Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"We Got Attacked And Had To Respond"

Some folks say that about the Iraq war. I got into it on someone else's blog, and spent so much effort on a mere comment that I decided to paste it up here.

Yes, I understand that we are actually threatened to some degree by enemies in the Middle East. But in the wake of our invasion of Iraq, that country has become one of the biggest incubators of terrorism the world has known. (Maybe not the very biggest.) Just in the past few days, the Saudi minister of the Interior said that the lax security in Iraq has created a fertile ground for terrorists and a great danger to the region.

Anyone who understood that region before we invaded is not surprised by what has happened. Journalist George Packer published an article in the New York Times Magazine before our invasion called Dreaming of Democracy (free login required) in which several experts on democracy said that the ingredients for democracy do not exist in Iraq, that politics would take the form of vigilantism if we did not establish strong security right away. Also, in his archives from before the invasion, Juan Cole predicted much of what is happening now. Here is the permalink to Cole's essay called "The Risks of Peace, the Costs of War." Read this and try to tell me that no one could have known we would get into this mess in Iraq. Cole said that if we invade Iraq, we are likely to exacerbate the problem of terrorism. He also acknowledged the depravity of Saddam's regime -- he is not coddling our enemies here, as pro-war folks may say about him. He is understanding the complexity of the country and, to give my own summary, saying that we don't know enough about what we are doing to take on this task.

And according to George Packer's The Assassin's Gate, in the meeting with Bush and Cheney where Iraqi exile Kanan Makiya said that we would be greeted as liberators, there were two other Iraqi exiles (Hatem Mukhlis and Rend Rahim) who issued warnings: if we did not garner respect within two months of invading, we would have another Mogadishu on our hands; if we disbanded the army, we would be viewed as occupiers, not liberators; that tribal loyalties were very important to Iraqis; that none of the exiles that the Bush administration was listening to had been in Iraq for decades, so none of them really knew their countrymen that well any more.

But Cheney chose to listen only to Makiya, ironically the most liberal and idealistic of the Iraqi exiles. Cheney repeated Makiya's words to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" in the famous greeted as liberators statement.

Meanwhile, the intelligence about the existence of WMD's in Iraq was not conclusive. We could also not confirm their absence. But given this uncertainty, plus the warnings about the dangers of an invasion, I am very surprised that anyone, conservatives especially, thought the risk was worthwhile -- or, at least, that it was worthwhile without sending plenty of troops to make darn sure that we would be able to make the country secure, and without a very comprehensive and thorough plan for post-war reconstruction.

So no, I'm not convinced that our invasion was a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks. Honestly, it really does seem to be the pursuit of a neocon dream which had been written about long before 9/11, at the Project for a New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute, to name just two places. Go back and read old William Kristol/Robert Kagan articles for a good laugh about how Shiites would establish a democracy on their own if we liberated them.

By invading Iraq, we took a huge chance. The results of our invasion are commensurate with our government's understanding of Iraq, and its planning for the war.

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