Saturday, June 25, 2005

Fighting and Winning in Iraq

Victor Hanson and Robert Kagan have articles that should be read in full.

Hanson notes that it is difficult for a conservative president to wage war given that the larger dominant culture will suspect that he is eager for war and fighting out of less-than-pure motives. The Left could do whatever it wants in war and not be condemned by the larger cultural environment of a sympathic press and national culture in contrast to the hyper-sensitive criticism against the war we are in now:

So there was never much room for error in this war. We are not talking in this postmodern era in terms of a past Democratic president invading Latin America, interring citizens in high-plains camps, hanging terrorist suspects, nuking cities, or bombing pharmaceutical factories in Africa, but, at least from the weird present hysteria, something apparently far worse — like supposedly flushing a Koran at Guantanamo.

Indeed, I read a number of posts on this subject in fall 2004 as pro-war people asked whether victory could only come if the opposition won the presidency since then the anti-war side would morph into support while the existing pro-war side would stick with the war. It was a fascinating and disturbing debate that essentially described a hostage situation where our troops were the victims.

And the important thing to remember is that despite the press-led cries of despair being voiced now, we are winning in Iraq. Hanson writes:

Contrary to all recent popular wisdom, the war in Iraq is not a disaster, but nearing success. It has been costly and at times tragic, but a democracy is in place, accords are being hammered out with Sunni rejectionists, and the democratic reformist mindset is pulsating into Lebanon, Egypt, and the Gulf. This has only been possible because of the courage and efficacy of a much maligned military that, for the lapses of a small minority at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, has been compared to Stalin and Hitler.

We are winning.

Kagan hits on whether this war is worth the sacrifice and point out that critics don't address what today would look like if we had not invaded Iraq in 2003 (and it wouldn't be a kite-flying paradise):

[A] fact not in dispute is that Hussein remained keenly interested in and committed to acquiring weapons of mass destruction, that he maintained secretive weapons programs throughout the 1990s and indeed right up until the day of the invasion, and that he was only waiting for the international community to lose interest or stamina so that he could resume his programs unfettered. This is the well-documented, unrefuted -- and unnoticed -- conclusion of both David Kay and Charles Duelfer. Whether Hussein would have eventually succeeded in acquiring these weapons would have depended on other nations' will and ability to stop him.

That is a question to which we will never have a definitive answer, and yet it is critical to any judgment about the merits of the war. The most sensible argument for the invasion was not that Hussein was about to strike the United States or anyone else with a nuclear bomb. It was that containment could not be preserved indefinitely, that Hussein was repeatedly defying the international community and that his defiance appeared to both the Clinton and Bush administrations to be gradually succeeding. He was driving a wedge between the United States and Britain, on one side, which wanted to maintain sanctions and containment, and France, Russia, and China, on the other, which wanted to drop sanctions and normalize relations with him. The main concern of senior officials in both administrations was that, in the words of then-national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, containment was not "sustainable over the long run." The pattern of the 1990s, "Iraqi defiance, followed by force mobilization on our part, followed by Iraqi capitulation," had left "the international community vulnerable to manipulation by Saddam." The longer the standoff continued, Berger warned in 1998, "the harder it will be to maintain" international support for containing Hussein. Nor did Clinton officials doubt what Hussein would do if and when containment collapsed. As Berger put it, "Saddam's history of aggression, and his recent record of deception and defiance, leave no doubt that he would resume his drive for regional domination if he had the chance." Nor should we assume that, even if the United States and others had remained vigilant, Hussein could have been deterred from doing something to provoke a conflict. Tragic miscalculation was Hussein's specialty, after all, as his invasions of Iran and Kuwait proved.

Kagan supports Hanson's article nicely. All the arguments made today for destroying Saddam's regime were made before in the late 1990s. Then the arguments were accepted by the larger culture. Today they are rejected as the insane machinations of a secretive cabal.

Fascinating. And this doesn't even begin to discuss the sheer humanitarian success of ending a murdering and torturing regime.

We are winning and this fight is worth it. We did the right thing. Drive on. We will achieve victory if we stick with what we are doing and our troops will come home with their heads held high in success knowing they accomplished a great good.