The war in Iraq

Here are some thoughts on the war. Not well-researched or necessarily well thought out, but they represent my current view.

I guess I supported the war at the beginning, largely because Colin Powell supported it, and I figured if the administration convinced him, then it couldn’t be all that bad. I was concerned about its pre-emptive nature, and wondered if a pre-emptive war could ever be just. I wondered about how we get into these things and what the true role of the US is in the world. In the end it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Saddam was a tyrant, Iraq was a rogue nation, and it seemed plausible that, although they had nothing to do with 9/11, they might provide deadly support to terrorists in the future. The fact that we needed another base in the Middle East, an “oasis” of democracy, didn’t enter into my deliberations. Nor did the fact that our country’s addiction to oil (and long-standing support for Israel) is the root cause of all this grief.

Now it seems like the decision to oust Saddam was shortsighted and foolish. No, it’s not yet another Viet Nam, and is unlikely to become one. But it feels wrong to be there, nation building, sacrificing our soldiers, and alienating the United Nations for the sake of warring factions who aren’t ready for self-government.

Critics cite the failure to find WMDs as a major indication that Bush lied to us in order to trump up support for his personal vendetta. I tend to disagree. There is no question that Iraq had WMDs in the past and would have wanted to maintain them if at all possible. It is also a short step from having the weapons to selling them to terrorists. So something needed to be done in this post 9/11 world to prevent that from happening. The tough question was whether or not that meant we had to go to war.

Naturally, it would have been better to first build a coalition similar to that formed in the first Gulf War. In fact, had the UN been more united against Saddam in the period before the war, I believe it would have been possible to avoid it. But France and Germany showed signs of defecting well in advance of our decision to go it alone, and this made negotiating from strength virtually impossible. The prudent thing to do when we lost the UN would have been to back off, restart the inspections, investigate the oil-for-food program, and hang tough on the no-fly zones. The fact that we didn’t lends support to the argument that Bush and his staff had revenge on their minds. As pointed out by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil, Bush seemed predisposed to a regime change in Iraq from the earliest moments of his presidency. That rings true for me, even as a casual observer of the events.

Now of course, the consensus view is that we can’t leave Iraq in its current state of chaos. When can we leave? When should we leave? I don’t know. My guess is that we will leave as soon as it looks like the country will survive for six months after we get away. I’m reminded of Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamization” plan for ending the Viet Nam war. The theory was we’d gradually give up control of the war to the South Vietnamese army and let them fight their own war, with our support, of course. Then came that fateful day in 1975 when the last helicopter left from the Embassy in Saigon and the city was overtaken (and renamed) by the Viet Cong. It took us a while to admit it, but we lost. That’s how we got out.

That is my greatest fear in Iraq. We win, but we lose. And still, we need the oil.

DadObservations06/26/04 0 comments

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