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Guest Blog: Andrew Lazarus On The War In Iraq, Part I of II

| 165 Comments | 6 TrackBacks

Andrew Lazarus has been one of the most fervent - and yet thoughtful - opponents of the war in Iraq in our comments, and I thought it would be a good idea to invite him to set out his whole argument in a more expansive format.

By Andrew Lazarus:

Armed Liberal has very generously suggested that I write my reasons for opposing the Iraq War. I appreciate the opportunity, both because the exercise has allowed to determine in my own mind which arguments I feel are most cogent, and because from now on in the comments, I can just incorporate my prior arguments by reference.

Point: The assault on Iraq contributes little, if anything, to the personal security of Americans.

On 9/11, the United States suffered a dastardly attack masterminded by a transnational guerrilla movement with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of members organized into cells in at least half a dozen countries. Their leader was Osama bin Laden, and their headquarters was, roughly speaking, Afghanistan, which they controlled through their allies, the Taliban. This attack followed several other Al Qaeda operations against other American targets. This organization is unquestionably the greatest threat to American lives, and we got off to a great start by attacking it on several fronts. First, we used a combination of our own military, our ally (the Northern Alliance), and a combination of threats and bribes with the various warlords of Afghanistan, to overthrow the Taliban. (We promised the Afghans a better life, which we are delivering very, very fitfully, notwithstanding their splendid new constitution.)

Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, and the defeat of the Saddam government does nothing to disrupt Al Qaeda's command structure, which is elsewhere. It does nothing to seize Al Qaeda's financial assets, which instead are being located by the much-derided law enforcement methods. It does nothing to deprive Al Qaeda of war materiel. It does nothing to discover the identities of sleeper agents, who were not controlled from Iraqi soil (with the possible exception of Ansar Al-Islam, over which the Saddam government had no control). Iraq was not even a source of Al Qaeda operatives.

Meanwhile, every dollar we spend on the Iraq War is a dollar we don't spend on finding Osama bin Laden. Every soldier we commit to Iraq is a soldier who is not in Afghanistan, including crack Arabic-, Pashtun- and Dari-speaking special forces whom we redeployed from the Osama search to the Saddam search. What I find most incredible is that the response of the Spaniards to the ability of Al Qaeda to commit a terrorist act in Europe (as well as other acts in Asia and Africa) without any difficulties imposed by the Iraq War is taken as "appeasement". The theory that Western security can be vouchsafed by attacking a third party (evil as it was) has been tried, and found wanting. The Spanish punished a government that was unable to protect them because it didn't try.

Faced with the obvious, that none of whatever success we have enjoyed in locating Al Qaeda agents and frustrating their plans is in any way related to anything captured or interdicted in Iraq, proponents of the war propose various grandiose general theories to explain why the Iraq War has made us safer.

The flypaper theory posits that by attracting Islamoterrorists to Iraq, we are first distracting them from conducting further attacks in the United States, and second localizing them where our superior conventional military strength can annihilate them. The first argument is weak. For one thing, on 9/10/2001 we could have made a similar, mistaken, claim about the success of the Clinton and Bush anti-terrorism policies pursued until then. Even more important, this line of reasoning falters on Al Qaeda's post-Iraq attacks in Europe. The second argument is scarcely any better, for while it might apply to a traditional army being lured to a strongpoint and destroyed, it makes no sense in talking about a fairly small terrorist movement which will not attack in massed formation, and which moreover can abandon Iraq for other countries if the heat is too great.

More realistic than the flypaper theory is the theory that Arab governments everywhere will be so awed by the American military might in Baghdad, and the bases we will establish there with or without the consent of the Iraqi government, that they will cooperate in the fight against terrorism. (Why the fate of the Taliban isn't sufficient example is unclear to me.) Perhaps it is because, as Rumsfeld said, Iraq has better targets. There is evidence of a weak effect along these lines, although Libya and Syria were both seeing some liberalization before 9/11. Overall, the collapse of the Tunisia meetings and the lack of any forward motion for Bush's Middle East Initiative suggests that the benefits are limited. Perhaps the anti-American forces inside and outside of these governments have done the addition and decided that we simply have no troops to spare to occupy any more countries. Or perhaps the country most closely linked to Al Qaeda, namely, Saudi Arabia, figures its close personal friendship with the Bush family will continue to exempt it.

And last, and most ridiculous, is the triple-bank-shot theory that we will establish such a wonderful democracy in Iraq (doing what, I ask, with Fallujah?) that flowers begin to bloom over the entire region. Instead, the popularity of the United States is at low ebb both in Europe and the Arab countries. The existing democracy in Spain, much less any democratic states that might arise in the Middle East, has just repudiated our program. It says something about the PR capabilities of people like Richard Perle that they are seen as "realists" with this millennial fantasy, while antiwar liberals seeking to work in the realm of the possible are dismissed as fools.

To follow.

Point: The Iraq War was not worth the damage to international structures. Point: The Iraq War could not be sold to Congress and the American people on the basis of humanitarian arguments (even though these were to some extent valid) and was therefore sold on the basis of exaggerations, unproven assertions, falsehoods, and outright lies, and should have been opposed for the damage it caused to the American political structure.

6 TrackBacks

Tracked: April 1, 2004 4:27 PM
Random Stuff from Political Animal
Excerpt: RANDOM STUFF....News from other blogs: South Knox Bubba has a short interview with me about my new gig at the Washington Monthly . Check it out if you're curious about how all this came about. Over as Winds of Change...
Tracked: April 1, 2004 4:32 PM
Random Stuff from Political Animal
Excerpt: RANDOM STUFF....News from other blogs: South Knox Bubba has a short interview with me about my new gig at the Washington Monthly . Check it out if you're curious about how all this came about. Over as Winds of Change...
Tracked: April 1, 2004 6:57 PM
The anit war camp speaks from Galen's Log
Excerpt: Andrew Lazrus has been invited to put forth his arguments against the Iraq war over at Winds of Change. Let’s answer some of his assertions… Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, and the defeat of the Saddam
Tracked: April 1, 2004 9:41 PM
The Case Against The War from Matthew Yglesias
Excerpt: Is ably stated by Andrew Lazarus over at Winds of Change. Some further points I would make are this:Second Gulf War is causally linked to our failure to better secure the future of Afghanistan.Second Gulf War is causally linked to...
Tracked: April 2, 2004 2:58 AM
Against the War from Cuz We Said So
Excerpt: A well-written argument against the war over at Winds of Change.NET:Guest Blog: Andrew Lazarus On The War In Iraq, Part I of IIAndrew Lazarus has been one of the most fervent - and yet thoughtful - opponents of the war...
Tracked: May 12, 2004 3:23 PM
No You Didn't! from amateur night
Excerpt: But you know he did! Dan Darling's long-promised and impressively-long rebuttal to Andrew Lazarus's similarly extensive case against O.I.F. is up, or Part I is, at least. Do not read if you are, like, totally sure that of course there

165 Comments

What we need to do is close our borders, stop all trade and movement- problem solved.

What we need to do is close our borders, stop all trade and movement- problem solved.

Right. And when they start producing Jihadis with WMD on the other side, we lob over a few nukes?

Gabriel Gonzalez:

I took Inscrutable American's comment as irony.

I don't think Andrew Lazarus was advocating isolationism in response to 9/11. I, for one, am glad to see this post and am looking forward to Part II.

I'm inclined to see our small footprint in Afghanistan as being a) a necessity since there's not much way to move a large force in and b) the price we paid for the cooperation of the warlords which Lazarus appears to support.

Since I see the WoT as more than the search for OBL, I am not quite as concerned that

Meanwhile, every dollar we spend on the Iraq War is a dollar we don't spend on finding Osama bin Laden.

It's not a ridiculous question to ask if putting all of our resources behind such a search is as worthwhile if bin Laden is dead as if he is alive? And how do you know?

Andrew Lazarus writes:

Why the fate of the Taliban isn't sufficient example is unclear to me

I do believe that a serious U. S. militar presence in the Middle East was a necessity if we are to prosecute the war effectively. It had to be an Arab country. Saudi was in the process of being foreclosed to us. The only real question there is whether we would leave first or be asked to leave first.

I, along, with Andrew Lazarus, am skeptical about what Lazarus calls the "triple bank shot" but what I call the Neocon Plan. I don't think it's ridiculous--I just don't think we have enough time. And it's still possible we don't have the will.

I hope that in addition to the points already previewed Andrew Lazarus will give us some idea of what's being characterized as "the realm of the possible". I say this without irony.

Thanks, A.L., for this guest blog. I think it's a really important discussion.

You forgot the most important reason: the objective cannot be accomplished (at least not without enormous cost in treasure in lives). No Arab country, nor any Asian country I can think of, would tolerate western occupation. Lots of people said this prior to the war, but the media didn't listen.

Andrew, as noted privately, great post.

I do, obviously, disgree on a few areas, and let me highlight them without going into great depth to start the discussion (while I scramble to pull some backup together).

1) We don't want a lot more soldiers in Afghanistan, for reasons I've discussed below - and while I'm questioning the transfer of the elite forces to Iraq, my criticism is tempered by the fact that the key to success there is the cooperation of the Pakistani gov't, and that has been somewhat more forthcoming lately.

2) I'm less dismissive of the flypaper theory; the forces we are opposing have no shortage of foot soldiers; where they do have limitations is in funds and management - both of which are disproportionately focussed on Iraq right now.

I'm unpersuaded by the attack in Spain; it was a cheap, low-effort, high-yield attack that didn't take muchcentral planning. I think we need to expect a lot more of these regardless of what happens to OBL (will discuss why in detail later).

3) I appreciate your grudging "More realistic than the flypaper theory...", but even there I think you're being far too dismissive. Here's where our perceptions break apart, I think. I don't believe that AQ could have grown into more than a localized terrorist organization (of which we'll be seeing many, many, more in the coming decade) without the explicit and overt support of state-level actors. That support was financial, logistical, and administrative (papers, passage, etc.) I don't see that support being available in quantity in the post-Iraq world, and I'll gladly trade that for an increase in the number of foot soldiers. I'm guessing that you don't agree on the fact or on the tradeoff, and that's probably the root of our differences.

I'll get to geopolitics later...

A.L.

Your argument against the war is based on an understanding of terrorism that is at best, too narrow, and at worst, incoherent. This leads you to set an evaluative criterion for the Iraq war that is misleading. The question is not: "Did the Iraq war lead to an immediate increase in personal safety of US citizens?" The question is "Will the results of the Iraq war decrease or increase the likelihood of terrorism in the medium or long-term?"

One difficulty for the left has been its inability to accommodate an explanation of terrorism within the Marxist emiseration thesis. So far, the left has not be able to demonstrate that poverty is either a necessary or sufficient condition for terrorism. Nor has it adequately demonstrated that capitalism has resulted in terrorism. These theoretical failures frustrate debate, so that the substantive arguments about terrorism are not properly presented.

Non-marxists have argued elsewhere that terrorism is fundamentally a political phenomenon - it is a result of political dysfunction. Political repression, tyranny, corruption, etc. Political violence is contemplated when the possibility of "normal" political discourse is removed, when change cannot be effected by non-violent means. In the particular cultures of the middle east, the level of brutality and political dysfuntion, combined with certain other social and religious tendencies, has led to a specific brand of religious terrorism. (Arguably, this explanation is brief, incomplete, and provisional, but it should be noted that it differs utterly from the emiseration thesis, above.)

The solution to terrorism, in this view, then, becomes the political reform of the region.

The left is aware of this view, but chooses to ignore it, hoping the debate can continue without anyone noticing.

Thus, we find one of the most important justifications for Iraq war buried in the last paragraph of Mr. Lazarus' comments. We are told that the democratization of Iraq will not lead to a change in the region. (Note the subtle reference to the non-left view, above, that is both admitted and ignored.) However - and this is crucial - no counter-argument is offered. We are told that it is a "triple-bank shot theory", a "fantasy", an impossibility, and that voters elsewhere have "repudiated" our program. The first three comments are syllogistically empty, and the last is a type of "appeal to popularity" logical fallacy.

Hence, Mr. Lazarus gives us a few weak counter-arguments, then chooses not to tackle one of the strongest reasons for the war. One wonders why.

The flypaper theory is similar to the French strategy at the disaster known as Dien Bien Phu (spell??).

Thanks for the thoughtful well articulated view. I'm quietly celebrating.

The war on terrorism is a real and serious conflict. The invasion of Iraq was a misstep in that war; a poor allocation of capital.

The US is not meaningfully safer; the world, briefly united by the tragedy of 9/11 is now divided again; and the will of individual Americans to continue - and pay for - the real fight is quickly diminishing.

The triple-bank-shot had no chance of success without serious international support and a participation measured in decades. The support was absent and the time frame well beyond what could be sustained.

Iraq will, in all likelihood, devolve further. How that enhances anyones security is not obvious.

"I don't believe that AQ could have grown into more than a localized terrorist organization . . . without the explicit and overt support of state-level actors. That support was financial, logistical, and administrative (papers, passage, etc.) I don't see that support being available in quantity in the post-Iraq world . . ."

Now, is this a claim that Iraq under Saddam was providing financial, logistical and administrative support to al Qaeda? Or if not Iraq, then who, and why would such support have been severely reduced by our invasion of Iraq?

The problem, of course, with claiming that Iraq was providing financial, logistical and administative support for al Qaeda is that the evidence to prove this doesn't exist. If it did, there would be French and German troops sharing our occupation of Baghdad right now--the whole world would have supported attacking Saddam if we could have convincingly tied him to al Qaeda and 9/11.

Considering the amount of energy and resources that have been expended over the last couple of years in unsuccessful attempts to link Saddam and al Qaeda, if there was evidence out there to find, it would have been found.

Iraq was worth it for one reason alone: Libya's switching sides, giving up their WMDs and informing us about KHAAAAAAAN's (sorrry, couldn't help it) nice little nuclear black market was going on. That may have already helped save an American city. Or Australian, or British, etc. True, that is an ex post justification. And we should re-evaluate our criterion before doing something similar again. But that reason alone was worth it.

Mark;

I agree that there is a convincing case to be made that one of the key factors in Middle Eastern terrorism is the political dysfunction of the region.

But the invasion of Iraq does nothing to address these factors, and by removing key resources from Afghanistan has damaged efforts in that country to create a functioning, somewhat civil, society.

Moreover, Afghanistan could have been a testbed for the methods required to create a nation, and acted as a model for future actions.

So, where there was one problem (AQ) with a chance of a partial solution (rebuild Afghanistan) there are now three: AQ, Afghanistan and Iraq. I think it is safe to say that in the medium to long term the Iraq war has substantially increased the risk of terrorism.

Well reasoned, I hope to do same.

1) ALs argument still lacks the fundamental bigger picture element that I am shocked to find how much it utterly eludes opponents of the war. As I have said to multiple people, our response to Pearl Harbor was not to get Yamamoto and history records that it even went far beyond getting Japan. Ten months after Pearl Harbor, we were invading.. not Tarawa or Iwo, not Bavaria or the Ruhr.. but Morocco (!?!?!?). And the troops that opposed us were not Japanese, not even German, but French (Vichy).

Point is. After such an attack, your enemies are either, the guys who did it period. or they are the people, forces, entities, and states that are rabidly opposed to representative government, and who will allow such people to attack, and cheer them on. Saddam fits that bill.

Al Queda is not our enemy.. Arab fascism, be it theocratic or Baathist, Shinto or Nazi, is our enemy.

2) The UN report on the catastrophe in the Arab world is enough to show that there HAD to be radical change in that entire region. Had to be. And now its failure is getting us (Americans) killed. So now it IS our problem, like it or not. Every single molecule of reform right now in the region, and it is significant, is due to George W. Bush. Every bit of it. Dont kid yourself otherwise. NOTHING happened reform-wise during the entire nineties. Nothing. Now quite a bit is happening. And that is what this war was about. The WMD issue was both an intelligence failure and a prosecutorial error in the courtroom that is the UN. It is worthy of exploring those failures, but they do not discredit the effort.

3) The damaged international structures were such that essentially enabled wealthy, stable, democratic nations to forego their own defense and any responsibility in this world for opposing rabidly tyrannical regimes, while appeasing the worst elements of such societies that will happily blame democracy for all ills in the world, and to actively undermine it as a philosophy in favor of non-democratic alternatives. Thus the US was stuck in Saudi Arabia.. not France, not Russia, not Germany, not the UN. The US. while the former can morally preen and cut deals with the tyrant. If that is the international order that needs protecting, no thanks. Somebody else can stick their necks out for that order for a change. It is no surprise that such nations are not happy with the change. When my uncle who has paid my rent and insurance for five straight years, suddenly and in my eyes arbitrarily says no more well. Id be grumpy too.

4) Such democratic nations as Spain are perfectly allowed to repudiate the effort. They are not allowed to pretend that we are as capable of judging their actions as they are of ours, and acting accordingly, now or in the future.

That is a very well thought out position, although I have a few problems with it.

"Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, and the defeat of the Saddam government does nothing to disrupt Al Qaeda's command structure, which is elsewhere."
But they did support and condone a whole host of terror groups and actions- granted, WE expanded the War on Terror to eliminate state sponsored terror as a whole, but I would suggest it is a worthy and necessary goal.

"It does nothing to deprive Al Qaeda of war materiel."

Using only history as my guide, I would argue that it was only a matter of time. Mideast politics in general (Saddam & bin Laden in particular) is full of occasions where enemies form partnerships to meet common threats and acheive common goals. Saddam's Iraq collaborated with the Israelis against Syria, bin Laden with us against the Russians. Never forget Hitler and Stalin's Iron Pact. True, we will never know, but now we don't have to be concerned about that possibility.

"It does nothing to discover the identities of sleeper agents, who were not controlled from Iraqi soil (with the possible exception of Ansar Al-Islam, over which the Saddam government had no control). Iraq was not even a source of Al Qaeda operatives."

Please don't forget Yassin the Iraqi from WTC I. And while Ansar-al-Islam wasn't controlled by Iraq, it was tolerated as a counterweight against the Kurds.

" The Spanish punished a government that was unable to protect them because it didn't try."

So they elect one that won't?

"The flypaper theory posits that by attracting Islamoterrorists to Iraq, we are first distracting them from conducting further attacks in the United States, and second localizing them where our superior conventional military strength can annihilate them."

The main reason al-qaeda attacked us is we are in their way. Our power in the region is a direct threat to their stated goal of recreating the Islamic Empire. Strategicly, they have to fight us in Iraq, or risk being seen by their core supporters as ineffective and weak. I do agree that the distraction portion isn't rock solid- Terrorists do not need many resources, although hitting us there requires less planning and risk, something every operation has to consider.

"More realistic than the flypaper theory is the theory that Arab governments everywhere will be so awed by the American military might in Baghdad, and the bases we will establish there with or without the consent of the Iraqi government, that they will cooperate in the fight against terrorism. (Why the fate of the Taliban isn't sufficient example is unclear to me.)"

Saddam sure didn't jump on board after Afganistan. The very presence of Saddam on the scene was a thorn in our side and an inspiration to Anti US radicals throughout the region and the world. Removing him is and was necessary. The bases arguement is valid, since we've moved out of Saudi Arabia (this also was a blow to our prestige that Iraq more than made up for).

"And last, and most ridiculous, is the triple-bank-shot theory that we will establish such a wonderful democracy in Iraq (doing what, I ask, with Fallujah?) that flowers begin to bloom over the entire region. Instead, the popularity of the United States is at low ebb both in Europe and the Arab countries."

Google Search "the third wave of Democracy". Surprisingly, that is how it has worked. Public Opinion is a short term phenomena that means little in the long run. The US is more popular in Iraq than most of New England SINCE the war (except for the Sunni Triangle, as you point out).
The World in general is understandably nervous about the US; we are the most powerful nation in History, and there is no one to counter balance us. Many are jealous of our wealth and largess. This will not change, nor will the desire of many foreign leaders to have weak leadership in the US for these very reasons. It is a realpolitik world, after all. It was easier during the Cold War when world opinion was faced with an "either/or" scenario between us and the Soviets.

" Point: The Iraq War was not worth the damage to international structures."

Depends on your perspective- Bush pulled an amzing gambit when he went to the UN. The UN could either a) give us added legitimacy and step up and enforce its resolutions, which would be precedent setting (and frankly, bad for Israel), or b) back down and risk irrelevancy by providing us the opening to form our own coalition outside the confines of the UN.. Being as I don't trust Kofi Annan and co. to have America's best interest at heart, Our National Interest was pretty well served by securing our independence of action vis-a -vis the UN.

"Point: The Iraq War could not be sold to Congress and the American people on the basis of humanitarian arguments (even though these were to some extent valid) and was therefore sold on the basis of exaggerations, unproven assertions, falsehoods, and outright lies, and should have been opposed for the damage it caused to the American political structure."

I think there is a lot of revision going on here- I had a fully developed understanding of why we went to war beforehand, and I didn't believe the nuclear claims and doubted the Bioweapons. I found Saddam's refusal to comply with the resolutions as set forth in a cease fire signed with us was legitimate reason enough. The president laid out the case on a variety of reasons, notably reshaping the Mideast, in addition to the WMD concerns.

Thanks again for a reasoned arguement, without the normal Bush is a dimwitted puppet of the Saudi neo con skull and bones right wing christian fundamentalist oil companies garbage that usually gets put forth.

"Iraq was worth it for one reason alone: Libya's switching sides"

Except that Libya was working on "switching sides" since about 1996...Iraq may have provided a little more urgency, but Qaddafi was trying desperately to rejoin the "civilized world" long before Bush came to power. So even as "ex post facto" it's no justification at all.

"I agree that there is a convincing case to be made that one of the key factors in Middle Eastern terrorism is the political dysfunction of the region...[b]ut the invasion of Iraq does nothing to address these factors..."

KL,

Having conceded that M.E. political dysfunction is one of the key factors of terrorism, I'm not sure you can maintain that the invasion of Iraq did nothing to address (at least) this factor. The invasion was the first step in the democratization of arguably the most politically dysfunctional polity in the region. If you cannot counter the argument I laid out, then you have to admit the conceptual strength and practical consequences of liberal democratic reform - and therefore an eventual reduction in terrrorism - deriving from the Iraq war and subsequent democratization.

Although I admit that the US has limited resources with which to counter terrorism, it's not clear that using all of its resources to rebuild Afghanistan first, or to chase Al Quaeda all over the globe, rather than seek to reform a similarly dysfunctional Iraq (and thereby address the fundamental problem) would have placed it in a better security position. Moreover, among the other criticisms I have of our European "allies", I see no reason why they can't lend greater assistance to rebuilding Afghanistan.

The fact that Al Quaeda is appearing in Iraq now seems to indicate that they understand the fundamental issues: (Arab) liberal democracy or (religious) tyranny - fight to the death.

"Except that Libya was working on "switching sides" since about 1996"

And Bill Clinton was "working on" going after Al Queda and OBL....

He was. Just ask Dick Clarke. I'm being serious. He "was". One can demonstrate that.

Problem is.... it just didn't happen for, oh, this reason and that, and those issues over there.... and, well, waddya know, eight years is up.... boy, time flies.

Qaddafi caved eight months after Baghdad fell. You are free to say they had nothing to do with each other. And you are free to say Spain's election results had nothing to do with the explosions.

And I am free to say, "uh huh". Please.

Mark's comments above are interesting, although diminished by his attacks on strawmen (e. g., few leftists today are Marxists--this isn't 1968, for crying out loud).

Note the difference between the "triple bankshot" theory laughed at by Andrew Lazerus and Mark's theory. Andrew is talking about the laughable notion that our actions in Iraq will somehow induce a spontaneous outbreak of western-style democracy in the region. Mark seems to recognize the absurdity of the notion that this will happen spontaeously--Mark is prepared to bring about his desired changes by force, on a country-by-country basis.

The Iraq War has already noticably strained our military and our economy, so Mark's program cannot be carried out without a far greater mobilzation of resources than we see the administration calling for.

Beyond that, however, there is a gaping hole in the logic of Mark's program. Mark reasons that terrorism is the result of political oppression, when change cannot be effectuated by nonviolent means. Mark sees the solution as being comprehensive political reform of the region.

But the problem is, the changes that occur through nonviolent means may not be to our taste Look at Iraq, for example, it which it now appears that the net effect of American intervention will be empowerment of Shiite fundamentalism at the expense of secularism.

Is the goal of our policy really giving al Qaeda the means to acheive its policy aims nonviolently?

Point: The assault on Iraq contributes little, if anything, to the personal security of Americans.

Except money meant to pay for attacks on US civilians now goes into paying for attacks on our soldiers in Iraq. Given that we will have attacks on US citizens either way, I would rather have them on soldiers who are better equipped then civilians to deal with it, on a much more perminant basis then law enforcement too.

Point: The Iraq War could not be sold to Congress and the American people on the basis of humanitarian arguments (even though these were to some extent valid) and was therefore sold on the basis of exaggerations, unproven assertions, falsehoods, and outright lies, and should have been opposed for the damage it caused to the American political structure.

I am not impressed by this hyperbole. I listened to every point made by Bush, Rumsfeld and Powell during the run up to invasion. Saddam was given every opportunity to avoid his fate. The war was not sold on lies or exaggerations, only afterwards when WMDs were not immediately found did people like Anthony make these claims. After 9/11 Bush realized that to defeat terrorism, he must challenge the state sponsors of terrorism. Without the funding and protection by the Taliban, Iranians, North Koreans and Saddam terrorists have fewer places to hide and plan their attacks. After Afganistan, Iraq is the easist country on this list to go after, and gives the greatest payoff. Bush gave Saddam every opportunity to avoid the war. Saddam botched it. If anyone were to have caused this war with lies, falsehoods etc, it was Saddam and his refusal to toe the demands of the UN, and the UN for it's refusal to inforce it's own laws and by doing so prevent the war. Which leads us to the third point...

and most ridiculous, is the triple-bank-shot theory that we will establish such a wonderful democracy in Iraq (doing what, I ask, with Fallujah?) that flowers begin to bloom over the entire region.

Fallujah is a cheap shot, made repeatedly by those who want the US to fail so badly. So what if feelings towards the US are at an all time low? Arabs hated us before, and for the same reasons. Their governments have always repressed them, and blamed the US for that repression. So long as the US is the scape goat we will have terrorists. To defeat them, we must give Arabs freedom to question the bad philosophys of Islam and the crazy conspiracy theorys that run rampant in dictatorships. To cozy up to them in a vain hope that they will learn to like us is foolish. So is trying to convict terrorists in court without the backing of middle eastern governments.

Spains choice in change of government was a knee jerk reaction not to policy but to Anzars insistance on Eta being the culprit. Anzars opponents used the "Anzar lied" line to get in power, and now we have spanish protests against removing the troops because the spanish people have realized the new government is doing something stupid.

(The war) should have been opposed for the damage it caused to the American political structure.

What damage? Other then exposing the consisnantly anti-american sentiment amonst the liberals in the U.S. and their self loathing, along with exposing their ends justify the means mentality to political victory, I've seen no damage to our poltical culture. If anything this war has been a wake up call to all of us who have sat back and ignored the poor behavior of liberals. People like Anthony who are so out of touch with the half of the country who support Bush's efforts to change things, rather then keep using the same old ineffective pre 9/11 programs.

"antiwar liberals seeking to work in the realm of the possible are dismissed as fools."

Talk about seeing the world through rose colored glasses. You are dismissed as fools because you haven't yet given any plausable way to stop terrorism. All I've heard from Kerry or the talking heads is that they will put their faith in the FBI and the UN. The failure of the UN should be blatently obvious to all involved. It failed to enforce it's own declarations and is corrupt beyond measure. The failure of the FBI is directly attributable to their inability to do any work in a hostile country. If a liberal can explain to me how they would surmount these problems to defeat terror,and not have the US convert to an Islamic Caliphate in the process I would like to hear it.

Nice start, Andrew, I'm looking forward to the rest of it.

I really hope that you wil explain thoroughly why anyone should be concerned about "damage to international institutions." Please puts lots of time into that one.

The purpose of collective security arrangements, after all, is to provide collective security. It is not clear that the existing institutions were doing that, or were capable of doing it. That being the case, they deserved to sustain damage.

In particular, given the emerging story of corruption and secret dealings between our "allies" and UNSC veto-holders and Iraq, it is not clear to me that our collective security arrangements are anything but utter fiction.

I can see a role for a good, strong, multilateral alliance in nation-building, global security, and anti-terrorism. See, for instance, John J. Miller in the next-to-most recent National Review (Cover story: Pat Toomey). But the existing structures were useless, or worse. Why not "damage" them? Or even destroy them?

Mark;

But that's entirely the point. If you want to remodel the Middle East, you need to have some idea of how to go about it. The US had not demonstrated its capacity to rebuild Afghanistan, had not developed the tools to do so, but still invaded Iraq and now finds itself, entirely unsusprisingly, with an increasingly expensive problem.

Iraq represents a massive misapplication of resources. The opportunity costs alone are enormous, never mind the damage being done to the US and its credibility. And the long term stability of the region has been, at best, unaffected by the invasion.

Exactly why the US government thought it could set such a compelling example in Iraq that, like dominoes, the rest of the Middle East would fall into line eludes me. Look around; Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea can all be found in the same region of the world, and all are as different as can be.

You think that the US looks like Cuba looks like Mexico?

The inclusion of countries on the official list of regimes that supported terrorism is done by career officials in the intel business.

Iraq hasn't appeared on that list in over 10 years or so. When Clarke was arguing over the intention to target Iraq in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he both told the Bush officials that Iraq had no terrorists, wasn't involved in terrorism, and asked DCI Tenet and FBI Director Mueller to agree or not. They agreed on the spot, and backed up Clarke to the Bush officials, that what he said was so.

Even SecDef Rumsfeld's memo argued that in the absent of 'metrics,' we couldn't be sure we weren't creating as many or more terrorists through our various actions as we were stopping, by either jailing or killing.

Others in a position of expert knowledge, such as ally Egyptian leader Mubarek, himself fighting against Islamofacists domestically, say definitively that the Iraq invasion created a hundred more bin Ladens, and provided far more recruits to the cause than were being eliminated.

The history of occupiers who attempt to quash local resistance by ratcheting up the oppression is not a happy one. Somehow, the PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE aren't intimidated, but energized by oppression, and all the European nations left their colonial holdings, the US gave back the Phillipines, the mighty British Empire was rolled back, and even the incredibly brutal Soviet actions in Afghanistan failed to win their cause, all these occupations ending in the forced withdrawal because of obdurate local resistance.

"Point: The Iraq War was not worth the damage to international structures. Point: The Iraq War could not be sold to Congress and the American people on the basis of humanitarian arguments (even though these were to some extent valid) and was therefore sold on the basis of exaggerations, unproven assertions, falsehoods, and outright lies, and should have been opposed for the damage it caused to the American political structure."

Wait a minute. In so many words, aren't you just saying that the Iraq war should be opposed because I oppose it?

And what damage to the American political structure? Your damaged faith in it?

What about my damaged faith? What about watching Clinton mill around creating (one way) dialogs and undertaking legal action, while are enemies around us geared for war developed nuclear weapons and delivery devices (some of which Clinton sold to them). The same things that cause your damaged faith, restore mine. It's not like some of us weren't predicting this mess we are in.

The only really serious damage I can recall to the American political structure recently was when Gore took the election results to court. That was damaging, and we are still reaping the consequences of that poor decision.

The rest is just politics as usual.

Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack

This drives me bananas. The primary reason Al Qaeda started attacking Americans in the early 1990s was the large US troop presence in Saudi Arabia. A secondary reason (largely for Arab public consumption) was the sanctions against Iraq. Both were strategies to contain Saddam, and bin Laden cited these "offensive" American actions on videotape as justifications for 9/11. The fact that they were multilateral UN efforts does not seem to have insulated the US in terms of responsibility in AQ's eyes.

In other words, it was precisely the act of containing Saddam that helped motivate Al Qaeda to attack Americans in the first place. It remains to be seen whether we can solve the problems in Iraq and get to a good outcome, but the prior policy was so clearly a failure and contributing factor to 9/11, that it's hard to see a worse set of outcomes than the ones we were receiving from the "contain Saddam" strategy.

Rea,

If you want to maintain that few leftists today are marxists, or at least do not argue from marxist precepts, be my guest. In my experience, it is still 1968 for many leftists (not least among them leftists professors).

If Mr. Lazarus wants to disavow the emiseration thesis as an explanation for terrorism, he is free to do so. He would still have to assume or explicate another theory of terrorism. Many war proponents cleave to the view - or another like it - I outlined, and he will have to confront that view one way or another.

Neither I, nor Mr. Lazarus, suggested that democracy will spontaneously erupt after the war. Mr. Lazarus took issue with the view that it will begin to flourish as a result of the liberation of Iraq at all. Mr. Lazarus suggested that the war wasn't justified because the democratization theory wouldn't work. I simply pointed out that his "arguments" consisted of nothing more than a few bald assertions, and thus were no arguments at all.

Having set up the preconditions for liberal democracy, I believe there is a good chance (although not a certainty) that Iraq will become a liberal democracy. I've outlined how this is related to terrorism, global and US security. Until the left addresses these arguments, they will continue to lose the debate.

"Is the goal of our policy really giving al Qaeda the means to acheive its policy aims nonviolently?"

I have an issue with ther "state actor" theory- simply because if you look at the "states" in question that harbored Al Qaeda, they'd be more like "failed states"- Sudan and Afghanistan. And where did Al Qaeda try to get footholds? Bosnia and Kosovo, which were also meeting the category of "failed states" at the time.

And this is why watching Iraq implode into riots and sectarian violence in the Sunni Triangle is a bad, bad sign...

I disagree with the idea that Iraq had little to do with dealing with terrorism in the Middle East.

However I'm willing to put that aside by saying that whatever it was at the time of invasion, it can't be disputed that Iraq is central to the war on terror now. Or at least Al Qaeda is acting like they think it is.

One of the most serious problems in dealing with the Middle East is that we have a 30+ year history of not following through on things and retreating under the slightest pressure. I offer Carter's Iranian fiasco, Reagan's Lebanon fiasco, Bush I's failure to finish the Iraq war and Clinton's retreat from Somalia as the tip of this perceptual iceberg.

Al Qaeda wants to use Iraq as example 5,383 in support of the thesis that we refuse to commit ourselves. They use it for supporters to show that they can be successful. They use it against detractors to suggest that we can't be counted on to help.

Scary thought of the day: were we successful in Japan and Germany because both nations had been brutalized by the war they started? Are our chances of success in Iraq actually hampered by the relatively bloodless method of our victory? I'm hoping the answers are no and no, but it gnaws at my mind.

The idea that reforming Iraq is part of reforming the Middle East and regimes that are the underlying cause of terror is not a perfect one, but the only stated alternative seems to be to go back to Clintonian US foreign policy- which sucked.

That's a lot of focus on killing Bin Laden as the measure of success in the war on terror. Bin Laden is one terrorist who happened to have a net worth of 200 million. Those resources let him tap the existing pool of terror movements and terror funding all round the world and fund a movement.

A rogue state can create 10-15 Bin Laden's simply by dispersing $1.5 billion around the world. They can quadruple the threat simply by handing a few
old chemical weapon production formulas and blueprints along with the money. Saddam has $1-2 billion in cash alone when they invaded Iraq.
Any state can do this and leave only partly conclusive evidence that they were the source of funding.

One thing that the 9/11 commission surfaced was that Clinton and Bush both tried diplomatic pressure on Afghanistan. Pressure was also tried on Sudan under Clinton. After 9/11, Bush's ultimatum to hand Bin Laden over was ignored by the Taliban. These diplomatic failures were the primary failure in the war on terror.

Remember that 9/11 had occurred, public opinion was united, military units were in place and a developed nation of 300 million people couldn't convince a third world nation of 30 million people to hand Al Qaeda's senior staff over.

Why did these diplomatic failures occur? Because the US deterrent consisted of A) assembling huge coalitions before acting or B) attacking with long-range weapons only. Sanctions don't work on oil states and supporting insurgency doesn't work without special forces on the ground. Deterrent by large scale collateral damage isn't really an option because a first world country isn't ruthless enough.

With A) a dictatorial head of state is in no danger as long as you have Russia or France on your side (just give their state oil companies enough favors). They might not let you get away with everything but they will certainly slow the process down and in most circumstances give you the final warning to cooperate when they can't help you anymore. Generally speaking a last-minute concession (as per Gulf War I or no-fly zone) will keep you in power.

With B) the lack of real-time intelligence in a dictatorial regime means that these attacks are unlikely to kill leadership and do significant collateral damage. Collateral damage does more for you in propaganda than any damage inflicted by the attack itself.

What Iraq is doing is bringing back the old WWII solution to Germany and Japan. Regime change followed by a process of aligning German & Japanese interests with peace and economic growth.
The idea is to remind the world what the US can choose to do to a dictatorial regime, so diplomacy against dictatorial regimes works.

Until the left addresses these arguments, they will continue to lose the debate.

This is just utterly silly posturing. Are you trying to advance the theory that the vast majority of people in the world support America's intervention in Iraq? Hell, even in America, the issue pretty much splits the country, and more and more people in the U.S. appear to be agreeing that the war in Iraq was wrong.

If that is "losing the debate" (it's not), I'll take it any day of the week over ideologues endlessly backpedaling and changing their justification for the immoral, unjustified invasion of Iraq.

I am entirely uninterested in seeking a critique for or against the U.S.-Iraq war that comports with traditional "Marxist" theory, or "leftist" principles, or any other dusty paradigmatic box someone may want to drag down from the attic, whether from the right or the left. To me, the central issues of the U.S.-Iraq war are:

1. "Is it sound policy in the long term interests of the United States?" and
2. "Will it contribute to a more peaceful world?"

The answer to both questions is "no."

Anyone who personally knows a few specialist spooks originally sent to Afghanistan, as I do, has detailed knowledge of the distraction from our mission there that the war in Iraq has been. The training of Afghani militia and police was halted midway through when a vast number of specialists were transferred from Afghanistan to Iraq. Training and re-education of an indigenous police force has yet to recover its former momentum.

Pacification of the nether regions beyond Kabul screeched to a halt, where it remains to this day. The difficult and time consuming identification and round-up of the Taliban leadership -- never mind their brutal underlings -- was set adrift and largely collapsed. Worse, local war lords awoke astonished, one may suppose, to the fact that westerners virtually had left the stage, except for Kabul, and so they quickly reasserted their authority and, in many instances because of the collapse of any kind of governmental control from Kabul, Taliban or anti-Taliban or otherwise, tightened their grip on their own people and rearmed even more impressively than before. Al qaeda operatives and sympathizers continue to hole up and solicit new recruits throughout the Afghan land.

In short, the reformation of Afghanistan into a successful, stable, nation capable of policing itself under its own law and providing the conditions for a better, freer life for its people, and warding off random as well as organized terrorist elements -- all of that, at best, is back at square one.

This is not in our interests for reasons which should be obvious. Afghanistan was a breeding ground for terrorism because it was a lawless state. The longer the lawlessness persists, the more difficult it likely will be for us to regain what progress we had made before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Equally important, the war we are waging in Iraq for many reasons has alienated most of the same world nations on whom we must depend to discover, disrupt, intercept, and destroy al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who would wage a-symmetric warfare on U.S. soil. (Those "many reasons" mentioned above are well known. They range from traditional principles of international law, to our own bald prevarications about the need for immediate hostile action against Iraq, to the instabilities we have engendered among their own people.)

Along with U.S. rejection of the Koyoto protocol, the World Criminal Court, and other international treaties and understandings which enjoy widespread support elsewhere in the world, our foreign policy makers have conveyed an arrogant, go-it-alone posture that, understandably, puts off -- when it does not entirely alienate -- much of the rest of the world including many nations who have been, and should still be, our natural allies. Those allies may be right, they may be wrong. But the reality is that they have rapidly developed a loathing and disgust for our policies which cannot help but dampen their enthusiasm for helping us root out foreign terrorists.

Reports from many areas of Iraq outside Baghdad --not just Fallujah or the "Sunni Triangle" -- are that our military presence and the consequent casualities to civilians are, as many feared, driving a new generation of Iraquis into arms of radical Islamicists. What is more, the same dynamic is occurring throughout much of the rest of the world, from Indonesia to Georgia and from Morocco to Uganda and from Turkey to Brazil and from Pakistan to Mexico. The stability of many national governments is threatened, or the governments perceive it would be if they truly cracked down on the bad guys in their midst.

Although it seems from such reports that the sheer number of proto-terrorists has increased, the more important phenomenon may be the level of hostility felt for the U.S. by these criminal elements, whatever their numbers. After all, the central truth of asymmetric warfare is that it takes only one crazed terrorist to cause unimaginable devastation, not an army.

Our aggression in Iraq -- can it be called anything else? -- has fueled the fires of hatred to burn brighter in those who already despised us. If, as many who studied the issue such as the Hart-Rudman Commission believed to be the case, well before 9-11 we faced a real domestic threat from a suitcase nuclear device, chemical attack, or a bio-hazardous nightmare, even heightened hostility within those who would destroy us may be enough to tip the man who would do it to us.

So, has the U.S. war against Iraq in some way contributed to strengthening our defenses at home against that single crazed Islamicist? Not appreciably. Indeed, precisely because the Iraq war is costing us hundreds of billions -- as once-upon-a-time economic advisor Larry Lindsey warned -- we have weakened our ability to protect ourselves. Either less is available for spending on domestic security, or we incur debt which at best will reprise the post-Vietnam decade of raging inflation and commodity shortages that will further sap our strength.

As it is, we know our ports remain scarily vulnerable, civilian nuclear power plants repeatedly fail mock terrorist attacks, our airports are secure against little other than white-haired grandmothers officously ordered to remove their shoes, and we have left our municipal water supplies entirely unguarded. While we have been watching Iraq, terrorists with the Big One inside a small suitcase or sn even smaller glass vial may well have decamped, already, through the porous borders of the United States.

I am prepared to agree with whatever paradigm -- Marxist or neocon -- wants to suggest that the root cause of Islamic terrorism is grostesque poverty that finds false comfort in eligious fervor. I agree that eliminating poverty and giving a proper post-Enlightenment education to Arab youth should be top priorities of the world community.

That is all very convincing, but at this moment in time it seems to me a more immediate, if less lofty, urgency is to survive. We must avoid another devastating terrorist attack on our home ground. Mr. Bush's war has not helped us in that. It has made such an attack more likely and actually weakened our ability to guard against it.

Responding Mark and Andrew X,

We liberals do see the importance of political dysfunction, we just don't see bombing and shooting as a productive route to political change. So far, there is little reason to believe that the outcome in Iraq will be the robust democracy that we would all like to see.

Democracy is built in people's heads. In particular, democracy depends on people believing that the functioning of the system is more important than getting the outcome they want. We believe that in this country - when Al Gore exhausted his appeals, he went home. That doesn't happen in other countries - in Angola, when Jonas Savimbi agreed to elections and then lost, he just started fighting again.

Our military got rid of the tyrant who was oppressing Iraq, but they are ill equipped to build a democracy in his place. You can't make people believe something by pointing a gun at them.

This is closely related to the idea of winning hearts and minds. The clearest indication that Bush's policies have left us less safe is the growing anti-Americanism around the world. Winning hearts and minds must be done by civil engagement, not by military action.

Larre -

How would you address the reality that "grotesque poverty", particularily in the Arab world, is a direct result of abominably autocratic regimes, and will never stop being grotesque poverty as long as such regimes remain in place, owning every single molecule, sentient or non, within their borders?

Also.... Like defeating Japan with a 100% effort by, say, 1943 or 1944, while back-burnering the Nazi's.... can anyone deny that this war would ever come to any conclusive point as long as Saddam's Baghdad regime was in place? And if that is the case, is not dealing with such a problem sooner rather than later preferred? (Which is exactly why Roosevelt said "Germany First", much to the chagrin of the Navy and the West Coast, even though Germany had not attacked us. And he was right.)

It is clear to me after a fair amount of time in the right and left-leaning blogosphere that there are fundamental misconceptions about the war in Iraq, and the broader war on terror, on both sides. The anti-Iraq-war crowd (and a majority of these folks lean left) mischaracterizes the war in Iraq as a "diversion" from the broader war on Islamist terrorism, while far too many of the folks who wholeheartedly embraced the necessity of regime change in Iraq (and these folks tend to be on the right) mistakenly believe that Saddam Hussein and other rogue Arab and Islamic dictators (most notably Syria and Iran) provide direct support to al-Qaeda and their various offshoots.

What President Bush and the smartest folks in the administration (and even a few Democrats - most notably Joe Lieberman) understand is that the roots causes of Islamist radicalism are the lack of political democracy and economic liberalization in the Arab and Muslim world more generally. Hence, it is not enough to focus exclusively on "rolling up" al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations, and leaving in place the repressive political and economic conditions that produce Islamist extremists, as the anti-Iraq-war crowd would seem to have us do. Indeed, we continually hear from the left that our support for repressive Arab regimes in the past is the reason why we're being targeted by al-Qaeda, and then they turn around and call for more cooperation with repressive Arab regimes and their respective security services to roll up al-Qaeda.

The most fundamental reason for the war in Iraq was not that Saddam Hussein was a direct threat to the west - that he may or may not have possessed weapons of mass destruction, or links with al-Qaeda (the links with al-Qaeda thing always made me howl with laughter whenever Someone of Importance trotted it out - it's just plain ridiculous), or even that he was a barbaric tyrant (by that logic we would be invading, occupying, and democratizing any number of countries around the world). The most fundamental reason for the war in Iraq was that it offered us the best oppurtunity for planting the seeds of democracy in the Arab world, and therefore the best oppurtunity to undermine the root causes for Islamist extremism.

The left mistakenly believes that we are "imposing" democracy on a country that doesn't want it, or (patronizingly) isn't "ready for it." According to every poll conducted on the subject, a strong majority of all three ethnic groups in the country - Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia - strongly prefers the establishment of democracy to a "dictator for life" or an "Islamic state." Furthermore, a strong majority of Arabs outside of Iraq also want to see democracy in their respective countries.

As a political matter, I strongly suspect that a majority of Americans will continue to support the democratization of Iraq (despite the bloodshed, and other obstacles), and will continue to support the notion of bringing democracy to the broader Arab and Muslim world unless this enterprise proves to be a failure on a grand scale (and I doubt it will be). And given the desire of most Arabs and Muslims for democracy, and economic liberalization, I suspect that in the long-term this enterprise will prove successful. It does not mean that we will be invading, occupying, and democratizing every last Arab and Muslim country - this would be neither wise nor possible (given the fact that we have neither the money nor the troops to do so). In fact, the only other country in the Middle East that may well require regime change by military force is Syria, and that country should not be a priority. Over the next several years, we ought to focus on completing our work in Iraq, using every possible carrot and stick to bring political reform to Egypt, and launching a massive "Manhattan Project" for energy indepedence by 2010 so we can apply the same pressure on Saudi Arabia.

volks,

While we are trying to be optomistic about 'preventing' another terrorist attack inside of the continental united states, would this be a bad time to talk in terms of the Billions that are being wasted on 'the reagan era star wars lite' program that is the dahling of the NeoCons, and a 'talking point' of the alledged republicans who seem to not understand that it does not work, and will not actually add to our 'national security'.

At which point we might want to move away from the 'emotionalism' that has been used - since for some reason americans do not want to talk about the 1st Attack on the World Trade Center, but Want to focus on how the president got some sort of wake up call that we were at 'war' on 09/11/2001.

So if 'survival' is really of some value, then let us try to put it all back into some rational and reasonable perspective. What can we really afford to do given what is left of the economy that can provide a 'tax base' for a 'collective' solution.

You can't make people believe something by pointing a gun at them.

There is an argument that we did just that between 1945 and 1955, and in countries and regions that never knew democracy before then.

But that was an era when the vast majority of free people cherished and sacrificed for their freedom and liberty, rather than an era when a good 50% of free people see their freedom as something contemptuous, that fosters someone els'e injustice, that is fatally flawed due to it's lack of perfection, and something that is of equal moral value to any given totalitarian system out there. "Who are we to judge, etc."

This is what a horrifying number of academics, journalists, and cultural elites have been telling us for four decades now.

As Bill Bennett says, "Ideas matter". And such ideas have been rotting the core of the West for 40 years now. They may soon have destoyed Europe as we know it.

And are enemies see this much clearer than many of us do.

ID writes:In other words, it was precisely the act of containing Saddam that helped motivate Al Qaeda to attack Americans in the first place. It remains to be seen whether we can solve the problems in Iraq and get to a good outcome, but the prior policy was so clearly a failure and contributing factor to 9/11, that it's hard to see a worse set of outcomes than the ones we were receiving from the "contain Saddam" strategy.

Ah, so it's all clear now. Bush invaded Iraq and captured Saddam so that sanctions could be removed and the troops pulled out of Saudi Arabia.

In other words, Bush invaded Iraq to try and appease Al Qaida. Brilliant strategery, that.

I have trouble with a presentation of a debate on the Iraq war premised on the apparent assumptions that the Iraq war was primarily about (i) fighting Al Qaeda or Islamic terrorism, or (ii) making a triple bank shot. There were compelling reasons for getting rid of Hussein, independent of terrorism, that formed the core of U.S. Iraq policy for 12 years. Any fight with Al Qaeda (flypaper or not) is incidental, and the democracy-fostering argument is incidental inasmuch as it would never have been nearly sufficient in and of itself to justify an intervention and indeed would have been crazy. That is not what happened: a brutal, totalitarian, internationally destabilizing and dangersous regime was removed giving rise to the opportunity to look at Iraq as a potential model for Arab democracy, perhaps within the framework of a "grander" idea. That is not at all the same thing.

For the same reason, Iraq was not fought primarily as another front in addition to Afghanistan. They were separate problems, only loosely related. It is one thing to talk about best allocation of scarce military and financial resources generally. It is another to treat Iraq and Afghanistan as purely either/or propositions in fighting different wars for different (even if partly overlapping) reasons.

The diplomatic and political fallout hurting the interests and image of the U.S. abroad and with its allies should be laid in part at Bush's doorstep. The diplomacy was arrogant, incompetent and ultimately damaging to U.S. interests in marshalling international support in the broader fight against terrorism and, equally important, WMD and nuclear proliferation. In saying this, I realize of course that our "allies" have been equally - perhaps more - irresponsible. Also, to say that the war was wrong because we did not have allied support or alienated our allies begs another question: Why aren't France and Germany meeting their international responsibilities in helping to contain threats in the Middle East? If France and Germany were aboard, how would this have affected the success of the operation on the ground, in terms of public and media perceptions, and in terms of "legitimacy"? Maybe there is a lot of blame to go around.

As for the argument that we have created more terrorism, I am skeptical: The success of September 11 itself in the Arab world was probably enough to inspire the level of international terrorism we are now seeing. There may be more local terrorism in Iraq, but it is international terrorism that poses the major threat and it is hard to see how Iraq has increased or decreased that. Given the inspiring example of 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan, and any number of excuses for attacking the U.S. and the hated West, the Islamist crazies hardly needed Iraq to hit Madrid and to continue to hit as many Western cities as possible in furtherance of their "fantasy ideology". Put otherwise, had we not invaded Iraq, it is difficult to believe that Islamist terrorists would have diminished their pathological plan to kill as many Westerners as possible in their home countries.

A compelling argument can be made that the costs of the Iraq adventure (monetary, lives lost, military resources, diplomatic goodwill lost, potentially increased terrorism, etc.) was not worth it. I would tend to agree with that retrospective assessment. But that was then and now is now.

Last, a basic question here that I do not see addressed directly is the question of the extent to which terrorism as a response (a cost of intervention) - for example, creating problems in Iraq or even Madrid - should be properly taken into account and what the consequences of doing so are. This is important in particular if you view Iraq as something other than merely part of the War on Terrorism. Do we stop escorting tankers out of the Persian Gulf if Al Qaeda doesn't like that and threatens European cities? Does France stop legislating against the veil because of Islamist threats? Do we cease supporting Israel if Al Qaeda puts on more pressure?

"Are you trying to advance the theory that the vast majority of people in the world support America's intervention in Iraq?"

That a great many people agree or disagree with a position is of no relevance to its truth. I've stated the left lost the debate because it has, in fact, failed to counter the explanations and justifications for the war and the wider strategic and moral doctrine of democratization. If you think I'm wrong, then quit whining and engage with the arguments.

The war had a number of justifications - these have been outlined many times by more articulate writers than me. It will not avail the left to attack only a single justification while ignoring the others. Twenty years ago the left could engage in such revisionism; not today. Google speeches and articles of US officials and see for yourself - WMD, democracy, human rights, freedom were all argued prior to the war.

As for the (im)morality of the war: anti-war leftists lent objective support to a genocidal, torturing, mass rapist. And, just as supporters of the war must deal with innocent Iraqi's killed during it, opponents of the war must deal with Saddam's atrocities, which the left would have knowingly extended. As I've said before, Iraq is the left's Ordruff: see the bodies, smell the rot, hear the screams. I have to suffer through Fallujah and Karbala, but you will have to account for the mass graves and rape rooms.

Well let's take Dick Clarke's own words, yes I know he changes them daily. But back when Clinton bombed that Aspirin Factory, he stated that it proved a connection between AQ and Iraq. Now unless this man was lying, I know it is hard to believe, than that is all the connection needed.

Or how about the fact that two of the 1993 WTC attackers were Iraqi, one who ran back to Iraq and was on Saddam's payroll. Although in his Book, Clarke states that Saddam had him promptly arrested, haha. That was a good one Dick.

Or the fact that there were dozens of calls back to Iraq before the 1993 attack on the WTC, by these operatives. You would think Attempted murder by a Nation state sponsered terrorist would be grounds for invasion.

Do none of these lead to maybe just maybe they could work together when it comes to hurting a common enemy.

But then again, some of the above is Richard Clarke talking and has been proven, you just never know when the man is telling the truth.

[[Except money meant to pay for attacks on US civilians now goes into paying for attacks on our soldiers in Iraq. Given that we will have attacks on US citizens either way, I would rather have them on soldiers who are better equipped then civilians to deal with it, on a much more perminant basis then law enforcement too.]]

Hey retard, that money went to the FAMILIES of suicide bombers (involving Israel, not the fucking US). Only a bloody idiot would consider this reason for invasion by the United States. If you follow right wing logic on this matter, they might as well be saying insurance payouts sponsor car accidents.

[[I am not impressed by this fact.]]

Fixed it for you.

[[I listened to every point made by Bush, Rumsfeld and Powell during the run up to invasion. Saddam was given every opportunity to avoid his fate. The war was not sold on lies or exaggerations, only afterwards when WMDs were not immediately found did people like Anthony make these claims.]]

You freaking moron. They said they knew where the god damn WMDs were. Don't bullshit us. Everything about the war was an exaggeration or lie, as proven by their own quoted words.

[[After 9/11 Bush realized that to defeat terrorism, he must challenge the state sponsors of terrorism.]]

And Iraq was not one of them.

[[Without the funding and protection by the Taliban, Iranians, North Koreans and Saddam terrorists have fewer places to hide and plan their attacks.]]

You think you can throw this bullshit out and not get called out on it? Think again, retard.

1) What "Saddam terrorists"? (That makes no sense, at any rate)

2) What funding and protection from the Taliban did Saddam receive?

[[Bush gave Saddam every opportunity to avoid the war. Saddam botched it.]]

Hey fucktard, we offered Iraq inspections, then said "fuck it" and started rolling the tanks in. Saddam wasn't the one who botched it. He was letting inspectors do their job.

[[If anyone were to have caused this war with lies, falsehoods etc, it was Saddam and his refusal to toe the demands of the UN, and the UN for it's refusal to inforce it's own laws and by doing so prevent the war. Which leads us to the third point...]]

Same old bullshit that you can never support with facts...

[[and most ridiculous, is the triple-bank-shot theory that we will establish such a wonderful democracy in Iraq (doing what, I ask, with Fallujah?) that flowers begin to bloom over the entire region.]]

Well, that's what the armchair generals were saying before this mess started.

[[Spains choice in change of government was a knee jerk reaction not to policy but to Anzars insistance on Eta being the culprit. Anzars opponents used the "Anzar lied" line to get in power, and now we have spanish protests against removing the troops because the spanish people have realized the new government is doing something stupid.]]

Knee jerk? Your reality-distortion field is persistant. All the hoopla from Spain resulted from the FACT that the 90%+ of the people there did not want the government to get involved in the war. I would call you one of the most dishonest people I've ever seen, but unfortunately, many other delusional conservatives would take the cake.

[[What damage? Other then exposing the consisnantly anti-american sentiment amonst the liberals in the U.S. and their self loathing,]]

Everyone, notice that this nitwit hasn't much in his arsenal beyond soundbites.

[[People like Anthony who are so out of touch with the half of the country who support Bush's efforts to change things, rather then keep using the same old ineffective pre 9/11 programs.]]

I guess this makes idiots like you out of touch with the other (logical) half of the country.

[[Talk about seeing the world through rose colored glasses. You are dismissed as fools because you haven't yet given any plausable way to stop terrorism.]]

Nor have you. Your side has been too busy making these terrorists then, later, bombing them, only to see them replaced by others.

Mark's revisionism: "The war had a number of justifications - these have been outlined many times by more articulate writers than me. It will not avail the left to attack only a single justification while ignoring the others. Twenty years ago the left could engage in such revisionism; not today. Google speeches and articles of US officials and see for yourself - WMD, democracy, human rights, freedom were all argued prior to the war."

The truth, compliments of Google, from 2/25/03:

Al Jazeera: I would like to put it to you straight away the issue between you, the Bush Administration, and Iraq is not weapons of mass destruction. It is for you -- how to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his regime.

Rumsfeld: Well, wrong. It is about weapons of mass destruction. It is unquestionably about that.

And, while we're at it, from 4/10/03:

"But make no mistake -- as I said earlier -- we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about." -Ari Fleischer

Nice try at revisionism though, Mark. Really.

"Well let's take Dick Clarke's own words, yes I know he changes them daily. But back when Clinton bombed that Aspirin Factory, he stated that it proved a connection between AQ and Iraq. Now unless this man was lying, I know it is hard to believe, than that is all the connection needed."

From 1/31/03:
Reporter: "One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?"

President Bush: "I can't make that claim."

Prime Minister Blair: "That answers your question."

Who you gonna believe? The president and his lap dog, or Richard Clarke?

The other thing every forgets about Iraq is that
it has a border with Syria and Iran. This makes the insurgency deadlier because of foreign terrorists but it also means that Iraq as an ally can exert significant pressure on Iran and Syria to cooperate. Similarly Japan and Germany were essential to containing the Soviet Union from expanding East and West.

Afghanistan, was nowhere near Syria and wouldn't have this strategic value.

The left is arguing that international cooperation is the key to reducing terror. However the 90's were the period of America's greatest international/U.N. involvement. Gulf
War I, No-fly zone, Clinton's multiple international peacekeeping excursions, Bosnia. Did that stall terrorism? Absolutely not.
The US was still being accused of propping up
the Saudi Arabian monarchy(by protecting it from Iraq) and current Egyptian government (by giving it foreign aid as a reward for peace with Israel.

I think the neo-conservative solution is at least as credible as Kerry's arguments on cooperation. Even if the neo-conservative argument isn't true its hard to argue that taking out one enemy and establishing an ally bordering 2 rogue states doesn't leave the US in a stronger position.

On encouraging Islamic fundamentalism: It feeds off the perception that America is weak and can be hit. It feeds of the perception that Islam is being bullied. I'm not sure the US can affect the 2nd, but it can affect the first. The fact is that Islamic fundamentalism justified 9/11 before the invasion of Iraq. How much more can it hate the US? I would argue that the gains in credibility by US diplomacy and strategic positioning do far more for the US than any attempt to appease terrorism. Unless the US is prepared to watch while Israel is truly driven into the sea or annhilated in an exchange of WMD,
appeasement will always be insufficient.

Hey Chuckie - "fucktard" isn't a truly compelling way to make a case here.

I'll leave the comment up (unless you'd like to edit it, in which case I'm happy to send it you to for reposting), but calling people names instead of making arguments is a one-time thing in my threads (which means I'll yank the next comment if you do it again).

A.L.

In other words, Bush invaded Iraq to try and appease Al Qaida. Brilliant strategery, that.

That you can't distinguish between pulling troops out before their reason for being there is gone and pulling them out after their reason for being there is gone explains a lot.

When the US (finally!) starts pulling forces out of Germany, which we are likely to do as part of our force realignment over the next several years, are we appeasing Hitler and/or the Soviet Union, too?

At some point in a trial the jury has absorbed everything they are going to and the time comes to make a decision. The lawyers would be happy to keep arguing their points until the end of time, but that's not a reasonable alternative. A decision must be made.

I'd like to suggest that we have reached a point in the Iraq debate where most of us have already made a decision. As such, there is little more to add and little point in letting the various advocates continue to argue.

I would go further and suggest that the debate, to the extent there is any real debate over the issue, is no longer about truth seeking. It has been transformed into a search for after-the-fact justifications of the positions people took prior to the war.

I think AJ's comments are best characterized this way, and as a result do not think it makes any sense to allow him space to rehash his well worn and threadbare "points." We've all heard them before. Each has been answered a thousand times over. At this stage the likelihood of anyone changing their mind based on AJ's points, or the answers to them, is next to nil.

It would have been nice if opponents of the war had, at some point, been willing to say: I was against the war, but I acknowledge that the world is a better place without Saddam and that a free Iraq is in everyone's interest. They haven't, and they aren't going to, and I for one have grown tired of hearing them whine.

Nothing is to be gained from the endless repetition of anti-war talking points here or in the comments. On the contrary, it's distracting. We should be commenting on the various stories and features instead of repeating AJ's objections in an infinite loop.

Can we please send AJ back to Moveon.org and keep WoC on topic, relevant and friendly?

Thanks,

[[Hey Chuckie - "fucktard" isn't a truly compelling way to make a case here.

I'll leave the comment up (unless you'd like to edit it, in which case I'm happy to send it you to for reposting), but calling people names instead of making arguments is a one-time thing in my threads (which means I'll yank the next comment if you do it again).]]

Actually, I was making arguments (as opposed to his post being all soundbites), but all you can focus on is the included flames. Don't tell me you intend on continuing with your style over substance fallacy (unless, of course, you want to run this place like a grade school playground)

If you can't stomache it, then feel free to edit it yourself.

I think there is an intellectual war going on in the Republican Party (among its players and not among its activist and regulars) between the Realist and the Neocons.

Powell, Clarke, McCain, Hagal, Baker, Scowcroft and the CIA spooks who are on Kerrys campaign (Beers) vs. the PNAC crowd (you know who they are).

McCain and Hagel defending a Democrat when attacked by their President and Veep it seems they may want pull the plug on that whole PNAC vision thing and return to basics and probably believe it was this neo-administration s obsessions that ignored high qualified agents

My comments were appropriate for the date. Sorry, couldn't resist a crack at it. And, in my defense, it was around 11 AM here (EST), so April Fools.

Anyways, by the time I came back to make some actual points others have already said what I wanted to say. That'll teach me to come back hours later. I think that while Iraq may not contribute to our immediate safety, in the long-run (when we will all be dead ;) a democratic Middle East will not be a breeding ground for terrorists any more. Yes we may have to suffer costs now (money, lives, etc) but it will pay for itself over the long-run. If people have a safe and peaceful way of expressing their views, most will do it. Those that don't will be prosecuted and/or eliminated.

Since the US is the sole superpower, we must shoulder most of the burden, just as we guarded Europe during the Cold War, we have to fight most of this war.

Whether one agrees with AJL or not, would MoveOn of DU allow a conversation like the one above??

Chuckie/Chickie- which is it. Sorry, I saw no arguments or evidence in your posts. Go back to DU.

"It would have been nice if opponents of the war had, at some point, been willing to say: I was against the war, but I acknowledge that the world is a better place without Saddam and that a free Iraq is in everyone's interest. They haven't, and they aren't going to, and I for one have grown tired of hearing them whine."

I'll say it, and I'll even mean it: I was against the war, but I acknowledge that the world is a better place without Saddam, and that a free Iraq is in everyone's interest (not that I believe you can really call an Iraq currently governed by a U.S.-appointed council "free," but we'll let that go for now).

Here's what I want to hear a PROPONENT of the war say: "I was for the war, but I acknowledge that the world would have been a better place with 600 U.S. GI's still alive, 3,500 more GI's uninjured, 10,000 innocent Iraqi's unslaughtered by U.S. ordinances, $150B unspent on a threat that was either non-imminent (at best) or non-existent (at worst), with U.S. credibility intact, and with all the world's post 9/11 support and goodwill still on our side."

But they haven't said that, and they're not going to, and I for one have grown tired of hearing them dissemble.

Unfortunately, Patrick, there is:

"The United Nations can renew its purpose and be a source of stability and security in the world. The Security Council can affirm that it is able and prepared to meet future challenges and other dangers. And we can give the Iraqi people their chance to live in freedom and choose their own government.

Saddam Hussein has made Iraq into a prison, a poison factory, and a torture chamber for patriots and dissidents. Saddam Hussein has the motive and the means and the recklessness and the hatred to threaten the American people."

Bush on Feb.6,03; at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030206-17.html

Also,

"And the other thing that is an inherent part of our view of Iraq is how I started the discussion here. See, we believe everybody matters, everybody counts. It doesn't matter your background, where you're from, everybody has worth. As I said in my State of the Union address, liberty is not America's gift to the world; liberty is God's gift to human -- to the human -- mankind. And that's what we believe...

So in the days ahead, as we deal with this challenge facing our country, you need to know that the value of freedom and liberty will be at the forefront of a policy designed to make the world more peaceful, and a policy designed to protect the American people."

Bush on Feb.26,03; at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030226-4.html

And, at the start of the war:

"[O]ur mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people."

Bush on Mar.22,03 at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030322.html

I could fill up this space with quotes from speeches and papers showing that democratization theory was stated and argued by US officials before the war, but I won't bore you. I suspect anti-war leftists will ignore them all in an attempt to avoid confronting the arguments in favour of the theory. Anything, I suppose, to keep from dealing with the mass graves, rape rooms, and torture chambers.

"Don't tell me you intend on continuing with your style over substance fallacy (unless, of course, you want to run this place like a grade school playground)" Well, it depends on the maturity of the participants, which, as you demonstrate, varies.

Why do you remind me so much of someone else named Chuckie?? Of course we banned him, and he agreed not to post here any more in offline conversation...

A.L.

"Whether one agrees with AJL or not, would MoveOn of DU allow a conversation like the one above??"

I guarantee that either would far, FAR sooner than Free Republic would. Have you been there? Everyone left of Atilla the Hun is bashed and then banned.

Compare it to Atrios, or CalPundit. Right wingers might not be loved there, but at least they're ALLOWED to speak.

Sorry, folks, Chuckie is leaving the building (posts are coming down). Chuck, send me an email with a real reply address and I'm happy to explain it to you.

A.L.

"I could fill up this space with quotes from speeches and papers showing that democratization theory was stated and argued by US officials before the war, but I won't bore you."

Mark, how many pre-war quotes can you find where-in a U.S. official argues that democratization is THE reason for the war? What this war is all about? ANY?

I already gave you Rummy and Ari saying EXACTLY that about WMD's. That they're the reason for the war. Not ONE of the reasons. The reason. And why? We both know the answer. 'Cause the American people were willing to sacrifice our sons and daughters to protect the American homeland from a real, immediate threat of WMD's (actual ones, Mark, like the kind Rumsfeld said he knew the precise locations of. NOT WMD-related-programs). As for democratization? I think we both know the American people were NOT willing to sacrifice our sons and daughters to carry out the neo-conservative domino fantasy proposed in the PNAC's stroke book (excuse me, "position paper.").

Anything, I suppose, to keep from dealing with the mass graves, rape rooms, and torture chambers.

Thanks, Mark. Seriously, can you point me to ANY posting on the internet where you, personally, decry human rights violations at the hands of a government that happens to be a U.S. ally? 'Cause torture chambers are bad no matter who's doing them, right? At least to you, since you're such a humanitarian? I'm serious. Point me to your big screed against Bush's pal, Uzbek President Islam "I boil my own people" Karimov. Gimme the link. I wanna go and read just how much you care about the torture of human beings, so I know your humanitarian concerns aren't limited to places where it's politically convenient for you. 'Cause that'd make you just like Donald "Put're there, Saddam!" Rumsfeld back in the 80's, and I know you're not THAT cynical.

I thought this was a really strong argument.

One of the things about the democratization argument that I've always found odd is that its taken as a measure of faith that once Iraq becomes this Jeffersonian democracy, other Arab states will follow.

Is this true? More specifically, what about our allies in the region? There have been innumerable pro-democracy movements in Egypt. Each time, the US forms so tenative links with the opposition, at which point Mubarak says they're just fronting for the Islamists and that he'll form a more pro-Islamist government unless the US backs off.

I have never heard one of the Vulcans or anyone else answer why this would not continue to be the case after Iraq.

And Chuckie, don't play the Admin word game, please (the game being that you do everything you can to suggest there's an imminent threat, then complain when people use that word to describe what you said). They do this all over the place. And then do use words like "imminent" and "immediate" when they think they can get away with it.

Two basic, broad points:

On the limitations of WWII analogies. There's a lot to be said about this, and about the sloppy thinking it often leads to, but for now pro-war commenters need to be aware of something: IRAQ IS IRAQ. It is not comparable to Germany, and it is not comparable to Japan. Both Germany and Japan had well-developed civil societies and legal structures independent from partisan organization; Iraq did not and does not (one reason "de-Baathification" was the biggest and most predictable of the occupation's blunders). Neither Germany nor Japan were ungainly multi-ethnic states cobbled together from the breakup of a former Empire. Neither Germany nor Japan existed in the context of today's Arab world and the specific political and social pressures thereof -- pressures which include a dynamic fundamentalist movement which capably exploits a long-standing region-wide grievance with the major power that's proposing "reform." (More on this later.)

These differences are non-trivial. They are fatal to the usefulness of Germany or Japan as a comparative model for reforming Iraq.

On realism about "democratization." Now that it's become obvious that Saddam Hussein really wasn't that significant as a security threat, "democratization" is, as Friedman eventually noted, the last and best argument standing. However, it's far from a simple argument, and too much of the pro-war stance comes off as grasping at straws, or as straightfoward wishful thinking.

First, about that "region-wide grievance." The Muslim Middle East lives, on a daily basis, in the shadow of a local nuclear state with the world's third most powerful military, whose political establishment regards Arabs and Muslims with increasing bluntness as vermin, whose powerful right wing has expansionist designs beyond even its existing occupied territories, and which enjoys its position of privilege thanks to the unquestioning partisanship of the world's leading superpower. The Israel-Palestine conflict is the key to the Middle East, period; it resonates with more people than just Arabs, as Sharon demonstrated when he assassinated Yassin. And it's the single most powerful rhetorical tool in the hands of the Islamic extremists -- the major reason that politics in the region seems usually to boil down to a choice between secular autocracy or fundamentalist tyranny. Until that conflict is addressed, I'd say America's chances to be any kind of serious player in regional reform are badly compromised.

Even within the very shaky and limited parameters the US currently has to work with, there's not that much cause for confidence in the Bush Administration's talk of democratizing Iraq. A lot of people were opposed to Bush's war in part because he seemed to have no real plan for what would happen afterwards -- and it turns out they were right. The "interim constitution" was absurd kabuki theatre, producing a document with no real legitimacy; the IGC is corrupt, unpopular and illegitimate, the seeds for more autocracy if anything; the various major political players, like Sistani, are uninspiring at best as candidates for democratic reform; the profiteer-friendly CPA itself hasn't helped matters much (can anyone else tell me why Saddam's anti-union labour laws are still being enforced?).

None of it looks to me like the "road to democracy" I find confidently proclaimed in so much pro-war commentary; and what's much more alarming is that there doesn't look to me to be much will focussed on fixing the problems. The energy of too many pro-wars seems to go into making excuses for or downplaying the mistakes of Bush. Others seem consistently naive, for instance:

'"According to every poll conducted on the subject, a strong majority of all three ethnic groups in the country - Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia - strongly prefers the establishment of democracy to a "dictator for life" or an "Islamic state."'

Unfortunately, there are a few major problems here:

1. Autocrats don't always or even often think of themselves as undemocratic. There are plenty of people who are capable of saying they want democracy who will also, in fact, yearn for a strong, "tough" ruler whose objective is to keep people in line -- usually the formula for a tyrant.

2. Autocratic movements don't need to capture public opinion, which is transient and manipulable; they just need a solid enough base to be able to intimidate or manipulate the rest of the populace into accepting them. Victory is determined by who has the organizational strength and momentum on the ground. With the Baathists gone, the mosques are the only remaining such organizations in most of Iraq (aside from the old guerilla parties of Kurdistan), and the most powerful of those are Shiite mosques controlled by Sistani (or, even worse, Sadr).

Maybe there is a way to salvage this mess. If there is, I don't see Bush as being too interested in finding it, and I don't see enough war supporters interested in even acknowledging that there's a problem.

Ok, Patrick, I'll take up your challenge.

Proponents of the war have to deal with innocent Iraqi deaths and injuries - children, women, the aged - and the deaths and injuries of brave Coalition soldiers. We clearly have that on our consciences; we knew there would be suffering to these people going in, and cannot hide from it now. I'll go further: that little Iraqi boy who lost his family, and both arms to a US bomb, in some sense, is the result of our support for the war. We didn't wish it, but we knew there was some risk of things like this happening. We thought that the justification for all of this - WMD, deterrence, democratization, human rights, etc., was enough.

But I'm afraid you don't get off that easily, Patrick. You, and the anti-war left, knew, for certain, that the atrocities of Saddam's regime - the state-sponsored rapes, the depraved political torture, child prisons, genocide - would continue indefinitely. You knew Iraqis would be enslaved for generations. And yet, after performing whatever moral calculation you used, and in spite of explicit calls for their rescue by proponents of the war, you condemned Iraqis to this. You weighed them against other abstract principles, "national sovereignty" or "international stability" perhaps, and found them wanting.

Now, after the horrific details of Saddam's regime come to light, you think that an admission that you are pleased Saddam's regime is gone gives you a moral escape clause? Not likely. The fact that you wouldn't support Saddam's removal puts the lie to your contention that you are pleased he is gone. At best, you were indifferent to the suffering he caused. At worst, complicit. (It could be worse, but not much. If you are French, you have to deal with the fact that you are a slave trader: you sold Iraqis for a few petro-dollars.) Don't think those of us who supported the war will soon forget how willing the anti-war left was to condemn the mass of Iraqis into slavery, torture and death. I'm sure Iraqis won't.

I can deal with consequences of my position; can you say the same?

Dr. Slack wrote: "I don't see enough war supporters interested in even acknowledging that there's a problem." I think we're looking at it through pretty different lenses; many of the antiwar folks I know were convinced it wasa disaster before the invasion, and as humans do, are looking for every piece of evidence in light of proving that strongly-held view; similarly many of the pro-war folks (the superbly objective me excepted...of course!) similarly look at the data that tends to support their conclusions.

From my point of view, have read (and lived) a fair bit of history, I expected and expect a mess. It's going to be murky, unclear, and - my new favorite word - contingent. Nothing I'm seeing now contradicts tat; in fact, it's less of a mess -politically and militarily than I expected a year ago.

But I like this discussion, because it begings to define the stable isalnds of argument, which means we can try and define what we're talking about a bit better, and ultimately begin to argue about what we'll be doing next more constructively.

A.L.

...the world would have been a better place with 600 U.S. GI's still alive, 3,500 more GI's uninjured, 10,000 innocent Iraqi's unslaughtered by U.S. ordinances, $150B unspent on a threat that was either non-imminent (at best) or non-existent (at worst), with U.S. credibility intact, and with all the world's post 9/11 support and goodwill still on our side."

Fine (though your Iraqi casualty estimates are likely inflated), the world would have been better without those deaths, all other things equal. Unfortunately, they're not. The status quo sanctions policy I suspect you favored continuing killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- Unicef estimated about 600,000 as of 1998, as I recall, and while many have questioned that number, there's no doubt that at least right now and for the foreseeable future the death toll from containing Saddam was orders of magnitude larger than that of the war that got rid of him. Add to that tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed by Saddam since 1991. Still feel morally superior?

Or maybe you believe the sanctions could have been dropped, and Saddam dealt with when he got out of line again. This is essentially what led to the Iran/Iraq war and the first Gulf War, a death toll even higher than that described above. And the US would no doubt have had to intervene when a rearmed Saddam overreached again, resulting in a much bloodier battle for both sides.

I guess what I would like to hear from the war's opponents is, what were you for? Neither of the two options laid out above look particularly attractive even knowing what we know now.

JoshA-

I admit that the domino theory may be a longshot, but hey, we don't have many other options here.

The Middle East is in DECLINE. Not improve, not remain static -- DECLINE. GDP and literacy rates are falling. Infant mortality is rising. Hatred and fundamentalist fanatacism are increasing. If we do nothing, the place will get WORSE.

This is one point that most anti-war types never seem to grasp. They always operate on the tacit assumption that things will improve if we pull out, or that the people of the region will somehow pull themselves together and find a way to progress if only they are left alone. In 20 years, they reason, Saudi Arabia and Iraq will look like Mexico; not a developed first world nation, but a reasonably okay place. Well, I don't think that's true. I think that the Middle East will look like a slighly more prosperous version of Somalia or Afghanistan in 20 years if we simply walk away from the region.

Eventually, I do think that the problem of radical fundamentalism will sort of take care of itself. If the House of Saud is toppled by the fundamentalists, it won't take the people of Saudi Arabia long to discover that their new rulers are every bit as corrupt and evil as the old rulers. They'll realize that the theocratic paradise they were promised will never come to be. The people of Iran have already realized this, and everyone else will too, given time.

The problem is that we don't have time. We can't just ride the problem out. In 2, 5, or 10 years, the radicals are going to acquire WMD's, and they are going to use them on us. We can't simply wait 20-30 years for them to go away on their own. Millions of Americans will die in the meantime if we don't take action now.

And when millions of Americans die, there will be hell to pay. If an epidemic of smallpox sweeps the country, and hundreds of thousands of women and children are infected, someone is going to get nuked. Ditto if a nuclear weapon is detonated in one of our cities.

If we don't know precisely who is responsible for this attack, we'll simply kill everyone who might be responsible. Tehran condemns the atrocity and denies all involvement? Sorry, we're nuking Tehran anyway. North Korea says "it wasn't one of our weapons. Let's negotiate, we are willing to give them up in exchange for a security guarantee?" Too late -- kiss your ass goodbye. Saudi Arabia doesn't have nuclear weapons? We'll make sure that they never acquire them. Syria has been cooperating with US intelligence agencies and cracking down on the fundamentalists? Sorry, you didn't move fast enough. Goodbye.

I don't want this to happen. It's horrible to contemplate. It makes me feel like a Nazi.

So I'm looking for an alternative. To me, the "dominio theory" seems worth a shot. It might not work -- but I'd like to give it a try. The alternative is far worse.

We can't maintain the status quo -- it's getting worse. Sharing information with the Egyptian intelligence service isn't going to solve anything. We can't just kill everyone. We have to try liberation.

But one thing is for sure -- I'm not going to just sit here and wait to be attacked again. I want this problem solved, and I want it solved now.

A.L.,

Please do as you'd proposed and delete comments that don't meet your standards of civility (at a minimum). It's rare when pro-American pro-democracy people of anti-Iraq-intervention and pro-Iraq-intervention beliefs talk earnestly and intelligently together about the best way forward.

My hat's off to Patrick Meighan, Kevin G, rea, KL, Larre, and others for posting your views. And most of all to Andrew Lazarus for getting this show on the road.

Patrick, you said (8:51pm):
Here's what I want to hear a PROPONENT of the war say... I'll go partway there:

I was for the war, even though all war is terrible, this one included. The world would have been a better place with our 600 U.S. GI's still alive, 3,500 more GI's uninjured--and more to come before this is over. I pray to God that 'my side' is right that these will be sacrifices for good reason, like our fallen of our Civil War bringing the end of Slavery, and those of WW2 preventing a Fascist-dominated world. And unlike our 50,000 dead in Viet Nam.

I mourn the thousands of innocent Iraqis killed, though their number is much lower than the figure you quote (10,000), and has to be judged alongside the bloodlust and bureaucratic cruelty of Saddam, Uday and Qusay, and the Mukharabat.

Although I'm a taxpayer, I don't particularly mourn the treasure ($150B as you say?) we've spent. America is a wealthy country, and we've spent--wasted--a hundred billion or so 'containing' the Ba'athists since 1991, with no end in sight, except via a war like this one, or defeat).

I wish U.S. credibility was intact, and that we had all the world's post 9/11 support and goodwill on our side, as you say. But most of us think that the world's brief pro-US posturing was only skin-deep, and we can't mourn the loss of what was never truly there to begin with.

Sorry that that's only half-a-loaf, but it's an honest half.

Yeesh, this conversation moves so fast that my thoughts are anticipated or outdated by the time I'm done typing. I'll sit back and read some more...

Thanks, A.L. for the overdue cleanup action.

A.L. Wrote:

But I like this discussion, because it begings to define the stable isalnds of argument, which means we can try and define what we're talking about a bit better, and ultimately begin to argue about what we'll be doing next more constructively.

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. This kind of discussion is not principled, but rather partisan. So it's not going to accomplish your goal.

Let me illustrate the distinction. If someone were to make a principled objection to the Iraq War based on, say, the possibility that it might launch a regional conflict, they would now have to concede that their concern--however likely or well meaning--did not pan out. In short, a principled argument can be answered empirically.

A partisan objection, however, cannot be answered. That's because the arguments themselves are just a means to an end. No regional conflict? That's OK. We move the goal posts and object for a different reason. How about WMD? If those are found no biggie. Just move the goal posts again.

A partisan argument can and will go on forever, because the arguments are meant to hide, not illuminate the parties' actual agendas. The only "islands" that will be formed in this kind of discussion are partisan islands, not the islands of principle you want. And, as it turns out, we already have a crisp picture of where AJ's partisan island is located and what it looks like.

Mark says:

"I'll go further: that little Iraqi boy who lost his family, and both arms to a US bomb, in some sense, is the result of our support for the war. We didn't wish it, but we knew there was some risk of things like this happening. We thought that the justification for all of this - WMD, deterrence, democratization, human rights, etc., was enough. . . ."
"I can deal with consequences of my position; can you say the same?"


Enough for the little Iraqi boy? He's still there. What do we do about the slaughter of the innocents when the innocents are theirs and we do the slaughtering? I think for many of us that little boy is only an abstraction, and the years he faces maimed and isolated lack any sense of reality for us. 10,000 civilians killed may be an overestimate, but does that in any way diminish the tragedy of one killed without fault? Our innocents and (not-so innocents) killed and maimed by this war are also abstractions for far too many persons strategizing and theorizing in the comfort of their homes.

Mark -

Do you really think that empowering Iraq's radical Shiites will lead to the creation of a liberal democracy?

We decapitated the one secular force in Iraq (secular authoritarian Sunni nationalism), and now we're left with the Shiites, who aren't exactly too fond of secular liberalism...

How do you recommend responding when democracy votes theocratic parties into power? Unfortunantly, democracy and theocracy are in fact compatable, and in Iraq, they are inseperably intertwined.

I recommend handing control over to the UN immediately. That way, if things work out, the US can take responsbility for everything good that happens, and point to its maturity in knowing when to give up control to international institutions. If things don't work out, the US can blame the clumsy incompetence of the UN administration.

It's basically a win-win for the US, but nationalist pride will prevent the Bush administration from even contemplating such a thing. Their hatred of international cooperation, unwillingness to dilute US hedgemony, and fear of peaceful nation-building methods totally rules it out.

Patrick,

Clearly the Iraq war was about WMD. It was also about democratization, human rights, deterrence, terrorism. It was not about Rumsfeld's desire to get rid of Saddam (as he correctly pointed out to Al Jezeera). The quotes from Rumsfeld and Fleisher are consistent with this view.

People often have multiple justifications for their position. I'm not sure what you find so controversial about that.

If you're saying that war - any war - is justified if and only if there is a one single justification - and no more - then say so. At least I could attempt to show why that position is untenable.

If you're saying that the Coalition did not use the democratization or human rights argument prior to the war, then you have to square this view with the quotes I gave you (and many others). I don't think that's possible, but go for it.

If you're saying that democratization and human rights were not the main reasons, or the only reasons, for war, then I will concede this. However, it doesn't help you. The arguments were explicitly made, and you ignored or undervalued them in your pre-war calculations, as I have tried to point out; now you must account to free Iraqis why you would have kept them enslaved. Don't get angry with me - I'm just the messenger.

As for your arguments about (1) my alleged insincerity on human rights and (2) our inability to stop all human rights abusers, both are fallacious. Argument (1) is a type of ad hominem. Argument (2) cannot be credibly used to argue against stopping human rights abusers: are you saying that if we can't arrest every murderer, we shouldn't arrest any of them?

Iblis-

I'll disagree. Go take a look at the definition of 'wicked problem' in the middle of this post:
"1. You don't understand the problem until you have developed a solution. Indeed, there is no definitive statement of "The Problem." The problem is ill-structured, an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints."
A.L.

aMike:

So what's your alternative? I'm a skeptic on the war in Iraq, myself, but I've seen few alternatives presented by the outright opponents of the war.

Devote all of our resources to hunting down Osama bin Laden? Even if he's a stain on the floor of a cave? That assumes that he's terrorism's indispensible man. You'll have to present evidence to support that one. I'd say the hunt for OBL is necessary but not sufficient.

Devote all of our resources to pacifying Afghanistan? Unfortunately for the Afghans, Afghanistan is a side show--the main attraction is in the Middle East.

Remove support from Israel? Other than being politically impossible here, I think that's rather more likely to provoke the ultimate confrontation we're trying to avoid in the Middle East. What do you think the Israelis will do when their backs are to the wall?

Leave it to the U. N.? or NATO?

Withdraw from the world and close our borders?

What are the alternatives?

aMike,

I don't know how much less abstract I can get when particularizing the suffering of innocent people and soldiers killed or maimed in the war. If you want to do a stripped down, incomplete utilitarian calculation, weigh that boys suffering against the 100 or so starving Iraqi children freed from a Baathist jail by liberating British soldiers. The Iraqi boy's disability was a possibilities before the war, but the infant jail rescue was a likelihood. You and I both know how the calculation was done by the pro and anti-war side. Each side must now deal with consequences.

I looked again for admissions about mass graves, rape rooms and torture chambers in your post, aMike. Alas, anti-war leftits cannot or will not face the consequences of their position. I suspect this is because they don't like them.

ID asked -

I guess what I would like to hear from the war's opponents is, what were you for? Neither of the two options laid out above look particularly attractive even knowing what we know now.

I was for a drastic expansion of the oil-for-food program, turning it into a general-purpose humanitarian aid, human rights guaranteeing, and weapons inspection program.

But, the status quo was clearly preferable to this vast waste of blood and treasure...

Also, you are aware that the stories of rape rooms were concocted by the same people who brought you lies about Iraqi soldiers ripping babies from incubators in Kuwait... right? You probably think otherwise, so let's see some conclusive evidence!

And by conclusive, I mean INC-coached defectors are ruled right out...

Iblis;

I'll try and take you up on that.

I opposed, and oppose, the Iraq war on some of the following grounds.

1) Cost/benefit ratio. I could not, and can't, make this one add up. I'm not talking about getting rid of a dictator; it's great that Saddam is gone, but there are worse creatures in power out there. No, it's that there was not and has not been a convincing extraction plan demonstrated. How does the US get out of Iraq, and leave something worthwhile behind?

To that, I would now add that the world's dictators know that they can act with impunity for the forseeable future. Iraq is tying up so much of the US's military capability that there is nothing much left for them to concern themselves about.

Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the sheer opportunity cost of $150 billion and counting spent is mind blowing.

2) Potential to destabilise the region. As noted, many people felt that this could have turned the Middle East into a firestorm. It could also lead to the invasion by Turkey of the Kurdish areas. Not to mention the creation of sectarian violence, where previously there was none.

The last one seems to be developing. The jury is still out on the first. And the middle one will have to wait. If the Kurds try to split off their own country, that could get exciting.

More to come, but this is a start.

A.L.

I've had a look at the link. Strikes me as a good example of putting style over substance--the kind of thing that leads to endless meetings and no decisions. A quilting circle, not a war counsel. Was the Gordian Knot a Wicked Problem? I'll take Alexander's solution.

But you disagree. I respect it and that's the end of it. Which is exactly my point. You and I are having (I hope!) a principled discussion. The article, despite some excellent comments, is pure partisan nonsense.

Thomas Sowell has said that there are no solutions, only trade offs. That sounds to me like a much more succinct conceptualization of the Wicked Problem issue. Put another way, any decision must necessarily optimize for one thing at the expense of others. Partisan claqueurs take advantage of this by focusing on the trade offs associated with all decisions. Thus we hear, for example, about Iraqi civilians killed in the invasion and never about the greater number who are alive today because Saddam was denied the opportunity to kill them.

And so it goes.

sayke:

I was for a drastic expansion of the oil-for-food program, turning it into a general-purpose humanitarian aid, human rights guaranteeing, and weapons inspection program.

Sounds like a full-employment program for U. N. bureaucrats to me. In light of the emerging scandal, that position requires a little defending.

Are the Al Qs the only Islamic terrorists?

Did Saddam join in Europe's proxy war against America - you know the Palestine thing that I. Schroeder the EU MP blew the whistle on?

Is Iraq a good place to put pressure on a bunch of terror supporting regimes?

Has the Arab League summit ended before it started because of America's pressure on tthe whole Islamic ball of wax through our efforts in Iraq?

Are Syrians asking for democracy?

Are Saudis?

Has Kdaffy's son said that the future of Libya is democratic?

Would any of this (let alone all of it) have been likely with troops only in Afghanistan?

sayke:

I was for a drastic expansion of the oil-for-food program, turning it into a general-purpose humanitarian aid, human rights guaranteeing, and weapons inspection program.

Sounds like a full-employment program for U. N. bureaucrats to me. In light of the emerging scandal, that position requires a little defending.

Hey, and as an aside, why Iraq in the first place as an exercise in democratization?

Personally, if I was going to have a shot at that, I'd have chosen Kuwait.

Much smaller country, better cultural homogeneity, an altogether happier place to start with learning how to build a democracy in the Middle East.

sayke,

I think empowering average Iraqis may lead to a democracy. (Isn't that what democracy is supposed to do?) The fact that radical Shiite clerics may gain political power in a post-war is something that one has to contemplate, though it certainly isn't inevitable (predictions of the liberal media notwithstanding). I can only comfort myself with the fact that the Coalition would be monumentally incompetent if it allowed another dictatorship to rise to power in the near future.

The recently signed Iraqi Constitution is a good step to ensuring that there is a liberal democracy in Iraq, regardless of who takes power. The fact that this document was created through negotiation and compromise is another good sign. Of course, there are other negative developments, but I'm not ready to run away screaming like a bunch of Frenchmen at the first spot of trouble, nor do I think the Coalition is ready to do that either.

Look, the US faced the difficulty of bringing democracy to a feudal, xenophobic, militaristic non-Judeo-Christian country 60 years ago in Japan. Admittedly, Iraq isn't Japan, but I have to believe if the US can do it with Japan, it has at least a fighting chance to do so in Iraq.

Democratization of the M.E. is the long-shot, balls-out winner-take all risk of the century. I just don't think we have a better alternative.

A 'vast expansion' of the Oil-For-Food program? That would have only been a vast expansion of $$$ for Saddam and Kofi Annan to steal.

Kl,

How does America get out of Germany and leave something wothwhile behind?

Mark,

We have a 12 year head start in bringing democracy to Iraq.

The Kurds are the way.

K.L. says:

"I agree that there is a convincing case to be made that one of the key factors in Middle Eastern terrorism is the political dysfunction of the region.

But the invasion of Iraq does nothing to address these factors,

Actually it does address one factor. Saddam's disfunctional regime.

Funny you missed it.

Mark wrote: "The fact that you wouldn't support Saddam's removal puts the lie to your contention that you are pleased he is gone." This is just wrong. I wish Bush were out of power, and I would be glad if he lost it, but it would not follow that I would support ANY course of action that would produce that result, including armed conflict. Likewise, I can be, and am, glad that Saddam Hussein is out of power without thinking that this particular war was worth it.

I find the assumption that anyone who is against the war must not have appreciated Saddam Hussein's awfulness incredibly patronizing. For the record, I, like many people I know who opposed the war, loathed Saddam Hussein. I disliked him from afar throughout most of the 1980s. Then, in 1988, I happened to be near the Turkish-Iraqi border shortly after one of his attacks on the Iraqi Kurds, when tens of thousands of refugees were streaming across into Turkey, and so I got to see the effects of his brutality firsthand, at a time when our government still supported Iraq. (When Congress tried to impose sanctions on Iraq for gassing its citizens, Reagan tried to block the bill, calling it 'premature'.)

The reason I oppose the war is not because I am under some sort of illusion about Saddam being a nice guy. Nor, for the record, is it because I don't think Iraqis are "ready for" democracy, or because I reflexively hate America, freedom, or George W. Bush. It's for other reasons, chiefly:

(1) It seems clear to me that transforming Iraq into a democracy is a long, difficult, and complicated undertaking that will take skill, patience, time, and money. It is very hard to do right, and very easy to do wrong. Nothing about Bush's performance before our invasion made me think he'd do it right; in particular, our failure to finish what we started in Afghanistan, and our needless alienation of the allies who were in a position to be enormously useful in any invasion of Iraq, seemed to me very bad signs. I did not want to be right about this, but our astonishing lack of planning for post-invasion Iraq seems to bear it out.

(2) It needlessly harmed international institutions and good will for the US. Someone above asked why this matters. Above the obvious reasons why having people like and respect us is a good thing, one further reason is that those very allies are in a position to be very useful in the war on terror more generally. 9/11 was not planned here; it was planned in Europe; and disrupting cells like the one that planned it will require cooperation with European intelligence services, as will disrupting al Qaeda's finances. Insofar as we strain our relations with these countries, we put this cooperation at risk, and thus risk other crucial parts of the war on terror.

(3) Opportunity costs: for the money we spent on Iraq, we could have done various things that are much more clearly relevant to the war on terror. We could have spent something approaching the money we need on homeland security, instead of leaving our rails, ports, chemical factories, etc. unsecured, and our police and fire departments still without basic communications tools and training. We could have done Afghanistan right, thereby actually creating a muslim democracy in Central Asia and moving one state permanently from the category of 'dangerous basket case' to that of 'stable democracy'. This could have created enormous good will for us in the Arab world. Instead, we have left al Qaeda in the border regions, warlords in control of most of the country, and a fragile democratic government in charge of greater Kabul.

(4) For those who think that the Bush doctrine of preventive war might ever have a legitimate use, it's also worth noting that the Iraq war will make it much harder to convince anyone that some future preventive war is a good thing. Preventive war, as lots of people have noted, depends a lot on the quality of one's intelligence: since you're claiming the right to invade another country not because of something it has done, or even because of something it's about to do, but to prevent something it might do in the future, your judgments about what it is about to do have to be credible. By (publicly) basing our decision to go to war largely on claims about Iraqi WMDs and then not finding any, we have squandered that credibility.

And to the question 'what was I for'?

In Iraq: intrusive inspections of the sort Blix and el Baradei were actually carrying out, along with targeted ('smart') sanctions.

About hearts and minds in the middle east: two things. First, really working on the Israeli/Palestinian problem, and doing whatever we could to solve it, crucially including putting serious pressure on the neighboring states to work towards a solution. Second, doing Afghanistan right.

About the war on terror proper: first, trying to find bin Laden. Whatever one's views about his present importance to the war on terror, he is responsible for 9/11 and needs to be found for that reason alone. Second, putting a lot more resources into tracking and disrupting terror cells and the financial networks behind them. (Note: today's New York Times reports the following: "The Bush administration has scuttled a plan to increase by 50 percent the number of criminal financial investigators working to disrupt the finances of Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations to save $12 million, a Congressional hearing was told on Tuesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/31/business/31irs.html ) Third, spend a lot more money on homeland security. Fourth, initiate a really serious program designed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, including raising automobile fuel standards and other energy efficiency requirements, creating incentives for individuals and corporations who move to more energy-efficient technology, and funding research into new technologies.

The lovely thing about arguing for these points in the present context is that while under normal circumstances one might wonder how I'd pay for all these things, they'd be a lot cheaper than our present open-ended commitment to Iraq, and they leave fewer dead bodies behind as well.

Armed Liberal:

"I don't believe that AQ could have grown into more than a localized terrorist organization (of which we'll be seeing many, many, more in the coming decade) without the explicit and overt support of state-level actors."

But not one real link to a state has been made public, and we can assume that if there were any, by now the Bush administration would be trumpeting those links for all the world to hear. The closest examples can find to "state-level actors" - the phrase resembles "weapons of mass destruction program related activities" in its attempt to recover at least a crumb of truth from a mistaken paradigm - are very wealthy Saudis passing money on to al Qaeda, and the major ties between Pakistan intelligence forces and the Taliban/al Qaeda hydra.

First of all, Saddam Hussein had little to nothing to do with any of this, ie funding/supporting al Qaeda.

Second of all, to conflate individual Saudis with the Saudi state - even to conflate an ISI staffed with a majority of radical Islamists with the Pakistani state - oversimplifies, seriously oversimplifies, extremely complex situations. To call such things "state-level actors" simply doesn't clarify what is going on. It would be just as helpful to call the ISI Islamists "grass roots- level activists who have risen to power."

These situations are not only exceedingly complex but ones that the US is - still! -thoroughly unprepared to handle. Especially with the Bush regime in power, which sets a new standard in American solipsism. There are not enough translators, there is not enough understanding of the ethnic and cultural differences in these countries.

To invade the way Bush did is the foreign policy equivalent of using an axe to do brain surgery.

Does that mean do nothing? Of course not. But it sure as heck is a warning to act very, very carefully, so that the Gates of Hell are not inadvertently flung open.

And invading countries that are irrelevant no matter how repellent their leaders is about the most careless thing one can do, as even internal reports from the armed forces see fit to point out. In the final chapters of Clarke's book, he quotes one such report as stating that the Bush/Iraq war was a singularly egregious error. Indeed it was.

"I was for a drastic expansion of the oil-for-food program, turning it into a general-purpose humanitarian aid, human rights guaranteeing, and weapons inspection program."

Please tell me this was just an April Fools joke. Because anyone who thinks the oil-for-food program was helping hasn't been paying attention.

"I was for a drastic expansion of the oil-for-food program, turning it into a general-purpose humanitarian aid, human rights guaranteeing, and weapons inspection program."

Please tell me this was just an April Fools joke. Because anyone who thinks the oil-for-food program was helping hasn't been paying attention.

hilzoy,

"I find the assumption that anyone who is against the war must not have appreciated Saddam Hussein's awfulness incredibly patronizing."

I'm sorry you find it patronizing, but I stand by my contention that anti-war leftists did not adequately consider the atrocities visited upon Iraqis by Saddam. Although I disagree with your arguments (1)-(4), they are articulate and well-thought out.

Unfortunately, your position is incomplete. You fail to mention argument (5), where you inescapably must say something like "Although I know that opposing military removal of Saddam from power will condemn Iraqis indefinitely to toruture, rape and genocide, I believe reasons (1)-(4) supercede considerations of their condition."

Obviously, I don't think many on the anti-war left want to voice argument (5), because it is a morally dubious position to take. In my view, they believe that the statement "Of course it is a good thing Saddam was deposed" is a bandaid for the moral goring they've incurred. This syllogistic move is both insufficient and transparent.

K.L. says:

But that's entirely the point. If you want to remodel the Middle East, you need to have some idea of how to go about it. The US had not demonstrated its capacity to rebuild Afghanistan, had not developed the tools to do so, but still invaded Iraq and now finds itself, entirely unsusprisingly, with an increasingly expensive problem.

Germany did not get rebuilt a week and a half after the war was over. Why expect such in Iraq? Germany AND Japan AND Europe were very expensive problems. Did we get our money's worth?

In 1952 there were still displaced persons living in barracks in Europe. In Iraq and Afghanistan people are returning because Americans are there.

BTW fighting the Cold War was a very expensive problem. Our GDP would probably be 10X what it is today had we avoided that conflict.

What you have to ask yourself is: if we reach the goals set (as we did post WW2) will the world be a better place?

==========================================

Bush has stated his plan to bring democracy to the ME by force of arms if necessary. Now a lot of people don't like the force of arms bit.

Fine.

Start hustling and beat Bush to it.

Or you can give up, put your tails between your legs and watch Bush roll up a landslide in Nov.

============================================

I was on Kerry's side in 1971. Cut and run. We left two or three million dead from that one. Cutting and running is not an option.

Like it or not Iraq is going to have to get fixed.

Any constructive ideas on that score? Or just criticism and let Bush do it.

K.L. asks why not Kuwait?

Simple. Kuwait is in process of reform. Perhaps their time table leave someting to be desired but they are moving.

Iraq was not.

According the human rights groups, Saddam killed dozens of political prisoners in his last year in power. If we make the reasonable assumption that dozens means less than 100, and use the 10k iraqis killed in the war and following chaos, then it would have taken Saddam 100 years to kill that many people. Yes, I know he killed a lot of people back when he was on the Reagan pay role, but in case you hadnt noticed, the war hasnt brought these people back from the dead. The mass graves that we keep hearing about are DECADES OLD. Yes I also know that many iraqis died imminently following the first gulf war (bombing of water treatment and sewage plants), but these people were also long dead and the war hasnt bought them back either.

So we killed 10k people, and spent $200 billion to take out a 65 year old ex-mass-murder. He wasnt going to live that much longer anyway. We couldnt have just waited until the grim reaper got him for us.

A.L.

What was "acceptable risk" prior to 9/11/2001 is not afterwards. Period. Full Stop.

Deterrence theory assumes rational actors. Democrats, leftists and liberals are going out of their way to avoid the fact that the terrorism we face is an outgrowth of a psychotic culture.

In the particular case of Saddam, his attempted assasination of a recent American President showed he was an irrational actor. Would the Clinton Administration have gone to war with Iraq is Saddam had successfully assasinated George H. W. Bush in Kuwait in 1993? Any rational leader would have avoided the risk, Saddam not only tried, but he got caught at it...and nothing was done.

Riddle me this A.L., why did the European, Russian and Chinese sales agents bug out of Baghdad days after 9/11?

They did so because it was plainly obvious that America was coming for Saddam.

Saddam had WMD he had used on foreign (Iran) and internal (Kurdish) enemies.

He hid what WMD he had from UN inspectors and went out of his way to retain the ability to rapidly reaquire industrial scale WMD capability the moment UN sanctions were lifted.

Saddam had funded and supported terrorists, and not just in Israel. He was training terrorists in the high jack of aircraft using old air liners at Salman Pak. Which was widely known before 9/11/2001 through terrorists we had captured.

Further, our war with Saddam had not ended in 1991. It was a cease fire at best and a low level shooting war most of the rest.

Given Iraq's

1) support of terrorism,
2) possession and use of WMD,
3) demonstraited hostility,
4) irrational leadership and
5) the cash flow of oil wealth to fund 1-4,

it would have been an impeachable offense for Bush to not invade and conquer Iraq.

If the other side in a war with you is irrational and is certain to have access to WMD in the future. Then Preemptive War is the only rational answer.

American Democrats, Liberals and Lefitists are completely irrational about the nature of the threat. Andrew Lazarus and people on the thread agreeing with him are perfect examples. This is why Democrats will not be trusted with federal executive power. The Democratic party is on the wrong side of the 9/11/2001 divide.

Trent Telenko:

If the other side in a war with you is irrational and is certain to have access to WMD in the future. Then Preemptive War is the only rational answer.

This may or may not be the case but the invasion of Iraq was no pre-emptive war.

Saddam's violations of the agreements that produced the cease-fire after Gulf War I was sufficient. No more legitimacy was needed. The violations included

- firing on our aircraft overseeing the no-fly zone
- failure to make a complete accounting of WMD's

_But the invasion of Iraq does nothing to address these factors,

Actually it does address one factor. Saddam's disfunctional regime.

Funny you missed it.

M.Simon_

...and replaces it with........

still waiting.....

By all means, oust Saddam, put in something better, get a lot of people killed and maimed, destroy the US Army for the better part of the next decade, create 100 000+ US citizens with military training and severe personality disorders......

but that wasn't the case that was sold, was it?

And, at the moment, it doesn't look good into the forseeable future.

As you mentioned, these things take time. Like Germany. Or Vietnam, if it comes to that.

And Germany took 40 or so years to shake out. So if you want to argue that Iraq will be better off in 2044, by all means. I won't argue with you.

I'm interested in what happens between now and 2010.

elspi,

Were you counting on Usay and Qsay dying before Saddam left power? Are you saying that there was a democracy movement in the wings just waiting for Saddam to die of natural causes?

Are you saying the children's prison was not real?

Are you saying that the mass graves holding at minimun 300,000 Iraqis was not real? That new additions were minimal?

Do you have any evidence?

elspi (12:00am):

Your arithmetic is faulty, and your arguments unfortunately come across as disingenuous. In his posts above, Mark has provided a framework for the sorts of points you mean to raise; I hope you can consider them and then respond. If you do, please provide links for your assertions.

Actually, M.Simon, as you so perspicaciously mention, cutting and running is not an option at this point.

Exit strategy, dear boy, exit strategy.

You are familiar with the concept I trust?

That's one of the many many problems with this whole little expedition. Everyone knew that Germany could rebuild; they'd done it after the first World War after all. I don't think anyone expected Japan to turn out as well as it did, but there you have it. But you can't have a foreign policy by analogy. Iraq isn't Germany. Iraq isn't Japan.

It would be very very easy for Iraq to stay as bad as it is now for a very considerable period of time. And just walking away is not a good option.

Mark: You write that I must say: "Although I know that opposing military removal of Saddam from power will condemn Iraqis indefinitely to torture, rape and genocide, I believe reasons (1)-(4) supercede considerations of their condition." I might argue that the regime in Iraq would not have lasted indefinitely, in particular past Saddam's death. Leaving that aside, however, I do think that 1-4 mean that we should not have invaded Iraq when we did, and I don't think this is as immoral as (I gather) you do.

First, the comparison relevant to an assessment of the invasion is not between Iraqis under Saddam and Iraqis in some hypothetical situation, but between Iraqis before and after our invasion. And that means that a lot depends on how we carried out the invasion and its aftermath. I think we did the invasion brilliantly, and the aftermath unbelievably badly. As a result, I think the jury is still out on what, exactly, the final result of the invasion will be. It could be a functioning democracy, in which case everyone would be better off. It could be civil war, possibly including secession by the Kurds and their subsequent invasion by Turkey, and the establishment of a Shia theocracy in the rest of the state. In this case the Shia would be somewhat better off than before, while the Kurds would have lost their prewar quasi-independence to a country that does practice torture against its Kurdish minority; and there would also be the costs to Iraqis of civil war. Saddam was loathsome, but this is not exactly a lovely outcome either. For this reason I think point 1 is clearly relevant to this argument.

Second, points 2 and 3 concern, in part, fighting terror. Thousands of people died on 9/11. Hundreds died in Madrid. I see nothing immoral about weighing the lives we might have saved had we used our international good will and our money on preventing such attacks against the benefits to the Iraqi people of deposing Saddam.

Third, other opportunity costs: My preference, as I noted, was for really doing Afghanistan right. That would have improved the lives of Afghans a lot -- while the country is nominally democratic now, large portions of it are under the de facto control of warlords, who are no angels. Doing the job of rebuilding the country right would have allowed the Karzai government to actually exercise control of the entire country, thereby improving people's lives a lot; it would also have provided real economic benefits to a deeply impoverished country. However, if you would rather focus on human rights directly, we could have invaded other countries like the Sudan, in which genocide is happening not fifteen years ago but now; or perhaps Uzbekistan, whose dictator boils his opponents alive. (Invading Uzbekistan would probably have enraged Russia, but if you're not willing to weigh costs and benefits, I don't see why that should deter you.) This also seems obviously relevant to the question whether or not the invasion was worth it.

Fourth, I noted that we squandered the credibility on which future attempts to engage in preventive wars depend. If some occasion for engaging in such a war arises, our invasion of Iraq will alter our alternatives, and this could also entail serious costs. This might seem awfully abstract, so consider an analogy. I am in favor of humanitarian wars when they are needed to prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe (think Rwanda), and when they are very carefully executed. I arrived at this view in the late 70s, when it became clear that something truly appalling was happening in Cambodia. This, I thought, is exactly the sort of situation in which, in principle, the US could legitimately invade another country. But there was one little problem in practice: after the war in Viet Nam and our earlier invasion of Cambodia, neither the Cambodian people nor the international community would have accepted this hypothetical invasion as a humanitarian gesture. (I leave aside the question whether the Khmer Rouge would have come to power at all had we not invaded Cambodia earlier.)

The fact that the international community would not have accepted it would have been damaging, but we might, by our conduct, have brought them round. But the fact that the Cambodian people (and their neighbors) would not have accepted it would (in my view) have altered the course of this hypothetical invasion itself, in ways that would probably have made it no longer a plainly good idea. What this means, to me, is that having acted wrongly once can alter your alternatives in the future in unpredictable ways, and that the alternatives you no longer have can include some that would have produced massive benefits for other people. I think that if Iraq goes bad, as I think it might, we could find our alternatives similarly constrained in the Middle East, with completely unpredictable consequences.

About "anti-war leftists" -- so you mean all of us? In that case, as I said, it's both patronizing and false. Or do you just mean some of us, specifically those who are not particularly well informed? In that case, why not direct your arguments at your strongest opponents?

K.L.,

Germany did not get self government until 5+ years after the war was over.

Iraqis are getting theirs June 30.

But OK. I'll grant you that is too long to wait.

How do you propose speeding up the process?

What are your plans for Saudi Arabia? Iran? Syria?

I mean there is a world out there that needs changing what are you waiting for? Bush to do it?

I will support Bush until a better plan comes along.

And your plan is .......... ? Let me know when you get one.

==========================================

"A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." Simon&Garfunkel

I never believed that Iraq was a short term venture with low costs. No matter how it was sold it never looked that way to me. So I have no buyers remorse.

I expected a tough slog. Against people who have promised to nuke America as soon as they get the capability.

You can never add tradgedies avoided to the win side of the ledger because we will never know we avoided them.

Domestically I do not trust Bush at all. As to his war policy I must say that that I support it. Have supported it since 9/11. As far as I can see his moves have been deft and sure.

============================================

So K.L. you want results by 2010. That will not be too hard. 70% of Iraqis say they expect to be in a better situation by next year. I note that next year is not even 2010.

============================================

Tell me K.L. what results you want by 2010 and given the current situation how we ought to proceed.

I would like to see more discussion of what to do NOW, rather than a rehash of what should have been done during the period 1066-2003. While history may be useful for somethings, idle contrafactual arguments are better put in science fiction stories.

All sides need to agree: we are in Iraq now. How do we proceed with our goal of stopping islamofascism in its tracks? Discussion of past mistakes is only marginally useful for this exercise. And recriminations are silly

hilzoy,

We have not squandered our future credibility when it comes to pre-emption. We have strengthened it.

We have proved we will act as we see fit.

My advice: warn America's enemies - surrender now and avoid the rush.

When America says it wants more democracy I want to see results or there will be invasions.

So here is your opportunity. Create democracy in the Middle East before Bush does. Now that is not so hard is it given Bush's total incompetence. Any one could do better, eh? Why not you?

(M. Simon) "Kuwait is in [the] process of reform"

A truly amusing statement. The bulk of the population have zero legal rights. That is, all women and anyone whose ancestors were not living in the area in the 1920s. A massive number of people, their adult children and elderly parents have no rights at all in Kuwait. They're 'stateless' even though they were born in Kuwait.
Iranians have more civil rights than Kuwaitis. At least Saudis and Bahrainis are pressuring their governments to reform - though revolutions in both states will most likely be needed to get democracy off the ground.

Now, Kuwait's a small nation where the US is seen as benign. If the US was to affect democratic change anywhere, it could be done here. Bush the First stated categorically that Kuwait would be a democracy and yet nothing has been done to affect any real change in over a decade. No one in the Middle East takes the US seriously as a democratising force. And the US has itself to blame for that.

Talks the talk, doesnt walk the walk.

Trent
Saddam's attempted assassination of George Bush did meet with retaliation. Clinton took out his intelligence headquarters with a missile (pg. 79-84 of Richard Clarke's book). Clinton announced the strike on TV shortly after the missile hit.

Perhaps this was inadequate, but Saddam never engaged in any terrorist activities against the US again.

hilzoy,

"[T]he comparison relevant to an assessment of the invasion is not between Iraqis under Saddam and Iraqis in some hypothetical situation, but between Iraqis before and after our invasion."

Actually, anti-war leftists have to contend that more have died as a consequence of the war (number "x") than would have died under Saddam's continued rule, and quite possibly the rule of one of his depraved sons (number "y").

You seem to argue that the number "x" exceeds number "y", based on speculations derived from your points (1)-(4). I don't think your points (1)-(4) actually support your speculations.

But I'm glad you mention it, because it shows you've obviously concluded that your number x (with amounts supplemented by your points 1-4) exceeds number y. You are one of the first anti-war leftist I've seen admit to doing this utilitarian calculation.

So, your next post should include this calculation (with numbers assigned to your points 1-4, and justifications thereof), thereby showing why it would have been better to have left the Iraqis to Saddam's gentle ministrations than it was to go to war to end them.

Otherwise, it just looks like you're working hard to avoid the consequences of your (im)moral position.

"We liberals do see the importance of political dysfunction, we just don't see bombing and shooting as a productive route to political change." --Mark Gilbert

My dad's a doctor, and one night at dinner he said, "As a doctor I can't heal anyone. The human body has to heal itself. All I can do is put a person's body in the best position to heal itself." With broken bones, doctors will align the bones and wrap them in a splint. With an infection, give antibitics that weaken the bacteria, and with cancer, to remove the tumor and suppress the remaing cancerous cells with chemotherapy.

I agree that shooting cannot lead to positive polical change. But it CAN remove impediments to progress. I believe that Saddam and the Ba'athist party were cancers on the Iraqi body politic. And the current US operations against the holdouts are political chemotheraphy. Tistero also uses a medical analogy "To invade the way Bush did is the foreign policy equivalent of using an axe to do brain surgery. " Well Tistero, what would a scalpel have looked like? A Tomahawk cruise missle aimed at Saddam? If you'll recall, the USAF did indeed try to kill Saddam at the start of the invasion. They missed. And assuming Saddam could be taken out "surgically" (again the medical metaphor), what about Uday? What about the thousands of cousins?

The Coalition has removed the cancer. It has given transfusions of food, medicine, electricity, and law enforcement. As June 30 approaches, we will all find out if the Iraqi body politic can heal itself. I believe and hope that it can.

Mark;

Depleted uranium.

Cancer deaths up 20 fold.

Birth defects up 10 fold.

~10,000 civilian deaths in the invasion phase of the war alone.

~10,000 medical evacuations of US personnel.

$150 billion spent to date.

This last figure represents approximately 3 million deaths worldwide each year, since this sum of money could have saved the lives of this many people by providing fresh water, immunisation for basic child hood diseases and reduction in mother/child AIDS transmission.

Does 3 million deaths per year, as a result of spending the money in Iraq rather than elsewhere, sufficiently exceed your death rate under Saddam?

What's with the Sesame-Street attention span of some folks here? Hey people, we've been in German--yeah, that Germany, the one that we knew could rebuild itself 'cause they'd already done it once after WWI--for more than 50 years. That's right, we came after WWII and we still havn't left yet! Same for Korea.

The timespan I expect us to be in Iraq at some level of involvement is measured in decades, not years or (heaven forbid) months! Eventually it will be quietly in the background, just functioning as a deterrent a la the Turkish Army, but still a presence. The whole project is doomed if we don't provide that kind of lasting support.

M.Simon;

2010.

Success defined as follows...

US troops are no longer stationed in Iraq in significant numbers.

There have been at least 2 national elections prior to 2010, with the peaceful transition of power occurring as appropriate.

The rule of law is observed throughout Iraq; no outlaw regions.

Little or no sectarian violence.

Separation of powers is respected.

The army is not significantly involved in the election process.

I think that hits the highlights; anyone else?

Shaun;

Analogy makes for lousy foreign policy.

You want an analogy? Try this one.

Your doctor has removed a problematic cyst, using an operation with an unknown chance of success, in a region of the world where the chances of post operation infection are huge, and it has cost you 30x as much as an equivalently effective alternative treatment.

KL -

Nooooo! Not the DU canard again.

Go read this and come back to us. A quote:
Rather than theorizing about either of these two possible toxicological modes of action, however, medical researchers have sought hard to see if any medical damage can be actually detected. Several hundred U.S. solders were exposed to depleted uranium during Gulf War I: from shrapnel pieces left embedded in their bodies, to vaporized aerosols accidentally inhaled, to other possible means of exposure. Because they're American, as well as the subsequent Gulf War Syndrome controversy following the first Gulf War, these people have been carefully studied. Beyond that, hordes of folks who worked in the uranium industry have been closely watched medically over the years. Plus the U.N., E.U., Britain's Royal Society, and others have repeatedly investigated the effects of depleted uranium in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia as a result of its use in the wars that NATO and the U.S. have fought there. The results of all these studies are practically the same: essentially no adverse medical effects, even less than what might have been expected due to uranium's heavy metal character.
Read the whole thing. Note that he cites, among other things, a UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) study.

OK, then...

A.L.

Those are interesting figures, KL. Please provide credible evidence to back them up. Also, please explain why you would include figures for speculative potential relief operations, and how this is related to terrorism.

Mark: for the record, I am not a utilitarian. About the substance of your post: it is, of course, hard to come up with numbers. This is not meant to be a dodge; my various concerns have to do with possible outcomes that are very hard to predict. They do, of course, concern real people, however. The number of people Saddam (and his successor(s), if any) would have killed is also conjectural. Against it I weigh: coalition forces and Iraqi and coalition civilians killed in the war and the subsequent violence; those people who might be killed in an Iraqi civil war discounted by the probability of its occurring; those persons killed in terrorist attacks that would have been prevented, similarly discounted; those persons who will be killed in terrorist attacks perpetrated by people recruited by islamist terrorists as a result of our invasion of Iraq; those persons who will be killed in Afghanistan but would not have been killed had we remained there, as well as those persons who would not have died had we provided enough economic reconstruction to allow Afghan farmers to exit the opium trade; as well as those would have been saved by any action we will not be able to take as a result of the Iraq war.

We were originally speaking not just of deaths, but of other consequences as well. You mentioned torture. I would add other sorts of consequence as well: in my view, our actions in the runup to the war, and of course the invasion itself, needlessly squandered the international good will we had after 9/11, and this will make all sorts of future cooperative efforts much more difficult. The consequences of this are hard to calculate, since naturally we do not know what those efforts are; but they will be real. Likewise, we are now spending money trying to win over the Arab world with radio stations and the like; we have made this task immeasurably more difficult by invading Iraq, and we had it in our power to make it immeasurably easier by doing right by Afghanistan and proving those who were cynical about our motives there wrong. Finally, we have caused much of the rest of the world to believe that our government lies. The justification we offered for our invasion of Iraq -- the justification Colin Powell gave the UN, and the one our government repeated endlessly when asked why we had to invade when we did instead of allowing inspections to work -- was that we had evidence that Iraq was actively pursuing WMD. Our government said so, and it is clear that they were at best looking at the evidence selectively and talking themselves into a view that it did not warrant. This loss of trust will do us, and any future humanitarian efforts we undertake, damage for decades to come.

Great post. Thanks.

And last, and most ridiculous, is the triple-bank-shot theory that we will establish such a wonderful democracy in Iraq (doing what, I ask, with Fallujah?) that flowers begin to bloom over the entire region.

Even if you ignore the plummeting popularity of the U.S. in the region and assume such a strategy were to work, why Iraq? It would seem to make much more sense to target one of the few nations left that actually does engage in state sponsored terrorism, Iran. If the "triple bank shot theory" actually did work it would be more productive to topple a government that is more hostile to U.S. security than Iraq.

Ok, hilzoy, now we're getting somewhere.

I'm not a utilitarian either, but that doesn't negate the force of utilitarian arguments in favour of the war.

Now, as to the substance of your post:

Reasonable speculation should be based on more or less solid information. Of course, induction doesn't lend itself to certainty, but some inductive conclusions are better than others. With that in mind, consider the following:

"The number of people Saddam (and his successor(s), if any) would have killed is also conjectural."

True, but to some extent we can base his future conduct on his past performance. (With credit to Norman Geras) Human Rights Watch (no friend of the US administration) estimates that 290,000 Iraqis died as a direct result of Saddam's torture and genocide. (By most accounts, this is low, but we'll use it for the moment.) They discount this to 230,000 confirmed deaths; divide 230,000 by 23 for the years of his rule, for 10,000 dead/year. Sure, he might have slowed down, but he might have quickened his pace as well. These are the dead, remember; I'm not counting the mutilated survivors, nor the raped and tortured, nor the imprisoned children. So far I've seen no figures from the anti-war left for comparison, but all of your numbers have to add up at least to this or more. You've already concluded the war was immoral, so please provide your figures.

As for your more speculative figures, I note that they seem more than a little inductively weak. Until you attempt to assign numbers to them, and give us the basis for your assignation, they can't be taken seriously. As you assert, though, your position was morally acceptable, so it should be a simple matter to demonstrate how you came to this conclusion.

Of course, having admitted your speculative events, I would set my own against them: the lives saved by eventual democratization of the M.E., discounted, as above. The lives saved by drawing terrorists away from civilians to military targets. The lives saved by forcing Al Quaeda to redeploy in Iraq. The lives saved by preventing Saddam from engaging in further pointless wars, discounted, as above. The lives saved from preventing Saddam from producing and eventually selling WMDs to a terrorist organization, discounted, as above. The lives saved from deterring other rogue regimes from pursuing, developing and eventually selling WMDs to a terrorist organization, discounted, as above.

I have attempted to show how and why the pro-war position was moral, and the anti-war position clearly immoral. You have said nothing that demonstrates otherwise.

But, as you said, you are no utilitarian; you may wish to abandon this whole project. If so, simply jettison this moral system in favour of a better. I am quite ready to address your arguments for the immorality of the war based on deontological or marxist principles.

At the end of it all, though, the mass graves, torture chambers and rape rooms will still be there. And you will still have to answer for your condemnation of Iraqis to them.

Not only would I like to thank Armed Liberal for allowing my guest post, I'd like to thank all but one of my fellow war opponents for their well-argued support in the comments, and most of the pro-war posters for their respectful civil tone.

Since I still have a second half of the essay to finish, I'm not going to attempt extensive rebuttals. However, Chuckie, before he went postal, was the only person I saw to challenge
Except money meant to pay for attacks on US civilians now goes into paying for attacks on our soldiers in Iraq. Given that we will have attacks on US citizens either way, I would rather have them on soldiers who are better equipped then civilians to deal with it, on a much more perminant basis then law enforcement too.
.

I'd like to point out the fallacy. This statement has as an unstated (and bogus) assumption that the amount of money available for anti-American terrorism is fixed. It completely ignores the at least theoretical possibility that Al Qaeda is able to raise more money in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. It also ignores the possibility that efforts to impound Al Qaeda financial assets in the West are weakened by diversion of resources and perhaps even by deliberate lack of cooperation from individuals, states, or organizations opposed to the Iraq War.

I was particularly struck by this because I had been committing the same error myself—with respect to the effects of "offshoring" of jobs. (As a high-techie, you can see why I was thinking about it.) Much of the rhetoric against offshoring is predicated on a similar (and similarly bogus) assumption that the number of jobs in the world is finite and there must be a one-for-one reduction in American jobs for every position moved overseas. Now, I'm not saying that offshoring is a net plus for the American worker, but this line of reasoning against it is all wrong.

The only other point I think hasn't been covered well enough is I don't see what opponents of the Iraq War are supposed to concede with respect to the deposal and capture of Saddam. My suspicion is that I am being confronted with a defense of vigilanteism, that it's inappropriate to criticize (say) lynch law in any case where part of the result is the defeat of the wicked. Almost every opponent of the war assumed the American military would be able to topple Saddam. This benefit was factored into the equation long before the war. As I hope to cover in the next part of the essay, I think the unilateral war on Iraq, like vigilanteism caused a great deal of damage to the structure institutions it pretended to help.

Andrew Lazarus: You are completely missing the big picture. There are conditions which generate the islamic terrorism: an ideology of nihilim and imposition of islamic values onto the western world, the clerics in control of the muslim mind and the huge mass of disaffected young muslims. There is a collusion of islamic clerics and arab fascist dictatorships which manipulte this mass of illiterate fanatics and make it hate the west. The tools are madrassas and saudi money. What do you do about it, Andrew ? How do you drain this swamp, Andrew ?
The US govt is trying the one and only available solution. If we do not succeed in democratizing the arab world (read drain the swamp) all is lost and your children will not thank you. Better help this effort and help the west win.

It's a little late in the thread, but what the heck.

Brian, you wrote:
Point: The assault on Iraq contributes little, if anything, to the personal security of Americans.

Except money meant to pay for attacks on US civilians now goes into paying for attacks on our soldiers in Iraq. Given that we will have attacks on US citizens either way, I would rather have them on soldiers who are better equipped then civilians to deal with it, on a much more perminant basis then law enforcement too.

That's a claim that is impossible to prove. There is no evidence that any funds have been used to finance the attacks in Iraq. Given the autonomous structure of Al Qaeda, it also means that the individual cells are more or less self-financing.

The bigger problem with the guerilla attacks in Iraq is that the Army didn't have enough soldiers to secure the vast amounts of conventional weapons and ammunition. Small arms were for a while cheaper than bread. Who needs financial aid when you can get the tools you want for free?

However, we do know that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is extremely expensive, and drew resources away from the fight against Al Qaeda--important resources like intel analysts, interpreters and special forces troops. Our Army is suffering in a big way, with morale hitting new lows and record amounts of equipment in dire need of overhaul.

My biggest argument is that we've thrown too many resources away for a minimal gain. It's not that removing Saddam was bad, but it was too expensive. It's as if we've sacrificed our queen to eliminate a pesky pawn that was otherwise pinned down.

The worrisome thing for me is not only that the GWBush Administration came in with blinders on, but that they still do not seem to have removed them.

I'm referring to the assumption that all terrorism is state-sponsored, therefore the appropriate response to terrorist acts is to identify and retaliate against (even destroy) the government responsible.

This denies the possibility that a terrorist group might be transnational, in other words an "international criminal conspiracy" not dependent upon any state or government.

Acting with this assumption firmly in place leads to attacking the wrong targets.

For instance, consider the Mafia, in, say, the 1920's-1950's USA. The Mafia was not dependent upon any city or state government, nor upon the federal government, for its survival. Attacking a city or state, or the federal government itself, would have done nothing to weaken the Mafia. Quite the contrary, it would have thrived amid such chaos.

Al-Qaeda appears to be equally untied to any boundaries or government, save that considerable funding seems to be funneled from Saudi Arabia -- which is not one of the nations the Bush Administration appears likely to attack.

Some of its personnel may happen to be IN a particular nation, at a particular time, such that sending forces to catch or kill them there may be effective -- but they are distinct from the armed forces of that nation.

Thus attacking national governments and armed forces, one after another, in order to weaken al-Qaeda, is attacking the wrong targets. As much to the point, it doesn't involves the best tools for the job.

The parallel would be trying to swat flies on the ceiling by swinging a hammer at the walls. You don't hit the flies; you're not even swinging at the right place; and you're not using the best tool to hit the flies, even if they were there; you're weakening a structure that serves other (better) purposes; and you're actually providing more places for the flies to hide.

The Clinton Administration at least understood the concept of transnational terrorism, and built a system to attack it. The GWBush Administration reverted to the assumption (that all terrorism is state-sponsored) its members had held under the Reagan and GHWBush Administrations, and has declined to update those assumptions. This is why its responses have been misdirected, and their effectiveness suboptimal.

That this has resulted in removing an unpleasant ruler like Saddam Hussein is very nice, just as knocking holes in the wall may provide some welcome ventilation, but it has done nothing to further the original goal of destroying al-Qaeda, just as knocking holes in the wall has done nothing to help destroy those flies.

Steve, why was Iraq the right place to drain the swamp? Given that it looks like it will be very difficult to establish a democratic and pro-Western Iraq, what are the consequences to your theory of a long-term occupation?

Oddly enough, draining the swamp and getting stuck in a quagmire are really the same metaphor, just with different outcomes. I don't think military force is very good at swamp-draining, at least, that's been the experience of many anti-guerrilla campaigns. I don't think that the even more extreme technological edge we enjoy will change that, so I ask, what are the secondary characteristics of our plan that make the drained swamp more likely than the quagmire???

That's very well put Raven.

Raven,
Actually, it's not very well put. Let's say that mafia was using Chicago as a base of operations, and the State of Illinois pretected them and prevented the Federal government or other states from arrestingt them?

That's a lot closer to what we've got in the Middle East.

Chickie, Your eloquent and reasoned argument has totaly changed my view on the Iraq war. I expected someone to point out all the things Kerry had proposed to stop terrorism and the validity of those proposals, along with shoring up the holes I had outlined in the topic. Your brilliant and unexepected use of insults and dismissal of my argument as total composed of "sound bytes" has totaly overwhelmed me with the inescapebable truth of your side. I will now march on Washington shouting "Bush Lied" before I convert to Islam, the true "Religion of Peace", and then blow my self up on the nearest nonbeliever.

Thanks for the laugh Chickie. Now that you've used up all your invective, try to answer some simple questions.

Is Al Q the only terrorist organization in the world?

Does the defeat of Al Q mean the end of Terrorism?

Do states sponsor terrorism?

How can the FBI, CIA oppose terrorists in states that are hostile to the US?

In light of the rampant corruption in the Oil for Food program, is France complicit in Saddam's crimes against the Kurds, Shiite and Christians?

If Western countries are willing to sell out sanctions for profit, can containment and sanctions work?

If sanctions and law enforcment don't work, what are the US options for dealing with terrorists in a hostile state?

How does one address the lack of freedom in the Middle East?

Way late in the thread, but I'll pick up Armed Liberals comments on depleted uranium.

Briefly then;

Depleted uranium is not particularly radioactive. It is a heavy metal. It is highly persistent in the human body. Previous experience with other persistent heavy metal toxins (for example mercury, osmium and arsenic among others) suggest that the major health effects will not be seen in the first exposed generation, but in the subsequent generations.

So, in the following cite we find that gulf war veterans, 10 years after the event, are still excreting DU.

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2004 Feb 27;67(4):277-96

Militarily relevant heavy metals, including DU, affect liver cells and may cause malignancy

Mol Cell Biochem. 2004 Jan;255(1-2):247-56

Birth defect incidences are higher in exposed than non-exposed veterans

Birth Defects Res Part A Clin Mol Teratol. 2003 Apr;67(4):246-60

Strong evidence for mutagenic and teratogenic responses to DU in rats

Toxicol Ind Health. 2001 Jun;17(5-10):180-91

Significant increase in birth defects and miscarriages associated with service in the Gulf War

Ann Epidemiol. 2001 Oct;11(7):504-11

Mark;

I'm sure you know as well as I do what an opportunity cost is.

The costs associated with providing fresh water to the majority of Africa are estimated to run at between 2 and 12 billion dollars, depending on the quality of supply. Those figures are available from the WHO.

That same page estimates that the maximum expenditure would result in an estimated increase in life expectancy of 13 million people years, per year of implementation.

Data here: http://tinyurl.com/38dbu

Mark;

I'm sure you know as well as I do what an opportunity cost is.

The costs associated with providing fresh water to the majority of Africa are estimated to run at between 2 and 12 billion dollars, depending on the quality of supply. Those figures are available from the WHO.

That same page estimates that the maximum expenditure would result in an estimated increase in life expectancy of 13 million people years, per year of implementation.

Data here: http://tinyurl.com/38dbu

"[The Iraq war] has done nothing to further the original goal of destroying al-Qaeda.."

After all the arguments made by the US and British administrations, and the extensive analysis of the war, its objectives and justifications, by proponents of it, I can only assume that this is a willful misrepresentation. No one credibly argued that the Iraq war would destroy significant elements of Al Quaeda. There may have been low level indirect contact between the two, but the thrust of the war was, inter alia, to confront the larger problem of M.E. political dysfunction, by beginning the process of liberal democratic reform. The question is not "Did the Iraq war do anything to further the original goal of destroying AQ?" but rather "Did the Iraq war do anything to further the original goal of destroying the conditions that give rise to terrorism?". If the anti-war left engages with the latter question, it will have gone a long way towards becoming relevant to the debate.

However, part of the problem with anti-war criticim is, I think, that it either lacks an explanation of the phenomenon of terrorism or depends on some form of the marxist emiseration thesis. Until it solves this problem, the left cannot really offer substantive critiques of the wider problem of the existential threat of radical Islamic terrorism. Until then, we will continue to hear little more than Tourette Syndrome-like barks and exclamations - Quagmire! Imperialism! Illegal war!

"[W]hy was Iraq the right place to drain the swamp?"

"Draining the swamp" as you call it, or reforming the M.E. through democratization, as I call it, involves destabilization; deaths of innocent people, political turmoil, social upheaval, etc.

One certainly wouldn't consider this course of action unless there were a number of extremely good reasons. This is why the other justifications for the war are important: Saddam's subjects were among the most oppressed in the world, so if we destabilized their country, there was a decent chance that the majority would be better off afterwards (see genocide, torture, rape, supra). There was also the prospect of regaining deterrence against rogue regimes generally, and disarming a psychotic tyrant who used, and was reasonably thought to have possessed, WMDs. All of these things, and more, made Iraq the best candidate for reform.

But let's assume for a moment that Mr. Lazarus concedes the force of the "draining the swamp"/democratizing the M.E. argument (even though he hasn't engaged with it in his original piece). The question then becomes, "If you don't believe Iraq was the proper place to begin this risky but necessary project, what better candidate was there?"

Andrew L & Raven: The omission in his argument is that he omits to say what the "right targets" would be. I also don't concur with Raven's dichotomous analysis of the WJC and GWB administration's policies on terrorism, as both admins displayed features of both approaches. Raven's simply making distinctions that aren't historically justified for whole administrations, although these positions might be ascribed to individuals within the administrations. (e.g. Clinton denunciations of PA support of the Intifada and in particular payments to parents of suicide bombers; Bush's attempts to diplomatically split the Taliban from OBL right after 9/11)

To work from the Mafia analogy, Chicago is Afghanistan and we invaded Detroit.

1. Mark presupposes that the invasion of Iraq will drain the swamp, so he immediately gets to shift the question to the morality of the issue. Unfortunately, his thesis that the secret ingredient is massive American military presence is just as dubious (well, really much more dubious) than the Marxist immiseration thesis for origins of terrorism. It seems at least as likely from both historical guerrilla warfare and the results to date in Iraq that we are actually increasing the amount of anti-American terrorism.

2. To be rather blunt, I'm not sure swamp draining is a legitimate cause for war, anyway, even if it were desirable.

3. Iraq is serving as a surrogate for Saudi Arabia here, since SA is much more the source of Al Qaeda. Will our bases in Iraq be close enough to prevent AQ from successful recruitment in Saudi Arabia? Or are they just another target. Occupying two or three countries is harder than one.

4. Why wasn't the Afghanistan swamp big enough?

5. What is the theory behind an invasion modifying the culture of the Middle East, even assuming arguendo that the cultural explanation for terrorism is more valid than immiseration. (By the way, your understanding of Marx seems comes from a comic book version.) Is there, in the end, anything other than the idea that the anti-Western culture will be suppressed by military action?

6. It's hysterically ironic that 90% of the supporter who want to go after the root causes of terrorism would never for one second apply a similar approach to American street crime. Indeed, with respect to street crime, anti-poverty programs that purport to address root causes are out of fashion. Police work is in. Have you any explanation why the Middle East should be treated so differently?

By the way, your understanding of Marx seems comes from a comic book version.

There was a Classic Comics version of Das Kapital? How did I miss it!? ;)

"To work from the Mafia analogy, Chicago is Afghanistan and we invaded Detroit."

Well, downtown Detroit does look like a bomb went off.

Andrew, you are correct in pointing out that there is not a finite amount of money for terrorists to use. They are funded through three channels, crime and drugs, states, and donations from supporters. I will not dispute that Al Q's probably getting more donations now. The thrust of my argument is that they are spending it much faster and for less impact then before.

Rather then paying for pilots lessons and smuggling people into the US, they are spending their money on Iraqis to pay for attacks, support safe houses and bribe locals. These are costs they did not have when Saddam and the Taliban were in charge.

As the Zarquri (or how ever you spell it) letter in Iraq stated, they needed money to continue the fight. Obviously the terrorists cannot sustain themselves solely with Iraqi support. Given that state sponsorship and drug sales have not increased does the increased funding from donations offset the cost of the insurgency in Iraq?

I believe the cost of maintaining all the extra safe houses and the bribing of both Iraqi and Pakistani officals is a larger drain. Furthermore, while the terrorists are hiding, they cannot run the training camps in Afganistan and northern Iraq. So what money they are spending is not going towards the spectacular scale attacks that are hard to deal with, but instead going to more conventional attacks in Iraq.

Finally, we get some minor engagement of the key argument from Mr. Lazarus. Unfortunately, it mostly consists of asking some questions, a few irrelevancies, and an ad hominem attack.

Taking a closer look:

1. I haven't maintained that M.E. democratization is certain to lead to a reduction in global terrorism. I think there is a good chance that it will do so over time, given my aforementioned understanding of terrorism and the theory behind democratization. One rarely gets to act with certainty in such a perilous area as politics, but we are often asked to make difficult decisions in dangerous times.

I'm not sure why you believe that the democratization of Iraq was achievable without massive military intervention. It's my tentatively held view that a man who, for political gain, orders toxic chemicals be poured on women and children, is not likely to respond to anything but force. Feel free to disagree.

"It seems at least as likely from both historical guerrilla warfare and the results to date in Iraq that we are actually increasing the amount of anti-American terrorism."

This comment betrays a temporal confusion. The democratization argument will fail if (a) once Iraq is reasonably democratic, it produces comparatively more terrorist groups and (b) there is no reduction in terrorism from increased regional M.E. democratization.

2. "To be rather blunt, I'm not sure swamp draining is a legitimate cause for war, anyway, even if it were desirable."

Given that this is one of the main disagreements pro and anti-war people have, I was hopeful we'd see something more than a bald assertion here. Alas, no substantive argument is forthcoming, it seems.

3. Mr. Lazarus, possibly in response to my solicitation for a better candidate for M.E. reform, profers Saudi Arabia. I outlined, above, why Iraq, and not Saudi Arabia, was a suitable candidate for reform through military intervention. Also, although S.A. is nothing more than a shabby M.E. tyranny and a supplier of M.E. terrorists, it is also a source of world oil reserves, and destabilizing it through military force would have brought about significant global economic problems. It is hoped that a stable, democratic Iraq will induce reform in Saudi Arabia, through the spread of, and exposure to, liberal ideas, and pressure from its oppressed peoples. Again, if the M.E. is successful, we should have no need to engage in another terrible war, because S.A. will begin to reform itself and remove the source of terrorism. I'm sure Mr. Lazarus is familiar with this theory, so he should have no problem refuting it.

4. The democratization of Afghanistan wasn't likely to have the same reformative effect on the M.E. given its less central political and geographic position than Iraq, and its potential to develop and/or sell WMDs. Mr. Lazarus makes a decent point, though, and it deserves our attention. I suspect that if the threat of Islamic terrorism wasn't so extreme, there would be less cause for the invasion of Iraq.

5. "What is the theory behind an invasion modifying the culture of the Middle East, even assuming arguendo that the cultural explanation for terrorism is more valid than immiseration."

The democratization theory doesn't require the reformation of cultural "day-to-day" habits, although it may lead to these. Frankly, I don't care if Iraqis eat at McDonalds, listen to Arabic music instead of MTV or watch US films after their liberation, and I have no time for people who think it's a tragedy if they do. I'm concerned that Iraqis (and the surrounding M.E. tyrannies) form a stable, democratic polity as a result of our efforts to help them. I note that significant positive steps have already been made, despite set-backs.

I've outlined the democratization theory, above. You can find more articulate and detailed explications for it online. When you're ready, feel free to refute it.

I eagerly await your syllogistic demolition of my mistaken understanding of marxism, and your use of the emiseration thesis to explain global terrorism.

One significant difference in the (loosely) pro- and anti- Iraq invasion positions is what I will call (again loosely) trajectory or trend-line analysis. Some looked at the current situation and the history of events (including public opinion) in the region, and concluded that continuation of current policies, even with adjustments, would lead to crash-and-burn. We could perhaps influence whether that would happen in two years, or ten, but sooner or later, extrapolating from current conditions, any or all of the bad outcomes that might follow intervention were likely to happen, along with the possibilities of others--now less likely-- such as a Ba'athist Iraqi gulf hegemony.

I happen to take that view; I shake my head in disbelief, in particular, at the argument that containment was working. Resentment of the US role was exacerbated by the sanctions, which were failing in their objective (as sanctions usually do fail); the sanctions barely limited the freedom of action of Saddam, gave him greater tools with which to oppress the Shi'ites and others who opposed him, and enabled the misdirection of rage toward the US. Sanctions coupled with inspections postponed, but did not destroy, Saddam's or his successor's acquisition of NBC weapons. And the lifting of sanctions was in plain sight, driven by China and Russia, against whom we might have held out for a while, but also by France and Germany and more, allies whose opposition we could not have stood against for long.

I don't think certain policymakers in the EU failed to see that trajectory. Rather, it was an acceptable trajectory for a number of (I would say short-sighted) reasons. The result would be a reduction in US power and influence in the region; an Iraqi gulf hegemon would constitute a mini-pole contra the US, and could be co-opted as an ally for that purpose. And in the meantime, there were profits to be made, during, but especially after, sanctions. That's all very realpolitik; it does not seek to disturb despots. It is, however, at least as blinkered as Bush is accused of being. It fails to address the downside of proliferation, or proliferation's impact given the rise of nihilist terrorism, and it assumes that despots can continue to maintain control and will stay bought.

If probable results of current policies all produce unacceptable results, the question becomes how to overcome inertia and change the trajectory. Worst case won't be worse than it was, before the attempt; it could come sooner, though. But the fixed path is gone, and that opens possibilities for better outcomes. It also introduces change and increases uncertainty, conditions usually to be avoided.

It's a huge gamble, and for those who didn't and don't see that the course we were following led to the pit, no response will suffice. And their argument can't really be countered, because we have acted, and that changed things, and there's no way to know what would have happened had we not invaded.

After some caffeine, I've decided that my discussion of drain-the-swamp does need to be improved. So here goes:

1. Drain-the-swamp is, at least on the part of the Administration, a post hoc rationalization for the failure of aspects of the original plan. In the original plan, we would be greeted as liberators and down to 30,000 troops by 12/03. That makes it clear that the Administration then rejected the idea that terrorism arose in Arab culture at large: it was a top-down problem that could be solved by the decapitation of the Saddam regime. (That's even assuming for the sake of argument that interdiction of terrorism was a goal of the invasion, something I don't find obvious at all.) Now that the original timetable is discarded, we find that the exact same invasion that was supposed to cure top-down terrorism is also just the thing for bottom-up terrorism, just as the tax cut that was the correct prescription for the surplus was also found to be the right medicine for the huge deficit. Something's fishy here.

1A. This curious conflation of culture and government also applies to the alleged liberalization of other countries like Libya and Syria. It's obvious what lever is being applied to Qaddafi and Assad: they have to come on board or they risk going the way of Saddam. OK, as I said, I think there have been some minor results along these lines, but this process is directly antithetical to changing a broad-based culture of death. Why is it likely that the culture of death will respond to a pro-Western drift by their leadership that is, after all, undemocratic and self-selected? I can't imagine how the Iraq invasion helps to stabilize Egypt, a country of great strategic importance whose authoritarian leadership is to some degree squelching anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism that are prevalent in the street. (Before he double-crossed us, Yasser Arafat was supposed to play a similar role in "Palestine".)

2. Why is drain-the-swamp starting in Iraq even though its Ba'ath thugs made it one of the driest countries (in this sense) in the region? I can only assume that the idea is to set Iraq up as an example state that will cause the other Arab countries to follow suit (even against the will of their own leadership). However, if terrorism is arising out of a mass movement, how can we set up a formally democratic Iraq? What sort of foreign policy will be pursued by the Senator from Fallujah? Ayatollah Sistani's views on Hamas terrorism appear identical to Saddam's, if not more supportive. Drain-the-swamp advocates, again temporarily and accidentally falling into the reverse belief that the problems are concentrated at the top, simply assume that we will be able to establish a state that is simultaneously (1) democratic in form, (2) culturally open to the West, and (3) against terrorism and sympathetic to American geopolitical interests. Far from being a given, from which we can then argue about the morality of invasion or the cowardice of the liberals, this is a tremendously tall order. Even the Iranian reformers have a view of the Middle East very different from American preferences.

3. As long as we are admitting that Saddam did not, in fact, pose a short-term threat to American personal security, I don't understand why an invasion and act of war was the right way to start off Operation Drain-the-swamp. For this to make sense, it has to be conjoined to Operation Flypaper, which I think is completely fallacious. I'm dumbfounded that it's a triumph that Al Qaeda now has to pay for safe houses in Iraq (even assuming this is true) when before they weren't allowed to use Iraq at all. I read today that opium (i.e., future heroin) production in Afghanistan has doubled. Until Al Qaeda opens its books, I think there's very little reason to believe they have abandoned truly spectacular operations like 9/11 because of cost. Greater vigilance, that I can believe. No more Mrs. Saudi Ambassador supporting terrorist hijackers for years from her private purse. But that's a consequence of law enforcement changes (that the pro-war crowd derides), not connected whatsoever to Iraq. (I also caution you against saying Al Qaeda can't repeat a spectacular terrorist strike and isn't just waiting or preparing; we really don't know, do we?) To return to my curiosity why draining the swamp had to start off with a bang, can you imagine what a similar expenditure could do in (say) Jordan, where the government is already somewhat sympathetic? Why so much stick, and only mirages of carrots?

I challenge Mark to explain in more detail how the Iraq War, or even sequelae that the Bush Administration may not have money, time, or inclination to pursue, will change the culture, as opposed to perhaps installing a dictator who can keep the lid on it better than Saddam. (Although, I'd mention again, ironically, this was a task that the Butcher of Baghdad was not averse to.) War is not my idea of a medium- or long-term solution. An occupation can, of course, be a medium- or long-term practice, but recent experience suggests that internal resistance increases, not decreases over time. We aren't draining the swamp. We're in an ecological project Bush would never allow the EPA to consider at home: wetlands restoration.

Andrew, Iraq was the right place to start draining the swamp because a) it is the heart of the muslim world, b) its regime was suni fascists, as were the 9/11 "holy warriors" (as oposed to shia, which didn't attack us) and already in a state of semi-war with us (the no flight zones) c) the WMD danger was a real possibility and could be leveraged to justify the war for people who cannot think long term.
Your other point, about military solution to drain the swamp, looks at the situation short term again. What we are doing now is the start of a process to establish a political class in Iraq. The new Iraqi constitution, the awakeing of the Iraqi middle class and the process to set up democratical forums (city councils, political entities, etc.) are all part of this process. This has nothing to do with miltary action to provide Iraq with a security framework. Do you even read Iraqi blogs ?

I recommend this Iraqi blog, written by 3 young people http://www.iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/
Go, read a few posts, and think if what we are doing there is worth it, is working and is helping create the seeds for the type of society you would like to see the whole middle east establish. This is a generational process, but somebody had to have the guts to start it. And we did, we had and will succeed , based on what I read and see from Iraq.

Ok, surely everyone's head is spinning fast enough, so let's take a timeout to wind down a little. Personally, I'm starting to question the usefulness of these dual monologues. You can't really call them debates or dialogs since both sides seem to be talking past each other.

So, I hear by propose a Blogosphere wide ban on any and all articles justifying or decrying the Iraqi invasion. There's already enough information in the archives for anyone who still cares.

However, if, and only if, it can be shown that any one (single, unitary, or solitary) person has changed positions on this issue, with said change being primarily attributable to direct persuasion either verbally or in writing, then I will withdraw my proposal. Please note that for our purposes, physical persuasion is not allowed.

To this end, please consider a few simple questions and reply in this thread (or maybe A.L. or Joe could start a new topic) only if your answer is yes to the first one.

1. Have you changed you mind about the decision to invade Iraq?

2. Do you now support or oppose the invasion?

3. Did someone persuade you to change your mind, or did your opinion evolve naturally in due course?

Mr. Lazarus,

I think we're talking at cross purposes here.

"I challenge Mark to explain in more detail how the Iraq War...will change the culture, as opposed to perhaps installing a dictator who can keep the lid on it better than Saddam."

The democratization theory provides an explanation for the conditions which give rise to terrorism (locating its primary source in political dysfunction), and from that explanation, proposes a response (resolving the political dysfunction). I believe the view that democratizaton can have positive effects on a society has much to do with the empirical observation that democracies rarely, if ever, attack one another. Thus, democratization is both a strategic good and a moral good. Notice that the self-interest of the US in promoting democracy and the Iraqis in not getting slaughtered, tortured and raped by a madman intersect here. (See my posts, above. Also, I encourage you to look online for further explications for this idea. I'm not going to do your research for you.)

As I said, I'm not interested in changing Iraqi culture. (I'll let Europeans piss and moan if Iraqis eat at McDonalds.) Moreover, I don't think the democratization theory requires it. If you think otherwise, feel free to explain why. I'm not going to argue your straw men.

If you think the US has any strategic (nevermind moral) interest in installing another dictator to "keep the lids" on things, then you've clearly misunderstood the entire democratization meme. I know you're an intelligent person, so I have to assume you're playing a trick on me again when you suggest this.

1. Your comments that the US and British officials didn't argue the democratization theory prior to the war is easily refuted by resort to the historical record, conveniently available online. I quoted some of it before, but I encourage you to go to the White House archives and see for yourself. Liberty and democracy were clearly linked to a forward policy of eliminating terrorism. The anti-war left simply cannot now try to avoid the argument by stating that it was never made. Google can be a b*tch.

Furthermore, even if I conceded for argument sake that the democratization meme is a post-war argument, what good would it do you? You'd still have to confront the suggestion that it will fulfill its stated purpose. Also, it may still provide justification: During WWII, the US didn't suggest that it went to war with Japan to democratize it (as far as I know), yet the subsequent stability, liberty and democratization have clearly become a justification for much of US conduct in Japan.

1A. "Why is it likely that the culture of death will respond to a pro-Western drift by their leadership that is, after all, undemocratic and self-selected?"

Again, I don't think it's necessary for pro-Western cultural drift to occur; all that is needed is the institution of more liberal reforms in Syria and Iran. We've already seen some movement there. Slowly in Syria, but faster in Iran. (One of the worst kept secrets in Iran is the prevalence of pro-US sentiment.) The vector of this political drift of Syrians and Egyptians will be through exposure to Iraqis who are living and voting freely, selecting their own rulers and holding them accountable, and exposure to their media which contains such subservise thoughts. We've already seen some brave Syrian reformers asking the question about why they can't select their own rulers. The movement of arts, literature and political thought across the Iraq border into the repressive neighborhood regimes will be unstoppable. I don't expect change to come overnight, but I'm reasonably sure it will come.

Of course, the flow of ideas goes the other way too: that is, Iraqis will be free to contemplate anti-liberal thought. However, I'm also confident that people won't vote for their own enslavement, particularly if they've just escaped it (no thanks to the anti-war left).

2. I'm not sure where you're going with this paragraph. As I said, I don't anticipate that the Coalition will stand by and allow a dictator to take power in Iraq, either before or after the elections, so I'm not sure how I fall into your "top down trap". Reform will come from the average Iraqi who debates and votes just like we do in the West.

As for your suggestion that Iraqis could elect a madman who will declare war on, or sanction terrorist acts against, the US, I can only point to the empirical observations that democracies rarely, if ever, do this to other democracies. It could happen, and certainly this is not to suggest that democracies are morally unblemished, but I don't believe it's likely. Iraqis are intelligent enough to work through the consequences of their support for war or terrorism, and, when they're free to decide how to think and conduct themselves, I believe they will not choose jihad or senseless war. In any case, I think this is a tolerable risk, given the alternative to allowing political dysfunction to continue in the M.E.

3. If you're suggesting that AQ terrorism in Iraq may increase in the short-term, I have to admit that it is a possibilty. However, I don't think it is fatal to the democratization theory, because it doesn't postulate the instant eradication of terrorism. This should be clear when you recall that it is aimed at removing the underlying conditions for terrorism.

Re: flypaper theory. I would only note that if AQ is devoting some resources to Iraq, it has to divert these from somewhere else. The fact that it is operating in Iraq in an explicit attempt to foment internecine war before elections, is an indication that they understand and fear the democratization of the M.E. A telling sign, I think.

With respect to your question "Why military power and not soft power?", I would respond "Why not both, as appropriate?"

Still no explanation from you about the cause and solution to terrorism. Crack open those dusty marxist textbooks and thumb through the index to "immiseration"!

Lurker, my answer to (1) is Yes. Except it's about Gulf War One, which I opposed and now think I was mistaken. But I must admit, it came mostly from evolution. To the extent I was persuaded by individuals, it was negative persuasion. It wasn't only that I came to realize that in dictatorships, sanctions and boycotts are of limited utility (which is why they worked so much better in South Africa), which is natural evolution, but that so many of my fellow left-liberals were protesting against the misery that sanctions brought to Iraq without admitting that we were therefore incorrect in believing sanctions would expel Saddam from Kuwait and also without any forward-going proposal to replace the sanctions.

I did support a forward-going proposal, namely, the very-much intensified inspection scheme that George W Bush (to his credit) inserted into Iraq before the war, which I think could have allowed some of the sanctions that injured only the Iraqi public to be removed.

Mark, I'm going to have to do some real work the rest of the day.... I'll try to respond tomorrow.

Andrew,

Fair enough.

Many thanks to Mr. Lazarus for his well-reasoned article. I hope it gets published in the major media.

As a progressive Muslim, I believe terrorism is the biggest threat to world peace today. I had misgivings about going into Iraq for the reasons Mr. Lazarus mentions. The case for liberating Iraq wasn't very strong, even at the time. I remember reading an article in either the New Yorker or the Atlantic Monthly (I don't remember which) outlining an alternative strategy to the War on Terror. Best as I can recall, a better way would have been to focus on eliminating Al Quaeda, a goal that would have elicited support even from the Muslim countries, not to mention Europe where AQ have a stronghold. This could have started a new era of international cooperation via intelligence sharing, the US would have retained its leadership status and prestige as the only benign superpower, it could also have had positive effects in encouraging democracy in the Middle East, and the war of terror would have an objective measure of completion so we could declare victory and move on.

However, even though I believe we took a wrong turn in Iraq, I will still vote for Bush if Kerry doesn't offer a strong plan on terrorism of his own. I have more faith in the Bush Administration doing what they need to do at this point on than anything the democrats have come up with so far. Just saying "I told you so" isn't a solution.

Mark: thank you for patiently articulating the democratization theory point. And we should ask the "anti-war" theorists if there si any other alternative to the democratization meme they would like to advance in order to stop the jihad on the west. Apeasement may work for some European countries, deflecting the islamo-fascists energy towards striking us. Any other solutions ? If yes, let us know. If not, well, you should accept what we are doing and help it succeed.

Unlike Lurker I actually think the discussion is useful, certainly better than the infantile expressions of outrage we see post-Fallujah. The issues have been fairly well covered and I only want to add two short observations. First, there has been enormous damage done to the American political structure by this war...going into a pre-emptive war (against so much of American self mythology), with enormous doubts and opposition stated explicitly and frequently by a large minority, on the basis of manipulation, fear-mongering, and politically driven "intelligence" has further poisoned the American political landscape. That it was done in such a cynical and palpably political manner with all means of accountability controlled (and thereby suppressed) by the Republican Party surely creates at best extreme partisan hostility. But this doesn't even begin to touch the economic problems that will take an enormous toll before we escape Iraq. Second, clearly Mark and others have thought long and hard about these questions. I am troubled however by that know it all quality of your rhetoric. It is the same wisdom we got from the neocon planners who gave us the Iraq mess. I do not think the underlying issues that have caused our problems in the Islamic world are going to be solved in this manner; I don't know if they are amenable to such solutions (at best, force with billions for reconstruction); surely as many Republicans have pointed out innumerable times expecting a government driven direct approach to get it right, avoid graft and corruption and self-interest, would be next to impossible with the best crew (this is not after all a post World War II situation in which the whole world has been shattered and must be rebuilt. Here is maybe the fundamental problem with your use of sterile formal analogies. The world (no matter how many times you repeat "everything has changed post 9-11") has not undergone a fundamental upheaval in that sense. Even the current President told us repeatedly to continue with our normal lives.) And this is far from the best crew.

w

Unlike Lurker I actually think the discussion is useful, certainly better than the infantile expressions of outrage we see post-Fallujah. The issues have been fairly well covered and I only want to add two short observations. First, there has been enormous damage done to the American political structure by this war...going into a pre-emptive war (against so much of American self mythology), with enormous doubts and opposition stated explicitly and frequently by a large minority, on the basis of manipulation, fear-mongering, and politically driven "intelligence" has further poisoned the American political landscape. That it was done in such a cynical and palpably political manner with all means of accountability controlled (and thereby suppressed) by the Republican Party surely creates at best extreme partisan hostility. But this doesn't even begin to touch the economic problems that will take an enormous toll before we escape Iraq. Second, clearly Mark and others have thought long and hard about these questions. I am troubled however by that know it all quality of your rhetoric. It is the same wisdom we got from the neocon planners who gave us the Iraq mess. I do not think the underlying issues that have caused our problems in the Islamic world are going to be solved in this manner; I don't know if they are amenable to such solutions (at best, force with billions for reconstruction); surely as many Republicans have pointed out innumerable times expecting a government driven direct approach to get it right, avoid graft and corruption and self-interest, would be next to impossible with the best crew (this is not after all a post World War II situation in which the whole world has been shattered and must be rebuilt. Here is maybe the fundamental problem with your use of sterile formal analogies. The world (no matter how many times you repeat "everything has changed post 9-11") has not undergone a fundamental upheaval in that sense. Even the current President told us repeatedly to continue with our normal lives.) And this is far from the best crew.

w

Unlike Lurker I actually think the discussion is useful, certainly better than the infantile expressions of outrage we see post-Fallujah. The issues have been fairly well covered and I only want to add two short observations. First, there has been enormous damage done to the American political structure by this war...going into a pre-emptive war (against so much of American self mythology), with enormous doubts and opposition stated explicitly and frequently by a large minority, on the basis of manipulation, fear-mongering, and politically driven "intelligence" has further poisoned the American political landscape. That it was done in such a cynical and palpably political manner with all means of accountability controlled (and thereby suppressed) by the Republican Party surely creates at best extreme partisan hostility. But this doesn't even begin to touch the economic problems that will take an enormous toll before we escape Iraq. Second, clearly Mark and others have thought long and hard about these questions. I am troubled however by that know it all quality of your rhetoric. It is the same wisdom we got from the neocon planners who gave us the Iraq mess. I do not think the underlying issues that have caused our problems in the Islamic world are going to be solved in this manner; I don't know if they are amenable to such solutions (at best, force with billions for reconstruction); surely as many Republicans have pointed out innumerable times expecting a government driven direct approach to get it right, avoid graft and corruption and self-interest, would be next to impossible with the best crew (this is not after all a post World War II situation in which the whole world has been shattered and must be rebuilt. Here is maybe the fundamental problem with your use of sterile formal analogies. The world (no matter how many times you repeat "everything has changed post 9-11") has not undergone a fundamental upheaval in that sense. Even the current President told us repeatedly to continue with our normal lives.) And this is far from the best crew.

w

Mark;

First, asserting that your adversaries have a narrow or incoherent view of the subject at hand is not debating its name calling. If your worldview is superior, demonstrate it, dont just assert it.

Unfortunately, your commentary proves nothing but your ability to disprove arguments made by nobody but yourself. Yes, weve all read the literature indicating that terrorists are overwhelmingly educated and middle-class, not poverty stricken psychopaths, so quit patting yourself on the back for that one. The theoretical failures you present dont exist, except perhaps in a dorm room at midnight.

Your brilliant substantive argument, the acknowledgement that terror is a political exercise in the absence of legitimate avenues of political participation, is elementary, and we hope its not the centerpiece of your display of an unlimited and coherent vision of terrorism. Or, as my five-year-old niece might say, Duh.

The left doesnt ignore the view that political reform is the requisite element of addressing terror, we just argue that democratization from the barrel of a gun has a pretty weak history. Thats the element that the reform-by-war crowd hopes will remain unnoticed. Dreams of conquest and empire by the Wolfowitz-Perle-Cheney-Kristol-Leo Strauss fanclub crowd dont negate the historical reality that nations will resist external invaders no matter how benevolent those invaders may feel inside. You may buy the DSouza argument that the colonies were better off for being colonized, but that didnt stop them from fighting and dying to throw off the yoke. Or you may accept the Rumsfeld comparison of Iraq with post-war Germany and Japan, even though thoughtful commentators have demonstrated that the comparisons with those thoroughly defeated and politically repudiated regimes are overdrawn. If your analysis is that the strongest argument for this war is democracy-by-force-of-arms, and the associated dreamy kumbaya fantasy that this will automatically result in reforms throughout the region that will result in open democratic participation that will result in a lessening of terror, then one wonders in what world (beside the previously-mentioned dorm room) you achieved your unlimited and coherent political worldview.

rickman,

Please indicate where exactly I lapse into ad hominem. I've made it quite clear why exacly I think the anti-war position is weak. If you think this amounts to name-calling, you're understanding of logical fallacy is more than a little controversial.

I'll ignore your own ad hominem attacks and childish tone ("dorm room" "duh" etc.) and try to address your arguments, such as they are.

1) Enforced democratization has a troubled history.

I can concede this without much damage to the democratizaton argument. I don't think that I need to establish that democratization will definitely lead to decreased terrorism. I only need to credibly maintain that it likely will, by showing how and why (as I have tried to do, above). And, for those cases you point to showing failure of the theory, I can point to successes. But we both know that Iraq is its own unique case.

Or are you suggesting that there is something culturally or genetically wrong with Iraqis or Arabs that makes them unsuitable for democracy?

One of the ways, perhaps the only way, to refute the democratization argument is to prove that democratization of Iraq will necessarily (or most likely) fail. So far, this case has not been credibly argued by the left. Feel free to try your hand at it.

And of course, I can't finish without noting your failure to even raise the issue of your condemnation of Iraqis to slavery, torture and genocide. I'm sure the anti-war left has grown tired of hearing it, but if you think proponents of the war will forget it, you're wrong. It should cling to the left like the stench of bodies at Ordruff. So much for marxists' solidarity with the oppressed of the world and universal values.

"If your analysis is that the strongest argument for this war is democracy-by-force-of-arms, and the associated dreamy kumbaya fantasy that this will automatically result in reforms throughout the region that will result in open democratic participation that will result in a lessening of terror, then one wonders in what world (beside the previously-mentioned dorm room) you achieved your unlimited and coherent political worldview."

Where do you find me suggesting that enforced democracization will automatically result in reforms? I have tried to show that this position is both unnecessary and unreasonable. Don't expect me to argue your straw man.

One final note.

Why do you think the origin or my beliefs is relevant to the discussion? Would it actually matter if I had formed my beliefs in a dorm room? Or while training with marxists in Brazil? Or maybe that I was a prostitute in India? Or that I was trained in an Italian monastery? Or that martians had implanted my views using sophisticated mind tricks?

Since you believe all of these things are relevant, I expect your next post to either (a) show us why or (b) repudiate this nonesense, stop wasting our time and address the arguments.

I hear that McDonalds is opening in Baghdad. This is a terrible blow to them and great news for American branches of Burger King, because McDonalds burgers and freedom fries that could have been served in America must be diverted to Iraq instead.

That's exactly the argument, Mark, that you are making about the value to America of "forcing" Al Qaeda to attack us in Iraq. Fallacy one: that Al Qaeda's assets are constant. It seems more likely that Al Qaeda, like McDonalds, entered Iraq, in the expectation of profit (and, like McDonalds, they will leave if return on investment is inadequate). Their worldwide resources may not be materially affected. Fallacy two: your argument would make sense if Al Qaeda were compelled to fight us in Iraq, and it was a battleground of our choosing and not of theirs. But this doesn't correspond to reality. Just because George Bush double-double-dared Al Qaeda to "bring it on" and then they brought it on doesn't mean they had to do it even if it were damaging to their own cause or exposed them to too much risk. What, if Al Qaeda had restricted its attention to Europe, it would mean we had won because Bush had shown Osama was a wuss? Aack, I think you may indeed believe this. Why not consider the possibility, that I find far more likely, that Al Q made a considered judgment that they have more to gain than to lose, not that they descended with the President of the United States [!] to children’s-playground psychology?

I think it's time to put a stake through this argument.

Mark;

To start at the end, its pretty amusing that you call my tone childish and then lapse into the whole implants from mars, stop this nonsense routine. I went the duh, dorm room route because your series of posts was so full of the college debating tricks we all know and love the use of academic buzzwords that arent germane to the topic (i.e. the whole Marxist emiseration argument that had no reference to any argument put forward, nor any relevance to the topic at hand except intellectual vanity), the declaration that youve won the debate because, well, you feel really smart, and the projected straw arguments that you then proceed to knock down (as again demonstrated by your suggestion that I think Arabs are genetically unsuitable, blah blah another gratuitous, offensive and dare I say childish exercise in strawman debating tricks.)

Is it your position that war with sovereign states should be the foreign policy position of the US on the mere hope that it may result in democratization which may have a beneficial geopolitical outcome? If so, Id like to see your justification in international law, the US constitution, history (apart from Soviet-style realpolitik or colonial white mans burden rationalization), or the UN charter (of which, despite conservative angst, we are a signatory). And how nice of you to position the argument in your favor by describing the only case in which your positions can be disproven (another college debating trick we all recognize, hence the dorm room formulations). How convenient that the only way your argument can be disproven is through the use of a crystal ball to absolutely predict an unsuccessful outcome. And, as you like to say, I dont need to unconditionally prove that gunboat-democracy will fail to illustrate that, both historically, regionally, and in international law, there arent many reasons to believe its imminent or legal.

And, finally, the origin of your beliefs is meaningful due to this simple fact war is not an intellectual exercise that takes place on some web comment board. It aint a debate over Straussian vs. Marxist dialectics. As weve seen in the last few days, its blood, guts, burning bodies, and unpredictable consequences (you may have heard of Mossadegh, the Shah of Iran, and the Ayatollah Khomeini another exercise in US manipulation of the region in question which didnt exactly work out as planned). Opinions constructed in the dorm room or the academy are necessarily less meaningful than those of the electorate (who, I submit, would have overwhelmingly rejected the democratization argument if it had been honestly put forward in place of the impending mushroom cloud argument) or those of the experts (who, most now agree, were studiously ignored by an Administration that unilaterally decided that they had won the debate).

"Their [AQ] worldwide resources may not be materially affected."

Sort of. I'm sure AQ can recruit members as it loses them, but I'm also sure it has to devote scarce intellectual, financial and tactical resources to training for and implementing a terror campaign. True, capturing and killing a low level jihadist footsoldier (foreign or homegrown) in Iraq doesn't really forestall attacks on Western targets, but AQ didn't have alot invested in this poor bastard either. However, every time we capture or kill a senior AQ operative, things get more costly. Remember, AQ doesn't have all the time in the world (even if their coffers expand to fight the US infidels in Iraq). Now that the West (sans the depraved, unredeemable French) is, more or less, mobilized to democratize the ME, they are on a clock.

Why am I not troubled by the emergence of AQ in Iraq?

I see the wider struggle against terrorism as a conflict between ideas, and the democratization of Iraq as an attempt to give Arabs an third political choice beyond either corrupt Arab nationalist tyrannies or Islamic theocracy. Whatever else it is, liberal democracratic governance is a relatively good prophylactic against the imposition of monolithic moral or political views. If you're AQ or Iran, and desire to impose your religious views on reluctant subjects, liberal democracy is the last thing you want. If you're Syria, and you want to run a fascist state, this is true also. This is why it makes sense for AQ, Iran and Syria to subvert Iraqi democratization.

AQ knows Iraq this is a knife fight to the death against Western political ideals. Iraq is not an optional campaign for them; it's the campaign. Bush's exhortation, seen in this light, is a declaration that he won't back down. He can't.

rickfman,

(1) "[T]he origin of your beliefs is meaningful due to this simple fact war is not an intellectual exercise that takes place on some web comment board."

(2) "Opinions constructed in the dorm room or the academy are necessarily less meaningful than those of the electorate...or those of the experts..."

With respect to (1): I think most of us are aware that we are discussing the intellectual propriety of the decision to go to war, rather than waging war itself, so I'm not sure your observation is as keen as you think. Having made this devastating criticism, though, can you tell us what it means for the origin of my beliefs?

With respect to (2): Are you suggesting that people in dorms and experts hold less valuable beliefs or are their beliefs less understandable? You haven't really told us which sense of "meaning" you're using. Please advise.

Also, what is it about living in a dorm or being an expert that makes beliefs less valuable? I'm curious about the nature and functionality of this meaning-corroding situation. Do all experts have less meaningful beliefs? And who is an expert? Is there a list somewhere I can use to see if someone I know is an expert?

I definitely don't want to live in a dorm or become an expert if it will make my beliefs less meaningful. Is it like a disease? Can one recognize the symptoms and is it communicable? Or is it like a cult? Do the "less belief-worthy" wear special clothes like the Harikrishnas? I need to know if I'm to avoid the loss of meaning for my beliefs.

Perhaps you, rickfman, can set up a business or website that we could consult if we need to know who has beliefs that are more or less meaningful. So far, you're the only person who seems to know. How fortunate for you.

Ok, I'll stop playing with you now. Are you ready to have a nice debate or do you want to keep going?

ohmygod...now i get it...you ARE in a dorm room...

rickfman, that's the best you can do? I'm a little disappointed. I'll give you another chance. Be more creative this time, though.

Lurker wrote on April 2, 2004 01:57 PM:

Raven,
Actually, it's not very well put. Let's say that mafia was using Chicago as a base of operations, and the State of Illinois protected them and prevented the Federal government or other states from arresting them?

That's a lot closer to what we've got in the Middle East.

Then, as Andrew, observes, "we invaded Detroit" — because the Iraqi government was not protecting al-Qaeda. (The only group in Iraq plausibly tied to al-Qaeda was outside the area Saddam Hussein controlled, due to USA-imposed limits, e.g. no-fly zones.)

The Bush Administration's claim to have linked Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden's organization was palpably false. Hussein's Baathist government was secular, the sort of government bin Laden wanted to overthrow in order to impose Islamic law.

Ironically, under the USA-imposed government, Islamic law is to be re-introduced, taking away some rights that Iraqi women had even under Hussein:
"The streets are dangerous: theft, attack, kidnappings are common occurrences. This is new in Iraq. Iraqi women are used to many freedoms in this country, the achievement of years of struggle for the past century. Now decision number 137 passed by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) — an interim body put in place since the occupation — is threatening to replace Iraqi civil and family law with Sharia law. Decision 137 denies earlier freedoms and laws about marriage, divorce, custody of children, heritage ... Iraqis are very worried and I am very concerned for the future of my children. Passing this law would be a big step backward for Iraqi women, men, and families."

— Eman Ahmed Khammas, Iraqi journalist, translator, and mother, 2004.
http://www.motherspeak.org/intervs/eman.html

So how exactly did this harm bin Laden's cause?

Aside from giving al-Qaeda a foothold it didn't have before? [*]

[*]   "I'm dumbfounded that it's a triumph that Al Qaeda now has to pay for safe houses in Iraq (even assuming this is true) when before they weren't allowed to use Iraq at all."

— Andrew J. Lazarus on April 2, 2004 06:10 PM

Raven,

Then, as Andrew, observes, "we invaded Detroit" because the Iraqi government was not protecting al-Qaeda. (The only group in Iraq plausibly tied to al-Qaeda was outside the area Saddam Hussein controlled, due to USA-imposed limits, e.g. no-fly zones.)

Oh, didn't I mention that the government of Detroit was a criminal mafia unto itself? Sorry about the omission.

The Bush Administration's claim to have linked Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden's organization was palpably false.

As has been documented extensively in these comments and elsewhere on this site, the Bush administration didn't assert any of these connections. Can you please provide reference's that they did?

Ironically, under the USA-imposed government, Islamic law is to be re-introduced, taking away some rights that Iraqi women had even under Hussein:

Is it really your opinion that the Iraqi people were more free under Saddam? Besides, your information is a little out of date on Decision 137. Here's an update for you:
"The Iraqi Governing Council voted on 28 February to cancel the controversial Decision 137, which sought to alter the personal status law in Iraq, Londons "Al-Sharq al-Awsat." reported."

So how exactly did this harm bin Laden's cause? Aside from giving al-Qaeda a foothold it didn't have before?

I don't know anything about how Al Qaeda handles it's living arrangements in Iraq. Do you find it interesting that they're assisting the Bathists, seeing as how they lothe each other and all?

Lurker, time travelling in Berlin 1942: "Do you find it interesting that the Western bourgeouis democracies are assisting the Stalinist killers seeing as how [sarcasm mode here] they loathe each other and all?"

C'mon: stick to arguments that make some sense. The Ba'athists are Al Qaeda are both dreadful, but you can hardly object to their making a tactical alliance under the present circumstances that they would never have entertained without the US invasion. (Indeed, a good reason to oppose the invasion.)

As to the Administration imputing Saddam and 9/11:
But Cheney left that possibility wide open in a nationally televised interview two days ago, claiming that the administration is learning "more and more" about connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq before the Sept. 11 attacks. The statement surprised some analysts and officials who have reviewed intelligence reports from Iraq.
Also
In his prime-time press conference last week [March 2003], which focused almost solely on Iraq, President Bush mentioned Sept. 11 eight times. He referred to Saddam Hussein many more times than that, often in the same breath with Sept. 11. Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks. A New York Times/CBS poll this week shows that 45 percent of Americans believe Mr. Hussein was "personally involved" in Sept. 11, about the same figure as a month ago.
Sources knowledgeable about US intelligence say there is no evidence that Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding Al Qaeda. Yet the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Hussein's regime.
"The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection [between Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein]," says Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.
Polling data show that right after Sept. 11, 2001, when Americans were asked open-ended questions about who was behind the attacks, only 3 percent mentioned Iraq or Hussein. But by January of this year, attitudes had been transformed. In a Knight Ridder poll, 44 percent of Americans reported that either "most" or "some" of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens. The answer is zero.

If not for Administration disinformatsia, how would the American people have fallen into this error?

"Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks."

The article states: Cheney neither confirmed nor denied a link between AQ and Iraq. The president never attributed blame for 9/11 to Saddam. A media poll showed a minority of people thought there was a link.

From this, you (and the reporter) draw the conclusion that the Administration caused the belief. Yet the people who hold this belief are never asked to identify the source of their belief, or even to justify it. So your inference is, at best, speculative. I'm not even sure your inference would pass the smell test in the dubious field of sociology. Explanations about beliefs (even simple ones) are notoriously prickly questions.

I think you have a better chance of trying to prove deceipt by the administration on the WMD issue.

Andrew J. Lazarus,

Lurker, time traveling in Berlin 1942: "Do you find it interesting that the Western bourgeois democracies are assisting the Stalinist killers seeing as how [sarcasm mode here] they loathe each other and all?" C'mon: stick to arguments that make some sense. The Ba'athists are Al Qaeda are both dreadful, but you can hardly object to their making a tactical alliance under the present circumstances that they would never have entertained without the US invasion. (Indeed, a good reason to oppose the invasion.)

Your WW2 analogy is not quite apt to the current situation. Please allow me to improve it for you. First of all, lets clarify the roles in your scenario, the US now plays the role of Nazi Germany, with Iraq and Al Qaeda playing the roles of 'Stalinist killers' and the 'bourgeois democracies' respectively.

Now queue the tape back a little further and we find that in this analogy, the US would be found in an alliance with Iraq against Al Qaeda. This alliance would hold until the US betrays Iraq by invading, forcing them to align with Al Qaeda in self-defense.

Now, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. Heck, sarcasm is often times lost on me. So, I'm not lying if I mention that I'm having a problem with understanding how your analogy applies to the current situation.

Perhaps you can help me. I'm having particular trouble with these questions:

I thought this "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing was universally applicable. Why couldn't Iraq and Al Qaeda have made their common cause before the US invasion of Iraq? Didn't they both hold the US as an enemy? And if they did indeed make such an alliance, would they have necessarily have announced it to the world?

C'mon: stick to arguments that make some sense. The Ba'athists are Al Qaeda are both dreadful, but you can hardly object to their making a tactical alliance under the present circumstances that they would never have entertained without the US invasion. (Indeed, a good reason to oppose the invasion.)

Is it your intention to imply that we should never proactively engage an enemy, because they might unite with another enemy? If so, then we could never do anything if we ever had more than one enemy at a time. Can this be correct? Wouldn't it in fact be better to consider each such situation on the current facts at hand, instead of having strict doctrines?

Our argument is truly about the differing weights that we put on the various parameters of the conflict. Obviously, I put more weight on the idea that Iraq and Al Qaeda might have already been cooperating and would have had even more reasons to cooperate in a future in which the Iraq invasion hadn't occurred.

Let's get in your time machine and visit this alternate future. We find that the weapons inspections and sanctions have predictably broken down, thanks mainly to continuous undermining by our erstwhile allies, France, Germany, and Russia.

Now Saddam Hussein, unrestrained by the UN, and funded with EU petrodollars (Euros??), has restarted his WMD programs. In fact, the French are helping rebuild his nuclear capabilities, and the Germans are helping rebuild his chemical infrastructure.

The US is still viewed as an enemy by both Saddam and Al Qaeda. What would they do? Remember, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend", right?

You will rank the possibility of pre-war and alternate future Iraqi and Al Qaeda cooperation as low. But I count it as almost a 100% certainty. Your own argument buttresses my case, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend", right?

WRT to your press clippings, is this the best you have? Cheney is apparently learning more and more about the situation (no assertions there), and Bush doesn't say anything about it, which is then somehow twisted in the given analysis to say that he has somehow implied it. Strange.

"Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack" is patently false. How could you forget? It was less than a year ago:

A U.S. district court judge in Manhattan ruled Wednesday [May 7, 2003] that Salman Pak, Saddam Hussein's airplane hijacking school located on the outskirts of Baghdad, played a material role in the devastating Sept. 11 attacks on America.
...according to courtroom testimony by three of the camp's instructors, the facility was a virtual hijacking classroom where al-Qaeda recruits practiced overcoming U.S. flight crews using only small knives - a terrorist technique never employed before 9/11.
http://www.newsmax.com/showinsidecover.shtml?a=2003/5/9/72820

Also read this:
http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1051121852966 and this
http://edwardjayepstein.com/2002question/salmanpak.htm and this
http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/2003/04/07/news/nation/5574507.htm and this
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/archive/article/0,,4296646,00.html

Is the reason why this lie is so prevalent because of the leftwing media (which dominates the USA) declines to bring this up because it just might put Bush in a good light with the public?

Lurker, couldn't the British and USSR have made common cause before Hitler invaded Russia? Sure, they could have, but they didn't. Iraq and Al Qaeda could have formed an alliance before we attacked Iraq, but the great preponderance of the evidence is that they didn't.

I can't frankly see what the probative value of a post-invasion alliance between the Ba'ath and Al Qaeda. Leaving aside which side is the good guys, because except to get everyone upset and confuse the issue, it doesn't matter we know from my WW2 example that evidence of a post-invasion alliance is not evidence of a pre-invasion alliance. I'm sorry that your mind is too small (or your paranoia is too advanced) to believe that all of the anti-American factions out there must come together, even factions that loathe each other like AQ and Saddam did before the war. Do you think that Churchill and Stalin would inevitably have formed an alliance even if Hitler had never invaded Russia? I don't think Stalin and Churchill would have thought so.

Canadian Guy: Saddam didn't get to put on any defense in this case. The judge was impressed with the testimomy of crank Laurie Mylroie. Our "evidence" on Salman Pak seems to be turning into another charade orchestrated by Ahmad Chalabi. The witnesses in this case were Chalabi associates, many of whom have already received the coveted "Fabricator" designation from our genuine intel agencies. Basically, once we got into Iraq, we discovered it was all bullshit.
Many articles quoted defectors as saying that Saddam was training extremists from throughout the Muslim world at Salman Pak, outside Baghdad.
"We certainly have found nothing to substantiate that," said a senior U.S. official.
Instead, he said, U.S. intelligence analysts believe that Iraqi counterterrorism units practiced anti-hijacking techniques on an aircraft fuselage at the site.

An Oct. 12, 2001, Washington Post opinion piece by columnist Jim Hoagland quoted an INC-supplied defector, Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami, as saying that Salman Pak offered hijacking and assassination courses. [emphasis added]

As a matter of fact, we haven't even found the Boeing fuselage the Charlatan-Chalabists promised; it was a Russian-made Tupolev [LINK has many other statements we found to be untrue.]

Incidentally, as I can personally remember at least one other hijacking done with a knife, I'd love to make you a cash bet that this technique had never been used before. You might try Google before you take me up on it.

A side note, as I'm in the process of preparing a much more thorough reply to your two pieces, but your link doesn't state that the fusealage was a Tupolev, merely that a defector changed his story and claimed that it was one.

The actual fusealage exists, I've seen it on satellite photos, but the article doesn't state what the plane in question actually was.

Andrew J. Lazarus,

Lurker, couldn't the British and USSR have made common cause before Hitler invaded Russia? Sure, they could have, but they didn't.

Please excuse my small paranoid mind, but I still don't understand your analogy. Could you please explain why Britain and the USSR would have made common cause against Germany, when the USSR was already aligned with Germany? I just don't understand. How could Britain make common cause with a coutntry already aligned with its enemy?

Can you also please explain how this is in anyway analogous to the situation prior to the Iraq invasion? The question whose answer would provide the most enlightenment is "Which party was the US aligned with before the Iraq invasion, Saddam or Al Qaeda or none of the above?"

Iraq and Al Qaeda could have formed an alliance before we attacked Iraq, but the great preponderance of the evidence is that they didn't.

This is also a tough one for my mind to grasp. How is the lack of evidence of an alliance between Iraq and Al Qaeda, a preponderance of evidence that there was no alliance. Funny, I've always heard it was difficult to prove a negative, but you seem to have surmounted this problem. Would you please clarify the logical steps of your analysis so that your skill may be properly appreciated?

Given my so obvious feeble mindedness, it would appear that your assertion that parties having a common enemy, are likely to make common cause against that enemy. Isn't this what you have asserted? Applying this principal, why wouldn't Iraq and Al Qaeda have made common cause before the Iraq invasion? Was not the US engaged in hostilities with both parties, e.g. 12 years of opposing Saddam since defeating him in GW1, and you do remember the ongoing tiff with Al Qaeda, right?

Given this, can you please explain, as I am so obviously ill equipped to figure it out myself, why they couldn't have made their common cause before the Iraq invasion? And it also seems to my puny intellect, that they would have had incentive to keep any such arrangement secret. Do you agree with that? Or perhaps you believe that had they indeed made their common cause against us, they would have held a press conference?

I can't frankly see what the probative value of a post-invasion alliance between the Ba'ath and Al Qaeda. Leaving aside which side is the good guys, because except to get everyone upset and confuse the issue, it doesn't matter we know from my WW2 example that evidence of a post-invasion alliance is not evidence of a pre-invasion alliance.

Now I'm even more confused. Didn't I mention that the future that I was talking about, was the alternate one wherein the Iraq Invasion hadn't occurred? It seems this is a possible future of concern when we were weighing the pros and cons of the invasion before hand. Wouldnt you agree?

I figured that at some point in this future, even lacking an invasion, Al Qaeda would have made common cause with Iraq against us. This is your theory remember. It's the enemy of my enemy thing. I'm conceding that my mind may be to small to grasp the nuances of your complete theory, please explain once again why Al Qaeda and Iraq, both being our avowed enemies, would not have made common cause against us in the world where the Iraq invasion hadn't happened?

I'm sorry that your mind is too small

I have now acknowledged that my mind is small and my intellect is feeble. So, it must be considered rude to continue to point it out.

(or your paranoia is too advanced)

I wish that we were a little more paranoid prior to 9-11.

to believe that all of the anti-American factions out there must come together,

What a minute... Weren't you the one that advanced the enemy-of-my-enemy principal here. Can you clarify in which cases it applies and in which cases it doesn't? Maybe I'm misapplying it.

even factions that loathe each other like AQ and Saddam did before the war.

Where is the evidence of this loathing? Did Al Qaeda declare jihad on Saddam also? I must have missed that.

Do you think that Churchill and Stalin would inevitably have formed an alliance even if Hitler had never invaded Russia? I don't think Stalin and Churchill would have thought so.

Well Churchill definitely wouldn't have before the Germans invaded the USSR, because the Germans and the Soviets were aligned! Your enemy-of-my-enemy principal wouldn't seem to apply here. Or maybe it does. Who was the common enemy before the Ukraine invasion? Germany? Or was it Britain?

Here are a few random thoughts:

Al Queda is the tip of the spear. Islamic radicalism, spread around the world as it is, has no real geopolitical center.

Iraq was the weakest link in all possible Islamic nations to invade after Afghanistan.

Iraq is one island in the vast ocean of islamic militantcy, secular and/or religious.

Compare this to McArthur's island hopping campaign in the Pacific. "Hit 'em where they ain't."

I'm too tired to tie all this together cogently.

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