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The War in Iraq: lost opportunities

December 16th, 2011

From the title you can probably guess I was in favor of the invasion of Iraq. There’s a difference, you see, between something being a bad idea and something being done badly. Invading Iraq was a good idea, even if the reasons W gave were complete horseshit.

There were no nukes in Baghdad, al Qaeda wasn’t particularly interested in Saddam. The casus belli were (was? I’m no Latin expert) weak. At least from a just war standpoint.

But from a geopolitical standpoint (because “just war” is one of those neat philosophical ideas that evaporates when it comes into contact with reality) there was no good reason for the Anglo-American alliance to not invade Iraq in 2003.

First, we’d been at war for over 10 years. An complete reading of history will say: Iraq War (1990-2012). America and Britain alone were responsible for containing someone who was in a position to fuck up a critical, delicate part of the world AFTER he got his ass kicked once. France didn’t help, Russia didn’t help, China didn’t help. Hippies driving to protests didn’t help. We’d been fucking with Hussein long enough and it was time for him to go.

As an aside, so what we supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war? Realpolitik, look it up (which should not be taken as an uncritical endorsement of political realism).

Second, you’ll recall, Saddam was an asshole. No one disputes that.

Third, and the point in my analysis, bases. America’s allies in the middle east are either small or unreliable. Or both. A big ass Rammstein type air/army base in northern Iraq would have put given us a stable, large point to project power from and specifically put us in a good position to intimidate two major state sponsors of terrorism, Syria and Iran.

I will allow, in hindsight, the possibility that the effort as Bush saw it was doomed. Iraq was never going to be a Jeffersonian democracy. America isn’t and really never has been good at subtlety, which made for a quick war and a bad occupation. The Bush administration was a bunch of incompetent boobs whose only basis for decision making was political advantage. Rumsfeld in particular was an idiot, even though he got an undeserved hard time for repeating truths like “you go to war with the army you have” and “there are things that you don’t know you don’t know.” But the best thing that could be done for the American military would be turning the Pentagon into an insane asylum, so Rummy was a contribution more than a cause.

So, yeah, the Iraq War was a horrific failure, but it wasn’t a bad idea.

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