Patterico's Pontifications


Reacting to Jonah Goldberg’s Column on the War

Filed under: General,War — Patterico @ 6:58 am

I’m not always a fan of Jonah Goldberg, whose desire to be funny sometimes causes him to say silly things. But this column on the Iraq war is thought-provoking. I think it’s worth quoting at length, so I can give my reactions. Please share yours in the comments.

I’ll start from the beginning:

THERE’S A STRICT taboo in the column-writing business against recycling ideas. So let me start with something fresh.

The Iraq war was a mistake.

I know, I know. But I’ve never said it before. And I don’t enjoy saying it now. I’m sure that to the antiwar crowd this is too little, too late, and that’s fine because I’m not joining their ranks anyway.

In the dumbed-down debate we’re having, there are only two sides: Pro-war and antiwar. This is silly. First, very few folks who favored the Iraq invasion are abstractly pro-war. Second, the antiwar types aren’t really pacifists. They favor military intervention when it comes to stopping genocide in Darfur or starvation in Somalia or doing whatever that was President Clinton did in Haiti. In other words, their objection isn’t to war per se. It’s to wars that advance U.S. interests (or, allegedly, President Bush’s or Israel’s or ExxonMobil’s interests). I must confess that one of the things that made me reluctant to conclude that the Iraq war was a mistake was my general distaste for the shabbiness of the arguments on the antiwar side.

But that’s no excuse. Truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003. I do think that Congress (including Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller and John Murtha) was right to vote for the war given what was known — or what was believed to have been known — in 2003. And the claims from Democrats who voted for the war that they were lied to strikes me as nothing more than cowardly buck-passing.

I have probably never agreed with Goldberg as totally as I do in this opening passage. He puts into words several concepts that I have been thinking myself lately — namely, the war was a mistake given what we know now, but it was the right call based on what we knew at the time.

Then I stop up short when I read this:

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction is a side issue.

Because I totally disagree. I may be the last remaining conservative who (reluctantly) signed on to the war almost wholly because of the threat of WMD. I understand that numerous other arguments for war were made from the very beginning, including the desire to liberate the Iraqi people from the tyrannical dictatorship of Saddam, and to plant the seeds of democracy. I have met Iraqis who have benefited from our policy, and I don’t want to minimize that. But I wouldn’t have signed on to risking our soldiers’ lives for that goal, and neither would have most Americans, I think.

The WMD fiasco was a global intelligence failure, but calling Saddam Hussein’s bluff after 9/11 was the right thing to do.

It certainly was a global failure.

Washington’s more important intelligence failure lay in underestimating what would be required to rebuild and restore post-Hussein Iraq. The White House did not anticipate a low-intensity civil war in Iraq, never planned for it and would not have deemed it in the U.S. interest to pay this high a price in prestige, treasure and, of course, lives.

I think that the lack of planning was obvious even at the time. In one of my earliest posts on this blog, in February 2003, I wrote:

KRUGMAN: Not a fan of Paul Krugman’s. Still, somebody tell me why his piece on Bush’s plans for post-war Iraq is wrong. Because it’s Krugman, you’d think there has to be a reason. But I don’t know what it is. I disagree with his larger conclusions about Bush, his fiscal policy, etc. — but the specific criticisms of the Iraq plan seem to me to be valid.

Plenty of information has come out recently suggesting that Rumsfeld et al. did not plan adquately for the peace — and should have known their plans were inadequate. I’m not inclined to blame this failure entirely on intelligence.

According to the goofy parameters of the current debate, I’m now supposed to call for withdrawing from Iraq. If it was a mistake to go in, we should get out, some argue. But this is unpersuasive. A doctor will warn that if you see a man stabbed in the chest, you shouldn’t rush to pull the knife out. We are in Iraq for good reasons and for reasons that were well-intentioned but wrong. But we are there.

Those who say that it’s not the central front in the war on terror are in a worse state of denial than they think Bush is in. Of course it’s the central front in the war on terror. That it has become so is a valid criticism of Bush, but it’s also strong reason for seeing our Iraqi intervention through. If we pull out precipitously, jihadism will open a franchise in Iraq and gain steam around the world, and the U.S. will be weakened.

Bush’s critics claim that democracy promotion was an afterthought, a convenient rebranding of a war gone sour. I think that’s unfair, but even if true, it wouldn’t mean liberty isn’t at stake. It wouldn’t mean that promoting a liberal society in the heart of the Arab and Muslim world wouldn’t be in our interest and consistent with our ideals. In war, you sometimes end up having to defend ground you wouldn’t have chosen with perfect knowledge beforehand. That’s us in Iraq.

According to the conventional script, if I’m not saying “bug out” of Iraq, I’m supposed to say “stay the course.” But there’s a third option, and, funnily enough, I found it in an old column of mine (journalistic taboos be damned!). I think we should ask the Iraqis to vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.

Polling suggests that they want us to go. But polling absent consequences is a form of protest. With accountability, minds may change and appreciation for the U.S. presence might grow.

If Iraqis voted “stay,” we’d have a mandate to do what’s necessary to win, and our ideals would be reaffirmed. If they voted “go,” our values would also be reaffirmed, and we could leave with honor. And pretty much everyone would have to accept democracy as the only legitimate expression of national will.

Finishing the job is better than leaving a mess. And if we can finish the job, the war won’t be remembered as a mistake.

Superficially, this sounds like a good idea. I have been for Iraqi self-determination from the beginning. But we also need to keep our own interests in mind. They’re our soldiers. If we put it to a vote in Iraq, why not here, too?

I recently expressed concern that we are nothing but targets patrolling the streets of Iraq. I think we need to make our own decisions about what is best for our interests and those of our soldiers. That may include setting up a couple of strong bases in Iraq, and getting out of the business of patrolling the streets. It may be time to let the Iraqi people take care of their own internal problems themselves.

There’s a lot there to discuss. I’m interested in respectful views from all sides.

UPDATE: Dafydd ab Hugh respectfully disagrees. He thinks I overlook what would have happened had we not invaded. I think he overlooks the inspections regime we had just before the war. Although I have little respect for inspections regimes, we had a more extensive inspections regime before the war than ever before. It was backed by a credible threat, and (at least in hindsight) I think it would have been effective.

Now, with the failing war, our ability to mount a credible military threat is substantially lessened. I think Dafydd and I would probably agree that failing in Iraq badly hurts our military credibility. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he might well use that as an argument to stay the course. I think it’s an argument not to invade a country without a compelling enough reason, which I believe (again with the benefit of hindsight) that we did not have.

So often I see folks analogizing Iraq to WWII. If we were in a war that we knew, deep down in our souls, was all about our very survival, I believe we would have the necessary will.

But I don’t think this is such a war.

63 Responses to “Reacting to Jonah Goldberg’s Column on the War”

  1. If there were no WMDs, then how do you explain this:


    Suzy-Q (7a12ef)

  2. Mostly agree.

    The vote idea is stupid. If we held a vote to decide whether we stay or leave, terrorism would skew the numbers towards “leave” in a major way. Pretty much, “Vote leave or you die”.

    AndrewGurn (c37ea2)

  3. Because I totally disagree. I may be the last remaining conservative who (reluctantly) signed on to the war almost wholly because of the threat of WMD. I understand that numerous other arguments for war were made from the very beginning, including the desire to liberate the Iraqi people from the tyrannical dictatorship of Saddam, and to plant the seeds of democracy.

    And I couldn’t disagree with you more on that. When we went into Iraq I knew in my gut we weren’t going to find any smoking gun. I had no special knowledge, just a strong intuitive sense that there was no immediate threat. The thing is, the need to go to war with Iraq was immediate. I think the whole unspoken point about Iraq was that it presented the most pressing long-term threat to regional and American security in the world. But it’s hard to sell a preemptive war based on a long-term threat.

    Let’s be honest, the sanctions on Iraq, and all the measures that kept them in place, were crumbling. We see even more clearly now how weak the will of the world truly is. Just look at the fiasco that is the “diplomacy” surrounding Iran and North Korea. We have no solid ground to stand on when dealing with them because there is no acceptable threat of force that the rest of the world will tolerate when dealing with maniacs.

    Eventually Saddam Hussein was going to reconstitute his WMD program. There is evidence that the basic foundation for such was still in place. Even assuming it wasn’t, is there anyone foolish enough to say Saddam Hussein had learned his lesson and was going to turn away from WMD or war? After 9/11 we had a rare window of relative support to do something. After Afghanistan we still had domestic support and quite a bit of international good will. If we waited until Iraq got to where Iran and North Korea are now…again…all of that support would have dissipated by then and we’d be stuck with the same options we are now blessed with regarding Iran and North Korea, namely: talking to the hand. Any president who knowingly limits his own options to such an extent is a coward and a failure.

    The options were:

    1.)Take care of Iraq now. It will be difficult, but another conflict down the road is inevitable. Why not force it now on our own terms with conditions in our favor?

    2.)Wait until the world has released Iraq from its sanctions and we no longer have a finger on the pulse of their maneuverings. Wait until the world has completely turned its gaze elsewhere and Hussein turns into what he was before. Then the world will not be united by any mandate and can deny Hussein’s bad intentions until they turn blue in the face. Or we do. Then, eventually, we will either be stuck on the sidelines with the rest of the bureaucrats, talking to a big fat hand, or we’ll be going to war anyway under conditions set up by Hussein.

    I would take option number 1 and deal with all the short-term problems it would cause. The administration went into this war knowing it wasn’t going to make them popular. They went into it because it was the best option amidst a very bleak outlook. Saddam never had to have WMD, the simple knowledge that letting him stay meant eventually he would was just as bad, and in this case, worse.

    I’d rather face an enemy assuming he has a knife than walk away, unsure of whether or not I’d get it in the back on the second or third step.

    thelinyguy (e32b76)

  4. I do not think that going to war with Iraq was a mistake. Those who view it as a mistake (other than those who are congenitally against anything done in the interest of the United States) tend to view it as a mistake simply because the road is a rather rough one. That was entirely to be expected.

    I don’t know of anyone who realistically thought that we’d be able to leave Irag in less than 5-10 years. Guess what, it’s only been three years. Sure there’s still fighting going on. That was implicit in the concept that it was a 5-10 year task.

    For a WAR, we’re hardly taking casualties. NO, I’m not being callous about the price some of our troops are paying. I’m being realistic about the price of WAR. There is a tremendous amount of dying going on in Iraq, but most of the blood is Iraqi innocents, and “bad guys.” The Iraqis still “step up to the plate” to try to pull their country together.

    One factor that is almost completely ignored in the media — it’s favorable to the US, after all — is that the extended war in Iraq has greatly REDUCED the popularity of Al-Qaeda among Arabs. It’s Arabs who are dying in the Al-Qaeda attacks, and that is starting to come home even through biased reporting of the Arab press.

    Saddam WAS supporting terrorists. Perhaps not Al-Qaeda directly, but he funding many of the bombings of Israeli citizens, and he certainly contributed to the mass of trained terrorists in the Middle East. He DID train a lot of terrorists.

    Of course, one of the problems with evaluating “what ifs” is that we don’t know what would have happened in any given alternate scenario, it seems quite likely to me that if we hadn’t been killing those terrorists in Iraq (Al-Qaeda itself admits to losing 4,000 fighters) they would have been carrying out attacks against the U.S. We KNOW that Saddam was encouraging such things. Indirectly when he could, but considering taking direct action (as he had done in the past). Had those attacks been successful it would have been American civilians dying, not Iraqi ones.

    That would have been tragic on two counts for us. The self-centered jingoistic reason of not shedding more American blood, but even more importantly the fact that such successful attacks would have improved the Arab world’s opinion of Al-Qaeda rather than lowering it.

    The fact that the U.S. has not experienced another major terrorist attack after 9/11 has amzed me, as I think it has almost anyone who can look at that fact objectively.

    That fact alone suggests rather strongly that what we’ve been doing in the War on Terror has been good “overall.” (I’m not saying that I think that what we’ve done has been perfect.) Since the War in Iraq is the largest part of that effort, I do NOT believe that it was/is a mistake.

    There’s probably room for criticism of the planning that Rumsfeld and company did, but I’m not at all impressed with the bulk of the critics. They mostly seem to imply that if we’d only listened to them it would have been perfect. That’s utter B******T. There could be no perfect plan for such a complex operation. Remember we’re dealing with “an enemy” (really a loose coalition of enemies) that also has a brain and that would work actively to defeat whatever plan we initiated. Had we followed an alternate plan, we wouldn’t have our current set of problems, but we still would have had, and I believe be having, problems.

    The only way to not be having problems in Iraq would be to not have gone in the first place, but that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t instead be fighting here in the U.S.

    I think that too many people take the fact that things aren’t perfect in Iraq as “proof” that we were wrong. The world is an imperfect place. The Islamo-fascists declared war on us years ago, Iraq is only a battle on the way.

    When people say that some alternative would have been better, you need to think about what the down side of their proposal MIGHT be (it’s never certain until it’s done.)

    For example, one of the common criticisms is that “we should have had more boots on the ground.” That sounds good, BUT what would it have accomplished?

    We’d have had more Americans exposed to casual ambush.

    We’d have given much more of an impression of being an OCCUPYING ARMY which MIGHT well have increased Iraqi sentiments against us.

    We’ve never had inadequate combat power in Iraq.

    The problem has been “target identification.”

    That has taken TIME to develop the intelligence network to provide us with that information. With more troops on the ground, and possibly increased Iraqi resentment toward us, that MIGHT well have taken longer than it has.

    I admit that I don’t KNOW that the downside would have happened, but it’s certainly plausible.

    To repeat my initial statement. The War in Iraq is NOT a mistake. It’s time we grew up and realized that the price that we’re paying is unbelievably CHEAP for a WAR, and that if we don’t stick with it and WIN, then we’ll pay a far heavier price down the road.

    Thanks for your always thought-provoking blog.

    Ralph (2be5c4)

  5. I disagree, the ‘war’ with Iraq was not a mistake… at least not the ‘war’ I supported.

    His “if we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003” statement is flawed: it was only because we sent our troops in that we now know what we didn’t know back then. If we hadn’t gone in, we would still be sitting in the dark… and sitting in the dark hoping that our enemies aren’t working to shorten my life expectancy isn’t something I’m comfortable doing. Given the situation at the time, there was nothing wrong with having our troops go into Iraq for the purpose of ensuring that Hussein was not amassing WMDs.

    It’s the rest of the ‘war’ that was a mistake.. the ‘nation-building’, hoping ancient enemies would decide to live together peacefully, hoping our intervention would impress the other rogue nations and so on.

    We won the war I was in favor of. And since the rest of Bush’s not-so-excellent adventure was a bone-headed play, I’m more bothered by the American soldiers who have died and will continue to die because Bush is too stubborn to admit he screwed up than I am concerned that some crazies will think they beat us.

    Since regardless of when we finally leave Iraq, there are crazies who will claim they forced us out, Bush’s ‘leaving would only encourage our enemies’ would lead to our never being able to leave…

    steve sturm (b5aa23)

  6. The Iraq war wasn’t a mistake. Saddam is no longer in a position to dominate much beyond a few lawyers. Certainly he can’t invest any more of his Oil-for-Food rakeoffs into supporting terror, or amassing weapons in front of indifferent UN inspectors, or murdering further thousands of Arabs and Kurds.

    Unjustifiably ignored by Goldberg and commenters are two enormous benefits that accrued from the invasion: Libya came clean and gave up its clandestine nuclear program, and the massive UN corruption arising from Oil-for-Food was exposed.

    Granted, this last was hastily swept under the rug by our dear MSM. However, for those wishing to judge the value of unaccountable bureaucratic bodies such as the UN, the information was as priceless as Saddam’s legions-of-the-bribed were sordid.

    And in the long run, it doesn’t hurt to have a few legions sitting squarely between Iran and Syria, in case they should wish to start up any further conquests in the region. History in the Middle East ain’t going to end in two years, even if John Murtha succeeds in his political stupidities – in fact if he does, the Middle East will require much more attention than at present.

    Insufficiently Sensitive (01397c)

  7. I have taken a look at various parts of the criticism of both the war and its conduct and find them to be lacking. The only major problem that I have was the *timing* of the war… which should have been in 1991 and not in 2003. Everything that was done there demonstrated that Saddam in no way, whatsoever, was going to ever comply with the ceasefire and had worked to undermine it. And every other criticism I see to be without basis in reality or in comprehending the Nation of Iraq and its Peoples.

    After 7 years America had won its independence, finally… and nearly crumbled in the 5 years following due to internal disputes and uprisings. And that was *without* two hostile Nations right on the borders trying to destabilize us. In the Philippines we *declared* victory and then took another decade to actually clear insurgents OUT of there under Pershing. And, after the wonderful victoryin WWII, we spent a decade in firm control of Japan ensuring it would *not* revert to military imperialism. Three and a half years in Iraq? Dear me! Such endless fighting with hundreds of dead soldiers every day… oh, wait, that was the Civil War. That ‘quagmire’ of Viet Nam? Well, considering that Truman sent the first US advisors there in 1950, sticking it out to 1974 was really quite something… mind you we are responsible for the millions dead, huge refugee problem and spread of Communism by deserting a friend and ally, not that anyone wants to take the blame for *that*. For there are long-term consequences of defeat.

    And as for Mr. Goldeberg’s idea of a poll: Iraqi’s already have those. They are called elections. For a representative democracy. He may have *heard* of these things called elections. They seem to make a difference. The Iraqi People do *have* a say and a voice and they have asked us, via their government, to stay and help them. We are doing so. If they want us gone, they can say so in their *next* election, and we will even help them run it to make sure it stays safe and clean. Then we can leave with honor having been told that the Iraqi people feel they can handle things now.

    That is how it works, Mr. Goldberg. What little foreign policy the US has *anywhere* does include staying to help those we *promised* to help by liberating them from tyranny. When they see us as the problem in the poll that *counts* in an election, then they will tell us to leave. Elections help stabilize things like the economy and foreign policy for years, not shift it on whim and whimsy on a daily basis. Welcome to the ‘real world’ in which having some element of fortitude longer than the next news reports means something. Unless you have an upper limit on the price of liberty and freedom: then the ones to go past that limit will enslave you. That is what ‘live free or die’ means. It has a very harsh meaning to Iraqis who are dying at the hands of those looking to enslave them and control them. They have gotten a taste of this entire ‘freedom’ concept and realize it is worth fighting *for*, which is why hundreds line up to join their Army, National Guard and Police. And are targeted for *doing so*.

    Or did We get it wrong about ‘all men are created equal’? And that whole follow-on for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ just for those who happen to live in the US? I had thought the US had a universal outlook on human liberty and freedom. And we are to pursue happiness, heaven help you if you actually *catch it*. That is why we should treat those Nations that befriend us and that seek our Friendship with *honor* and give them that help. Or are we in the business of lifting you from the cage with the lions den and then, bleeding, throw you in the shark tank? We should work damned hard with those Nations that are our friends and allies to make us *both* better Nations and Peoples. To become stronger *together* via that friendship. And if we lift someone from that lion’s den and they thank us, but tell us they can handle things on their lonesome, then we thank them and leave them to make their own way. That makes us *worthy* of being a friend in both cases. As it is we have not given our friends much recognition and I am surprised we still have *any* in the world. And we are poorer for that as a Nation, in the long term. And we do not pressure them when we get a few claw marks here and there from that lion, as they are still being mauled by it.

    ajacksonian (841f28)

  8. i thought the column was stupid.
    guy finally admits invading iraq was a mistake, but he spends 90% of the column inches dumping on the people who realized this all along, i.e., who were smarter than him.
    then he calls for a vote to determine if we stay there. an iraqi vote!
    dudes! the votes of a bunch of foreign camel jockeys and falafel peddlers isn’t going to determine the deployment and recall of american troops. we already have votes scheduled for that in novembers 2006 and 2008. this guy is so desperate he wants an iraqi vote instead of an american vote because his side will fare better with the iraqis! what a maroon.

    assistant devil's advocate (abf1f6)

  9. I offer some questions.

    What is the view of North Korea having nuclear weapons?

    If there had been an earlier intervention into North Korea, with Jong now in the dock for mass murder and the subsequent wide-spread killer famines averted but with a still-ongoing violent terrorist reaction by fanatics there, would completed nuclear weapons have been found?

    jim (a9ab88)

  10. Superficially, this sounds like a good idea. I have been for Iraqi self-determination from the beginning. But we also need to keep our own interests in mind. They’re our soldiers. If we put it to a vote in Iraq, why not here, too?

    Not to get snarky, but we do vote on it. And we have. They are called congressional and presidential elections.

    Yeah, I know. It isn’t a popular vote. But we don’t use popular votes for a lot of things. But these issues are still voted on none the less.

    EFG (e60151)

  11. Invading Iraq in March of 2003 had to be done. We had just had overwhelming success in Afganhistan and we were pretty much there (in Iraq). George H was criticized for not finishing the job of taking out Saddam in 1991. We were not about to stop short once again.

    The world was telling us Saddam had WMDs and even the Kerry’s and Kennedy’s were convinced Saddam was a major threat to this country.

    Now just imagine if we had not invaded and eventually a WMD was used in one of our cities and hundrerds of thousands of Americans were killed. And then the fingerprints were traced back to Iraq. George Bush would not have been impeached, he would have been executed as being responsible for those deaths. And we’d be hearing that he was told by Putin, Mubarek, Kerry, Kennedy, Clinton, and the rest, that Saddam was a major threat.

    Invading was the only right decision that could have been made at the time.

    PC14 (98b75e)

  12. The lack of planning for contingencies is why Rumsfeld needs to be replaced. He has talked long about a military that is high-tech and adaptable, yet he has failed miserably in being adaptable, i.e., reading the situation and molding the tactics to the environment.

    Without clearing and holding areas, as the Marines small wars doctrine suggest, patrols don’t do a damn thing. That’s why we’ve needed more troops on the ground since May 2003.

    Charles Bird (0035fc)

  13. Put me in the “stupid column” column.

    For many reasons. One of which is that he seems to think that Iraq being the front-line on the War on (Some) Terror is an accident. I don’t believe it was. Remember “Bring it on”? Why did he say that if he didn’t want terrorists to attack?

    Here’s how I see it.
    We are in a Wo(S)T. We want to fight (some) terrorists with our military and not our police. How to do that? Why, invade a convenient country that has terrorists already. So now our soldiers are fighting terrorists instead of our police. The flypaper strategy, as it’s been called since oh, about 2003. I’ll let Andrew Sullivan recount a conversation he had with someone in the “inner circle” of Bush.
    AS:What was to stop al Qaeda using Iraq as a battleground in the war against the West?
    Bushite:If the terrorists leave us alone in Iraq, fine, he said. But if they come and get us, even better. Far more advantageous to fight terror using trained soldiers in Iraq than trying to defend civilians in New York or London. “Think of it as a flytrap,” he ventured.

    I would suggest that they understimated the amount of support for the various terrorist groups from the populace, but I sincerely doubt that they were unaware that a low intensity conflict was going to be the result of the invasion. Heck, I knew it was going to happen. I used to comment a lot on the Emperor’s site and I purposely left a comment about that and saved the bookmark. Alas, he lost his comments sometime in late 2003 or maybe 2004 so I don’t have the proof I wanted.
    Remember Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech? Don’t feel bad, nobody does.
    I’ll quote a relevant section
    We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We’re bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We’re pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes… And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people…
    The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.

    Sound familiar? That sounds to me like the strategy we’re still following. And it’s working. We’re killing terrorists by the boatload while they’re reduced to hiding bombs in kidnap victim’s cars and attacking markets full of children and thus, alienating the populace.

    As for this from Jonah
    would not have deemed it in the U.S. interest to pay this high a price in prestige, treasure and, of course, lives.
    That’s just fatuous. Most predictions in the loss of life category were in the tens of thousands. This war has cost less in lives and treasure than any other we ever fought. As for prestige, how would our prestige have been if we had allowed Saddam to keep thumbing his nose at us? The only place we lost prestige is in the Left and that’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s what they want whenever a Republican is president. Remember Ronnie Raygun and how we lost our “prestige” when he actually tried to win? Remember how, when he put the nukes in Europe, that we were losing the “moral high ground”? Against the USSR. We lose prestige and the moral high ground by fighting back every time. Unless a Dem is president and the battle isn’t in our national interests. I’ll tell you where we really lose prestige; when we run away. Like Kobar Towers, Cole, Somalia and more.

    Also notice that we now have a huge supply of combat-proven veterans. That increases prestige as well. You can train to near death, but until you’ve been in combat you’re a newbie.

    When Jonah’s daughter was born he wrote a column stating that he was going to be more serious in the future and cut down on the humor part. When was the last time Cosmo spoke? The couch?
    I stopped reading him very much right about then. Now he’s just Mark Stein without the humor or insights.

    Veeshir (5f9b87)

  14. My personal reason for support comes back to the “proportional tit-for-tat” silliness we engaged in since ’90. Each provocation resulted (or might result) in an investigation, a cruise missile strike, or some other ‘proportional’ response.

    Afghanistan was the proportional response. But if this was a chess game, we just traded a knight for a pawn. That sucks. Especially since the late un-lamented Zarqawi was organizing in Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban had collapsed. (Having retreated to France for the actual fighting part of the war.)

    Trading a knight for a pawn, and then having to fight to even keep the ()*)(* pawn off the board is not a great way to get anywhere. A ‘goal’ would be converting that opposing pawn into one of our own – but the current state of Iraq shows how difficult that is when the full attention of Iran is focused on preventing that.

    So we need to do _something_ else to 1) indicate the end of tit-for-tat, 2) distract attention from Afghanistan, 3) preferably knock at least a ‘knight’ off the darn table.

    There were 7 countries on the state department’s list of ‘state terror sponsors’. Iraq was pretty darn vocal – pretty self-selecting at this point when you factor in geography and military strength.

    The bonus was the surrender of Libya. With the tons of high-tech centrifuges and other nuclear purification related equipment. That was mostly still in the original crates, like it was waiting in a warehouse for further shipment or something.

    So where are we?

    1) Lost Afghanistan.
    2) Lost Iraq.
    3) Lost Libya’s weapons.

    1) Lost 3000 civilians + economic losses.
    2) Gained an ally in Afghanistan
    3) Gained an ally in Iraq. Maybe.
    4) Got France, Russia, and China to openly declare “We aren’t on your side”.
    5) Lost 3000 troops. This is a loss for us, even if we’re ignoring the enemies losses.

    The key question is, “Do you think we are at war with Militant Jihadism?” If we aren’t, then “keeping score” against a fictional enemy is completely daft. Watching the Jihadi videos… they’re sure keeping score. They seem to obsess over things that happened pre-911 though for some reason.

    Al (2e2489)

  15. Al: it’s not even clear that we gained an ally in Afghanistan; I think the jury is still out on that. There’s been a fair amount of evidence recently that the Afghani settlement isn’t as stable as we’d like it to be.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  16. I have no problem with the successful invasion of Iraq, and I agree that it should have been done 11 years prior. However, this haphazard and naive Wilsonian Occupation leaves me wondering just who are the flies, and who set the flytrap.

    Therefore, in regards to Goldberg’s assertion, if I knew then that a successful military overthrow of an odious threat to American lives and interests would be followed by a seemingly endless and dissipated Occupation, I wouldn’t have favored War either.

    Barbula (cecb58)

  17. I opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, and I think much of the post-war reconstruction has been completely mishandled.

    But I agree almost entirely with this:

    According to the goofy parameters of the current debate, I’m now supposed to call for withdrawing from Iraq. If it was a mistake to go in, we should get out, some argue. But this is unpersuasive. A doctor will warn that if you see a man stabbed in the chest, you shouldn’t rush to pull the knife out. We are in Iraq for good reasons and for reasons that were well-intentioned but wrong. But we are there.

    Those who say that it’s not the central front in the war on terror are in a worse state of denial than they think Bush is in. Of course it’s the central front in the war on terror. That it has become so is a valid criticism of Bush, but it’s also strong reason for seeing our Iraqi intervention through. If we pull out precipitously, jihadism will open a franchise in Iraq and gain steam around the world, and the U.S. will be weakened.

    The real trouble i’m having at the moment is that I don’t trust either the administration or the prominent Democrats to find a way to stabilize the situation in Iraq: the administration because it has shown an unusually low capacity to acknowledge and learn from its mistakes, and the prominent Democrats because they don’t appear to believe it’s important to stabilize the situation in Iraq.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  18. the votes of a bunch of foreign camel jockeys and falafel peddlers isn’t going to determine the deployment and recall of american troops.

    Although I somewhat agree with your sentiments, I’ll be we can all do without the racist remarks.

    Tom (2ae076)

  19. […] I was going to write a long, rambling post on my thoughts on the Iraq War, having found myself respectfully disagreeing with Patterico (“Reacting to Jonah Goldberg’s Column on the War” by Patterico of Patterico’s Pontifications) and Jonah Goldberg (“Jonah Goldberg: Iraq Was a Worthy Mistake” by Jonah Goldberg at the Los Angeles Times). Instead, I will refer you to the best editorial ever written about the Iraq War: “The War in Iraq Is Going Either Very Well or Very Poorly… Or So-So… I Think” by Frank J. of IMAO. Frank J. has a different but important perspective. Bravo, Frank J.! […]

    Iraq War: an editorial to read « Muslihoon (7a2424)

  20. Lots of truth has come out of the past six years, and it is a good thing that the U.S. now knows it is hated. This is not new.

    This WoT is going to be going on for decades, the price is going to be very high, and the average citizen is not ready for this. Everyone is tired, and they want to be able to enjoy the new fall TV season.

    For all those who love to look in the rear-view mirror, I wish you would consider if 1) The Taliban had given up Osama Bin Laden; and 2) Hussein simply abided by the U.N. resolutions and his agreement.

    TimesHater (9cc9ad)

  21. If there had been an earlier intervention into North Korea… Then Seoul would be a smoking ruin. Kim’s nuclear program is a joke but he’s got a massive amount of artillery pointed at the South Korean capital.

    Polybius (7cd3c5)

  22. Polybius: aye. The North Korean government survives entirely by holding South Korea hostage.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  23. Remember the Maginot Line? We won’t do a blitzkrieg around North Korea’s gun emplacements. We’ll take them out in three seconds with a few thousand tons of cruise missiles and smart bombs. If we have a strong enough reason to do so. And a President who has the guts to say “f___ you” to a country who is pointing twenty-five thousand nuclear warheads at us. But we have only had one President like that.

    nk (41da82)

  24. nk: saying ‘f___ you’ to a country with 25,000 nuclear warheads pointed at us could be a disaster if the other country overreacts.

    i’m not sure the gain is worth the risk.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  25. Aphrael, #23: I’m glad Reagan was President and not you, then.;) (BTW: Reagan was too much of a gentleman to use the F-word. I was speaking figuratively. But that’s what he did in substance and why the Soviet Union no longer exists.)

    nk (41da82)

  26. I don’t agree with pretty much anything about Goldberg’s article, although I do understand the point of view that led to it.

    –On the weapons of mass destruction, steve sturm correctly points out in comment #5 that we would still not know if he had them or not, and given the shape of the world this is not acceptable.

    –Again on weapons of mass destruction, we still don’t know what happened. Did he have them and move or destroy them (lots of credible reports they went to Syria), or did he just want the means at the ready to develop them, or did he never have them at all? Who the hell knows.

    –Probably Bush’s biggest mistake was basing the war on the WMD issue alone. There were many, many reasons to take him out, starting with a dozen or so violated UN resolutions.

    –I do agree that the war is a mess and that we have to fundamentally adjust our approach. I don’t see how the enemy could keep up this level of intensity without the massive support of Iran. That suggests (a) increasing our troop levels substantially, and (b) doing whatever is necessary to stop Iran’s involvement, if and when we can prove it. (According to some press reports this has already been established.)

    One thing is for sure: We can’t lose, we can’t cut and run. The consequences are unthinkable. And now the talk is that this Ramadan is the new Tet…very scary.

    [Bush definitely based his arguments for the war on more than WMD. — P]

    Gotta Know (25f8c8)

  27. Darn. I never know when colon close parenthesis will give me a smiley 😉

    nk (41da82)

  28. Going into Iraq was the right thing to do at the time.

    However, I very sadly view it as a mistake now. It appears that it is impossible for this country to unite behind a conservative president. The animosity of the left side of the political spectrum is truly apalling.

    Where do you think we would be in Iraq if 60% of the country and 75% of the political class supported our country’s efforts?

    Mike S (d3f5fd)

  29. I’m confused. Although I disagree with Aphrael so often on politics, I find myself agreeing with him/her a lot lately. LOL

    Back in 1991, I knew we would return to Baghdad as, I think, most adults did. We didn’t have the mandate from the U.N. to take Saddam out and George H.W. Bush was a man who liked to play by the (international) rules. so, we waited approximately a decade in which Saddam violated the sanctions against him repeatedly and vowed to create WMDs as soon as sanctions were lifted. Just as surely as Rambo would spawn a Rambo II, it was obvious we would have to confront him again.

    What bugs me now is all the second-guessing armchair quarterbacking from people like Goldberg. “If we knew then what we know now” just sounds to me like “Gosh, it’s just not worth taking out a tyrant like Saddam if we’re gonna lose 3,000 soldiers in 3 years.” Personally, I always think about D-Day or pretty much any day in WWII and thank God we have lost 3,000 soldiers in 3 years, not 3 days or 3 hours.

    Unfortunately, the “I knew it back then” telepathic crowd makes me roll my eyes as well. I don’t give a damn if you thought you knew it back then. It’s irrelevant. We’re there and the bigger mission is making it work so we don’t wring our hands in 10 years when some catastrophe happens because of Islamic terrorists. Mistake? I wish all mistakes could be along these lines instead of the “It’s gonna be Vietnam!” line.

    sharon (dfeb10)

  30. Mike S asked, “Where do you think we would be in Iraq if 60% of the country and 75% of the political class supported our country’s efforts?”

    Likely, we wouldn’t be in Iraq, we’d be home, and having stopped Iran’s nuclear program and put an end to the genocide in Dufar, we’d now be in a strong position to deal with NoKo.

    Black Jack (f29e3b)

  31. “If we knew then what we know now” just sounds to me like “Gosh, it’s just not worth taking out a tyrant like Saddam if we’re gonna lose 3,000 soldiers in 3 years.” Personally, I always think about D-Day or pretty much any day in WWII and thank God we have lost 3,000 soldiers in 3 years, not 3 days or 3 hours.

    I think part of the problem is that the costs are greater than this loss of life. Also that D-day was against the single large threat of the time — whereas saddam? not so much.

    actus (10527e)

  32. Unless you allow the military to bring the enemy to complete submission (unconditional surrender) the war will not be won.

    We can kick the can down the road and gain some time and peace at home but the enemy will re-energize and be back with a new bag of tricks.

    I submit as further evidence, the school board in Mass. who recently banned the game of “tag”.

    rab (fb89bf)

  33. What I read in Goldberg’s column was self serving crappola from beginning to end.

    I opposed the war because I, like many others, knew what we are seeing unfolding now would come about. It was pie in the sky to think things would be otherwise. This whole operation was a neo-con heist of the American military. George W. Bush is, and was, a fool.

    Now, I have moved on and think maybe Bush is, was, a fool for God. That is to say, that what we have seen in Iraq is what was fortold in prophecy about the beginning of the End Times.

    RJN (e12f22)

  34. The war wasn’t a mistake. Perhaps the mistake was thinking that the leadership of the Democratic party could put aside their childish petulance at having lost the White House in 2000 at least to the extent required to support the national interest in achieving a paradigm shift in our country’s approach to authoritarianism abroad, particularly in the Middle East — something that is as obvious today as it was in the aftermath of 9/11, notwithstanding the steady and deliberate efforts to undermine the nation’s will to achieve the objective.

    It is no coincidence that the Taliban is trying to stage a comeback in Afghanistan just as the Dems and their MSM megaphones are conceding defeat in Iraq. As long as the US is perceived as united in achieving victory, fence-straddlers in the Middle East, from grass root on up, are unlikely to side with our enemies, because no one wants to end up on the losing side. That doesn’t mean that criticism of the means to achieve victory is out of bounds — constructive criticism aimed at better achieving the common objective is good because it’s not out of the question that ideas for improvement could come from the left side of the aisle, at least in an alternate universe in which early 21st century Democrat leadership puts patriotism above partisanship.

    The near certainty that Islamofascists — really a violent political movement using an extreme interpretation of Islam as cover because that’s where political dissent is funnelled within authoritarian Islamic-majority countries — will eventually obtain nuclear, biological or chemical weapons makes the paradigm shift represented by the transformation of Iraq imperative. Contrary to assertions from those who oppose this objective, the war isn’t one of choice, but one of necessity. As a long-term strategic objective, the containment and reversal of the growth of Islamic fascism ranks up there with our cold war objective of containig communism. And the removal of the Hussein dynasty and its replacement with Iraqi self-government was both a necessary condition to the objective and the best opportunity to ensure success.

    Critics of US Cold War strategy claimed that the dominos weren’t real. But the end of the Cold War proved that they were indeed real, and moreover, they could fall either way, with similar effect. Iraq isn’t a mistake unless we abandon it. It’s a domino. The effect of winning or losing will be multiplied in the years that follow.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  35. I’m confused. Although I disagree with Aphrael so often on politics, I find myself agreeing with him/her a lot lately. LOL

    Thank you! 🙂 Since there’s a picture of me at my blog, albeit one that is almost a decade old, you should be able to determine my gender easily. 🙂

    In any event: I firmly believe there is middle ground that liberals and conservatives can find if they listen to each other; one of the reasons that I comment here is that, for the most part, the conservatives here do listen to liberals who spell out their reasoning … and I take your comment as a suggestion that, at least in part, we are discovering the middle ground. 🙂

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  36. TNugent: I’ll agree that the transformation of Iraq is imperative.

    I also think that it’s fairly clear that what we’re doing right now is not working.

    So what’s a strategy which will work?

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  37. Gotta Know (#26),

    –I do agree that the war is a mess and that we have to fundamentally adjust our approach. I don’t see how the enemy could keep up this level of intensity without the massive support of Iran. That suggests (a) increasing our troop levels substantially, and (b) doing whatever is necessary to stop Iran’s involvement, if and when we can prove it. (According to some press reports this has already been established.)

    This is a more important issue than many give it credit for. The strongest criticism of Rumsfeld is underestimating the staying power of the insurgency. We erred in our projections of how long or how strong the terrorists would continue to ping away at us. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

    The “flypaper” construct mentioned earlier is a perfectly valid one, and unless I’m mistaken a Tony Blankley column of somewhat more than a year ago spoke to the concept quite clearly, that it was a neat package deal to have terrorists lining up to come where our military is operating so that we can deal with them (more or less) on our terms rather than randomly throughout the world or the U.S.

    As retired military I would never wish to be accused of minimizing the tragedy of lost American lives, but a sense of scale is demanded when we talk about casualty numbers like 3,000 over the course of a 3 year-plus invasion/occupation. This is an especially low number, and emphasizes the efficiency of our military, when the asymmetric and unpredictable methodology of our enemy is considered.

    I’d also remind readers that during the course of Saddam’s reign in Iraq, a monthly average of more than 5,000 citizens were put to death by the regime, apart from criminal prosecutions or other “justifiable” causes. 60,000+ deaths per year as an average over nearly four decades. Unless you believe the Lancet study or IraqBodyCount, our presence has surely already saved massive numbers of lives in Iraq.

    So, even though we have accomplished a great deal, and brought a society toward the open air of freedom, it was wishful thinking on the part of our leaders that the transition from invasion, through occupation, to the eventual turnover of Iraq to its own sovereignty would be as much a cakewalk as the initial invasion.

    But back to the flypaper thing a moment. If we changed tactics enough to completely block the arrival of new externally-sourced insurgents into Iraq, we might find we are not fighting them so much on the streets of Iraq as on the streets of western nations. If the terrorists aren’t going to Iraq to fight us, where will they go? It isn’t as if they will simply stop being terrorists. So there is a conundrum of sorts.

    All that to say this: There are always more variables at work than can be seen from the outside, and every decision has not only intended but unintended consequences. Second-guessing and debating of how our administration is running the war is a valid exercise, but the “if I were in charge” arguments are often simplistic when faced with the complex reality of the situation.

    Regarding the idea of the citizenry voting for our continued presence in Iraq, that is not how a representative republic works, nor should it ever be. We do vote, for our representation and our leadership. They vote on our actions in international matters. When we disagree badly enough with their choices, we vote them out. To suggest a nationwide referendum is a scary concept.

    Freelancer (cb897a)

  38. P (#26): Yeah, Bush based his decision on more than WMDs, but I’m convinced he did so largely because he had neither the Congressional/public/international support nor the guts to go in alone on just the WMD issue… so he came up with the idea of liberating the Iraqis, building a democracy that would inspire all the downtrodden to rise up against the tyrants and so on.

    It’s ironic that the Dems, by refusing to back Bush early on forced Bush to invent all these other reasons for going in… as it’s these issues that keep Bush from ever getting out. Had the Democrats not stood in Bush’s way, we would have gone in, searched around, determined that Hussein really didn’t have anything to be afraid of and gotten out (and, like shampoo, repeating as necessary).

    Of course, had this happened, the Democrats wouldn’t be on the verge of taking back control of Congress… so, from the their point of view, forcing Bush into coming up with the silly idea of foisting democracy on Iraq has sure played to their advantage…

    steve sturm (b5aa23)

  39. Had the Democrats not stood in Bush’s way, we would have gone in, searched around, determined that Hussein really didn’t have anything to be afraid of and gotten out (and, like shampoo, repeating as necessary).

    I think that’s a very poor read on the situation, Steve. I do not believe there would have been support even within the Republican party for ejecting Saddam’s regime without creating a new one; and as soon as we’d taken the steps to create a new regime, the same problems we’ve had now would have occurred.

    President Bush was skeptical of ‘nation building’ in 2000 for a reason: it’s a *very* difficult task, and the US is not good at it. There was no way to decapitate the existing government without engaging in some form of nation building as a result.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  40. Freelancer: even assuming your math is right, I don’t care how many Iraqis have been ‘saved’ by our invasion, I – and, I believe, most of America – would rather have the 3,000 American soldiers still living. Ordering American troops into combat to protect America? Sure. Ordering them into combat, as George Stephanopoulos put it recently, to keep Iraqis from killing other Iraqis? No way, no how.

    And that is why, again I believe, the public doesn’t support the war. We don’t support Bush’s goal because we don’t believe that is going to make us any more safe… and if it isn’t going to make us more safe, why be there?

    steve sturm (b5aa23)

  41. Aphrael: First, I didn’t say we had to get rid of Hussein. We needed to make sure he didn’t have WMDs. We weren’t obligated to get rid of him.

    And, even assuming that we would have toppled Hussein, I disagree that one can’t take out a government without engaging in nation building. We could have gone in, gotten rid of Hussein and left it to the Iraqis to sort things out for themselves… with the warning that we’d come back if they screwed around with us. Even if we had to give Iraq the shampoo treatment every now and then, we would have spent far less – in money and lives – than we’ve spent hanging around Iraq for the past three years.

    steve sturm (b5aa23)

  42. WWII ended in 1945. The Korean Conflict ended in 1953. You didn’t happen to notice that we’ve been “hanging around” those places ever since? We are doing something nobody in history has ever attempted before, it’s surely not going to be simple, and President Bush never said it would be, quite the contrary.

    I respectfully disagree with steve sturm in that what we are doing in Iraq IS making America safer. As itemized earlier in the thread, Libya turned over it’s naughty toys and shut down terrorist training camps, and other bad people around the world are on notice.

    Yes, it’s imperfect. Yes, there have been mistakes. But another 9/11 would have in one instant cost as many lives, INNOCENT CIVILIAN LIVES, as all of the military losses since March 2003. We disagree, and that’s alright. I believe that the cause is just, and our goal the best for the world.

    Freelancer (cb897a)

  43. Bush based his decision on more than WMDs, but I’m convinced he did so largely because he had neither the Congressional/public/international support nor the guts to go in alone on just the WMD issue… so he came up with the idea of liberating the Iraqis, building a democracy that would inspire all the downtrodden to rise up against the tyrants and so on.

    In his 2002 State of the Union address, he says:

    First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice. And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world.

    Then he identified Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the “Axis of Evil,” and stated that Iraq is acting like a country with something to hide.

    But as I perused the speeches from September 2001 through January 2002, during which time we invaded Afghanistan, I noticed that he frequently talked about our having liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, not of having conquered Afghanistan or that once we got rid of the Taliban, we’d up and leave.

    Engaging in nation building right after you take out a bad regime has been The American Way since WWII. It’s a given. It’s our M.O., our signature move. I don’t know if anyone assumed that after taking out the Taliban, we’d leave the Afghanis to sort it out for themselves.

    So the bit about invading Iraq because of WMDs, that’s entirely true. But to say that nation-building was an afterthough? Hardly! It was an assumption from the beginning.

    And as for not planning for this to be long and drawn-out? Bush understood that from the moment the Towers went down.

    In his radio address on 15 Sep 2001, he said:

    Now we honor those who died, and prepare to respond to these attacks on our nation. I will not settle for a token act. Our response must be sweeping, sustained and effective. We have much do to, and much to ask of the American people.

    You will be asked for your patience; for, the conflict will not be short. You will be asked for resolve; for, the conflict will not be easy. You will be asked for your strength, because the course to victory may be long.

    And in a joint session of congress on 20 Sep 2001, he said:

    This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.

    Yeah, I thought we’d find WMDs when we invaded Iraq, but I am also not suprised by the fact that this is taking a long time, nor by the fact that it has recently increased in intensity. (The jihadis know how to sway an election, yo. Remember Madrid, 3/11.)

    Wars are always poorly executed. We look at Normandy as a success only because we happened to win that battle, but the battle itself? Horrific. I don’t know what people expect. We could take out all the jihadis at once in Iraq if we annihilated the Sunni triangle, but then we’d be taking out thousands of allies in the process.

    Ralph at #4 is right: the reason this war is so dispiriting is that it’s so hard to tell friend from foe. We’re winnowing out wheat from chaff while both entities are swirling around in the wind. We’re prodding around for straw-colored needles in a haystack. While under fire.

    You got a better idea? You think more troops would help us gather the requisite intelligence? You want to force the Iraqis to stop releasing the prisoners we turn over to them? I keep hearing people say that Bush isn’t learning from his mistakes, but no one is telling me anything specific: we discovered that there wasn’t enough armor on the vehicles, so we retrofitted the humvees, etc.

    Iraq a mistake? Yeah, in 1991. Dubya feels honor-bound to fix the mess his father left. I don’t blame him for being stubborn.

    dicentra (4dbb9e)

  44. The first few posts say a lot, I think.

    From day #1 the biggest foe is ourselves. Why did Bin laden think he could take on the US? Because we are a paper tiger, we will give up. All “they” have to do is stick things out long enough and “they” win. Should we vote on confirming his point? A senior N. Vietnamese general (someone else may supply the name) said that after the failed Tet offensive they concluded they could not win militarily, but they did not give up because they saw the erosion of will in the US that ultimately resulted in our failure to live up to the Paris Peace Accord agreements.

    I do not know if anyone bothered to look at the link provided by Suzy Q in post #1. The main result of the months of trying to work with the UN (which I agree needed to be done to some level) was to give Saddam 6 months to ship WMD to Syria. David Kay in the interim report of the Iraq Study group said, “SADDAM IS A BIGGER THREAT THAN WE THOUGHT.” because of the many violations they had found like long range missles under development, etc., etc. The problem was/is that you didn’t see that unless you looked at the entire transcript (or heard it somehow) of his sparing with Sen. Kennedy.

    Had we gone in with many more troops there would have been more legitimacy to the D*** nonsense that we were going in to occupy and take the oil. [We could go to Venezuela if we wanted to do that. 😉 ] Also, we had a heck of a lot smaller military in 2003 than in 1991 with GW-I because of the “peace Dividend” of military cutbacks during president Clinton’s administration.

    If we had news coverage of WWII like we do today, would Eisenhower been left in command after D-Day? I bet not.

    If you get into a street fight or a war it better be for a good reason and you better not second guess once you’re in it, or you are dead. If US sentiment gives in and Iraq is given up on I think anybody who joins the military after that would be a fool. Better to die for a cause that gets fulfilled than to die for a cause given up on, especially if it happens more than once.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  45. Jonah and the Wail: the Virtue of Ignorance…

    Here is one of those rare moments when I must vehemently disagree with Patterico, one of the people who got me into blogging in the first place (quite literally: Patterico’s Pontificaitons was the first of two sites that allowed me……

    Big Lizards (5ca406)

  46. In 2004 most GOP pundits and candidates were traveling downstream in their “swiftboats” attacking every Democratic candidate that dared to criticize the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. In 2006 you not only can’t find the GOP “swiftboat”, you can’t find a Republican willing to jump in and try to navigate the hapless dingy against the strong current of voter dissatisfaction with the seemingly never ending war.

    Someone throw Jonah a lifeline!

    Read more here:

    Daniel DiRito (066493)

  47. aphrael and Steve, I think WMD had a lot to do with the invasion of Iraq, but we didn’t invade Iraq because we thought it had stockpiles of WMD.

    The possibility (strong or not, depending on who you ask) that WMD stockpiles would be discovered in Iraq provided a justification strong enough to take the action needed to accomplish the objective. The objective was the transformation of a totalitarian, hostile and perhaps terrorist supporting nation in the heart of the Arab middle east into a self-governing republic in which open political dissent is permitted. The objective had to be accomplished before all of the proliferation furies got out of the box. That objective is a strategic one, not a tactical one, and it remains of extreme importance, even if, as aphrael points out, the implementation was flawed or even incompetently attempted.

    However bad the mistakes of the administration may have been in implementing the transformation of Iraq, at least two things should be clear: the transformation required the invasion, and the Democrats’ criticism failed in the very important respect that it did not clearly acknowledge the importance of the strategic objective. Instead, much of the opposition was fueled by rhetoric that calls for abandonment of the strategic objective, and this rhetoric itself continues to fuel for the terrorists and sectarian militia opposed to a successful establishment of a multi-ethnic, self-governing Iraq. And now that there appears to be blood in the water, it’s not just the Dems that are failing in the backbone department — some Republicans are proving that they too value re-election more than they value the strategic interest of the nation (term limits and an anti-gerrymandering Constitutional amendment, anyone?).

    Could the administration have prevented some of these problems by being more responsive to constructive criticism offered by Democrats? Perhaps, but before I’m convinced of that, I would have to see where the Democrats offered constructive criticism, as distinguished from mere obstructionism. There are a few exceptions, of course, but not among the nominal leadership of the Democrat party. So, as badly as the job may have been handled to date, at least the Republicans by and large recognize that the job is important. Until the Dems demonstrate that they understand that, they shouldn’t be trusted with leadership. The Republicans may not be quite as untrustworthy as the Democrats, but it’s a choice, not a referendum.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  48. Phased withdrawal/redeployment–most likely by concentrating troops in Kurdish areas–to keep them happy enough to prevent them from seceding.

    There are no good options. But, withdrawing US troops in an orderly manner to minimize destabilization is about the only way to go at this point.

    Geek, Esq. (74755c)

  49. Luckily the Union does not go to war on the President’s say-so, it requires Congress to say why the Union is going to war. It did so. WMDs were high up on the list, but also in that list was Saddam’s intransigence and non-compliance with the agreement that he had *signed* to be open and forthright in the ending of WMD *programs*. Note that it is not *weapons* but the entire kit and kaboodle he agreed to get rid of. He did not. He made no open and forthright attempt to be held accountable and actually get rid of those programs *and* get rid of his existing weapon’s stock. He did neither. Congress was extremely and crystal clear on that point *alone*. It was not the WMD’s but the non-compliance with an agreement as part of a ceasefire. After Aum Shinrikyo’s attempt to use a WMD in Tokyo, letting a tyrant set on local hegemony and antipathy to the Nation continue with those sorts of weapons is ludicrous. He was cited as being in non-compliance with international treaties and obligations. He was cited in continuing a brutal repression of his population, something he agreed to *end*. He did not account for soldiers and citizens of other nations that had *disappeared* in Iraq. Congress also notes that Saddam had attempted to assassinate a former President of the United States, which is *not* a friendly international *act*. Saddam continued to violate the ceasefire by actually *firing* on coalition forces multiple times. Congress notes that not only al Qaeda but multiple terrorist organizations have been training and getting support in Iraq under Saddam. The President is then set forth to uphold multiple international agreements that the US has signed up for that Iraq is in violation of.

    These are simple things to find, read and think about. By all known history of diplomacy, international agreements and right to exercise National Sovereignty the Congress forthrightly set the Union to war. WMD’s are a part of it and a major change in the calculus of them changed for the US after 9/11. Saddam didn’t believe that and paid the price.

    These toxic memes must end for they do no one good at all.

    ajacksonian (841f28)

  50. “Luckily the Union does not go to war on the President’s say-so, it requires Congress to say why the Union is going to war.”

    Ajacksonian this is actually not true. The president is commander in chief and the military is at his disposal. All congress can do is cut off the money. Congress does however pass resolutions of support, etc. from time to time.

    Gotta Know (4abbad)

  51. I think it is obvious at this point that the war was a mistake. I think it is also pretty clear the decision to go to war was not carefully considered. Instead Bush (or his top advisors) wanted to go to war for whatever reason and then looked for ways to justify a decision which they had already made. The WMD fiasco is no surprise as Bush and company had no interest in whether or not there were actually WMD in Iraq but only in whether they could use the possibility to gain support for the war they wanted.

    Golberg’s claim “In other words, their objection isn’t to war per se. It’s to wars that advance U.S. interests (or, allegedly, President Bush’s or Israel’s or ExxonMobil’s interests).” is wishful thinking. The real objection to the Iraq war was and is that it was not in the national interest of the United States. The upside of a friendly democratic state setting an example for the Middle East was always a ridiculous fantasy while the downside of the United States forced out of Iraq as Russia was forced out of Afghanistan is all too possible. The large costs further weigh the scales against war. Bush 41 faced a similar decision and correctly decided against trying to remake Iraq.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  52. Gotta Know: the Constitution clearly allocates the power to declare war to Congress.

    aphrael (12fba5)

  53. I agree,with everyone who disagreed with Jonah.I am as optomistic as GWBUSH.And I was delighted to hear that 20 million dollars has been drawn from the treasury for a victory celebration.

    hangover (33e430)

  54. JOHN STOCKWELL, FORMER CIA OFFICER: “It is the function of the CIAto keep the world unstable, and to proopagandize and teach the American people to hate, so we will let the Establishment spend any amount of money on arms.”

    DWIGHT EISENHOWER: “Beware the influence of the military industrial complex”

    FORMER CIA DIRECTOR-WILLIAM COLBY: “The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media.”


    ABRAHAM LINCOLN” “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

    JAMES MADISON: “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

    Consider what this Iraqi woman has to say:

    free (8d9f79)

  55. “Flip Flopping” to “Stay the Course”…

    Patterico updated his post about Jonah Goldberg’s column to note my response to it here. More or less, Patterico and I agree to disagree on the necessity of the Iraq War… but I did want to get at one point……

    Big Lizards (5ca406)

  56. Both Jonah and Patterico fail to discuss what a “mistake” means. It means a bad decision, not a bad outcome. Decisions are made at a point in time, and influence the outcome, which is ALWAYS a bit unknown at the time. Good decisions sometimes result in bad outcomes; but especially when every decision will result in a bad or worse outcome.

    Taking out Iraq after Afghanistan was the right decision, and the only one which makes sure Saddam doesn’t have nukes or other WMDs. Not attacking means the French continue pushing to end sanctions (“the US led sanctions kill 50 000 Iraq children every year…” or was that 500 000 ?), and certainly will be increasing support for Saddam.

    On WMDs, alone, taking out Saddam was correct.

    On the post-Liberation planning, looking at the successful, mostly peaceful Kurds — Rumsfeld was right, Bush had an OK plan, leave it up to the Iraqis. (An oil trust for all registered voters would have been better, as would local district representatives instead of extremist supporting proportional representation party lists.)

    The Arab Iraqis, especially Sunni and Shia extremists, are responsible for the violence.
    Not Bush, not America. Iraqis.

    Iraqis murdering other Iraqis — and lying about “not knowing” who the murderers are.

    The conservative pro-war frustration is that we haven’t “won”, and don’t seem able to. This idea is a mistake, because only Iraqi Arabs can win, like Iraqi Kurds pretty much already have.

    Bush needs to publicly blame the Arabs Islamists, over and over, on how they are murdering/ killing innocent Muslims. The US should have been keeping track of the deaths of Iraqis, too.

    The US needs to be in Iraq to make sure the pro-democracy Arabs know their gov’t soldiers can get enough US support to win any real battle they choose to fight.

    Jonah’s idea of letting Iraqis vote is OK — Bush should formally ask Maliki a yes/no question, should America withdraw its troops? Let their gov’t give a “vote of confidence” on keeping US troops there or not.

    Patterico’s idea of NOT patrolling is also OK — patrolling costs US lives. A ‘lot’, when they don’t speak the language. Another mistake since Bush 41, & Clinton, & Bush 43 is the lack of Arabic language training. There should be big Army bonuses for those who quickly learn Arabic, and there should be Skype based interviews sent from Iraq back to be translated into English (& both texts) in America. Possibly with civilian gay Arabic speakers working for the army but not in the army — and Jews and others who speak Arabic.

    But if the US commanders think patrols with Iraqis will be better, I’d trust their decision to risk soldier lives more than Patterico’s.

    On cash, Bush should call for an immediate end to government aid, to be replaced with US supported Iraqi municipal bonds. Cash on loan that Iraqis will repay — but that Iraqis, not US decision makers, will decide how to spend. So if the terrorists destroy newly built stuff, they’re destroying Iraqi stuff, not US gifts.

    Tom Grey - Liberty Dad (63acbf)

  57. Invading Iraq the BEST decision…

    Patterico agrees with but also criticizes a quick note of Jonah Goldberg.Jonah says: “The Iraq war was a mistake.…And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war……

    Tom Grey - Liberty Dad (b5f39f)

  58. Tom Grey:

    I guess it’s semantics, but I think you can make a decision that is correct based upon the information you have at the time, but that later turns out to be wrong with hindsight.

    I call that a mistake.

    Patterico (de0616)

  59. I’m with Big Lizards on this one, as you might be able to guess from my earlier comments on this thread. Calling the invasion of Iraq a mistake implies that the outcome would have been better had we not invaded. BL gives a pretty good rundown on the what-ifs, so I won’t do it again here in full — just the bottom line, though: Saddam Hussein, having won a huge victory over the US hegemon simply by surviving the first gulf war and subsequent sanctions (which, by the way, were not going to last much longer in any event, having been undermined and circumvented while at the same time being blamed for thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths), was going to emerge as more dangerous, more willing to deal with terrorist NGOs and more determined than ever to acquire his nuclear umbrella. That’s the alternative to invasion.

    That’s not to say there haven’t been mistakes. The most recent mistake by the administration was to let the class of 1991 anywhere near this thing. Baker, Scowcroft & Co. never supported the transformation of Iraq, but have always advocated putting short term stability at the top of the priority list, maintaining the status quo of authoritarianism and totalitarianism in the Arab middle east — the very conditions that drive political dissent toward jihadism. Their approach would only defer a confrontation with Islamic fascism until a day when Islamic fascism is better armed than it is today. The typical MSM portrayal of the Baker-Hamilton review of Iraq is that it represents dissent within the ranks. It’s nothing of the kind. It’s infiltration of the ranks by those who have always been opposed to the any effort to achieve the strategic objective, an opposition that, in 2003, required willful blindness to the utter failure of their own strategy of containment.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  60. I like you was disappointed that there No Huge Stockpiles of WMD, well none found yet and this too was my main reason for being for the War in Iraq! I voiced so many times!

    But, when I saw testimony in front of the SIC about the infrastructure to Ramp up Production of WMD in a matter of Weeks if not months it changed my mind immediately! Can you imagine a Ruthless Mad Man, as Saddam is, with WMD, his Oil Revenues, Hatred for the U.S. and his Known assoications with Al Quada and many other Terrorists groups being left to his own Devices!

    Very Scarey to me and reason enough for the War in Iraq! I feel we had NO choice!

    Saddams Financing and Training of Terrorists is a Fact, his many Contacts with Al Quada is a Fact! Saddam had, produced and used WMD, against his own people as well as the Iranians!

    Mike (f84a09)

  61. Part II:

    Me again, it is also clear that Saddam was Hell Bent on dominating the ME and its Oil!! And yes, I’m not afraid to say it, it is a Fact, It is about OIL!

    Again, imagine Saddam in control of Vast Oil deposits in the ME and the ability to Bully his neighbors, thereby controling much of this needed resource throughout the whole Region!!

    Again, Did we have a Choice, I think Not! And, if indeed Iraq becomes a Democratic Government and an Allie we will obviously have a military presence in the ME to fight Terrorism and this will also have a Stabilizing affect on the Region!

    Just imagine those countries such as Saudi Arabia feeling secure enough to go after the Terrorists in their own country as well as Pakistan, etc!

    I believe they call this the “Dominoe” affect!

    NO, we have no choice but to Win this War in Iraq for it is a lynch Pin in the on going GWOT!

    Mike (f84a09)

  62. […] I have said that the war in Iraq was a mistake. But even if you agree with me, that doesn’t dictate how we deal with the aftermath. As I said yesterday, if we simply beat a hasty retreat, we will be setting up Iraq for a terrible disaster. In some ways, we are already doing this. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » A Gruesome Taste of Things to Come (421107)

  63. I disagree with you!!:)

    Now why in the hell were we in Somalia, Bosnia, Hell, Viet Nam??

    I disagreed with all the above, it did not have a direct affect on this country! I believe those that try to deny Iraq’s part in The GWOT are either BLIND or have a PA!

    PS: This is by no means a negative comment on our military in any of the above conflicts and once we were committed, I, as many were committed to the mission, our “cut and run” in Viet Nam left 100’s of thousands dead, possibly in the millions!

    Here again, to quote Collin Powel(not one of my favorites, He Betrayed Bush),”If You Break it, You Own it!”

    mike (f84a09)

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