Thursday, June 19, 2014

No, the Iraq War Made Sense

Kirsten Powers is upset that backers of the Iraq War, which she said is one of the biggest mistakes we've ever made, are criticising the president's decision to walk away from Iraq in 2011. She has very little understanding of military matters, strategy, or history--or what we achieved in Iraq.

We had good reasons to destroy the Saddam regime. We won the war despite war opponents insisting we could not win and doing what they could to lose the war. We abandoned Iraq to put our achievements at risk. But we can still engage to win Iraq. Failing to understand this basic sequence is what Iraq War opponents do.

I have little patience for this nonsense:

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Americans' No. 1 concern was ridding the world of terrorists. Since Saddam Hussein was not known for supporting al-Qaeda and had no connection to the 9/11 attacks, the invasion never made sense.

Now it makes even less sense as Iraq is terrorized by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a jihadist group that even al-Qaeda found too extreme.

Somehow, this is President Obama's fault. The Iraq War boosters claim that Iraq had become stable, and that the president erred in pulling out U.S. troops. But if U.S. soldiers have to live and die in Iraq beyond a decade in order to prevent the country from descending into chaos, it was inherently unstable. Look no further than the fact that the Iraqi army, which Americans spent 10 years training, laid down its arms upon facing ISIS. At any rate, the complaints about Obama are completely gratuitous because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to sign a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed the U.S. to stay.

Gratuitous finger-pointing is what Iraq War advocates do. They have yet to take responsibility for what will go down as one of the most horrific foreign policy debacles in American history.

Remember that lots of Democrats saw Iraq under Saddam as a threat (tip to Instapundit):

That threat did not require a Saddam-9/11 link. Nobody argued that. Why Powers would insist that was the reason to invade is just astounding.

Why was Iraq an enemy in the first place? Don't forget that Iraq had a defense treaty with the Soviet Union back in the Cold War. So there's that.

And you may remember we fought Saddam in 1991 to liberate Kuwait. Remember?

Then read the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton for some history, which obviously doesn't rely on any fantasy claim of Saddam-9/11 links.

The United States declared, as a result of this history, that:

It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.

So, long before 9/11, Iraq under Saddam's rule was our formal enemy. This was no declaration of war. But it was a declaration of intent to defeat and remove his government--and establish a democracy there.

Fast forward 4 years to the reasons for war in the 2002 authorization to use force against Iraq resolution, which repeats the 1998 offenses and adds new ones, including rightly noting that Saddam provided support to plenty of other terrorists. The only mention of al Qaeda was to note that members had fled our Afghanistan campaign to seek refuge inside Iraqi territory in a region beyond Saddam's control, but from which they could draw supplies and support from both Baghdad and Iran.

There's much more if you care to read it. Saddam failed to abide by the terms of the 1991 ceasefire and was clearly attempting to restore Iraq to a position where he could again threaten the region--as he did in 1994 openly--requiring us to reinforce Kuwait--and more subtly again in 1996 (I think).

Indeed, in 1998, President Clinton even ordered four days of air strikes on Saddam's infrastructure of WMD as punishment for failing to cooperate with the 1991 ceasefire terms.

So Iraq under Saddam was a threat to Iraqis, neighbors, the region, and our interests completely separate from 9/11. Going to war with Saddam made sense. Indeed, as long as Saddam or his spawn were around, I assumed there would be a round two.

As President Bush noted at the time, in light of the threat from terrorists that 9/11 demonstrated, leaving an evil thug like Saddam Hussein in power risked a future where terrorists who wish to kill us could receive support from an oil-exporting state intent on harming us.

So contrary to Powers' claim, going to war with Saddam's Iraq made a lot of sense.

And what about that short-lived Responsibility to Protect doctrine that lasted just long enough to justify the Libya War? Was Saddam not evil and bloody enough to trigger that reason to intervene?

Since Iraq has not collapsed into chaos--as bad as the loss of chunks of territory is--I'm not sure what Powers means by saying that this "chaos" proves Iraq is inherently unstable, so it would have been pointless to remain in Iraq after 2011.

That's just nonsense. What part of the region is inherently stable, anyway?

What of Europe where Spain, Britain, Italy, and Belgium face strong pressures to split their territory. What of Ukraine? And just where are Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia these days, anyway?

Or the Soviet Union, for that matter?

As for the collapse of part of Iraq's army in the face of the ISIS offensive, that does not prove our training efforts were wasted. We trained a counter-insurgency force and our presence would have helped maintain that training and also create conventional combat capabilities.

Our presence also would have lessened the corruption that has undermined some of the Iraqi army units to the point where they broke and ran (or surrendered and were murdered) around Mosul.

Remember, too, that we are still in Europe and Japan 69 years after World War II--and that Europe needed significant American military support just to wage a one-dimensional war against civil war-wracked Libya just three years ago. Was that proof of Europe's failure and the pointlessness of our presence?

Remember that 61 years after the Korean War, we still have troops in South Korea. We still haven't transferred command and control responsibilities for commanding our combined forces in case of war to the South Koreans, who have built a modern, prosperous, democratic, and westernized country in those decades where we shielded them. But their inability to fight without our major assistance means our time there has been pointless?

Absolving President Obama and blaming Maliki for the lack of a SOFA to keep our troops in Iraq after 2011 requires you to believe that President Obama actually tried very hard to avoid getting exactly what he said he wanted and would achieve if president--the complete withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq.

And it requires you to explain why President Obama has established a minuscule post-combat role for American forces for just two years in Afghanistan--the war that the president said was the "good" and "necessary" war--even after the president ordered two escalations of troops in 2009 in order to win that war.

As for the outcome, Iraq was a success. Despite opponents of the war insisting it could not be won, we defeated Saddam's forces in battle and in the counter-insurgency phase. We defeated Iran's Shia death squad proxies. We defeated the al Qaeda invasion. And we beat down the internal divisions enough to establish a new, if fragile democracy.

The war was so successful that the Obama administration boasted of it as a great success and our defeat of al Qaeda there allowed the president himself to proclaim that al Qaeda was dead.

Violence was way down and the fledgling democracy was moving forward.

Consider what we would have chosen to accept if we had not invaded Iraq in 2003.

But we walked away and allowed the forces that tear apart every country in the region--tribal/sectarian divisions and corruption--to undermine what we bled and spent to achieve.

I thought that the idiocy over the Iraq War would fade away. It didn't last year on the tenth anniversary of the war. The current Iraqi crisis has simply made the idiocy more intense.

Seriously, don't listen to Powers for your history, military, and national security information needs. She really hasn't a clue.

I don't care if President Obama admits he made mistakes in Iraq. I just want him to help Iraq succeed right now, when they need our help. That's the only thing that makes sense at this point.

Excuse the data dump. This is so frustrating that I was fortunate to restrain myself as much as I did here. Initially I quoted at length from the two Congressional documents on Iraq. When I calm down I may try a more condensed version.

NOTE: I corrected the first sentence of the post.