OK, I’ll bite on bud’s parenthetical back on this thread:
(As a side note, its, funny how the folks who wanted that war in the first place pretend it acutally started with the “surge”, forgetting the fabricated justifications that led to the initial invation.)
While I know I won’t get anywhere with bud (he and I have had this conversation too many times for me to entertain false hopes), I believe that every once in a while — say once a year at least — I should rise up and contest the conventional “wisdom” that we went into Iraq based on a pack of lies.
Nothing that causes me to conclude that we should go into Iraq later proved to be false. I say this with all due respect to people who didn’t think we should have gone in to start with. A legitimate case could have been made at the time that invasion at that time was not the best way to achieve our goals. But saying, after the fact, that all the reasons to go in were lies is itself a lie. I know, because I know why I believed we needed to take that action.
I also know that nothing I have ever written or thought has ever pretended that the war started with the surge. On the contrary, what you will find is that the surge was the moment when we finally started prosecuting the effort the right way, instead of the Rumsfeld way. (I know that some folks’ minds are boggled by the concept that whether we should have been in Iraq and whether we were going about it the right way are two separate questions, but I ask them to bear with me on that point.)
As for the “fabricated justifications”… first, I’ll refer you to a post on my blog from last year, headlined “Why we went to war in Iraq.” It was inspired by an opinion piece I had read in the WSJ by Doug Feith. bud’s reaction at the time was “Doug Feith is full of s***.” Perhaps you will agree, but I urge you to go back and read it.
Then, going back further, to before the invasion itself, I refer you to my column of Feb. 2, 2003. You won’t find a lot of talk about WMDs and other such distractions. You will find a lot of stuff about “draining swamps.” The need to do that, after 9/11 showed that our old strategy of maintaining the status quo in the region was extraordinarily dangerous to this county, combined with the fact that Saddam had been violating for a decade the terms of the 1991 cease-fire, constituted the argument for me.
Anyway, here’s that column in its entirety:
THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH ABOUT WHY WE MAY HAVE TO INVADE IRAQ
Published on: 02/02/2003
By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
AMERICA SEES ITSELF, quite admirably, as a nation that doesn’t go around starting fights, but is perfectly willing and able to end them once they start.
Because of that, President Bush has a tall hill to climb when it comes to persuading the American people that, after 10 years of keeping Saddam Hussein in his box, we should now go in after him, guns blazing.
In his State of the Union address, the president gave some pretty good reasons why we need to act in Iraq, but were they good enough? I don’t know. Probably not. It’s likely that no one outside of the choir loft was converted by his preaching on the subject. And that’s a problem. Overall, while there have been moments over the last 16 months when he has set out the situation with remarkable clarity, those times have been too few and far between.
He has my sympathy on this count, though: His efforts have been hampered by the fact that the main reason we may need to invade Iraq is one that the president can’t state too clearly without creating more problems internationally than it would solve. At the same time, it’s a reason that seems so obvious that he shouldn’t have to state it. We should all be able to figure it out.
And yet, it seems, we don’t.
I hear people asking why, after all this time, we want to go after Saddam now. He was always a tyrant, so what’s changed? North Korea is probably closer to a nuclear bomb than he is, they say, so why not go after Kim Jong Il first?
We left him in power a decade ago, they ask, so why the change?
The answer to all of the above is: Sept. 11.
Before that, U.S. policy-makers didn’t want to destabilize the status quo in the Mideast. What we learned on Sept. 11 is that the status quo in the region is unacceptable. It must change.
Change has to start somewhere, and Iraq is the best place to insert the lever, for several reasons — geography, culture, demographics, but most of all because Saddam Hussein has given us all the justification we need to go in and take him out: We stopped shooting in 1991 because he agreed to certain terms, and he has repeatedly thumbed his nose at those agreements.
Iraq may not be the best place in the world to try to nurture a liberal democracy, but it’s the best shot we have in the Mideast.
I’m far from the only one saying this. The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, who has more knowledge of the region in his mustache than I’ll ever have, has said it a number of times, most recently just last week:
“What threatens Western societies today are not the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables — the boys who did 9/11, who hate us more than they love life. It’s these human missiles of mass destruction that could really destroy our open society. . . . If we don’t help transform these Arab states — which are also experiencing population explosions — to create better governance, to build more open and productive economies, to empower their women and to develop responsible news media that won’t blame all their ills on others, we will never begin to see the political, educational and religious reformations they need to shrink their output of undeterrables.”
Journalists can say these things, and some do. But if the president does, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Syrians and just about everybody else in the region will go nuts. In European capitals, and even in certain circles here at home, he will be denounced as the worst sort of imperialist. Osama bin Laden’s followers will seize upon such words as proof that the West has embarked upon another Crusade — not for Christ this time, but for secular Western culture.
None of which changes the fact that the current state of affairs in Arab countries and Iran is a deadly threat to the United States. So we have to do something about it. We’ve seen what doing nothing gets us — Sept. 11. Action is very risky. But we’ve reached the point at which inaction is at least as dangerous.
Should we go in as conquerors, lord it over the people of Iraq and force them to be like us? Absolutely not. It wouldn’t work, anyway. We have to create conditions under which Iraqis — all Iraqis, including women — can choose their own course. We did that in Germany and Japan, and it worked wonderfully (not that Iraq is Germany or Japan, but those are the examples at hand). And no one can say the Germans are under the American thumb.
But that brings us to a problem. The recalcitrance of the Germans, the French and others undermines the international coalition that would be necessary to nation-building in Iraq. It causes another problem as well:
Maybe we could accomplish our goal without invading Iraq — which of course would be preferable. By merely threatening to do so, we could embolden elements within the country to overthrow him, which might provide us with certain opportunities.
But the irony is that people aren’t going to rise up against Saddam as long as Europeans and so many people in this country fail to support the president’s goal of going after him. As long as they see all this dissension, they’ll likely believe (rightly) that Saddam might just hang on yet again.
If the United Nations, or at least the West, presented a united front, the possibility of Saddam collapsing without our firing a shot would be much greater. But for some reason, too many folks in Europe and in this country don’t see that. Or just don’t want to.
Maybe somebody should point it out to them.
Argue that we could have pursued other courses to achieve our legitimate goals. Fine. But don’t tell me the reasons I was persuaded we should invade were lies. I know better.