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I have excuses for all of this. I was 21. My expertise in American interventionism came from watching Gulf War, Bosnia, and Kosovo reports on CNN. I had friends in the Army. I wanted to "free the Iraqi people." The takeaway is that, like millions of people, I was naive and uninformed about the doings in Mesopotamia and I did my little part to enable a catastrophe.
Matt Welch, Editor in Chief, reason magazine:
I was neither for nor against the war when it was launched, though most of the stuff I was worried about ended up coming true (especially "we will create a damned-if-we-do scenario unless we start looking for creative ways to devolve power and responsibility to the rest of the world").
But the mere fact of that ambivalence points to what's changed most about my thinking since then. Until five years ago, the prior three major U.S. interventions -- the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo—each went quite a bit better than the skeptics predicted. In the same way that almost all past U.S. presidents end up looking good in retrospect (to somebody, anyway), while history marches toward a better future, my hunch was that the pattern would hold true to our post-Vietnam wars as well. No more.
Because of the magnetic logic of perpetual interventionism (on both sides of the political aisle); the strategic problem of anti-Americanism, the temptation of inapt historical analogies and the way that power wants to be corrupt, I have gone from a guy who begged for U.S. leadership in a feckless world to stop the slaughter in Sarajevo, to someone whose primary voting motivation is to provide a check on America's expansion of responsibility for the world's affairs.
Michael Young, Contributing Editor, reason; Opinion Page Editor, Lebanon Daily Star:
The assumption that our thoughts should have changed on Iraq is presumptuous. Certainly, the Bush administration's abysmal postwar strategy until the surge last year invites a critical reassessment of what could have been done for the better. But what does not, and should not, is the bottom line of the war: the fact that the United States managed to remove one of the world's worst mass murderers from power, so that today 55 percent of Iraqis believe that their lives are good, according to a recent poll—including 62 percent of Shiites and 73 percent of Kurds.
The thing with conflicts is that they can be like that old joke about the man who swims halfway across the ocean, only to swim back to where he left from because he's tired. Is the U.S. halfway across the ocean of the Iraq war? Would swimming back to the departure point be a pointless waste of expended energy, so that persisting in Iraq would bring more dividends? It's difficult to say. The gross blunder of the administration was to leave such questions without answers. But it is difficult to justify retreat from Iraq a year into tangible signs of progress thanks to the surge.
Those who back an American withdrawal on the grounds that Iraq is already in a state of chaos don't know what they're talking about. The Moloch of uninhibited chaos and carnage would be infinitely worse, as I remember from my own experiences growing up during Lebanon's civil war. For numerous reasons—the fate of the Iraqis after a pullout, Iran's continuing rise as regional superpower, the future of the Kurds, the threat to regional stability—the U.S. has no choice but to stick it out in Iraq. And as the doubts creep in, Americans might want to think back to what Iraq was under Saddam Hussein, who in two decades was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of nearly 1 million people.
So, sorry, but invading Iraq was the right thing to do, even if it could have been done a million times better by a more competent group of people. When I think of Iraq, somehow I have no profound problem slamming George W. Bush's faults while welcoming what he did to the Baath regime—the barbaric, genocidal, thankfully bygone Baath regime.