On Iraq War As A Mistake

Annie

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I have to keep reminding myself of this, nearly daily:

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ed...icles/2006/10/22/if_we_had_known_then?mode=PF

If we had known then...

By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | October 22, 2006

WAS IT a mistake to go to war in Iraq? The latest voice to say so is that of conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online's shrewd editor-at-large and, until last week, a supporter of the war.

Goldberg hasn't become a John Murtha clone; he still believes that a precipitous American withdrawal would hand the jihadis a victory, and that finishing the job is preferable to bugging out and leaving Iraq a shambles.

But he has concluded that invading Iraq was the wrong choice, however well-intentioned. ``The Iraq war was a mistake," he writes, ``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."

Is that really how this war -- or any war -- should be judged?


In 1812, Congress declared war on Great Britain, in part because of Britain's crippling blockade of US ports and the forced impressment of American seamen into the Royal Navy. Butif Americans had known in 1812 what they found out in 1814 -- that the enemy would capture Washington and burn the Capitol, the Treasury, and the White House -- would they have gone to war with Britain? Perhaps not. Does that mean the war was a mistake?

We know now that the War of 1812 ended not with a US defeat, but with Britain, a superpower of the day, fought to a stalemate by its former colonies. As a consequence, the young republic earned international esteem; never again would Britain challenge American independence. Indeed, never again would the two nations go to war. If Congress had known that in 1812, would it have voted for war? Quite likely. Maybe by an even larger majority.

Wars are routinely botched, and the Iraq war is no exception. Overconfidence, intelligence failures, poor planning -- none of it is unique to the current war or the current administration.

In 1944, the Allies were sure that Hitler was nearly beaten, that the Germans had no appetite for a counteroffensive, and that the quiet Ardennes Forest along the Belgian-German border was a good place to send rookie soldiers and exhausted units needing a breather. It took the generals utterly by surprise when Hitler threw a quarter of a million troops against the Ardennes, launching what would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. It was the bloodiest encounter of the war for US troops -- five ghastly weeks during which 19,000 American soldiers lost their lives, and another 60,000 were maimed or captured.

Today we realize that the Battle of the Bulge was Hitler's last gasp, and that the European war would be over a few months later. But at the time there were fears that the war might grind on for years. Doubtless some Americans found themselves thinking that the war with Germany had been a blunder -- one that could have been avoided ``if we had known then what we know now."

Iraq is not the first war to plummet in popularity. At the start of the Civil War, many Northerners giddily anticipated a quick victory. Secretary of State William Seward ``thought the war would be over in 90 days," writes historian David Herbert Donald in his biography of Abraham Lincoln. ``The New York Times predicted victory in 30 days. "

Had they had an inkling of the carnage to come, would they have cheered Lincoln's bid to save the Union? Long before the war's end, the cheers would turn to censure. By 1863, the war was being denounced in Congress as ``an utter, disastrous, and most bloody failure," while Lincoln and his administration were despised for their incompetence. ``There never was such a shambling, half-and-half set of incapables collected in one government," Senator William Pitt Fessendon of Maine said in disgust, ``before or since the world began."

The point isn't that the violent mess in Iraq today is analogous to the Civil War in 1863, or to the Ardennes in 1944, or to the burning of Washington in 1814. The point is that we don't know. Like earlier Americans, we have to choose between resolve and retreat, with no guarantees about how it will end. All we can be sure of is that the stakes once again are liberty and decency vs. tyranny and terror -- that we are fighting an enemy that feeds on weakness and expects us to lose heart -- and that Americans for generations to come will remember whether we flinched.
 

Gunny

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I believe now the same thing I did 15 years ago -- a belief that was held by Bush the Elder and most of the military minds at the time -- that leaving Saddam in power was the lesser of two evils.

That is not to say there were not plenty of legitimate reasons for removing him from power. There were.

Nor is it backing off support for keeping a semi-democracy in power in Iraq since we DID invade. I support dealing with the situation as it is NOW ... not a lot of what-iffery.

It is simply saying that had it been my decision, I would not have removed Saddam from power. IMO, his sitting right in the middle of Islam and keeping it off-balance outweighed any saber-rattling at us he was doing.
 
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Annie

Annie

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I believe now the same thing I did 15 years ago -- a belief that was held by Bush the Elder and most of the military minds at the time -- that leaving Saddam in power was the lesser of two evils.

That is not to say there were not plenty of legitimate reasons for removing him from power. There were.

Nor is it backing off support for keeping a semi-democracy in power in Iraq since we DID invade. I support dealing with the situation as it is NOW ... not a lot of what-iffery.

It is simply saying that had it been my decision, I would not have removed Saddam from power. IMO, his sitting right in the middle of Islam and keeping it off-balance outweighed any saber-rattling at us he was doing.
That I can respect. Originally I thought the idea of 'democracy' in Iraq a nutty wish for. Then came the elections and I had hope for it. No more. Now I figure it will eventually become 3 states or another 'Tito' will be found. In any case, I do hope we will be able to establish a 'launching pad' from there, but not so sure of that.
 

onedomino

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Like earlier Americans, we have to choose between resolve and retreat, with no guarantees about how it will end. All we can be sure of is that the stakes once again are liberty and decency vs. tyranny and terror -- that we are fighting an enemy that feeds on weakness and expects us to lose heart -- and that Americans for generations to come will remember whether we flinched.
We have flinched before: 1975 Vietnam, 1983 Beirut, 1993 Mogadishu. These political failures of resolve dishonored our military and emboldened our enemies. If we make the same mistake in Iraq, it will be catastrophic and signal to the world that America can be beaten with atrocities and acts of terror. If we lose our resolve in Iraq, we can be sure that terrorism will increase because we will have taught our enemies that, while no one can hope to cope with the American military on the battlefield, US political determination will "lose heart" and can be defeated. From there, we might as well mail it in.
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Annie

Annie

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We have flinched before: 1975 Vietnam, 1983 Beirut, 1993 Mogadishu. These political failures of resolve dishonored our military and emboldened our enemies. If we make the same mistake in Iraq, it will be catastrophic and signal to the world that America can be beaten with atrocities and acts of terror. If we lose out resolve in Iraq, we can be sure that terrorism will increase because we will have taught our enemies that, while no one can hope to cope with the American military on the battlefield, US political determination will "lose heart" and can be defeated. From there, we might as well mail it in.
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Agreed. And related:

http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=d5084da3-8ba8-445d-97b2-931dab036691

...

HH: Mark, your colleague at National Review today, and a guest on this program, Jonah Goldberg, wrote a column saying the Iraq war was a mistake. And I shake my head, both at the profound wrongness of that, but also its timing. And it seems to me, as we come up to this election, so much is in the balance, that it’s almost hard to overstate how badly things could go with a Democratic majority.

MS: Yes, and I think it’s simply a mistake to argue about whether a war is a mistake. Once you’re in it, I think the best thing to do is to win it. And obviously, it’s not easy. Nobody said wars are easy. And that’s why I think in fairness to Jonah, who is a very agreeable person, and I’m sorry to see him join the great flock of molting hawks, because I think it’s grossly irresponsible to argue the case for a war, and then three years later, to decide oh no, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. I’m sorry, it’s…right now, what is at issue for everybody but the Iraqi people, is American credibility. And by that, I mean I think I said in the book somewhere that if you happen to be living in Fallujah, or you happen to be living in Tikrit, or you happen to be living in Basra, the Iraq war is about the Iraqis. But if you are living in any other country in the world, the interest in the Iraq war is in the credibility of the United States, and its ability to be a credible superpower in the 21st Century. And we know what happened in Vietnam. Vietnam had incredible long-term consequences, in part because people drew the conclusion that the United States was just this sort of effete sissy, pampered, corpulent, lazy kind of late-period Ottoman sultan, puffed up on his cushions. And if you gave the guy a little tiny pin prick in his toe, he’d just squeal in pain, and you wouldn’t have to bother defeating him, that in other words, the United States is not a credible superpower. And that’s where I think Jonah’s making a mistake in going through this all over again.

HH: The heart of the book, to me, America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It, and again, it’s linked at Hughhewitt.com, is this excerpt:

“So we have a global terrorist movement, insulated within a global political project, insulated within a severely self-segregating religion, whose adherents are the fastest growing demographic in the world. The jihad, thus, has a very potent brand inside a highly-compartmentalized, and very decentralized network, much, much more efficient than anything the CIA can muster.”

That’s profoundly pessimistic, though I believe accurate, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yes, it is. I mean, I think if you look at the trouble the KGB had to go to, to plant sleepers in the United States, they had to establish fake identities for these people. They had to leave them there for decades, so that they could…to establish the credibility of these identities. They had to go through an awful lot of trouble, the clichés of the spy thriller genre, the dead drops in the park, and all the rest of it. And you don’t have to do anything with this, because these mosques, these radical mosques, are on Main Street. They’re on Main Street in every town in the United States, and in Canada, and throughout Europe. That is a huge advantage to any ideological project. Can you imagine what things would be like if Hitler had had high schools all over the North American continent, if there’d been a Hirohito High in Portland, Oregon, the way there are radical mosques there, and indeed, even jihad training camps there.

HH: Now let me ask you, do you think a lot of the complacency in the West comes from a not so well concealed racist view that these Muslims simply can’t compete with us?

MS: Yes, I think it’s hard…I think it’s hard for people to take them seriously as an enemy, because after all, we’ve got guys living in caves. I mean, Osama bin Laden, who is the face of this enemy, lives in a cave in some part of the Afghan/Pakistani border, supposedly. And that’s hard for anybody to take seriously as an enemy, because we’ve got better planes, better bombs, better guns. You know, Bill Clinton was basically doing terrorist shtick in his speech the other night…

HH: Right.

MS: …mocking the way…oh, the Republicans, they’re trying to scare you, they’re trying to tell you there’s a terrorist on every corner who’s trying to kill you. In other words, there is no enemy. There’s nothing to worry about. But the Muslims look at us, and they think you know, those tanks, those bombs, those guns, all that money, all that technology, it’s no advantage. In a long struggle, put your money on will and manpower.

HH: And they’ve got both of those.

MS: Exactly. They’ve got…they’re churning out millions of young men. And if you know, I mean, everybody knows this, that says statistically, and even in the most law-abiding community, it’s the…even if there’s someone stealing beer and cigarettes from the convenience store, and that’s the only crime there is, it’s generally committed by young men in their teens and twenties.

HH: Yup.

MS: And so that’s what Islam has millions and millions of, young men in their teens and twenties. They’ve got millions of them in Yemen, they’ve got millions of them in Pakistan, and they’ve got millions of them in Europe.

HH: And they don’t have cars, they have AK-47’s.

MS: Yeah.

HH: Let me ask you, Mark Steyn, you suggest here that Benedict may well…I don’t know if you were joking with us or not, may well have picked his name, anticipating what he foresaw for Europe. Do you really think that was on his mind?

MS: I do think so.

HH: Explain then what could be the motivation behind Benedict’s choice of name.

MS: Well, you know, he named himself after the original Benedict, who was the man who basically saved dying civilization, and preserved the best of it, through the Dark Ages in Europe. He saved the best of Greek and Roman civilization, effectively fused it with Christianity, and laid the foundations for the modern age, the modern world we live in, which is the continued inheritance of our Judeo-Christian tradition, connected back through the Roman Empire, and to the Greeks. In other words, a seamless chain of civilization running back thousands of years. And the reason that he did…that we have that, is because one very brave man, as I said, the original Benedict, helped preserve the best of Greek and Roman civilization when it might have been lost to posterity. So in a sense, we owe the modern world to that man’s foresight and understanding. And I think Pope Benedict did not choose this name by accident.

HH: And do you think this Benedict is undertaking the project that…and moving with the speed he needs to?

MS: Well, I think he has thought about this, and I think he realizes that the challenge…if the challenge for his predecessor was bringing freedom to Eastern Europe, then the challenge for Pope Benedict is really to see if you can rouse Western Europe. And if you can’t rouse Western Europe, then what you have to do is try and find some alternative nesting place for Christianity, until whoever gets real again in Western Europe, decides that they’re ready again to embrace their own inheritance, and their own culture.

...
 

Gunny

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That I can respect. Originally I thought the idea of 'democracy' in Iraq a nutty wish for. Then came the elections and I had hope for it. No more. Now I figure it will eventually become 3 states or another 'Tito' will be found. In any case, I do hope we will be able to establish a 'launching pad' from there, but not so sure of that.
The idea of a Western-style democracy in Iraq IS a nutty thing to wish for. Arab society in general does not comprehend Western-style democracy. The best we could ever hope for is a bastardized Arab version. Wishing for anything more is improbable bordering on delusional.

On the military side, the religious/factional infighting was an anticipated result of removing Saddam. That's why it has boggled my mind from Day One that we did absolutely nothing to head it off at the pass. That's what happens when politicians get their little noses into a game they know nothing about, and base their decisions on political wishful thinking and appeasement rather than the reality on the ground.
 

Gunny

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We have flinched before: 1975 Vietnam, 1983 Beirut, 1993 Mogadishu. These political failures of resolve dishonored our military and emboldened our enemies. If we make the same mistake in Iraq, it will be catastrophic and signal to the world that America can be beaten with atrocities and acts of terror. If we lose our resolve in Iraq, we can be sure that terrorism will increase because we will have taught our enemies that, while no one can hope to cope with the American military on the battlefield, US political determination will "lose heart" and can be defeated. From there, we might as well mail it in.
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We already taught our enemies that, and that is what they are counting on. Ho Chi Minh used it as a weapon against us as effectively as if he had ICBMs. That he turned a Nation against itself internally was just gravy. These terrorists are using an identical strategy, and the morons around here aren't even smart enough to see it after having fallen for it before.

Anyone who doesn't see the ramped-up violence in Iraq as an attempt to sway the midterms in this country just ain't seeing.
 

onedomino

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We already taught our enemies that, and that is what they are counting on. Ho Chi Minh used it as a weapon against us as effectively as if he had ICBMs. That he turned a Nation against itself internally was just gravy. These terrorists are using an identical strategy, and the morons around here aren't even smart enough to see it after having fallen for it before.

Anyone who doesn't see the ramped-up violence in Iraq as an attempt to sway the midterms in this country just ain't seeing.
I agree. The warhead contains images of atrocities and terrorism penetrating American living rooms, and the delivery vehicle is our own media. From what I have read, this is precisely what happened to kill American resolve in Vietnam.
 

Bullypulpit

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insein

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Neither the War of 1812 nor W.W.II bear any resemblance at all to the invasion of Iraq. Chimpy McPresident's decision to invade Iraq was one of choice, not necessity. And by every measure of any just war theory I have ever seen, it did not then, nor does it now, meet the criteria of just war.
Saddam had WMDs. Saddam had ties to terror groups. Iraq is in the middle of the Middle East, terrorist breeding ground. We declared War on all Terror Groups and the regimes that harbored them in 2002. Sounds pretty cut and dry, bully. Only you and those that have the same learning disability as you cant seem to grasp the concept.
 

Dr Grump

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Saddam had WMDs. Saddam had ties to terror groups. Iraq is in the middle of the Middle East, terrorist breeding ground. We declared War on all Terror Groups and the regimes that harbored them in 2002. Sounds pretty cut and dry, bully. Only you and those that have the same learning disability as you cant seem to grasp the concept.
He may or may not have had WMD's. One thing seems certain, he didn't have them at the time of the invasion. Even if he did have them, they were not an immediate threat to the US. His links to terror groups is tenuous at best. If the US has declared war on terror groups then watch out Indonesia, India, Philippines, Peru, Columbia, NK, China, Russia, Algeria yadda, yadda, yadda.
 
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Annie

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Neither the War of 1812 nor W.W.II bear any resemblance at all to the invasion of Iraq. Chimpy McPresident's decision to invade Iraq was one of choice, not necessity. And by every measure of any just war theory I have ever seen, it did not then, nor does it now, meet the criteria of just war.
from the concluding paragraph:

The point isn't that the violent mess in Iraq today is analogous to the Civil War in 1863, or to the Ardennes in 1944, or to the burning of Washington in 1814. The point is that we don't know. Like earlier Americans, we have to choose between resolve and retreat, with no guarantees about how it will end. All we can be sure of is that the stakes once again are liberty and decency vs. tyranny and terror -- that we are fighting an enemy that feeds on weakness and expects us to lose heart -- and that Americans for generations to come will remember whether we flinched.
 

Gunny

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Neither the War of 1812 nor W.W.II bear any resemblance at all to the invasion of Iraq. Chimpy McPresident's decision to invade Iraq was one of choice, not necessity. And by every measure of any just war theory I have ever seen, it did not then, nor does it now, meet the criteria of just war.
Of course not. If Iraq had fired a nuke into DC it wouldn't meet YOUR criteria for a Republican President to invade.
 

Gunny

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He may or may not have had WMD's. One thing seems certain, he didn't have them at the time of the invasion. Even if he did have them, they were not an immediate threat to the US. His links to terror groups is tenuous at best. If the US has declared war on terror groups then watch out Indonesia, India, Philippines, Peru, Columbia, NK, China, Russia, Algeria yadda, yadda, yadda.
There's no "may or may not have". He used them. Pretty-damned cut-n-dried.

They don't have to be an immediate threat to the US .... just US allies by treaty, or US interests. DO try and read up.

And hey, I'm all for taking out terrorists by whatever means necessary WHEREVER found.
 

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