives and libertines who back away from the Iraq invasion generally seem to wind up mimicking liberals' arguments; it's too expensive, American lives are being needlessly lost, or that Iraq was irrelevant to the war on terror.

The truth of the matter is that Iraq was crucial in the war on terror. I make this assertion despite the fact that discovered caches of chemical and biological weapons have been far, far below expectations, and despite the fact that the link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda is still being debated. There is a strong humanitarian argument for the campaign; Sadaam was a brutal oppressor who ruled by terror. He maimed, raped and tortured and killed thousands of his own people. While I'm glad the Iraqi people are free from Sadaam's rule, this isn't the primary reason we had to go into Iraq.

Ultimately, the reason we had to go over there is psychological. Terrorism is, essentially, a psychological campaign; in a sense it is gang warfare. And Sadaam, by defying the UN repeatedly, was challenging our street creds. The United States had already lost credibility over the last couple of decades by not answering terrorist attacks, from Beruit, to Mogudishu, to the World Trade Towers (1993), to the USS Cole, and back to NY on September 11, 2001. Word was getting around that maybe we had lost our edge.

Does this sound primitive or immature? It will sound that way to you if you've let comfortable, urbane American life convince you that there are civilized ways to circumvent the rawest truth about human nature. To espouse further negotiation, dialoguing or gracious attempts to try to understand the enemy's complaints is to live in denial. The psychology of such a reaction is not good; we'd be sitting ducks.

In the movie Family Business Jessie McMullen (played by Sean Connery) gave some advice to his grandson, who was facing possible time in prison. He said, "on your first day, find the biggest guy there, and hit him as hard as you can." The point of this is not that the biggest guy is necessarily coming after us. But once we've decked the biggest guy, all the other guys who were looking for weaklings will think twice about messing with us. Sadaam volunteered to be the biggest man. His UN resolution violations and civil rights atrocities are just the technicalities that got us in there. From a psychological stand point, we had to hit him as hard as we could.

Posted by joel at July 30, 2004 10:34 AM

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Wars not make one great.

Posted by: Lydia O'Lydia at August 1, 2004 11:49 PM

True. Wars make the other guy not-so-great.

Posted by: Joel at August 2, 2004 02:03 AM

I thought I update you on my Iraq War opinion.

After looking at the recent elections in Saudia Arabia, as weak as they were, I believe that my friend J was right: the real reason that we went into Iraq was mostly about destabilizing the entire region. "Attack the center" is a classic military strategy, he said. Iran is in talks about its nuclear program. Syria is pulling out of Lebanon at the insistence of the Saudi government. The Saudi royals allowed small time elections. Israel begins talks with a new Palestinian leadership.

Iraq was never about terrorism, at least not directly. You're probably right that it was in part a needed move to show strength. But that show was not to stop terrorists so much as to destabilize the governments sponsoring terrorism, which we have always known was Libya, Syria and Iran. Afganistan gave them a place to sleep. Iraq was mostly irrelevant. The others fund and train terrorists. The power of the regimes in these nations is crumbling as a direct result of the American invasion of Iraq.

It was never about WMD or UN violations. It was about restoring balance to the region. If this is right, then the whole thing looks like Dick Cheney's influence.

If Pres. Bush pulls this off, it will be the greatest foreign affairs success since at least Carter's Camp David accords. Or Eisenhower's getting the Soviets to make space-based flyovers free and clear. Or the crash as the Iron Curtain tumbled down across Europe thanks to Reagan's "non-conservative" budgetary policies.

Simply brilliant.

A year ago, there was no way that these current events could have been imagined as happening in my lifetime. We're watching history. I wish that it wouldn't have happened at the cost of 1,500 lives of my fellow Americans. Yet, if these things continue, they died for a worthwhile cause and their soldiering protected America from much larger harm down the road.

I'm still not a big Bush administration supporter, even less so after getting my recent Republican Census form. But I want to acknowledge that he may be responsible for this incredible thing. What will the German and French governments do? Ally with the Russians again? It would have been nice to have had the real reason up front, of course, rather than resorting to WMD shenanigans. But that's not unusual for any administration. We citizens don't like that type of argument.

Now if he would only pay more attention to a relationship with the messy democracy of India rather than looking to the atheist commies of red China...

Posted by: manasclerk [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 4, 2005 12:27 AM

Manasclerk! I was tweaking my categories (I imported everything from blogger.com as "misc") and behold! the power of the ping.

The difference between terrorists and the states that sponsor them is largely a semantic difference from the perspective of the Bush doctrine. I think I more or less agree with you about that: it's all about the governments. I don't necessarily agree that Iraq was irrelevant with regard to terrorism. A couple of notables were known to be living there, possibly on Sadaam's dole. Even more damning was his overt psychological and monitary support for Palastinian terrorism against Israel. Add an historically documented interest in nulclear weapons, and an intractable stubborness about cooperating with the UN, and I say Hussain nominated himself to go first.

None of that made Iraq a particularly more relevant target than Lybia, Syria or Iran. Iraq's old regime was a victim of geography, both political and physical.

I hadn't really given India much thought (apropos of your point), but I like the idea of an alternative partner in Asia. It has all the hallmarks of good sense: our cultures and political systems have much more in common than China has with the US.

Wow, Manasclerk comments on my blog! I'm a really big fan of your blog!

Posted by: joel at March 4, 2005 12:55 AM

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