Every week on Monday morning, the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day. This week’s question: The 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War just passed. Was the Iraq Invasion Worthwhile?
The Razor: I’ll admit I was wrong about the Iraq war. I took the politically correct view that Arabs weren’t savages and was proven wrong.
That’s overly simplistic. I was wrong about Iraq because we weren’t willing to do two things we did in Germany and Japan after World War 2.
1. We treated the regimes we replaced as losers.
2. We discredited the cultures that lead to militarism. Neither Germany nor Japan had strong democratic roots, so instead we imposed superior cultures on them, particularly the British parliamentary system.
In Iraq we were doomed because of the politically correct view that all cultures are equal. Ditto Afghanistan. Sorry, but Arab states are based on corruption, violence and kleptocracy and by refusing to impose a superior culture on them we allowed their culture to flourish.
In fact, I would argue that at this time we cannot accomplish any nation building anywhere under our cultural relativist beliefs.
The Colossus of Rhodey: Well, let’s see: was Iraq under Saddam Hussein really that much of a threat? Sure, as long as he remained in power he could be a nuisance and a potential menace, but to what degree? The coalition from the first Iraq War had Iraq “boxed in,” so to speak, primarily via the “no-fly zone.” And, yes, Saddam had defied the UN upwards of over fifteen times since the Gulf War’s end in 1991. The US tried to make its case to the UN for military action against Saddam in ’02 and ’03, but Kofi and the gang wouldn’t go for it. So as a result, why does this mean that WE — the US — must do it alone? Why must US forces risk their lives because the weak-kneed, yellow-bellied and milksop UN refuses to act to enforce its own sanctions and edicts?
And this brings me to my primary reason why I am against the Iraq War: Removing a dictator and instituting democracy to a country that’s never had it is NOT — NOT — a job for the US military. Not a single US soldier’s life is worth it. It’s “nation-building,” after all. Aren’t conservatives supposed to be against ”nation-building”? Representative Ron Paul makes a good case conservatives should consider here. Furthermore, James L. Payne demonstrates that “nation-building” has been effective only 27% of the time since 1850 and he argues that these successes were not the products of military intervention. In addition, he notes:
One group of countries that seem especially resistant to democracy-building efforts are the Arab lands. There have been are nine interventions in Arab countries in the past century. In no case did stable democracy follow the military occupation.
George W. Bush himself declared that “We’re not into nation building. We’re focused on justice” – shortly after the 9/11 attacks. And Claudia Rosett in the conservative Wall Street Journal opinion pages said about W’s claim (my emphasis):
That’s a crucial distinction. Nation building entails America trying to construct an entire way of life for others. And though building a free and democratic world would be a wondrous thing, experience suggests that for any nation it is a vastly complex project that must come mainly from within. America can serve as an example and an ally. But we cannot reliably reengineer other societies, and we risk enormous resentment when we try. No amount of social or political engineering can produce a paradise in which evil urges will never intrude, and though a more widely free and benign world order would produce fewer monsters, we can hardly arrange that within the week. But if we cannot quickly fix all creation, we can at least minimize the opportunities and maximize the penalties for evil actions–something we have not done for a decade now.
Of course, not too soon after, President Bush did a 180 on his above claim regarding Iraq. And, predictably, many — most? — conservatives fell in line behind him. This is understandable, certainly — the need to put up a “united front” — but it’s very intellectually and philosophically dishonest for conservatives. After all, didn’t conservatives flame Bill Clinton for his efforts in Haiti? Somalia? Kosovo? They sure did.
At least I believe I’m consistent. I’m against all instances of “nation-building,” whether they be attempted under a liberal administration or a conservative one. The only exceptions would be examples such as Japan and Germany which were utterly destroyed after total war and, frankly, needed a major degree of “nation-[re]building.”
US soldiers are there to FIGHT, not to police foreign lands or to engage in “building” democracy. Removing Saddam was a good thing, yes, but consider the long-term consequences.
Bookworm Room: I’m reading Paul Fussell’s marvelous The Great War and Modern Memory. It is a reminder of deadly wars, fought for stupid reasons, with disastrous consequences. Iraq wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last.
Rhymes With Right: As I noted over at my blog, I certainly understand those who look upon our nation’s military action in Iraq to have been a disaster. We discovered that our leaders had for at least a decade believed things that were untrue because our nation’s intelligence services had supplied wrong information. We watched as a quick victory became a much tougher slog due to a rising insurgency. And there was the financial toll on our country that weakened our government and our economy. One can make the case that the Iraq war “was not worth it.”
But while our media an opinion leaders are willing to look upon the question from a very American – and very political – perspective, what we don’t often hear is the answer to that question from Iraqis. Take this response from one of Saddam Hussein’s many victims – Kurdish activist Barham Salih, who suffered in the torture chambers of the Iraqi dictator, who notes that:
“From the perspective of the Kurdish people — and I dare say the majority of the Iraqi people — it was worth it,” he said. “War is never a good option, but given our history and the brutality of Saddam’s regime, it may have been the only other option to end the genocidal campaign waged by Saddam against the Kurds and other communities in Iraq.”
So no, Iraq certainly is not the stable democracy and steadfast ally that we hoped for a decade ago. Acts of terrorism still take place there on a regular basis. But there are no government torture chambers in operation. There is a democracy of a sort, and opportunities for Iraqis that did not exist in 2003. So, while maybe the most imperialist view of what “worth it” (ironically adopted by the Left who opposed the war from practically the beginning), the war ended up improving the human rights situation of millions of Iraqis. And if that doesn’t make the war “worth it” from an American point of view, doesn’t it at least constitute an improvement on what was in place before it began?
JoshuaPundit: Sorry, but IMO this is sheer horse manure. It’s what I would expect from Jeffrey Goldberg.
Since when do we engage in wars – let alone non-constitutional ones – for things other than our own national interest? If that’s the case, I guess I missed our invasion of Sudan to protect Darfur, or our taking out of Hamas or Iran.
And what did we ‘liberate’ in Iraq, exactly? Or accomplish, aside from building a brand new infrastructure and a shiny new Muslim army at the American taxpayer’s expense for a Shi’ite Islamic republic with its laws based on Sharia? Meanwhile we’re out a trillion dollars and over 4,000 lives.
We replaced a Sunni dictator with a Shi’ite one (read up on the last ‘elections’) who’s close to Iran and whose power base is militias like the Mahdi Army and Moqtada al-Sadr. Iraq is in the process of becoming an Iranian colony.
The Sunnis, including those who we bribed to fight with us in the Awakening movement have been completely marginalized, which is why al-Qaeda in Iraq is a growing force again.
Iraq’s Christians were horribly persecuted under our watch, and the majority have fled or are trying to.
We empower our real allies in Iraq, the Kurds.
We didn’t even ‘liberate’ the oil from the wells Halliburton saved after Saddam torched them. China got that.
So what did we ‘liberate’?
Things turned out badly because we set things up that way. We didn’t make Syria regret they ever let Jihadis into Iraq. We didn’t put in place a firm military governor to enforce a real occupation for the time it took. We didn’t hang insurgents on either side – Moqtada al-Sadr for instance – when they caused violence and act ruthlessly to suppress it. Instead, we saddled our troops with ridiculous Rules of Engagement.
We didn’t empower women particularly, or work to discredit Islamism and because of Bush’s fetish for ‘Arab Democracy’ we rushed the Iraqis into an election they were in no way ready for.
Bush was unsuited to be a war president. And Iraq was a huge strategic mistake. We would have done far better to not get embroiled there in the first place unless we were going to use it as a base to take on Iran, who actually was complicit in 9/11. Even the 9/11 Commission’s report mentioned that.
I give tremendous credit to Patraeus and Ordiano for allowing us a gracious retreat, but that was what it was.
The Noisy Room: I supported President Bush when we invaded Iraq. I still believe it was a terrorist pit that needed cleaning out, however… I said at the time and I still believe that it was the wrong initial target. Iran should have been first on our dance card. We did not deal with the ‘head’ of the snake and now the snake is threatening to devour the world.
Furthermore, we did not finish the job in Iraq. We were so concerned with not offending anyone, that we offended everyone. After the death of Saddam Hussein, we should have packed our bags and gone home. Instead, we stayed, training their military and rebuilding their country. Not only was that a financial black hole for us (and still is), it was militarily foolish and pointless. In the end, we are still ‘sort of’ there, but the real winners are Iran, who now basically control Iraq. War should be treated as well, war. You go in fight, kill, break things and leave. You don’t grovel and nation build afterwards. You only preemptively strike a clear and present threat as well. Such as, let’s see… North Korea or Iran, who are threatening to nuke us. But instead, we take the real threats to our country and either talk them to death or try and buy them off, both of which ALWAYS FAIL.
We have lost many, many of our warriors and we still don’t have a clearly defined enemy. We were never allowed to declare actual ‘war.’ The real perpetrators of 9-11 have not been brought to justice. Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the terrorists came from, received no punishment at all. Neither did the backers and primary instigators of the terrorism, Iran (I don’t consider ‘sanctions’ real punishment). The terrorist masterminds who were captured still sit in jail (if you can even call it that as every need and want is met for them) and there is a good chance under the Obama-friendly regime that they will wind up in U.S. courts, rather than military tribunals. This means they could walk, get greatly reduced sentences or wind up in Club Med for wayward Jihadist radicals.
Although I feel for the Iraqis and their plight, I now no longer believe invasion of Iraq was worthwhile. Their country is based on a theocratic and militaristic barbarism that is employed throughout the Islamic world. It is a mindset that the West cannot seem to wrap their viewpoint around: “You love Pepsi, we love death.” Our invasion did nothing to make us safer or bring closure to the murders of nearly 3,000 Americans. We spilled our warriors life-blood for little to no gain and ended up doing nothing but entangling ourselves in more pointless conflicts we will not be allowed to win and further bankrupting our nation. The current conflicts in the Middle East are engineered for wealth and power redistribution. I now believe the only way to win in the Middle East is with massive bombing runs and perhaps a judicious nuke or two. Even then it won’t end the threat, just delay the conflict to end all conflicts.
The Glittering Eye: Simply stated, no, it was not worthwhile. There were better ways of spending the money, lives and time. Our failure to pacify the country harmed our reputation. A reputation for invincibility is hard to recover once lost.
Granted, it could have been worse, for example, if we had bolted in 2005 or 2006 when the
post-war was degenerating so badly. That still doesn’t make it a strategic victory.
Well, there you have it.
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