Friday, May 13, 2005

Until the End of he World

When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, the resentment rides high...

I knew I was in for a shitty week - 61 hours and counting.

Anyway, Gregory Djerejian (how the hell is that pronounced?...) of Belgravia Dispatch is always an interesting read. A recent article of his, Bush In (Early) Autumn, assesses US foreign policy over the last five years of Bush's presidency. It's, sort of, in three sections - the pre 9/11 section is interesting, if not (everything being relative) all that important and a lot of the post-9/11 stuff speculates on whether or not a Gore presidency would have reacted with sufficient determination to that attack on America. He speculates, for example that a Democrat administration may have treated 9/11 as a purely criminal matter, rather than an act of war. I know that many peaceniks on this side of the pond would say that that is how it should have been. Personally I don't believe the reaction to 9/11 had to be either/or. A two pronged response with precision military strikes on terrorist/paramilitary structures, together with criminal prosecutions on the support structures, would seem to be the correct approach for a nation state trying to deal with an intractable terrorist foe.

BD states that "...Al Gore would not have gone into Iraq. Ah you say, damn straight! And how better off we'd all be. We would have 1,600 more of our country-men still with us; 15,000 or so unmaimed; seemingly countless Iraqis not killed in collateral damage and daily suicide bombings; none of the painful transatlantic discord of the past years; US $ 200BB and counting still in the Treasury, and so on. How better off we'd be! Except that we wouldn't be." He then goes on to explain why Saddam had to be toppled, but that is not the same as a full scale invasion and occupation and it is hardly surprising that this administration is dodging the question of Iraqi withdrawal. One wonders if they ever intend leaving.

An interesting revisionist approach has taken place since the decision to go to war with Iraq. Back in January, Instapundit (he of the "real the whole thing" links to opinions he likes) tried to claim that the war in Iraq "was about remaking the Middle East, helping to establish a democracy in a vital spot" and that "[the suggestion that] the war was all about weapons of mass destruction is a bit dishonest". Well, reading this, I believe that it is his assertion that is a bit dishonest. Either the war was all about WMD or WMD was being used as an excuse to promote another agenda. Either way someone lied and he and other American right-wingers have been shifting the goalposts on Iraq since it became clear by the end of 2001 that an invasion of that country was on the cards.

That letter proves to me that, quite simply, 9/11 was the excuse needed for the Republican administration to do what they had always wanted to do - invade Iraq. In order to sell a war to the American people they had to be persuaded that Iraq was a threat to the US. This was impossible before 9/11 and still took a leap of faith afterwards. Nevertheless 9/11 and the subsequent threat of Iraqi WMD were the excuses the American administration used to make that leap of faith. Conventional wisdom now has it that everybody thought Iraqi WMD were a threat - well they didn't.

The joke that was Powell's presentation to the UN and the claims of former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who has been disgustingly smeared relentlessly by the right-wingers, even after being proven right, convinced many that lies about WMD were being pushed to persuade the masses that war was necessary. But the decision to go to war had been made. The revisionists now even claim that the reason for the strength of the insurgency in Iraq today is the delay caused by trying to go the "UN route" as a sop to the British. Now I've said that Instapundit was being dishonest, but he wasn't totally. I'm not sure about sowing the seeds of democracy but one does wonder why, in response to an attack by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists it was necessary to attack a secular fascist regime that was the enemy of all the other states in the region (those that more obviously harboured terrorists).

I believe that Iraq was actually seen as the softest touch in the region and of strategic interest to the US. Not "all about oil", but partly that, and partly to have a friendly buffer state between Iran and Israel, and partly to get out of the mess that is the alliance with Saudi Arabia (which was a significant root cause for 9/11 in the first place). The ferocity of the insurgency has surely shocked the Americans but, albeit with the benefit of hindsight, it is not totally unsurprising. Instead of having to attack a country two whole oceans away, the United States managed to bring a theatre of war to the jihadists doorstep.

So was the war worth it? I wasn't anti-war, personally, I found myself being glad that Saddam was being taken out, yet, at the same time, I was angry about the obvious lies being told and the way the American people were being lead by lies and propaganda into supporting it. However the biggest disappointment for me about what has happened is the damage done to "just war theory". Having seen Rwanda and Bosnia (not so much Kosovo however) in my own lifetime I do believe that there is a moral onus on western democracies to intervene to help oppressed peoples suffering across the world and Iraq was a prime example of this. Sanctions only hurt the poor whereas regime change should really only hurt the brutal. Iraq should have been the easiest of regime changes yet it hasn't turned out that way. Similarly Somalia in '93.

Basically I'm afraid that the Iraqi experience might prevent future interventions where they are needed and that saddens me.
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