Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Casus Belli

An article in today's Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/27/AR2005062701584.html; you'll need to register but it's free) summarized the movements in London and Washington during the runup to our adventure in Iraq. It pointed out the problems faced by the Bushite Junta (thin intelligence, weak public support and no postwar planning), and the concerns that the Blair Government had about the whole thing. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser, David Manning, even went so far as to say, "They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it."

The Blair Government also viewed with a certain amount of alarm that the US had stepped up its bombing campaign in Iraq months before the UN resolution allowing the use of force, and the prevailing opinion was that the rest of the Bush Administration considered Powell's speech to the UN in 2003 to be a sham.

So, with all the inevitability of a Greek tragedy and the awful grandeur of a slow-motion train wreck, we went to war in Iraq. Then the mistakes started to rear their ugly heads. We weren't able to get the pipelines running at 100% as Wolfowitz had so blithely assured us, our viceroy in Baghdad (Medal of Freedom winner L. Paul Bremer) fired the entire Iraqi Army (which guaranteed an insurgency, by the way - throw that many soldiers out on the street with no pay and you're just ASKING for trouble), our equipment proved inadequate to protect our troops, etc.

Could it have been avoided?

My contention is that it couldn't have been avoided, no matter what anyone did. Bush had wanted to settle scores with Hussein even before he was nominated in 2000, and he had surrounded himself with people who thought the way he did or wouldn't say No to him. Surrounding yourself with sycophants guarantees that your point of view will be reinforced, but it also guarantees that bad decisions will not be argued with. And invading Iraq was A Bad Decision. Here's why:

1. We had the Taliban and al Qaeda on the run in Afghanistan, and the rest of planet was supporting us because they saw the danger. Now, if Pakistan would have cooperated with us, Osama bin Missin might be dead or in custody now.

2. Iraq was contained, pure and simple. Saddam had abandoned his WMD programs, and if someone had listened to people other than Achmed Chalabi, we'd have known that.

But we are there now, public support is dwindling, and Bush knows it. The long-lasting cloud of Certainty that has muffled his ears and blinkered his eyes is starting to fade away. I hope that when the time comes we can extricate ourselves from this mess, and then concentrate on reestablishing our credibility and our reputation.

Because both our credibility and our reputation have been shattered. In trying to fight terror, we have detained without arrest or trial, tortured and abused, and invaded another sovereign nation. Iraq is now the best and largest training camp for terrorists ever (this according to General Abizaid, btw). Nations now consider us a threat, or at least someone that can't be trusted.

Strange days.


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