Friday, March 17, 2006

At least He Defends the War ...

This author (via Real Clear Politics) defends the decision to go to war as we approach the three-year anniversary of H-Hour against Saddam's regime:

The failures of the occupation are legion: delayed elections, inadequate security, eroding infrastructure, complacency over the tortures at Abu Ghraib, and a heavy death toll among Iraqi civilians and our troops. But had we allowed Saddam's regime to persist, in defiance of its obligations under 17 UN security council resolutions, the consequences would have been an unalloyed catastrophe. The Uday-Qusay dynasty would have ensured further extreme oppression, unless and until the regime collapsed in chaos. It is a fine judgment whether a rogue state or a failed state, prey to the barbarities that jihadists are trying to inflict on Iraq now but without hindrance, would have been the worse prospect. The notion that terrorism has been brought to Iraq uniquely by the west's overthrow of Saddam, who bankrolled it and was the most likely conduit for Islamist groups to obtain WMD, is astonishingly ahistorical.

Against those disastrous scenarios, there are clear advances. We no longer have to bear one major risk: a psychopathic despot overcoming a porous sanctions regime, and using oil sales to pay for resumed WMD production. The absence of WMD was a huge intelligence failure; so it is fortunate that we are no longer reliant on Saddam's word. As Professor Graham Pearson, of the Bradford University school of peace studies, has written, focusing on stockpiles is misconceived: "In an aggressor state, there is no requirement to have such stockpiles as the national strategy is not one of having an ability to retaliate in kind but rather ... to use chemical and biological weapons at a time of its choosing." Saddam did possess dual-use facilities that, according to Charles Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group, could quickly have produced chemical and biological weapons.

I dispute that the failures he listed are accurate, however.

Delayed elections? Delaying the elections is what war opponents demanded all the way up to vote on the constitution--delay the vote until Iraq is more secure, they said. We held firm and held the elections as scheduled. Each one was more successful than the one before it.

Inadequate security? Is the fact that we have not won yet proof that we have had inadequate security? We are in fact winning, so saying our level of security is insufficient just because we haven't won yet is like saying in January 1945 we hadn't committed enough force to defeat the Axis since we hadn't won at that point. Talk to me again if we lose and we'll discuss this question. And when we win, it will seem a pretty silly question.

Eroding infrastructure? We are building (not rebuilding) the electricy and water net to provide services to people who did not have it before. Equitable distribution, higher demand, and terror attacks have made it look like less is available but only from the vantage point of a journalist in Baghdad.

Complacency over torture at Abu Ghraib? What torture? Abuse, sure, but it barely made it beyond hazing practices at British public schools for Pete's sake. And we investigated how long and punished how many? And we are closing the prison out of fear of bad publicity. Complacency? I think not. Quite the opposite. And rightly so. We expect better of our troops and almost always get it. But calling what we punished "torture"? Sheesh.

A heavy death toll among Iraqi civilians and our soldiers? Um, no. For Iraq's civilians, it isn't much compared to the Saddam toll. The common factor of course is that the Baathists then and now target civilians. The difference is now the victims fight back with our help and can look forward to the day when the killers are themselves dead, in jail, or exiled. As for our troops, if the author doesn't know that we suffer losses at historically low levels, I don't know what else I can say.

But heck, if he can still support the overthrow of Saddam even while holding these views, he may be made of sterner stuff than a lot of conservatives over here who once supported the war at least to some degree.