Thursday, March 27, 2008

How did I get Iraq right?

In light of the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, Slate is running a series of essays by "liberal hawks" who supported the decision to go to war. It's called "Why Did We Get It Wrong?" Most of the essays are very self-serving, with the authors blaming other people for their mistakes: Bush, Colin Powell, the Iraqis, "expert opinion," etc., and so on. (And Christopher Hitchens, bless his heart, insists he wasn't wrong at all.) It's a bit pathetic at times.

But since I was against the war -- "an immoral and potentially disastrous policy" as I called it -- from the start, I figure I'm more entitled to look back than they are. Five years ago, shortly after the war began, I listed six reasons I was against the war:

[1] ...there is no legal basis for [this war] that relates to Gulf War I. it is not a resumption of hostilities because hostilities in that war were between Iraq and the United Nations, not between Iraq and the US.

[2] ...the "Bush doctrine," which asserts the right to pre-emptively attack any state developing weapons of mass destruction that may at some unspecified future date be used against the United States... has no precedent. There is nothing like it in the laws that individual Americans must obey at home; there is nothing like it in "just war" doctrine; there is nothing like it in the system of international law that has developed over the past 355 years.

Furthermore, it does away with two centuries of American lip service to the idea that we never fight wars of aggression. It will also encourage adversaries to arm themselves as quickly as possible with the most destructive weapons possible lest we invade them too. This war will make the US less secure than it was, not more.

[3] ...we were not threatened by Iraq. It was not a danger to us. North Korea and Iran were much more proximate threats. This is not a war of self-defense, it is a war of aggression.

[4] ...oil is the real motivation for [the war]. The purpose of the war is to ensure the flow of Iraqi oil at a reasonable price. In the past there have been states that invaded other states without us intervening. What does Kuwait have that they didn't? Oil. There are numerous dictatorships as bad as Saddam Hussein's that we do not attack. What does Iraq have that they don't have? Oil. There are numerous states that violate UN resolutions that we do not attack. What does Iraq have that they don't have? Oil.

[5] [The war] has inflamed Arab and Muslim public opinion against us. It is endangering our interests in the Middle East and elsewhere. Again, we will be less secure than we were.

[6] ...where's Osama? This war is hindering the war on terrorism. (Anyone remember that?)

I also suggested that Iraq might
[split] into three de facto states -- a Kurdistan that is semi-democratic but also spreads unrest into Turkey, a semi-democratic Sunni center that still has untamed bands of gunmen, and a Shiite Islamic republic closely aligned with Iran.

But my favorite thing I wrote about the war was this, written in early April when people were just beginning to wonder why no one had found the purported weapons of mass destruction:
If no WMDs are found, this war will, of course, be remembered as one of America's biggest foreign policy debacles ever, and Bush as one of history's biggest buffoons. In fact, I would expect the word "Bush" to become a synonym for "dumbass," in much the way that "Einstein" has become a synonym for "genius."

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