Counter-Terror Counter

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New at Reason: Today's Mr. Television says the invasion of Iraq has "greatly undermined the war on terror." Michael Young gives a counterargument.

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  1. If you’re going to take your people to war in a democracy, aren’t they entitled to know your real aims? The Iraq war was not sold as the grandest nation-building experiment in American history. Few would have supported it if it had been. And the debate leading up to the war would have been entirely different: there would have been a public airing of the obvious objection that we cannot transform a culture by force and create a civil society, binding Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurd, where there never was one before. I don’t think anyone now is missing the “real” point of the Iraq war, Mr. Young. They’re just pointing out the deceptions and willful bindness that created a disastrous policy.

  2. OK, let me see if I understand this:

    1) They didn’t tell us the REAL reason for the war because they figured that We the People might put the kibbosh on the war.

    2) But despite that obvious disrespect for We The People they still want to install representative government in Iraq.

    3) They can’t actually transform American inner-cities into beacons of security, prosperity, and the rule of law, despite generations of social engineering. However, they’re confident that they can get Iraq right.

    4) Moreover, they’re confident that, after pulling off the first successful social engineering project in the history of the federal government, the results of this successful project will create a domino effect in the rest of the region.

    Man, I thought Bush had laid off the Colombian stuff. I’d say he’s still doing some sort of mind-altering substance if he actually thinks this plan will work. Pass me some of that neocon weed, man!

  3. thoreau,

    A multitude of reasons for going to war with Iraq were ALWAYS on the table, and part of the debate. WMD was the most urgent CONCERN, and absent compliance from Saddam, that is as it SHOULD have been. But Saddam’s manifest unwillingness to EVER abide by the 91 truce agreements was the heart of the legal case.
    It is your selective memory that this was the only concern…perhaps because it was the one you had the greatest difficulty with.

    2 Given that the war HAS HAPPENED, we HAVE to install some kind of government…and it would obviously be desirable to launch a democracy, rahter than slap some Baathist colonel in charge, and rush to get home again.

    3 Oh wow…so you sound VERY libertarian making disparaging remarks about inner cities in American society. But elections are held in all of America’s cities all the time…tolerably free and fair ones. Baghdad is about the size of LA…and if Baghdad is as well run as LA, I will be quite impressed– how about you?

    4 Thoreau…how WOULD you feel if you lived anywhere in the ME, and you were a dissident, a minority or just a guy who wants to see a better future for your self and your kids? Would you really want to see a new Iraq run by all the same old thugs? Would THAT be your aspiration?

  4. Social engineering? From what I can see, it looks like the “social engineering” is pretty much being left up to the Iraqis. The US just got Saddam’s Bathist regime off their backs.

    And, sure, it’s no doubt a high risk endevor, in the sense that it likely won’t work. But dealing with terrorism in a reactive manner is even less likely to work. And changing our international policies in order to quite offending the ranks of potential terrorists certainly won’t work, unless we go to the extent of imposing Islamic rule domestically. The thing is, they don’t hate us for the actions of our government, they hate us for our success and our free market values.

  5. Andrew-

    First, there’s nothing unlibertarian about observing that in some urban neighborhoods the residents are beset by violent crime, creating an environment of fear and the rule of gangs rather than the rule of law. It’s a shame, and gov’t social engineering hasn’t done much to improve it. I’m not looking down on your average inner city resident, I’m just lamenting that the gov’t’s “best efforts” haven’t done much to correct the situation so that the average inner city resident can enjoy a safer environment.

    Second, I’m not suggesting we just cut and run now that we’re there. But I’m also not suggesting that we hold our breath waiting for the liberation of Iraq to ignite a chain reaction of liberalization across the region, depriving Al Qaeda of recruits. Indeed, since Iraq has not in the past (to the best of my knowledge) been a prime recruiting ground for Al Qaeda and other groups that engage in terrorism against the US, I’m not optimistic about the effects this liberalization will have on terrorism against the US.

    Third, I’m not saying that a war must have one and only one justification. I’m just saying that it’s, well, interesting to see new justifications come into the spotlight after the most widely proclaimed rationale, WMD, turns out to be less than it was made out to be. It raises some obvious questions about the honesty of our leaders. Now, granted, intelligence is an imprecise business. Maybe they honestly did believe the WMD story. Or maybe they didn’t. I’d like to know more, rather than just taking politicians at their word.

    Given the arguments I made above, I am skeptical of the newly popular rationales.

  6. Terrorist breeding grounds? When was the last time an Iraqi born or funded terrorist harmed the US? Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas? Give me a break! I was in high school when they were last threatening us. WMD? They gassed the kurds and Iranians back when they were on our side (see pics of Rummy shaking hands with Saddam) How about Saudi Arabia? 15 out of 19, and no cooperation.
    This article is the most disingenuous bullshit I’ve read in a while.

  7. “But I’m also not suggesting that we hold our breath waiting for the liberation of Iraq to ignite a chain reaction of liberalization across the region, depriving Al Qaeda of recruits.”

    That will take approximately thirty years; they already have at least one more generation of recruits from the war with Iraq (thus the thirty years).

    As to the justifications issue; the hawks are so slippery on that issue that it has become meaningless. The same goes for “impercise intelligence”; a cover my ass phrase if there ever was one. Face it, this is a war fought within a specific strategic, theoretical and ideological that really eschews the need for justifications – or rather, that strategic, etc. framework provides the justifications. Nothing particularly wrong with that; but it moves one away from the “threat” and “WMD” language and justification certainly.

  8. Andrew-

    Since it appears that the Spain thread has already disappeared, I want to ask you about something you posted near the end of that thread: You said that since Al Qaeda opposes France’s head-scarf ban that makes you more in favor of it.

    Since your posts tend not to be serious rather than sarcastic or ironic, I can’t tell if you were joking. Personally, if I lived in France, I’d be strongly against the ban, and I wouldn’t let Al Qaeda dictate my stances to me.

    So, would you really support a bad proposition just to spite Al Qaeda? If you really are letting the terrorists (indirectly) dictate your stances, then the terrorists really have won…

    (As to why it’s a bad idea, I’m only aware of two countries in the world where large numbers of Muslim women are actually fighting for the right to wear headscarves. Those countries are France and Turkey, because it’s illegal in Turkey and may become illegal in France (pardon me if I’m mistaken and it’s already illegal). Everywhere else in the world it’s either a non-issue because women can make their own decision on the matter, or else it’s mandatory to wear the head scarf so women are fighting for the right to remove it. The lesson in all this is that the best way to encourage a harmless activity is to try to ban it and make it seem rebellious.)

  9. When was the last time an Iraqi born or funded terrorist harmed the US?

    Saddam was funding Palestinian “martyrs” who regular killed U.S. citizens in bombings. Iraq was implicated in the ’93 WTC bombing. Iraqi agents tried to assassinate the first President Bush. And while it might not count as “terrorism,” Iraq regularly shot at U.S. planes enforcing the no-fly zones.

  10. Thoreau

    I was sympathetic to the ban in the first place (more JUST for public schools, rather than every public institution). If the French backed off (unlikely, I think) that would be much worse than a Spanish withdrawl from Iraq (which was SWP’s position before 3-11).

  11. Whoa, you think that changing their minds on headscarves would set a more dangerous precedent than major changes in military policy?

  12. thoreau, I’d say yes it would set a bad precedent since the headscarves seems to be the motivation behind the attempted bombing of the french rail.

    😉

  13. Mr Young supports the argument that oppressive regimes breed the despair that leads people to engage in terrorism. We can all agree that Iraq was oppressive. Yet how many Iraqis have engaged in terrorist acts?

    Getting rid of Hussein’s regime is certainly a good thing, but how will it lead to less terrorism.

    Saudi Arabia’s repressive society did breed terrorists, including 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers.

    As for Hussein’s support for Palestinian terrorists, that is an issue certainly. Over the last 40 years, Iraq provided less support for Palestinian terrorists than have Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both of which were major funding sources for Al Fatah and other PLO aligned groups.

    Hussein invoked the cause of Palestine in a cynical bid for support from Arabs outside Iraq, and he did reward the families of suicide bombers. But the Saudis have done both, and with more money to boot.

    The continuing problems of stabilizing Iraq; the cost in lives and taxpayers money; and the continuing threat from Al Qaeda and other groups funded by Saudi Arabia all undermine Mr Young’s argument that the war was justified as part of a grand strategy to end terrorism. If the Bush-Cheney leadership is so good at formulating grand strategies, why could they not formulate plans to make sure the electricity works in liberated Iraq?

  14. Jean Bart,

    You know, ever wonder why I don’t feel lied to or even mislead by the Bush administration on the war on Iraq?

    It is because I was paying attention. Unlike, the overwhelming majority of the opponents of the war, I actually went out of my way to read the original speeches and documents the administration used to make its case. I did not rely on sound bites selected for me by the major media to present to me what they interpreted the administration argument to be. I know for a fact that none of the arguments in the article are post hoc rationalizations because I read every one of them before the war.

    I also educated myself about chemical and biological weapons long before the current crisis. I understood that such weapons did not require vast production facilities in order to produce enough weapons to kill tens of thousands in a terrorist attack. I understood that it was technologically impossible to disarm a nation state by any means short of war.

    Frankly, I think people who feel lied to and deceived were merely lazy. They passively consumed the bumpersticker version of the arguments for the war that major media supplied to them without digging any deeper. Thats not Bush’s fault.

  15. Thoreau

    Because Zapatero’s position on Iraq is only his long-standing position on the merit of the issue, and the manifest preference of the Spanish people BEFORE 3-11. A French reversal on head-scarves would be a clear response to threats.
    Again (and partly for JUST that reason) I don’t consider a reversal at all likely.

  16. What if Al Qaeda threatens to attack San Francisco because the mayor has been conducting gay marriages? How many people here would reverse their opposition to gay marriage, or at least grudgingly endorse staying the course?

    Didn’t think so.

  17. Iraq was “selected” as the spot to launch an Arab democracy because we had EVERY right and reason to topple Saddam anyway, and because it offers probably a better place to launch one than, say, Egypt or Algeria. It is also larger than Bahrain or Kuwait, and much more likely to be influential as an example…although any place would be worth a lot.

    Iraq is ONE response to 9/11, and a good one, but wasn’t selected because it was specifically a recruiting mine for international Islamic terrorists.

    (However things go for the “Resistence”, I don’t think their ranks represent an “addition” to AQ of any significance, either: I would be surprised if any significant number of terrorists detected in future AQ operations outside the immediate area will turn out to be Iraqis recruited since the war…there were always SOME.)

  18. OK, I think I finally understand the hawkish mindset:

    Terrorists aren’t motivated by the policies of western governments. They’re motivated by hatred of the freedom and prosperity of the west.

    Except that sometimes they are motivated by the policies of western governments. And in that case western voters must vote to keep those policies in place no matter how much the voters might dislike those policies. Because otherwise the terrorists will win.

    And if these contradictions confuse you, just do whatever the GOP says.

  19. I’d like to make two points:

    Gene Berkman wrote: “The continuing problems of stabilizing Iraq; the cost in lives and taxpayers money; and the continuing threat from Al Qaeda and other groups funded by Saudi Arabia all undermine Mr Young’s argument that the war was justified as part of a grand strategy to end terrorism.”

    This is Clarke’s argument, but it confuses the short and long term, at least in the eyes of the Pentagon. For the “grand strategists”, Iraq is a short-term problem that will be overcome; once Iraq is stabilized and a relatively pluralistic order sets in (remember this is the theory; reality may differ), it will provide a powerful model to societies in states around Iraq to follow suit and demand change. In such an environment of change and gradual openness, terrorism will cease to prosper.

    This leads me to my second point: several comments have suggested that there was no direct threat from Iraq on the US. I agree, but the point I?m making is that in the grand transformational strategy of the US, that was actually irrelevant. Iraq was of vital importance because it is located at the very heart of the Middle East, and therefore could influence neighboring states the US regards as far more threatening to its interests–Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, to name the most important.

    Do I advocate a pluralistic Iraq acting as a model for the region? Yes. But my main point here is merely to show that Clarke?s argument on the administration?s efforts to find an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection missed the point. But who can deny that a deeply divided administration never made ?the point? very clear to the US public?

  20. > What if Al Qaeda threatens to attack San Francisco because the mayor has been conducting gay marriages? How many people here would reverse their opposition to gay marriage, or at least grudgingly endorse staying the course?

  21. > What if Al Qaeda threatens to attack San Francisco because the mayor has been conducting gay marriages? How many people here would reverse their opposition to gay marriage, or at least grudgingly endorse staying the course?

  22. All current discussion comes down to get bush or defend bush.

  23. “One can disagree with the practicability of such a strategy, but it is difficult to fault its logic.”

    Well, let’s not let practicability get in the way.

  24. I find it fascinating to see which of the Reason commentators support the liberation of Iraq and which ones don’t.

  25. “New at Reason: (Richard Clarke) says the invasion of Iraq has ‘greatly undermined the war on terror.’ “

    The invasion of Iraq is PART of the war on terror, so what’s the deal with the above sentence? These are possibilities:

    1. Clarke is asserting that something about the invasion is undermining the war of which it was a part.

    2. Clarke fails to realize that the invasion was part of the war on terror, and is thus making an argument that extends from a faulty premise.

    3. The author of the sentence (Tim Cavanaugh) himself fails to realize that the invasion is part of the war on terror, and is thus mischaracterizing Clarke’s argument.

    I vote for #2.

  26. Shannon Love,

    “Unlike, the overwhelming majority of the opponents of the war, I actually went out of my way to read the original speeches and documents the administration used to make its case.”

    You could likely say the same things about the majority of proponents.

    “I did not rely on sound bites selected for me by the major media to present to me what they interpreted the administration argument to be. I know for a fact that none of the arguments in the article are post hoc rationalizations because I read every one of them before the war.”

    Well, I didn’t say anything about post-hoc rationalizations; indeed, it was rather slippery of them to have several fall-back positions.

    “I understood that such weapons did not require vast production facilities in order to produce enough weapons to kill tens of thousands in a terrorist attack.”

    Of course it does require a rather complex delivery system to be effective in such a fashion; at least with regard to some of these agents. Furthermore, the confidence Rumsfeld and others exuded belies your point.

    “Frankly, I think people who feel lied to and deceived were merely lazy.”

    Well, that’s at best a subjective assessment; to be blunt, someone could have come to radically different conclusions than you, and done the same things that you did.

  27. An attack on France due to the headscarves law will only strengthen the desire to enforce it. Indeed, 11-3 has increased support for (a) stricter immigration control, (b) more surveillance of mosques, etc., and (c) more money spent on anti-terrorism efforts. The idea that somehow backing away from Iraq is backing away from anti-terrorism is foolish.

  28. Regarding the invasion of Iraq, neither I nor anyone else knows whether in the end it was a good move; you will need about thirty years to address that question. So let’s not be so arrogant to presume that it is or isn’t; or rather, that one’s idea is ironclad.

  29. Apparently Zapatero kept Powell waiting for a half-hour whilst Zapatero had a discussion with Chirac; Powell is said to have been “fuming.”

  30. Apparently Bush is to meet with Chirac 5 June in Paris.

  31. 3. The author of the sentence (Tim Cavanaugh) himself fails to realize that the invasion is part of the war on terror, and is thus mischaracterizing Clarke’s argument.

    You forgot option 4:

    4. You have your head so far up your own ass that you can’t read the major news story of the day.

    From Clarke’s testimony:

    “Now as to your accusation that there is a difference between what I said to this commission in 15 hours of testimony and what I am saying in my book and what media outlets are asking me to comment on, I think there’s a very good reason for that. In the 15 hours of testimony, no one asked me what I thought about the president’s invasion of Iraq. And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president is because by invading Iraq the president has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.”

  32. JB

    Another way to look at it is that Zapatero (who has been out of office until now, wasn’t favored to win before 3-11– 55-45% is a big margin in parliamentary systems, I’m told– and who believes himself that his current status is all about Iraq)

    is wanting to play the “anti-American” card at just the moment that other European politicians DON’T.

    Whatever Chirac or Schroeder gained politically from highlighting their differences with the US in the past, what are voters going to think after a terrorist “spectacular” in any European country?

    Maybe voters will believe that the US slapped the hornet’s nest in Iraq…but what difference will that make? It still won’t be a good idea to have a distant relationship with the world’s most resourceful super-power, now that the hornets are buzzing and stinging.

  33. ZING! Good one Tim C.!!

  34. Andrew,

    Well, clearly Bush, Chirac and Schroeder are trying to get cozier – why do you think 750 French troops are in Haiti right now? Partly to stop waves of Haitians from setting off for Martinique, and partly for good relations with the U.S. Indeed, as Chirac says, Iraq is a ‘special case’ in Franco-American relations. And Bush was all effusive about France’s contribution to the situation in Haiti; and has quietly allowed French companies to bid in Iraq (Alcatel just picked up a major phone cellular tower contract there); and has been relatively quiet about UK, French and German efforts in Iran.

    As to Zapatero, in my mind his desire to remove the troops from Iraq and place them in Afghanistans is a good idea. Afghanistan is in need of them far more than Iraq is. I also believe that he has been firing some symbolic salvoes across the Bush administration’s bow to distance himself from the past regime in the weeks before he assumes power.

  35. Sam I Was:

    What did the Japanese call WWII, at the time? Let’s assume for the sake of argument they referred to it as “the Glorious War” (but in Japanese, of course). If dissidents within Japan were to have criticized Japanese military leaders as having “undermined the Glorious War” by launching the attack on Pearl Harbor, thereby “waking the sleeping giant” of the US, would history have vindicated such arguments or not?

    Or — putting aside the perhaps imperfectly analogous situation in which we are advantaged by our historical perspective — would those critics of the Japanese administration have been shamed into silence by those eminently logical, shrewd Japanese leaders’ (or their apologists’) insistance that: “because the attack on Pearl Harbor is a part of the Glorious War, it is internally inconsistent for you to charge that our attack of Pearl Harbor has undermined the Glorious War. Therefore, there can be no question: we are winning the Glorious War, and the decisions we’ve made/are making in our waging of the Glorious War have been/are the best decisions possible.”

    Ever heard of sophistry? It’s like the opposite of intellectual integrity.

  36. Andrew, keep it up!

    Jean Bart, I have occassionally seen your posts opposing Bush’s positions/policies (in general). If you don’t mind my asking, what would you have done about Al-Queda, Taliban, and Saddam?

    Please don’t do a Kerry and say you would have rounded up the UN behind you – based on the Oil for Food bribes and other financial interests, it is a given that France would never have backed the US to act.

  37. Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and other advocates of the campaign in Iraq have made the same arguments, repeatedly, before and after the military action. It is entirely disingenuous to suggest that they have shifted their rationnale, or been slippery, or anything of the sort. Obviously, it is entirely legitimate to question the evidence for or wisdom of each of their proposed reasons.

    In every major speech on the subject of which I am familiar, they argued 1) weapons of mass destruction, either materials themselves or the capacity to produce and distribute; 2) continued violations of the ceasefire from the Gulf War; 3) Iraq serving as a haven, supporter, supplier, and well-wisher for international terrorists, some already drenched in American (and possibly now Spanish) blood; 4) human rights and humanitarian concerns; and 5) the need to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East in order to drain the swamp that allows suicidal terror to breed.

    By all means, ridicule these arguments, question their logic, question the facts behind them, etc., if desired. I happen to think that, for the most part, they stand up to scrutiny. The WMD justification got a lot of attention because the administration tried to used it to get international support. The gambit failed. Subsequent discoveries in the country probably reduce the rhetorical value of this argument somewhat, though not as much as is popularly believed given that production capacity remained (which was why David Kay continues to argue that the situation was too dangerous to be left alone). In general, I think the case remains persuasive, if no longer a slam dunk.

    Fundamentally, however, I’m not seeking to re-argue all this once again. My point is that if folks continue to pretend that this entire case wasn’t laid out ahead of time, that the American public were misled about all of the reasons, including the notion of changing the dynamics of the autocratic Middle East, then they are either ignorant and lazy, as Shannon suggests, or mendacious. Take your pick.

    Kudos to Young for a good piece.

  38. …or a BusHater trying to use the LIE word/implication
    enough times to be believed, thus undermining Bush
    on his highest ranking area – national security –
    and taking away the trust most people have had in him.
    Politics is a mean affair.

  39. Hood,

    I am sure you are correct that points 1-5 were all laid out by the administration at some point. But don’t you agree that the overall emphasis was: Iraq is a threat to the US. Period. I followed this thing pretty closely. I don’t remember hearing a whole lot about #’s 2, 4 and 5. Finding specifics in speeches by administration officials is one thing, and that is important… but the emphasis was certainly on mushroom clouds not nation building. How much weight do you give the main talking points hammered home on a daily basis (WMD, connections to terror) vs. some specifics mentioned by officials in longer speeches (your #s 2,4 and 5 for instance)?

  40. The problem critics of the war had and have is: why oppose freeing a nation from one of the biggest assholes on the planet? The answers make sense, but aren’t what I’d call inspiring.

    The problem proponents of the war have is: where are the weapons of mass destruction? Answers are all over the place, but the administration should have an official position by November.

    As a Democratic-leaning supporter of this war, I might get to have my way with the war and the election. It’s sad that that’s what a war comes down to, but if Bush and company can’t ever admit to any mistakes, they deserve to lose.

  41. Tim, my head may well be up my ass, but your repeating the Clarke testimony makes me think you missed my point. And it’s usually the writer’s fault when something’s unclear, so I’ll gladly take the blame. Let me see if I can clear things up without this getting too knotty.

    I knew that the phrase “greatly undermined …” came from Clarke (and if I didn’t already, you had quote marks around it, for heaven’s sake). My speculation was perfectly reasonable: Does Clarke think Iraq is part of the war on terror, or does he think it’s a separate fight?

    “Undermining” is what happens when a thing is weakened by something else. So Clarke’s phrase implies that he, like so many others, mistakenly considers the Iraq invasion to be separate and distinct from the terrorism war. If he thought of Iraq as part of the war, he would have said, “It was a bad choice in the war” / “It was a poor move for the war” / etc.

    I brought up your name not because I thought “greatly undermined…” was your phrase. Point #3 was merely a throwaway sarcastic aside ultimately aimed at Clarke, because his faulty position was clearly NOT being mischaracterized. But apparently that didn’t come through in what I wrote.

  42. Cargile, see my post above for clarification of my point.

    The invasion of Iraq may very well be detrimental to the terrorism war, of which it is a part. Or it may not be detrimental. That question remains ripe for debate. Argue away.

    But either way — detrimental or not — the Iraq invasion is indeed part of the terrorism war. It isn’t something separate that just happened to take place at the same time. It is a battle in the war.

    It appears that Clarke, like so many others, mistakenly considers Iraq to be distinct from the war on terrorism. And that’s what I was pointing out.

  43. Well then I guess it just comes down to a simple disagreement over the meaning of the word “undermine”.

    Even accepting your proffered definition — preposterous as it is — that “‘Undermining’ is what happens when a thing is weakened by something else,” how does Mr. Clarke’s quote fail to conform to that formulation?

    Where “thing” = “War on Terror”, and “something else” = “War on Iraq”, why doesn’t it work for you that the “something else” can be embraced by the “thing”? or else exist under the general umbrella of the “thing”? or maybe perhaps (heaven forfend!) there might just be reasonable disagreement amongst intellectually honest people as to whether or not the “thing” and the “something else” are (1) effectively the same thing, yet distinguishible in some way (otherwise why would one call the one thing “thing” and the second thing “something else”?), (2) separate, distinct, and wholly unrelated, or else (3) somehow related, as where one is a subset of the other. The “thing” can be weakened by the “something else” no matter which of these possibilities emerges as the preferred designation.

    If this is not the case, please tell me why.

  44. I don’t care what any of say, I ain’t gonna vote for Kerry.

  45. any of you say

  46. We can debate forever the semantics of whether or not the war in Iraq can be accused of “undermining” the war on terror while still “being a part of” the war on terror. I think that, at the end of the day, the basic question is NOT “what is the definition of the word ‘is’?” The basic question is this:

    Has the invasion of Iraq advanced or hindered our pursuit of the other objectives of the war on terror?

    You might be for or against the invasion of Iraq, but surely we should all be able to agree that it’s ludicrous to get all upset over the semantics.

    For those who aren’t convinced that it’s possible for something to be “part of” the war on terror and still undermine it, consider this hypothetical case: Suppose that country A declared war on country B. Suppose also that the leaders of country A decided to besiege some particular city of country B, but some people say “besieging that city isn’t necessary to the invasion of country B, because that city isn’t important” or whatever. Now, we would all agree that the siege of that city is “part of” the war against country B, but we might disagree over whether the siege advanced larger goals in the invasion of country B.

  47. We tried, in effect, to assisinate Saddam on the first night of the war. Since we failed then, I don’t think this was ever as easy a proposition as its adherents glibly claim it to be.

  48. Killing Saddam without a war would have been easy if we had just turned this over to the private sector 🙂

    All we’d have to do is pay some money to this guy named Tony. Tony would talk to the Boss, who would order a hit, and pretty soon Saddam would be sleeping with the fishes.

  49. I don’t accept Young’s implication that making the “autocracy -> terrorism” connection compels one to support the war. The left has been singing that tune about the Middle East since before Rumsfeld winked at Saddam’s gas bombs.

    I agree we need a short-to-medium term strategy to fight Al Qaeda, and a long term strategy to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East. I want very much to drain the swamp. I just don’t see us as any closer to that goal because of this war, and the way it was pulled off.

    And I don’t have any confidence that the Republican administration (people who like to call themselves “Reaganites”) are actually going to pursue democracy instead of an obedient authoritarian who’ll cut deals with our corporations. Look at Haiti and Venezuela for Bush’s commitment to democracy over autocracy.

  50. thoreau’s last post echoes, to me, the key observation in Young’s article. This discussion is about scope. For some people, The Problem is the guy who chooses to blow himself up to kill people. When addressing The Problem, the ONLY course of action is to stop that guy from acting to blow himself up. Many in this camp say that you just don’t do anything to make him mad. That way, anyone who thinks like he does should be similarly calmed. The hawks in this group say that you can go after him and the guy who gave him the bomb, but you have to have enough evidence to connect the two in a court of law.

    To others, this is a myopic way of viewing the problem. On this second view, the real world doesn’t work like CSI, at least not when you have an entire region of the map that is willing to dissemble, hide, and fund terrorists. Eliminating a cell with that much information is very rare, and you will quickly find your hands tied. A bomb goes off in LA, but there is insufficient evidence. Next week, New York, then DC, then Omaha. The answer, from this perspective, is to focus on the environment that allows terrorism to exist without fear of repercussion. All the talk about suicide bombers being undeterrable is hot air. OBL isn’t blowing himself up, and neither is any other organizer of terror. Why do those guys still exist? Because they have places to go where they will be fed, supplied, and hidden from view. Those doing the hiding have had, until recently, absolutely no fear of any negative consequences.

    For some, it is a moral issue. You can’t harm those that haven’t harmed you directly. I disagree. You can harm a guy like Saddam any time you want. The only questions revolve around the costs and benefits of doing so. If doing so disrupts the environment of tolerance for terrorists, that is a plus. If it costs more than deterrence is increased, that is a minus. Let’s have THAT conversation, by all means.

  51. zorel,

    “Jean Bart, I have occassionally seen your posts opposing Bush’s positions/policies (in general). If you don’t mind my asking, what would you have done about Al-Queda, Taliban, and Saddam?”

    Well, the three aren’t linked; so let’s not link them now. As to the former, I would have done exactly what was done; though the U.S. should have permitted France and other countries more action in attack on the Taleban, etc. (as Chirac asked Bush to allow). You would have more forces on the ground today if that had occurred.

    As to Iraq, I have stated on several occassions what should have been done – assasination of Saddam and his two sons, and negotiating with the regime that remained.

    “…it is a given that France would never have backed the US to act.”

    Why is that? Because of the extremely non-lucrative oil for food program? Please. I don’t use the equally worthless trope about “war for oil,” so don’t throw the useless notion at me that France’s actions were predicated upon a few hundred million in oil revenues.

  52. To better illustrate the folly of the neocon
    ‘enforced democratization’ project, imagine if the inner-city social engineering Thoreau refers to was taken to the analogous extreme:

    Instead of attempting to engineer through welfare statism, imagine that social engineers had invaded and occupied the inner-cities, killed a bunch of gang members as well as innocent bystanders, and held surviving residents at gun point. Also imagine that the invaders imposed curfews, routinely raided residents’ homes and conducted random searches for contraband, and declared that they were going to set and enforce the rules that residents must live by. Now imagine that these same people, for their own benefit, had aided and abetted many of the criminal elements responsible for terrorizing residents… and that these misdeeds plus home-grown demagoguery had created seething resentment and mistrust among residents.

    Would any reasonable person expect the inner- cities to be transformed into beacons of prosperity and peaceful coexistence as a result of these actions?

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