April 18, 2024

Where Would We Be?

Great Question, Dick…

Dick Cheney says that “the fact is, the world is better off today with Saddam Hussein out of power” and that we should be grateful and “Think where we’d be if he was still there.”

Polimom, a Houston-area blogger of some note called gives an him answer I can’t take issue with.

I think that it’s highly unlikely that Iraq was ever a threat to the U.S. at all – certainly the WMD issue was a bald-faced lie on the part of the Bush administration – and now 50,000 people are dead.  Where is the right in that, Dick?  Yes, Saddam would have done some measure of his own people in during the last 3 years, but hardly in those numbers.  But that’s never been what this war has been about.

The fact is that the Bushes and the military wanted to take down Iraq to make up for the blunder they made by not doing it back in 1990.  They wanted to build a democracy in the desert and they thought that sanctions had weakened Iraq’s military to the point that they couldn’t fight back – correct.  They thought that the rest of the region would be too scared to do oppose us – incorrect.  They also thought that a bare minimum number of troops could handle whatever scum the Iranians and the rest could brainwash into committing their now-infamous suicide attacks – incorrect.  They thought that it would be possible to create order out of chaos by holding out the vision of a superior value system and a set of democratic ideals – also incorrect.

Cheney said, “I think there is no question but that we did not anticipate an insurgency that would last this long.”

The question is, did the administration anticipate that there would be any insurgency at all?  As I understand it, before the Iraq invasion the best military planners called for almost twice the number of “boots on the ground” as we put into Iraq.  These plans weren’t implemented, obviously, and a general, Tommy Franks, was found who was game to go ahead with what he was given.  Even then, a sizable number of troops he’d hoped to have at his disposal were not deployed.

We were going to win this thing practically unopposed because we have the better society and the better set of moral and social ideals.  We deserved to win, so we would – that’s the thought pattern that drove their plans, I believe.  But as Clint Eastwood once said, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

That the core American values of democracy/republicanism, capitalism, and individual freedom are superior to those of Islamic nations is true, I think, on almost every objectively measurable point.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re going to be able to force those ideals down the throats of people willing to blow themselves to bits over a cartoon in a newspaper.

The truth is that, as our troops have (re)discovered in Iraq, it only takes a few bad apples to keep our type of commerce-based society from functioning.  America wins, Mr. Cheney, because our way of life generates more new ideas, gives more people opportunities, and produces more individual wealth than any other system created to-date – not because of our military prowess.  This is especially true when that strength is shown, for all the world to see, to be lacking.

Are the mullahs in Iran shaking in their boots right now?  Hardly.  They’re emboldened by what’s happened in Iraq, because we screwed it up and can’t pull the fat from the fire now, and they know that we can’t touch them militarily.  Somehow I don’t think that’s what you had in mind at all, is it, Dick?

Or are you all smarter than I think and this situation is exactly what was anticipated and desired?

marc

Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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6 thoughts on “Where Would We Be?

  1. I think you miss a number of crucial points.
    First off, WMD was one of a series of reasons for going into Iraq, and not the most central one. It was an important one, but the central reasons had more to do with Iraq’s connection to terror and their support of terrorist and terrorism then their stockpiles of WMDs. WMDs were important because Saddam had shown in the past that he was willing to use them (even on his own political enemies) and his continued recalcitrance at cooperation with the UN lead toa large level of uncertainty about how developed his WMD programs or stockpiles might have been. To say that the Bush administration lied to the people of the US about Saddam’s WMD programs is disingenuous. The Bush administration lied no moreso then the British, the French, the Russian, the Germans, the Israelis…etc lied about Saddam’s WMDs. Intel is not an exact science (especially when you lack people on the ground (HUMINT).

    Now, your point about the counter-insurgency is valid. However the US military has a history of never quite planning for the victory. Warriors plan for the fight. We should have learned now that we also have to plan for the victory, but we aren’t good at it. The campaign against Iraq was a textbook example of how to win a war. In just about 3 weeks we invaded a country, destroyed its C^3, obliterated its military, and toppled it’s civilian gov’t all while sustaining minimal casualties and infflicting substantial military losses on the enemy while minimizing collateral damage and damage to the infrastructure. The immediate post-invasion plans were looking towards the ’91 war when the Iraqi forces fired the oil wells in Kuwait so much was made of securing the oil terminals, pipelines, and fields. Did we have enough troops? For the war, we had plenty. For the aftermath, considering the tactics we chose to use…no we lacked the numbers that would have enabled us to immediately quell the insurgency. However, in addition to lacking troops, we really lacked the rules of enagement and the political captial to actually do the things that had to be done to pacify Iraq. The dissolution of the Army right as we got the verge of Baghdad proved to be a masterstroke by the Baathists who took the most loyal members of the military, that were thought to be about to fight door to door in the city and allowed them to melt into the countryside where they waiting for a bit and then formed up armed groups without any real coherent leadership to resist the US forces.

    In the end, that is the major roadblock that we face in Iraq. We do not have one enemy, but rather a multitude of enemies, who don’t want to see someone else have power because it means that they will not. They fight against the US either because we are their idealogical enemy, or because we represent freedom from their rule of thuggery. You are correct that we win because our economic system (and I would also say our political and cultural systems) are superior in a Darwinin sense. This has lead to the best military on the planet. One that can project power in a way that no prior military has been able to. One that has more force in one troop then ever been seen in the history of the world. But, that one powerful trooper cannot pacify a nation. For that you need lotsw of troops…and those (in this case) need to be Iraqis. This is why the news that the Iraqis have taken over control of their military again is a positive note. This is why, though it will take years more for them to succeed, if we continue to help them and guide them through this roughest of processes…freedom can flourish in Iraq. Its price will be steep, just as our country’s fight for freedom was steep. The only way the fight will be won…is not through the force of arms, but when the people of Iraq realize that they are better off living free then under the thumb of whatever strongman wants to control the small areas they live in. Then, and only then, will they cut off the insurgents at the knees and peace will reign. Of course the other option is that we will leave Iraq and some strongman will take over the country. He will bring about stability through the ruthless application of force…but hey the country will be stable and US troops won’t be dying anymore so that’s a good thing right?

  2. That’s quite true – intelligence and estimation of opposition isn’t easy. Examples: the US invasion of Iraq, the Russian invasion of Chechnya, and Insource Technology’s win of the “Star” project at a certain oil & gas company we know of… In all cases, an insurgency stymied the supposedly victorious force and denied them sustainable progress.

    Those errors, obvious as they seem now, are understandable and even forgivable. But they aren’t the real issue: the truthfulness of what the Bush administration said about Iraq.

    It seems to me that what’s disengenuous is to deny that the intelligence that was made public was known to be flawed and the call to war was based more on the desire to right an old wrong than to counter any immediate threat. It doesn’t require hindsight to make that evaluation – it was never more than highly doubtful that there were WMD in Iraq, despite what we were told on the telly.

    The truth is that all of this is piss in the wind. We’re stuck in Iraq for 5 more years, minimum – if we can sustain the effort that long – and there’s no viable exit strategy. Can you say, “Saigon, circa 1975”?? That what’ll happen if we bail out and I think everyone accepts that as being the case.

    Ultimately, I think what pisses Americans off is the fact that there’s no way out of this boondoggle except to hope that we can create a civilization out of deliberately orchestrated chaos. I think we agree what has to happen there – 90% of Iraqis have to decide they like us better than the terrorists. But that’s going to be tough.

  3. We have two issues that need to be agrees upon to continue the discussion.

    First, you say “it was never more then highly doubtful that there were WMD in Iraq, despite what we were told on the telly”. I dissagree with this statement. If it was “highly doubtful” then why did the UN even care to maintain the attempt to continue inspections for WMD and its programs. Why did President Clinton to justify his missle strikes in the late 90s (98 or 99) say that Iraq’s WMD programs could be easily reconstituted (in a matter of weeks or months) and thus we had to maintian a level of vigilance. Then in 2002 Saddam kicks out the inspectors yet again for a period of multiple months. What conclusion does one come to? Why would Saddam kick out the inspectors? What does he have to hide? Couple that with Iraq’s tendency to support terrorists (such as the training camps, and the payouts to Palestinian suicide bombers) and you have a country that has the capability to make WMDs in a matter of months, with ties to terror groups, and one that has kicked out the UN inspectors…while other conclusions are possible (and in the end it appears that the correct one was that Saddam didn’t think that any action would be taken against him, that his programs were shams that even he thought were more substantial then theya ctually were, and defying the UN and the US increased his self image and image in the region), the jump to Saddam building WMDs and potentially giving them to terrorist groups for use against the US was too great a risk to take post 9/11.

    I cannot understate how seminal this point is. Prior to 9/11 it is possible to contain Saddam and Iraq because no major strike has even been successfully made on our shores. WE can accept the losses of people overseas because we know that traveling is dangerous, but at home we are safe. 9/11 proved that to be incorrect and ended our policy of being able to say…he is way over there and even if he gets WMDs he can only use them on his own people, or perhaps his neighbors. The level of paranoia had to increase and that increase meant that allowing a country like Iraq to intimate that it had WMDs was unaceptable. Add to that the fact that Iraq was a sponsor of terrorists and thus firmly planted against the new foreign policy direction that we would take out countries that support terorrism and going into Iraq was not really an optional choice.

    As for being stuck in Iraq for 5 more years. WE have been stuck in Japan and Germany for over 60 yerars now and still show no sign of going home. We have been stuck in Korea for 50 years now and aren’t leaving anytime soon. From a cost benefit standpoint Iraq’s payoff is huge. If we can install a stable liberal democracy in Iraq then the fallout from that throughout the middle east and the Islamic world would be amazing. Its a big if, but the alternative is to play defense and become a Fortress America to protect ourselves from the Islamofacists. Iraq may not have been the central front for Al Qaeda in 2003, but it certainly is now.

    There is some critical mass point (90%, 95%, 75%, some other %) at which the Iraqis will marginalize the terrorists. The way to win is to give them the chance to get to that point. They don’t have to like us…they have to hate the terrorists. They have to realize that the option that they provide is much worse then the alternative. Under Saddam, there was no alternative…now they have one…we just need to give them the time to realize how much better it can be then the rule of the strong man with the gun at their head.

  4. David, you’re saying that we were afraid. That’s correct, we were afraid of what was “out there”. Why? Because something definitely was. We didn’t know who or where the monster was but we had to hit something, right? Saddam gave us an excuse and we went after him knowing full well that he was probably bluffing. But even that isn’t quite right, is it? “Bluffing” isn’t the correct word because he wasn’t even playing until we threw down the gauntlet.

    You’re right that Iraq has great potential if it can be salvaged, but that’s highly doubtful. It’s an entirely different situation from Germany and Japan in that those were defeated and pacified enemies licking their wounds, not active enemies.

    If Iraq mirrors any WWII locale, it’s West Berlin. Surrounded by enemies, under constant threat, far away from support that probably wouldn’t have saved it if the Russkies had attacked, it wasn’t a nice place. Add in the Iraq effect – 5% of the population is actively engaged in a guerilla war against the government – and what do you have?

    Not a place we’re likely to get 25% of our oil imports from over the next half-century.

    And yes, we should be organizing our borders and getting the immigration situation at least somewhat under control. The Dems will not allow that to happen without a fight as one of the few segments of American society that still believes in them is the Latino vote, but I fail how we can pretend to be security focused with a dotted line as our only border defense and no ability to track who comes and goes.

  5. Following 9/11 we hit the first major supporter of AQ by supporting the Northern Alliance’s coup of the Taliban. That was the extent of the desire to strike back. In fact most Americans would likely have been quite happy to leave it at that and toss nasty words at everyone else. But in President Bush’s SOTU in 2002 he talked about the Axis of Evil (and got as much criticism for that statement as President Reagan got for calling the USSR an “Evil Empire”). There is no doubt or debate the Saddam Hussein supported terrorists (there is some debate as to his level of connection to AQ, but his support of terrorists is undeniable). There is also no doubt that Saddam wanted to reconstitute his WMD programs and would if given the chance. There is lastly no debate on Saddam’s intransigence in reagards to the UN inspections. Given that confluence of events it was irresponsible to ignore the potential threat of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Just as it is irresponsible to allow Iran (another country with known ties to terrorists) access to nuclear weapons.

    You are not entirely correct that Germany and Japan were pacified countries in 1945. Germany especially had a fairly robust Nazi insurgency for almost a year following VE-Day. Of course there were a couple of million allied troops in Germany at the time who were all combat vets with little love for former German soldiers of any stripe. I do agree that had we approached the toppling of Iraq as we approached Germany in 1944-5 subduing the insurgency would be much easier. We would have bombed the crud out of them and (like Sherman in 1865) cut a swath of destruction to utterly and completly destroy the Iraqi will to resist. That would ahve worked rather well to be honest, but we chose not to go that route (for may valid reasons, not the least of which we don’t have a military that can support that type of war anymore). In our current situation, we have to provide security as we ramp up the local forces until they can provide that security. They are making great progress, but have a long way to go.

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