19 June 2007

In Defense of the War

I remain convinced that military intervention was the appropriate course in Iraq. It has become fashionable to back away from that belief, claiming deception (Clinton, Kerry, etc) or simply incompetence (Tenet). It is too easy to take that course and assume that we would have acted differently if we had "all the facts," nevermind that no one can tell us how we would have acquired them with our pre-Invasion modus operandi.

Mario Loyola provides some insight into Tenet's tell-all and the run-up to the war:

But intel is not evidence. Intel is by its nature fragmentary and inferential. The evidence we needed in Iraq was on the ground in Iraq, and Saddam controlled all of it. When Tenet said the case for war was a “slam dunk” he was jumping the barrier that should separate intel and policy. The intel was ambiguous. Intel is always ambiguous, especially when the question is as vast as that posed by Iraq. Because the presumption was already against Saddam — and rightly so — the intel community’s ambiguous answer left Cheney and many other people with no doubt that Saddam had WMDs — as a policy judgment based on history and the totality of the circumstances, of which intel was only a part. Policymakers do not have the luxury of coming to no firm conclusion simply because the intel comes to no firm conclusion. What has been consistently missing from this whole debate is an appreciation of the fact that, given Saddam’s history, we had to presume the worst. By 2002, the only thing that could assuage our fears about Saddam was transparency in his regime. Without transparency, we were facing a potential threat of unknown scope that — should it ever materialize — could cause much more damage than a punitive action would be able to remediate.

Yes, a mistake was made, but clarification as to the weakness of our intel may have only raised the stakes. He continues:

And that meant that it was Saddam — not the United States — who had the burden of proof as to the WMDs. It was the administration’s failure to understand this and make this clear which has led to the widespread — and absolutely false — perception that because the pre-war intelligence was mistaken, it was a mistake to invade Iraq. If policy should never “cook” the intel, neither should intel “cook” the policy. Even if the administration had known how unreliable the CIA’s intel really was, the problem facing it would have been exactly the same.

It's a good article, worth reading in its entirety. Now that we've provided some clarity to the decision facing the country before the war, we can look at what to do now. Dan Senor looks at the likely outcome of following the Withdrawl/Timeline strategy:

Consider Brent Scowcroft, dean of the Realist School, who openly opposed the war from the outset and was a lead skeptic of the president's democracy-building agenda. In a recent Financial Times interview, he succinctly summed up the implication of withdrawal: "The costs of staying are visible; the costs of getting out are almost never discussed. If we get out before Iraq is stable, the entire Middle East region might start to resemble Iraq today. Getting out is not a solution."
And here is retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Centcom Commander and a vociferous critic of the what he sees as the administration's naive and one-sided policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East: "When we are in Iraq we are in many ways containing the violence. If we back off we give it more room to breathe, and it may metastasize in some way and become a regional problem. We don't have to be there at the same force level, but it is a five- to seven-year process to get any reasonable stability in Iraq."

...It would be one thing if only the architects of the Bush policy and their die-hard supporters opposed withdrawal. But four separate groups of knowledgeable critics--three of whom opposed going into Iraq--now describe the possible costs of withdrawal as very high.
If the Realists, neighboring Arab regimes, our intelligence community and some of the most knowledgeable reporters all say such a course could be disastrous, on what basis are the withdrawal advocates taking their position?

They are pursuing a political strategy that will lead to real-world trouble. Tony Blair addressed both the decision to invade and the need for our continued presence there.

It is so comforting to people to say there was an error made in the planning. Someone didn't spot what was going to go on. That is not what has created the problem. What has created the problem is that the people we are fighting have decided to give us a problem.
What they have decided is that if they can hang on long enough in Iraq, or in Afghanistan, or anywhere else, then we will lose the will.
If we end up saying that because these people are committing these acts of terrorism in Iraq or Afghanistan, that we shouldn't have done the removal of Saddam or the removal of the Taliban, then we are making a fundamental mistake about our own future, about security, about the values we should be defending in the world.

I always have to cut these posts short. There's just not enough time to deal with everything. Just read the articles if you are interested and know that I stand by the decision to invade and the need for us to stay. The reasons that the media and the left provide for each of those do not give the whole story. This video was created by a 15 year-old girl (story here). It is a sentimental tribute, but worth a look as I think it resonates with the real feeling here.

No comments: