American Gerontocracy

Generational Warfare In Our Time

Thoughts on the War in Iraq

For many younger voters, the war in Iraq fuels a deep hatred of the Bush administration and, by extension, a general dislike of the Republican party. The problems here are manifest. Young voters believe the Bush administration was dishonest in the initiation of the war. They believe the war has been poorly managed. They believe things aren’t getting better in Iraq, and there is no reasonable chance of success. They don’t have a good grasp on the costs and failures of our previous nation-building efforts (e.g. how many younger voters know that in 1947, years after the end of World War II, over 10,000 Germans starved to death as a result of failed Allied occupation policies?). And maybe most importantly, they don’t have a realistic understanding of the chaos and death that would result if the US were to change course and abruptly withdraw from the conflict.

Here’s an excellent paper on the roots of the war and how realistic it is to solely associate it with the Bush administration and “neo-con” policy:

This [dogmatic liberal] version of events [in Iraq] implicitly rejects another and arguably simpler interpretation: that after September 11, 2001, American fears were elevated, America’s tolerance for potential threats lowered, and Saddam Hussein naturally became a potential target, based on a long history of armed aggression, the production and use of chemical weapons, proven efforts to produce nuclear and biological weapons, and a murky relationship with terrorists. The United States had gone to war with him twice before, in 1991 and then again at the end of 1998, and the fate of Saddam Hussein had remained an unresolved question at the end of the Clinton administration. It was not so unusual for the United States to go to war a third time, therefore, and the Bush administration’s decision can be understood without reference to a neoconservative doctrine. After September 11, the Bush administration weighed the risks of leaving Saddam Hussein in power against the risks of fighting a war to remove him and chose the latter, its calculus shaped by the terrorist attacks and by widely shared suppositions about Iraq’s weapons programs that ultimately proved mistaken.

If one chose to believe this simpler version, then the decision to invade Iraq might have been correct or mistaken, but the lessons to be learned from the war would concern matters of judgment, tactics, and execution—don’t go to war based on faulty intelligence; don’t topple a foreign government without a plan to bring order and peace to the country afterwards; don’t be so quick on the trigger; exhaust all possibilities before going to war; be more prudent. But they would not raise broader issues of foreign policy doctrine and grand strategy. After all, prudence is not a foreign policy. It is possible to be prudent or imprudent, capable or clumsy, wise or foolish, hurried or cautious in pursuit of any doctrine. The intervention in Vietnam was the direct product of the Cold War strategy of containment, but many people who think the Vietnam War was a mistake nevertheless do not condemn containment. They believe the war was the misapplication and poor execution of an otherwise sound strategy. One could argue the same was true of Iraq.

Regardless of how we go into Iraq, we are now there. And there are signs of progress. Younger voters would be wise to reject the tendency of Democrats and media to — in the words of Joseph Lieberman — “Hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, but most of all speak of no progress in Iraq.”  Proper consideration should be given to the facts. The situation in Iraq is far from ideal, or even good. But it does appear to be stabilizing, and the ultimate costs of withdrawal at this stage could be far higher than the costs of maintaining a continued, stabilizing presence.

 

Status of Iraq 1

Status of Iraq 2

Status of Iraq 3

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April 19, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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