"A War to Be Proud Of"


That's Christopher Hitchens' summation of the current unpleasantness in Iraq and Afghanistan. In The Weekly Standard, Hitchens gives no fewer than 10 reasons to grok that-which-is-not-Vietnam:

(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia….

(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue, and the unmasking of a quasi-criminal network within its elite….

(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat.

(7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region–the Kurds–and the spread of this example to other states.

(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy….

(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

Whole list here. Hitchens has always been a consistent humanitarian interventionist–essentially, he supported the invasion of Iraq for the same reasons he called for earlier and more decisive intervention in the former Yugoslavia.

As someone who was against invading Iraq but hopes the occupation will deliver something other quagmirism, I've got to say that I don't find most of his points as reasons to stand up and cheer. Yes, of course, it's great that Saddam is gone. But it's far from clear to me that it was the United States' (and it was primarily a U.S. action) responsibility to topple him–or that it was worth the lives of any Americans (why didn't we push harder to support indigenous insurrectionists both in Iraq and Iran–home-grown rebels whose success would have led to a stability so far eluding Iraq)? In claiming that UN reform (which will not happen anyway) is one of the boons of Iraq, Hitchens is really searching through the shit for a kernel of corn. Or that we can now be certain Saddam didn't actually have weapons of mass destruction–weren't inspections going on to determine just that? Etc. As important, the U.S. has emerged from this situation with just a vague and clueless a foreign policy as we've had since the end of the Cold War.

I think it's worth drawing an elemental distinction, too, between the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, which refused to turn over Bin Laden, and Iraq. The former was clearly defensible to all but the most extreme Islamists and Hate-America-Firsters. The latter is rightly seen as a far less clear-cut operation. And that's without asking questions about the reconstruction of Iraq, which virtually everyone acknowledges has been poorly planned to date.