Wednesday, August 31, 2005

End of Analysis

This analysis of the impact of the Iraq War is simply foolish:

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Americans would have allowed President Bush to lead them in any of several directions, and the nation was prepared to accept substantial risks and sacrifices. The Bush administration asked for no sacrifices from the average American, but after the quick fall of the Taliban it rolled the dice in a big way by moving to solve a longstanding problem only tangentially related to the threat from Al Qaeda - Iraq. In the process, it squandered the overwhelming public mandate it had received after Sept. 11. At the same time, it alienated most of its close allies, many of whom have since engaged in "soft balancing" against American influence, and stirred up anti-Americanism in the Middle East.

What is Fukuyama talking about?

The sacrifice theme is one I hear again and again; and I don't get it. Casualties are not a sacrifice? Budget deficits are not a sacrifice? Higher gasoline and energy prices are not a sacrifice? Isn't tighter security a sacrifice? Oh, right, only higher federal taxes count as a sacrifice for these people.

In a long struggle that will only occasionally involve large numbers of troops fighting and dying, we want to minimize sacrifice to maintain support. The Cold War was supported over the long haul because we did not overly stress the public. Neither the current war nor the Cold War were conventional conflicts where you could ramp up the troops, collect tin cans and coins from children, drive on the enemy capital and then go home after demobilizing most of the troops. This is an ideological struggle that we can lose if we exhaust ourselves, expecting a quick resolution.

Fukuyama's assertion about Iraq having only a tangential relationship with al Qaeda underestimates the links to al Qaeda specifically, ignores more general support for terrorists, and misreads the lesson of 9-11 that hatred for us will lead our enemies to kill us in as large numbers as possible. Only the means have been limited. If Iraq was allowed to get nuclear weapons, the threat of terrrorists getting nukes from them was too great a threat to risk. The threat of Iraq using such weapons was too great. And the ability of Iraq to carry out non-nuclear terrorism or conventional aggression behind a shield of nuclear weapons was too horrifying a thought to allow.

As for squandering the public mandate, taking on Iraq was not the cause. The public clearly supported taking out Saddam prior to the war. Time, the failure of the administration to consistently bolster the war effort, harping criticism that is not done for constructive purposes but for partisan gain, and a press that is biased and ignorant enough to paint a picture of a country expoding on a daily basis have reduced positive support for the war. And a majority still opposes a rapid withdrawal in defeat.

And what close allies have abandoned us? Belgium? France? Germany? You have to squint awfully hard to call them pre-9/11 close allies. Britain stands with us as does Australia and Japan as well as other countries in smaller numbers (such as the Netherlands and Denmark and El Salvador). And we've added India as a budding ally. Even South Korea has troops with us in Iraq. And of course, we have created Iraq as an ally that will increasingly fight inside Iraq and when that fight is won, support us in the region against the forces that try to destroy Iraq today.

My most serious question revolves around whether he is freaking serious to claim that the Iraq War stirred up anti-Americanism in the Middle East? September 11, East Africa, The Cole, Khobar Towers, Mogadishu, Beirut, the Hostage Crisis, and countless other smaller events show that anti-Americanism was going strong under the prior strategy. And with Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Egypt moving in positive directions (and with polling showing progress in attitudes generally), it is sheer idiocy to argue that we've made things worse by fighting back against the forces of terror.

Finally, given the whole criticism of the war he lays out, you'd think he'd at least give the President credit for taking a risk to secure our safety. Fukuyama argues our public was ready for risk after 9-11. Ultimately, however, I think it was too risky to keep doing what we were doing--calls to have done it better notwithstanding.

The history we are writing today requires better analysis than this piece of work. Because history will continue with or without us.