Sunday, August 01, 2004

After reading Steven Den Beste's post on Terrorism, I thought of Mark A. R. Kleiman's post asking Why is it "pro-war" to pretend that things are going well?

Steven starts out with a generalized discussion about Guerrilla warfare and terrorism which I mostly agree with. He than talks about the our enemies' most recent strategy in Iraq of pushing out our smaller allies by kidnapping their citizens and or soldiers. He talks logically about the dangers of this to us - but never asks if Bush should have anticipated this when assembling his coalition of the willing. Except for Britain, in sheer numerical terms the numbers are quite small. Even if the gain was worth the risk - was the risk adaquately planned for?

Steven refers to the June 28th handover as a major victory - but if merely declaring Allawi to be in charge is a victory, why did we wait so long? Militarily we lost Falluja - we don't have troops there anymore. When serious warhawks are watching Ramadi to see if it goes next, saying we're winning isn't always bringing us closer to victory. Remember instead Steven's original discussion of how winning Iraq was supposed to cut down on terrorism from all over the Middle East - by building a prosperous democracy where people could get good jobs to support themselves and replace humiliation with pride in genuine achievement. See my previous post on Dubai, and also Mark A.R. Kleiman:

Having never been certain that invading Iraq was a good idea, I'm not now certain that it was in fact a bad one. And whether it was a good decision or not, I'm still a "war supporter" in the sense of thinking that, having invaded, we need to observe Napoleon's principle: "If you start out to take Vienna, take Vienna." But that "pro-war" viewpoint makes me more, not less, interested in knowing, and saying, just how badly things are going at the moment.
I never thought that Iraq was going to be a working liberal democracy, or even a reasonable approximation, anytime soon. (According to the neocons, that made me a racist, if I recall correctly.) Now the odds of that seem even longer than they were. But there's a difference between a mediocre outcome and a disastrous one, and I'd like to see us stick around and pay what it costs, in blood and treaure, to achieve mediocrity.
Minimizing how badly things are going right now does not, however, facilitate that outcome. Yes, predicting that the current adventure will end badly, linked with the proposal that we cut and run, does tend to encourage the other side. But noting that things are, at this very moment, going to Hell in a handbasket isn't "anti-war."

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