August 22, 2005

Why We Should Invade Iraq (A Recap)

While reading this Balloon Juice post and especially its subsequent commentary, it became clear that it was time to come out of my Iraq hibernation and recap why, in August, 2005, I still think that the Iraq invasion was worth doing and would, if it were to do over again with perfect foreknowledge of the cost and waste, advocate that we do it again.

1. There is a toxic nexus in the Middle East. It is complex, spans the sectarian and governing model divides, and its existence spawns the fertile support ground that has made Al Queda a global threat and worthy of a worldwide war against them. The first and foremost reason to invade Iraq is that it was the most vulnerable practical invasion site that was a member of this toxic nexus of Middle East dictatorships. You can't reduce the 4th generation network of Al Queda to irrelevance without eliminating their common support matrix which is governmental, civic, and religious. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was the dynamite explosion that broke up a very stubborn, interlocking geopolitical system and continues to have positive effects in many different ways, some expected ( like the fact that the KSA is now serious about hunting Al Queda at home as it never was when the US had troops there), others a complete surprise (the Cedar Revolution).

2. One of the major components of Al Queda's attack on the US (and the West in general) is to eliminate westphalianism and to let us kill each other, sapping our strength in internecine war. We were already at war with Iraq. This is of supreme importance if we're going to sustain the Westphalian system long enough for us to come up with a sustainable, superior, successor system. We don't have enough body bags for all the corpses that will be produced around the world if we go back to the pre-Westphalian system. It would have taken us further down the slippery slope if we had not repurposed the old war into OIF.

3. The post 1991 sanctions regime, like all sanctions regimes, was cruel. Ending it with regime change had been official US policy since 1998. The US Congress passed that for a reason. Bill Clinton signed it for a reason. Those reasons were good, just, and we did our best to do it every which way but invasion prior to OIF implemented that 1998 legislation with quick finality. Anybody who breezily says that the sanctions were working "just fine" either are ignorant of the effects on the Iraqi people or are moral lepers who don't mind the death toll.

4. The sanctions regime led to a great moral rot in national institutions across the world and in our international system. Saddam acted like Capone in Cicero. He bought influence, safety, and UN cover for himself. It wasn't going to get any better as long as the oil-for-food regime was in place. We still don't know the extent of the rot but we know enough to say that it was a huge operation and we'll be many years in cleaning it up. Nobody on the anti-war side has ever explained how they would have cleaned up the UN and the national political corruption absent Saddam's removal. The best information we've gotten is the treasure trove of documents coming out of Baghdad. We have a hope of curing the rot because of OIF.

5. Saddam had a desire for WMD and a plan to get them. At best (for us), his plan was to get rid of sanctions, be certified WMD free, and get hip deep into the business of building them as fast as possible. Tales of stockpiles spirited into the Bekaa valley would make Saddam's Iraq even worse but even taking the most optimistic construction, Saddam's ambitions could not have been tolerated. Maintaining the sanctions and inspection regime was getting more and more difficult and would have meant escalating costs to the US, forcing us to choose between getting help on Al Queda or on Saddam isolation. We just couldn't afford that neverending commitment.

6. Iraq borders three major state sources of terrorist support. There simply isn't a better place to plant the tree of liberty if you want to create an example. For those who guffaw at the idea that arabs can become democrats, I would suggest that the electoral returns will prove me right over time. After all, if the arabs cannot become democrats, why do we allow them to vote in Detroit? As long as universal suffrage is maintained, the people will eventually correct any initial false steps.

7. Iraq has a coast and has invasion staging grounds accessible to the US (Kuwait and we-had-hoped Turkey). This makes things enormously easier. Afghanistan was a miracle of inland force projection. We shouldn't count on two miracles.

8. Iraq has a large majority of arabs. While Islam is not exclusively an arab religion, the arab ethnicity is at the heart of Islam and it seems to be largely at the heart of the Islamist enterprise (which, it's safe to say, is a subset of Islam). There's an awful lot of racism/arab supremecist in Islamist practice and it is unlikely that any efforts in, say Sudan (with its large black population), would affect those arab Islamists as much as the takedown of an unabashadly arab nation. Afghanistan certainly didn't do the trick.

9. Iraq was a state sponsor terrorist innovator. Saddam was growing more bold, openly creating a bounty market for terrorist acts in Israel. Just like the Central Asian muslim terrorist practice of beheading victims spread far beyond its modern Chechen genesis, a state-sponsored bounty market in dead infidels was an idea which needed to be strangled in its crib. Post-OIF, nobody has stepped into Saddam's role as the primary issuer of suicide bombing bounties.

10. Iraq's regime was an evil tyranny. There's something to be said for killing off tyrants, destroying their regimes on general principles. We can't afford to do it everywhere but we should not pass up the opportunity to do it when it is in our national interest.

Posted by TMLutas at August 22, 2005 03:25 PM