Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why is Mid-2015 the Historical Vantage Point for Iraq?

Why is this month the point where we ask, "if we knew in 2003 what we know now, would we have invaded Iraq?"

After all, our Master of Smart Diplomacy re-intervened in Iraq in 2014 and promised a three-year plan to defeat ISIL, and thus save Iraq.

Shouldn't we assume brilliant success in Iraq because ... Obama?

And then judge the cost of that future multi-sectarian paradise in Iraq free of ISIL where people work together in an Iraqi democracy?

Why isn't that future the logical point to judge the decision to invade Iraq?

Or the end of 2011 when Iraq was pretty quiet and working to build their fragile democracy?

Why now when we are engaged in a renewed battle to define the end state of Iraq?

Consider that our Civil War took years to win and cost massive casualties. Although the Union thought the war could be won quickly, it actually took a long time and a exacted a heavy price.

In 1870, would a majority have considered the decision to fight the Confederacy in 1861 to have been the right decision?

When we were still mourning our 365,000 war dead? And that's just the Union number, since we're talking about knowledge of the costs of starting the war.

When Black Codes denied newly freed slaves their equal rights in states as the slave-holding elite defeated Reconstruction and found new ways to keep formally free people in bondage under the law?

When even the paper rights in our Constitution took until then to be ratified.

Yeah, mistakes were made, no doubt in both the war and post-war.

And it took a century to get real civil rights legislation to make sure African Americans could be equal under the law.

So yeah, knowing what we know now, launching the reconquest of the Confederacy in 1861 was the right decision.

Let's be grateful that Democrats didn't win their effort to make the decision point for the Civil War the year 1864 as our nation went to the polls to decide if President Lincoln would have the chance to complete the war he started in victory.

Nuanced folks could have made serious arguments about why the Civil War was a mistake from 1864 to 1964 based on "knowing what we know now," eh?

Supporters of the Iraq War should have a little more backbone to defend what Iraq can be (and what it already isn't) if we take the time to build something good on what our military achieved by defeating evil.

War supporters do not need to accept the premise that this moment is the correct point in time to decide if 20/20 hindsight allows us to be satisfied with our decision in 2003 to launch the war and destroy Saddam's evil and dangerous regime in Iraq.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Victor Hanson.

Although I disagree that the counter-terror/insurgency campaign was decisively riddled with errors (any campaign is) given that we did defeat a number of threats through 4 years of fighting after the fall of Saddam.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here and here. And here, too.