Questions for pro-war bloggers
Orin Kerr has posted three questions for pro-war bloggers at the Volokh Conspiracy site. They are good questions, and deserve answers, so here is my best shot.
First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?I still strongly believe that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. The only non-catastrophic way I see for us to win the War on Terror is a transformation of the Middle-East via democracy. Iraq was, and is, the best option for a place to start. It's violations of the U.N. security council resolutions, horrendous treatment of it's own people, and the fact that it had a relatively educated populous all gave me hope that Iraq could become, in relatively short time, a prosperous democracy in the heart of the middle-east. I have not given up on that hope. Indeed, although the violence is troubling, I see a lot of signs that it is succeeding. Even should that hope prove false, I still think that is was something that had to be tried. In addition there were a lot of secondary benefits to the Iraq war somewhat unrelated to my main reason for supporting the war. Saddam Hussein was a monster to his people and he is gone. I celebrate that. Saddam Hussein did have ties to terrorists of various stripes and was pursuing research into WMD. It is clear that had the sanctions program collapsed (as was likely) his WMD programs would have been up to speed very quickly. In addition, the successful negotiations with Libya and the resultant unveiling of the A.Q. Khan network were, at least in part, a result of the Iraq war.
Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?My first reaction, is that these things suck. It would be nice if everything was going perfectly in Iraq and the peace and brotherhood had sponeaneously erupted throughout the country following our invasion. It didn't happen, and I didn't expect it to happen, although I will admit that I expected things to be better there by this time. However, I view a lot of these problems as confirmation of my basic premise in question 1. Part of the reason for negative developments in Iraq is that a lot of different groups such as Syria, Iran, Al-Qaida-linked terrorists seem to feel that a successful Iraq would be a threat to them. We are fighting several proxy wars at once against groups whose focus is to make Iraq fail. It is also important to remember that in a war the enemy gets to make moves too. Sometimes their tactics will be successful although hopefully their overall campaign will fail. I never expected an easy victory or that every move we made would be an unqualified success.
Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?This is a tough, though valid question. Part of the difficulty with asymetical warfare is that it is tough to know if you are winning or not. Sometimes, the periods that seem the worst to you, also seem the worst to your enemy. I acknowledge however that this is a poor position from which to make policy. One truism of war is that you have never finally lost until you quit. So from a negative perspective, if we leave Iraq without that country being a stable democracy we have failed. I don't believe having an 'exit strategy' as a way to win wars, rather it is a good way to lose one. Sun Tzu said:
Put them in a spot where they have no place to go, and they will die before fleeing. If they are to die there, what can they not do? Warriors exert their full strength. When warriors are in great danger, then they have no fear. When there is nowhere to go they are firm, when they are deeply involved they stick to it. If they have no choice, they will fight.Strategically, Iraq is a spot from which we have no place to go. We are commited and failure now, would be catastrophic. There are a few milestones that can give us a feel for which direction things are going in Iraq however. The elections in January will be one. Even partial elections (skipping provinces that are too dangerous) will be a success, if full elections can be achieved that will be a huge success. The rumored offensive in December against Fallujah, spearheaded by the Iraqi forces, will be another chance to evaluate how things are going. In the past the Iraqi troops have not performed all that well. The December offensive will be a good chance to evaluate their ability and morale. Eventually we will know of course that Iraq was a success if it becomes a stable, prosperous Democracy that exerts a positive effect on the rest of the middle-east. I am hopeful that that will have happened in part within 5 years. On the converse, if in 5 years Iraq is still experiencing the violence it is seeing now, if it's government is viewed as illegitimate by it's people, and if it's armed forces prove to still be unable or unwilling to confront the terrorists and thugs they are arrayed against it will be time to abandon our efforts there and admit defeat.