Three Questions

Orin Kerr has some interesting questions on Iraq for pro-war bloggers. They’re certainly pointed questions, but also legitimate and important ones.

My answers are going to be rather lengthy, so I’m splitting this up into pages for each of the three questions to avoid barraging you with long stretches of text.

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

The invasion of Iraq was based off of several key arguments. One was the WMD argument. This argument appears to have fallen flat. It does appear based upon the best available evidence we have now that Iraq’s WMD programs were largely dormant. That does not mean that Iraq never had WMD or destroyed it, or that containment remained a viable option for dealing with Saddam Hussein. It remains possible that Iraqi WMDs were smuggled into Syria or buried in the middle of the desert. We also know that Iraq was preparing to jumpstart their weapons programs when the sanctions were lifted. It was clear that the sanctions were failing and that countries such as France and China were angling to have them removed. We could not contain Saddam forever, and the human costs of continued sanctions were simply too high to maintain the box around Iraq. Given the UN’s corrupt oil-for-food program, it was also clear that what sanctions did exist were ineffectual at best besides.

The second argument was the humanitarian argument best elucidated by President Bush in his February 26, 2003 address to the American Enterprise Institute. It is beyond a doubt that Saddam Hussein was a brutal and vicious tyrant. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed by his regime, and millions more died in his barbaric war with Iran. It is immaterial whether the genocide was ongoing or not – a butcher who takes a rest from mass murder is no less guilty than one who continues his killing spree. The argument then becomes, was Hussein enough of a threat that he should have been removed from power? This leads to the third argument.

The third argument is perhaps the most crucial to understanding why Iraq was and is an important battle in the war on terrorism. The enemy we face was born in the petri dish of radicalism and hatred that the Middle East has become. States like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and even “moderate” states like Jordan and Egypt are breeding grounds for terrorism. Yet at the same time it is not possible nor desirable to initiate regime change in each of them. Syria also undoubtedly possesses WMD, Saudi Arabia was a prime sponsor of terrorism, and Iran was a horrible theocracy. Yet Iraq remains the most fertile ground for democratic transformation. Saddam Hussein was very wary of Islamic radicalism and tried to prevent it from taking over in Iraq (while simultaneously paying off radicals to stay away from his regime). The Iraqi people are relatively well educated for the region. Najaf is the home to a strain of Shi’ite Muslim thought that rejects the Islamic theocracy of the Iranian Shi’a strain based in Qom.

Iraq was fertile soil for the introduction of democratic ideals. It is a truism in international relations that democracies tend not to go to war with each other. The only way to drain the swamp in the Middle East is to introduce a counterexample to fight against the autocracy and tyranny that is widespread in that region. The governments of the Middle East deliberately fan the flames of hatred in order to focus the attention of the population away from their own poverty and lack of opportunities. A brief examination of Egyptian state TV or Arab newspapers or the anti-Semitic tracts sold in souks all across the Middle East clearly confirm the level of superstition and endemic racism that is widespread throughout the region. The only way to truly win this war is by making such views as discredited as the ideologies of Nazism or the rabid nationalism of World War II Japan.

Saddam Hussein’s continued defiance of the United Nations and his attacks against United States and coalition aircraft in the no-fly zones meant that he was already a target that needed to be dealt with. It was not a matter of if we would go to war with Iraq, it was a matter of when. The situation was no longer tolerable, and allowing Saddam Hussein to escape sanctions would have been disastrous. The President’s strategy in this was was always clear. In his graduation speech to West Point Cadets, Bush elucidated the essence of what we now call the Bush Doctrine:

In defending the peace, we face a threat with no precedent. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger the American people and our nation. The attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men. All of the chaos and suffering they caused came at much less than the cost of a single tank. The dangers have not passed. This government and the American people are on watch, we are ready, because we know the terrorists have more money and more men and more plans.

The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology — when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends — and we will oppose them with all our power.

For much of the last century, America’s defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence — the promise of massive retaliation against nations — means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.

Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they’re essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.

Indeed, this doctrine was made well before Iraq was a major issue, but it could have been written about Iraq. Not doing something to deal with the situation in Iraq was never an option. The only way to do something to prevent Iraq from becoming a threat was to remove the Hussein regime. The sanctions were not working. Saddam remained defiant and in violation of the terms of the Gulf War cease-fire. We did not have the luxury of infinite time, and we could not trust the word of Saddam Hussein on the matter.

Does the lack of stockpiles of Iraqi weapons harm the case for war? Of course it does, but only one of the three main points. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, and the only way to win in this war on terrorism is to play offense rather than defense. Saddam Hussein was no more a “distraction” from the War on Terrorism than the invasion of Italy was a “distraction” from winning the war on Japan. They are all different theatres in the same war – different enemies using different techniques but all pledged to the same cause – the destruction of the United States. In war, one must seize the initiative. The invasion of Iraq has allowed us to put pressure on other regimes including Libya, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. It has removed a dangerous tyrant. It was a necessary move in the larger goal of ridding the world of Islamofascist terrorism. It was and is the right choice for the coalition to have made.

6 thoughts on “Three Questions

  1. “If you are a blogger who is generally hawkish on Iraq and you choose to participate, please answer these three questions in a single post and e-mail the URL of your post to orinkerr at yahoo.com….”

    There’s always one.

  2. 9/27/04

    1.) First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

    There were a number of nations that supported state-sponsored terrorism at the time of the coalition invasion of Iraq, but only two could offer a full spectrum of weapons (including WMDs) at a state-sponsored level to any terrorists with enough money to buy them; North Korea and Iraq. North Korean soldiers are intensely determined, very well trained, and equipped, and there were more than 1,000,000 of them in 2002. North Korea has both a formidable air force, and ground forces. Even the best trained of soldiers in Iraq were inferior to the average North Korean soldiers. Furthermore, the United States and our allies already had significant forces deployed in the region of Iraq, and were already engaging Iraq militarily whenever Iraqi forces violated the cease-fire agreement from Desert Storm. The chances of success with a minimum of casualties (which has been accomplished) in Iraq were much greater than in North Korea. Because of dual purpose technology, even without finding the expected stockpiles of WMDs, Iraq was capable of producing huge supplies of WMDs almost on demand, as many of their experts have testified.

    2.) Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

    As has been pointed out by many historians and military experts, though largely ignored by liberal media and commentators, the number of coalition casualties is very small (in both Iraq and Afghanistan) compared to previous wars fought by the United States. The war was also amazingly brief. From the temporal distance of decades it has been easy to forget that Europe (twice), the area of Asia conquered by Japan, and South Korea were all difficult to reconstruct. There were insurgents, terrorists, and saboteurs in all of these areas that resisted the reconstruction and democratization of Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. Terrorist attacks continued for years in some of these countries. Today, all of these nations, whether supporters of the United States in Iraq or not, participate in world affairs in a reasonably responsible way. They are prosperous, and their citizens are free (even to dislike Americans). A reconstructed and democratic Iraq and Afghanistan are too vitally important to the future of a free and secure world to abandon for the mere political expediency of the Kerry campaign.

    3.) Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

    A.) The diversity of nationalities and the number of the reactionary foreign terrorists opposing the reconstruction, democratization, and inclusion (among responsible nations of the world) of Iraq are good indicators that militant groups and countries in the region believe in or at least are afraid of coalition success. The presence of these outsiders as a major source of resistance in Iraq signifies the panic felt by religious fanatics and political extremists in the region. These radicals do not want a secular democracy to succeed in an Islamic country. The number of these foreign terrorists is a good measure of the resources that terrorist organizations and nations are willing to commit to subverting the reconstruction of Iraq.

    B.) The number Iraqi police and soldiers that the civil government is able to recruit in spite of continued attacks upon them and their families is a encouraging sign of the success of the coalition. If the Iraqi people are as cowardly and unpatriotic as has been alleged by some western journalists, why are there more of them joining the police force and military each day? The murder of these Iraqi patriots has not prevented an ever-increasing number of them from joining in the defense of their nation, and the establishment of the rule of law.

    C.) The number of Iraqi citizens joining in the civil government as officials and employees (with as many as 25% being women) is a reliable sign of success. These people, rarely armed, are as vulnerable as the Iraqi police and soldiers, but they still lay their lives on the line and endanger their families in order to participate in the remaking of their country.

    D.) Another good sign of success are the number of people going about their daily business. The Iraqi people are returning to their trades, and even opening new businesses every day. They are returning to their lives. Many, if not all, areas of the country are normalizing. Children are going to school, women are going to the market, families are returning to their homes. Residents are rising up against the remnant of Sadam’s oppressive regime, and the foreign terrorists. Even religious leaders, wary of western influence, are risking cooperation with the coalition and the civil government.

    E.) Perhaps one of the best measures of success will be how distinctively Iraqi the government and society of Iraq will become. Of all the nations the United States has helped to reconstruct and democratize, none is really like us. They are all distinctly different and very independent of us. We will have been successful if Iraq can become a distinct and unique nation that still values freedom and democracy at home and abroad.

    Lonnie Kendall
    Registered Democrat

    “Caveat, this message was created in MS Word, and proud of it.”

  3. Just a few comments on the last part:
    A/ So America’s success in Iraq can be evaluated by a high number of foreign terrorists…sure…
    B/”why are there more of them joining the police force and military each day?” Because employment is about 10%, with the average wage under half what americans pay policeman. Many former baasists and actual “terrorists” are signing in by the way…good luck with that one.
    C/Same comment more or less: to what extent are these people really dedicated to democracy? I’d say, as long as they’re paid by the US. How long will the $455 billion american deficit support this? Not long.
    D/”the number of people going about their daily business”: today, it is about 10%. Fairly successful, isn’t it! But I mean :”Mission Accomplished!!!”
    E/”Iraq can become a distinct and unique nation”: I’m affraid Allawi’s not the right guy. By the way, delaying the election, or planing elections on only parts of the country is a miserable failure.

    This whole war is a failure:
    -no international support (italian want out, Blair is under another inquiry, spain has retreated, Poland will very soon, and the rest of the coalition is made of countries of less than 1,000 inhabitants. Oh no, right, Australia is still there. How many soldiers again?
    -no WMDs (as Jay surprisingly finally admitted today
    -no stabilisation (as the Pentagon, Rumsfeld and Powell just acknowledged)
    -no democracy (the only gaining power in Irak today is radical muslims. You will find an islamic and fundamentalist republic in a matter of years. Good luck with that).
    -no freedom: the average is 45 violent deaths/day (including 2 american soldiers). But I mean, you’re free to move around if you want to!

    The only way out of Irak is discussion with all stakeholders. When France and Russia proposed that one year ago, it was rejected by W. Now that he’s in trouble, he wants to come back to negotiation even though it’s too late already. Bush should be impeached and jailed for corruption, violation of international law, invasion of a foreign country and mass murder of civilians.

  4. 9/28/04

    Vincent:

    [B/”why are there more of them joining the police force and military each day?” Because employment is about 10%, with the average wage under half what americans pay policeman. Many former baasists and actual “terrorists” are signing in by the way…good luck with that one.]

    Sorry, but this argument does not hold water. Iraq is not America. Iraq does not and never had a western style economy, and so never had employment statistics that can be measured or understood by western style employment models let alone be compared to American employment statistics. Try again. Where a majority of people are SELF employed people simply pick up and go back into their own business, as they are doing all over that country. Ask our troops who are actually there. A 10% employment rate in Iraq is actually a great start, as is a wage that is over 10-20% of what an America policeman gets paid.

    In Eastern Europe we find a large number of people presently in the military, police, and government service who were once communists. They are also patriots of their new nations and the new freedoms they have, and establishing new and more hopeful lives. The same happened in Germany after WWII. Many Nazis became model citizens and German patriots. In Japan many people who formerly served the imperial dream of conquest later served the reconstructed nation of Japan. What would you have us do, kill all the Baasists? Put them all in prison? You can afford to be cynical. The Iraqi people cannot. These are their sons and daughters, their brothers and sisters, their mothers and fathers, their neighbors and kinspeople. Some will be bad apples. The Iraqi people are willing to gamble that most will not be.

    [C/Same comment more or less: to what extent are these people really dedicated to democracy? I’d say, as long as they’re paid by the US. How long will the $455 billion american deficit support this? Not long.]

    And almost same answer as above. We helped reconstruct Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea. How dedicated are these nations to democracy? Remember, Iraq does have oil, and other resources. There is no reason to believe that they cannot build an economy that will pay their government employees just as in other nations. Or, are you hoping they will fail? By all accounts Iraq was well on its way to a secular and democratic society before Sadam. How committed are the Iraqi people to democracy? I don’t know. How committed are we to democracy? Some feel we still have a long way to go to live up to our democratic ideals and potential. Is it worth our gamble? Yes. When was the last time the United States was threatened by or had to fight a real democracy? The more democracies there are, the safer we are.

    [D/”the number of people going about their daily business”: today, it is about 10%. Fairly successful, isn’t it! But I mean :”Mission Accomplished”]

    Again, your perception is skewed by an arrogant, western, economic assessment. You don’t have any idea how these people have provided for themselves in the past. So you don’t have any idea if they have returned to their former business (farming, running their shops, trading, teaching, home industries, etc.). Has power, fresh water, food supplies, businesses, schools, commerce, and industry been fully restored in Florida? By your arguments, Florida will never recover. Florida has not given up hope, I don’t see a reason to give up on Iraq.

    [E/”Iraq can become a distinct and unique nation”: I’m affraid Allawi’s not the right guy. By the way, delaying the election, or planing elections on only parts of the country is a miserable failure.]

    You don’t get to chose who leads Iraq. You don’t get to choose when they have their elections, and how much of the country will be polled. The sovereign nation of Iraq makes those decisions. Their judgement over who is the right person to lead them is not dependent on your assessment or approval. The interim government is making amazing progress. That government is made up of intellectual, educated, qualified and sophisticated Iraqi people. They are capable of arranging elections according to a timetable that most benefits their own nation and citizens, whether it satisfies the Democratic Party, President Bush, the King of Jordan or the UN or not. They need encouragement and support. Do you have any for them? Any strides they make towards democracy is a great victory for Iraq, the middle east and the world. I realize that ANY success in Iraq is a miserable failure for some political ideologies in the United States, but I don’t see why the Iraqi people should surrender and accept a defeatist definition of failure.

    [This whole war is a failure:]

    This is staggering generality, and therefore a logical fallacy, which can never be logically proved, but can be logically disproved by just one instance of success. Sadam is no longer in power. Therefore, your assertion is flawed.

    [-no international support (italian want out, Blair is under another inquiry, spain has retreated, Poland will very soon, and the rest of the coalition is made of countries of less than 1,000 inhabitants. Oh no, right, Australia is still there. How many soldiers again?]

    The similarities between the abdication of European nations to responsibly confront the growing power of Nazi fascism while Hitler could still be stopped, and the present reluctance of western nations to confront the growing danger of terrorist Islamic fascism are too chilling to explore to their rational conclusion, eventual worldwide conflagration. This war is in Iraq and Afghanistan at the moment, because Islamic extremism can be most effectively fought on these battlefields, and the potential for success is greatest there (the shortsighted, misinformed opinions of some people not withstanding). I see no reason to hold up the reckless abandonment of responsibility by the nations you mention as an example for our behavior. We provided the largest forces in WWI, WWII, and Korea. Why would you think it would be different now? During our own war for independence we had only one foreign ally, France. They were our allies because in the world order of that day, they could afford to be. Perhaps it is our turn to be a free Iraq’s only ally.

    [-no WMDs (as Jay surprisingly finally admitted today]

    This point is frankly and honestly conceded by all, and has been for a very long time. There were WMDs; Sadam used them. If he destroyed any of them, he destroyed most of them without UN supervision and verification. He went out of his way to covertly convince the Islamic world that he still had them, while trying to convince the western nations that he did not. Israel, Egypt, Russia, Britain, US and UN intelligence reported that he had WMDs. Because of dual-purpose technology, he did have the resources and ability to produce WMDs very quickly (but not anymore; oops, another success). He hid his nuclear scientist in Syria, and Syria has explored exporting them to Iran (perhaps you missed the reports of this last week). WMDs is a mixed, but not empty bag.

    [-no stabilisation (as the Pentagon, Rumsfeld and Powell just acknowledged)]

    True, the entire nation is not stabilized, but part of it is. The Pentagon, Secretary Rumsfeld, and Secretary Powell have not said Iraq cannot be stabilized, they all still support the effort. They have all said, as has President Bush and his whole administration, that it will take a lot of effort, and a long time. Simply because the unreal and disingenuous expectations of some people have not been fully met is not a good reason to declare the operations in Iraq a failure.

    [-no democracy (the only gaining power in Irak today is radical muslims. You will find an islamic and fundamentalist republic in a matter of years. Good luck with that).]

    If you are really a blogger, you have access to better information than this. Recent experts on the middle east see a growing backlash against Islamic extremists. As these radicals continue to attack Muslims in Palestine, Africa, Asia, and the middle east, and as their behavior becomes ever more vile they will lose favor even with the average Muslims. Even in Iraq, they are not gaining but losing favor.

    [-no freedom: the average is 45 violent deaths/day (including 2 american soldiers). But I mean, you’re free to move around if you want to!]

    How many violent deaths do you think there are every day in the United States? How many murders, abductions, assaults, robberies, intimidations, and crimes are committed here everyday? How many people are killed each day by drunk drivers in this country? We are not a war zone, and yet larger portions of the United States are unsafe for at least some of our citizens than in Iraq. I don’t suppose the US is a free nation by your standards. Get a clue. No Americans want any of these deaths, but there are thousands of foreign workers in Iraq who will never be abducted or killed, and tens of thousands of American soldiers who will come home, unharmed. There are millions of Iraqis who have a chance for freedom. Would you really be so glad to see the US fail in its fight to free these people so that you can “prove” your opinions? I want them to succeed so that I can prove mine!

    [The only way out of Irk is discussion with all stakeholders. When France and Russia proposed that one year ago, it was rejected by W. Now that he’s in trouble, he wants to come back to negotiation even though it’s too late already. Bush should be impeached and jailed for corruption, violation of international law, invasion of a foreign country and mass murder of civilians.]

    The similarities between the nations you mention and the story of Hennie Pennie and her loaves of bread are too chilling to explore to their rational conclusion. Seriously though, discussions and negotiations with France, Germany, Russia, China, and many other nations are on going, and have been all along. The matter of Iraq is discussed every day by the United States with at least some of its many allies. Not all of our allies have supported us in Iraq, but they have not renounced friendship with us either. Seeing that negotiations have never stopped, it is not too late to negotiate. President Bush is not in trouble. Political support at home and abroad waxes and wanes on all issues. All politicians know this.

    Sorry to disappoint you, but if there were impeachable charges to be made against President Bush, someone on capital hill would already be making them. I hear silence. Unfortunately for your assertions, most congressmen, congresswomen, and senators would likewise have to be indited as they voted at least once for some aspect of Operation Iraqi Freedom, even Senators Kerry and Edwards who cannot escape their own multiple complicit votes. This makes both presidential candidates international criminals by your own declarations. Fortunately for them Iraq is not pressing charges. Neither is Secretary General Koffi Annan.

    Lonnie Kendall

  5. On the main topics, I think you’re right, but then I have two remarks:
    1-you said: “sovereign nation of Iraq makes those decisions”. What is this supposed to mean? there’s no authority in Irak that can claim even the tightiest sovereignty, legitimacy or independance!! The US are responsible of Irak since they invaded it, as stated in the UN resolution passed after the war. Allawi is a puppet, just as much as any non-elected leader put in charge by an occupying force of any invaded country . To me, he is part of the US administration!

    2-you said: employment rates is an indicator of success.
    =>me: ok then, it’s only 10%.
    =>you: yeah but employment rates is not a workable indicator in this country!

    This is true, but then, there is no way you can evaluate WHEN will the war in Irak be considered a success, which was the initial question. Maybe you could give clear indicator values, or get your requisite for success clearer…No, you can’t! For example, on the WMDs issue, the following question was raised: “How much do you need to call it stockpiles of WMDs”: the answer was evident and logic: enough to provike mass destructions. Five rotten barrels without vectors, even if they can potentially kill millions aren’t!
    => You cannot call on any precise measure to evaluate a multi-dimensional problem, especially in geopolitics. Don’t worry, when Irak will be a successful country, we will all know and concede it.

    I think we all agree today on the fact that it is not, yet, a success! Then what exactly was “mission accomplished” about? At that date the only thing the US had done was removing saddam and secure the oil wells=> WMDs and Democracy were side objectives, and Bush doesn’t care to ever fullfil those.

    For the very end of our discussion: Who could seriously press any charge against the US? It is not because they are not guilty! Mr Annan said it very clearly last week: the war was ILLEGAL! I guess that counts for violation of international law! Let me remind you that Mr Annan IS the secretary-general of the UN, and that he IS the person responsible for the application of the UN charter=>no one knows better than him what complies and what does not comply with it (cf. Australian’s premier answering Annan…pathetic)! Therefore, the only reason why no one is suing Bush and his folks is that no tribunal would accept it, and even if one tribunal accepts (the TPI for example), Americans would never accept to apply international law to themselves…USA is the only superpower!

    What is really pathetic is that the Bush policy is very short-term in comparison to History: Keep mistreating the world because you’re the best if you want (sorry to put it so bluntly, but it’s true), but then stop whining when the poors are starting to riot against you!

    For your information, the two italian girls who were only helping the iraki population have been released safely: “terrorists” are not ignominious barbarians with no repect for life. They only have no respect for people who have no respect for others (Putin, Bush, etc.)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.