It looks like I caught the attention of the lefty blogosphere, which explains why the comments are full of some rather febrile rantings. I’m approving all of them, mainly as it provides a nice pool of evidence the next time I make the assertion that the left is increasingly unhinged.
Atrios points to a comment I made back in October of 2002:
There’s no reason why this isn’t doable. Deposing Hussein will the easy part. Remember that people were saying that Afghanistan would be “the graveyard of empires” and that we’d have no better luck than the Russians? It turned out that Afghanistan can be won… and since we didn’t come to colonize or conquer, we proved those predictions to be wrong. Iraq will be little different.
If anything, Iraq will be easier than Afghanistan. Iraq hasn’t been in continuous warfare for years. Iraq has oil reserves that can fuel reconstruction, and many Iraqi people secretly harbor the dream of a free and democratic Iraq. No, we won’t see democracy spring up in a few months or perhaps not in a few years, but it will come.
There’s nothing wrong with worrying about our troops… in fact, I’d say that it’s natural and understandable to do so. But we should all take comfort in the fact that they are part of the best fighting force that has ever walked this Earth, and the most elite of the Iraqi military don’t hold a candle to them. This is what they were trained to do, and they will see this through.
Mr. Black is obviously trying to argue that I was somehow delusional back then. The problem with that argument is that what I said then was largely true. We did defeat the Hussein regime in short order — faster and with fewer casualties than I would have predicated before the start of the war.
Was I rather too optimistic on the issue of reconstructing Iraq? Obviously I was. The oil funds weren’t enough to pay for the reconstruction, and the sectarian tensions that threaten the future of Iraq were much greater than I would have thought they’d be. Still, most of our problems in Iraq stem not from inevitable consequences, but from mistakes we and others made along the way. We didn’t have enough troops to keep the peace, we tied their hands too much, and we failed to deal with al-Sadr when we had the chance to do so.
Still, I stand by what I said back then, and find nothing unreasonable about the conclusions I made back then. The left keeps claiming that they were right all along, which is simply not the case. They predicted that everything was going to be a disaster, that Saddam would use his WMDs against us or against Israel, that we’d suffer mass casualties taking Baghdad, that we’d have a major humanitarian disaster in Iraq. In wars, bad things happen, and when one predicts disaster at every turn sooner or later one will be right. That doesn’t mean that those people are particularly wise or prescient any more than it means that John Edward is really a psychic.
As an advocate of the war in Iraq, I cannot support a position that would have us leave the Iraqi people in chaos and leave a ruined country in our wake. My support for doing whatever it takes to leave Iraq in the best position possible is based on a moral imperative — and if a bunch of left wing bloggers want to take me and others to task for it, they have every right to do so. However, this is not and should not be an issue of partisanship. If we leave, the suffering of the Iraqi people will increase to a level that is far worse than the already intolerable situation they are in now. We have an obligation to help the people of Iraq, and if it makes me a “warmonger” or a “chickenhawk” or whatever slur is leveled at me, that is fine. I have my principles, and they’re far larger than supporting a particular administration or even a particular political ideology. The willful blindness of the anti-war side to the humanitarian results of a US withdrawal is deeply disturbing to me — but sadly, not to those who seem to value rank partisanship above all else.
UPDATE: Mark Kleiman has an interesting response. Most of his points are pretty fair. However, he says:
Yes, I’m tired of the triumphalism of people who tell me that their early opposition to the war demonstrates their omniscience, and that anyone one who wasn’t opposed to the war before it started should either practice criticism and self-criticism or just STFU. But I’m much tireder of the happy-go-stupid “Sh*t happens” attitude that takes lightly the shedding of lots of other people’s blood. What I can’t forgive the contemporary Right is its fundamental lack of seriousness, which it somehow manages to combine with hysterical fear-mongering.
The problem I have with this is that it’s the left that lacks seriousness in this case. The left has absolutely no plan for dealing with what would happen to Iraq if we were to leave. It is hopelessly naive to assume that the bloodshed would stop, and it’s virtually assured that it would get worse. The Iraqi government might survive, but at great cost.
Everything I see from sites like Eschaton, Kos, and the like is that the motivation for the left on Iraq has nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with Bush. The reality is that Bush is irrelevant at this point. Even if Iraq goes well, he’s not going to end up with the credit at this point. The opposition to the war, at least for many on the left, is inextricably linked with their personal hatred of the President.
It’s one thing to destroy a President, it’s another to do so in a way that advances the agenda of our enemies and creates a humanitarian catastrophe in the heart of an already unstable region. We can sit around and point fingers about five-year-old events or we can do our utmost to keep the chaos from spreading. My biggest beef with the left right now is that they’re more interested in pointing fingers than in trying to make things better. If the left had some kind of reasonable plan for dealing with Iraq it would ameliorate some of those concerns — but no such plan exists.
If we leave Iraq, things will get worse. The left keeps dodging that undeniable proposition, which is why it is the anti-war left that isn’t looking at the situation with an appropriate level of seriousness.