Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Was the Invasion of Iraq a good thing... still?

In response to Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy. This should earn me my first incoming link, if he fulfills his end of the promise! He posed three questions for war supporters (they're bolded) and I've given my best answers for them.

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

Yes, yes I do. Basically, there are two ways that a war supporter could find that, even though they thought the invasion of Iraq was a good idea previously, they now think it was a bad idea.

1) Justifications used to support the war are now seen as wrong based on new information.
2) Negative developments in Iraq outweigh the justifications given.

I don’t think that either is true.

The strongest three justifications for war, at least the ones that I based my war support on, were the need to prevent a megalomaniacal dictator from ever acquiring WMD, the need to bring radical change to the Middle East in the form of democracy and freedom and the need to oust Saddam, a sadistic butcher, for humanitarian purposes (this would also create conditions for lifting the sanctions, which were causing much suffering).

The first of these justifications has been met. Even though stockpiles of WMD have not been found, it is becoming increasingly likely that WMD probably made there way into Syria from Iraq. Even if this is not the case, we know for sure that Saddam had them in the past and was actively trying to acquire them.

For example, Saddam came “within a whisker” of acquiring a completely functional nuclear device, a terrifying thought. How much longer until he actually got one was simply a matter of time, and the chances of this weapon filtering down to a terrorist group were of much too great to risk, considering that Saddam had openly funded terrorism and may have even been planning attacks inside America.

I still feel strongly about the second of these justifications, that radical change was and is needed in the Middle East. We have already witnessed the rippling effects of the invasion: Libya coming clean, Pakistan revealing nuclear black market, Syria feeling antsy about its weapons programs etc. Democracy is quickly arriving and, according to pulls, the people are optimistic.

And the last justification has been fulfilled. Saddam was a sadistic Butcher. He’s gone now. Everyone agrees that this is extremely good.

But do the negative developments outweigh the good of these justifications? That brings us too:

Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

As Hitch pointed out when writing about the number of American fatalities hitting 1000:


I remember exhaling with relief when Saddam Hussein's regime was taken down without the death toll on "our" side having much exceeded 100. Antiwar people had predicted many multiples of that. But I also thought it was a just war, which means that if I am honest I have to admit that I would not, or should not, have balked at a higher figure. [emphasis added]
This doesn’t mean that I think that either the number dead or the increasing chaos are irrelevant. But I believe the cause was just, and should be able to stomach casualties accordingly. More importantly, I don’t think we have the right to be defeatist about the prospects in Iraq, when the optimism of the Iraqi people, that I mentioned from the polls above, still remains high.

America needs to realize that, even though we were initially greeted as liberators, there are forces at play that will fight to the bitter end, and we need to brace ourselves accordingly. Our enemies know that much rides on the fate of Iraq. A book published by one of OBL’s closest associates points to Iraq as a vital battlefield in the quest for Caliphate. Some telling excerpts:
It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy.
and
If democracy comes to Iraq, the next target [for democratization] would be the
whole of the Muslim world.
Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

This is a hard question. Obviously, Saddam is gone, so that is one criterion that has already been fulfilled. But it seems morbid to assign a numerical value of how many American lives that good deed is worth before it is invalidated.

In the coming months and years I think we should measure our success in Iraq according to the ripples it is causing (Libya coming clean etc). Also, having Iraq take over more responsibility for its security, and allowing America to shift troops back home to respond to new threats should factor in. But it would be arbitrary of me to assign a specific date by which we should have only X number of troops in Iraq.

I think we should also look to see that the polls coming out of Iraq at least maintain their current levels of optimism.

It is the nature of a just war, as I excerpted from Hitch, that if I truly believed in the cause, I should be willing to stomach much more than has currently happened. Therefore, in my view, the Iraq invasion will remain a success short of a major negative development that invalidates the significant gains, such as a descent into civil war.

A disturbing barometer, possibly, but an idealistic one, and one that will accept nothing less than victory.

updated for clarity

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