Friday, June 22, 2007

On Iraq

This site isn’t about the war in Iraq, but it is about Bush. And his actions on immigration spill over into other areas. So I asked myself how I feel about Iraq, and I offer these insights.

First, Saddam needed to go. His sins are many and we are all second-guessing the decision now, but five years have dimmed the original problem. He ruled ruthlessly. He had used gas to kill the Kurds. He was thumbing his nose at UN inspectors, despite all warnings. He was a friend to terrorists. He celebrated in the streets on 9/11. And most of all, he stood up to us in 1990 and lived to tell about it, giving him some status as a hero in the middle east.

Second, Saudi Arabia was weakening as an ally. We needed a presence in the middle east, and Iraq is centrally located.

Third, perhaps democracy, coupled with oil revenue, was possible somewhere in the desert. Maybe Iraq was that somewhere.

Let me say that the morning the twin towers collapsed my first thought was that air travel was going to be a disaster in the future. My second thought was that I was glad Gore wasn’t in the White House. I took great comfort in knowing that Bush had Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Ashcroft. It was nice to know that he could call George, Sr. for advice. Bush may have been a “C” student, but he was surrounded by veterans.

Below are some interesting quotes from Schwarzkopf’s biography about the futility the idea of invading Iraq. The context is a discussion about why Stormin’ Norman was ordered to stop at Basra, rather than continue on and destroy Saddam and the Republican Guard:

“He understood the thinking behind the hands-off approach: concern over the United States getting enmeshed in what could only be a highly risky, probably fruitless, attempt to resolve the age-old internal conflicts of Iraq; and skepticism over the possibility of identifying any coherent opposition force to put in Saddam’s place.

“There was also the fear of a “Lebanonization” of Iraq, which might leave a Shiite entity in the south and a Kurdish enclave in the north. It was one thing to have proceeded with the war; it was another to reopen it with murky political objectives, no UN mandate, and a great deal of regional uneasiness.” In the Eye of the Storm, 1991, pg 328

Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense in 1992 and this is what he had to say about Iraq at the time:
"I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home..."
"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."
We sometimes forget that Iraq is not an ancient geographical creation. It was a rather arbitrary map drawn by the British after WWI. It has no unified culture (Now there’s an immigration point to be made!).

But our point of view from the early 1990’s cannot compare to with the post-9/11 world. Things are different. There was justifiable pressure to make a show of force in the middle east. It would have been nice to surgically attack bin Laden, but that isn’t possible. So we attacked one of his friends; a man that needed to go anyway. The Clinton approach would have been to lodge a protest at the UN and talk of embargo, another impossibility.

My personal criticism about the war has more to do with execution than raison d’ eter. We made some big mistakes:
1) We debated it in Congress for six months before we began.
2) We over-used the shock and awe technique, thus destroying too much infrastructure and angering the citizenry.
3) We have waged a soft war for too long, rather than fighting to win.
4) We failed to decide to be an occupying force.
5) If they can’t handle democracy at this time, what is our plan?
6) We’ve lost the confidence of people like Colin Powell.
7) We have failed to win the battle with the embedded reporters and ex-Generals on CNN.

I think the cause is a worthy one. I think it can be won. I think our troops are doing a great job. I think they need leadership.


  1. So who ya gonna vote for, Mr. A.R.?

  2. Put me in the undecided column. By the end of the year we'll see if the Troop Surge idea did any good.
    One Vote