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3/16/2008
IRAQ 5 YEARS GONE
CATEGORY: War on Terror

In my 54 years of life on earth, I have come to see war in rather stark and uncompromising terms:

1. War is waste.

2. There is nothing moral about any war except working to end it in victory as soon as possible.

Spare me your attempts to praise or condemn the decision to go to war based on some moral framework. Standing on the mountaintop preaching to the rest of us about how “immoral” it was to go into Iraq or how “Just War” doctrine applies is supercilious at best and ultimately irrelevant. History will have her way with us, judging whether the decision to invade Iraq was correct or incorrect. In that respect, morality plays little or no role. And those who pretend to know how the future will unfold as a result of our actions can easily be dismissed as charlatans - and that includes everyone from internet pundits to so-called experts who endlessly expound on the dire future in the region because of our invasion.

The fact is no one knows what the Middle East will look like 10 years or 5 years or even 2 years from now. Other forces are at work that may make our efforts in Iraq a positive contribution to stability in the region or the catalyst for cataclysm. I have too much respect for history to hazard much of a guess on where we’ll be in Iraq in 5 years or what the region will look like. Who would have guessed that the end of the Viet Nam war would lead to a peace and stability in east Asia - the first in more than a hundred years - that would allow economic powerhouses like South Korea and Hong Kong to prosper as never before while creating conditions for huge growth in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Viet Nam itself.

That peace was purchased with the blood of 58,000 Americans and rests to this day on the opening to China by Nixon - an event that almost certainly would never have taken place if we were not in Viet Nam. By beginning to remove the basis for conflict between China and America, we eventually brought peace and growing prosperity to billions.

Who could have foreseen the emergence of the Asian economic dynamo? Certainly not the protesters in the street. And few if any hawks were in favor of Nixon’s historic trip to China. The future is always a puzzle and those who claim prescience must deal with the hard reality that they are more often extraordinarily wrong than right.

Seen in that context, was the Viet Nam war a moral or immoral conflict? Truth has many fathers at times and to ignore the effect of the war on the region in order to claim some imagined moral high ground is intellectually dishonest. We fought the war for the right reasons (according to our lights) but failed to take into account those other historical forces at work 40 years ago, including one even more powerful than Communism - anti-colonialism.

In our ignorance, we failed to see that rather than liberators, we were seen by most Vietnamese in both the north and the south the same way the French were viewed - colonial occupiers. This made any government we supported illegitimate in the eyes of almost everyone. In the end, we went from fighting Communism to bolstering a cruel dictatorship. Yes, we killed a lot of Communists (and civilians), winning every major engagement but were forced to leave when it became obvious that there would be no end to it. The South Vietnamese government was in control at the point of our bayonets and there was absolutely no prospect for them to ever claim legitimacy with the South Vietnamese people.

We are still in danger of making the same mistake in Iraq. Five years gone and the Iraqi central government is still a mess although there are recent signs that some understanding of what needs to be done is finally taking hold. The Iraqis are learning about compromise - something foreign to them since they have absolutely no experience in working with other sects, other tribes. To say they have no sense of nationhood would not be entirely accurate. They appear to love their country but place its well being farther down on their list of loyalties - well after what mosque they worship in and who their tribal benefactors might be.

The American army meanwhile is killing a lot of terrorists but we’re also bolstering a regime to which some Iraqis only give conditional support and obeisance. I asked Iraqi embed Bill Ardolino (whose “Inside Iraqi Politics” series is a must read) about the effective control of the central government over the rest of the country. He thought that they were doing a better job lately but that there were still pockets of resistance to their authority in the south and some Sunni provinces. That matches pretty much what other embeds have been reporting.

Is the Iraqi government a failure? Not yet but it’s balanced on a knife’s edge. At this point, as with the rest of Iraq, things could go either way.

But here we are again. Our bayonets are guaranteeing a regime that is not very popular and would dissolve into incoherence and confusion - or worse, be overthrown - if we weren’t there. Hence, 5 years later we are well and truly trapped in a brier patch of our own making. The rank incompetence commented on by both hawks and doves in today’s New York Times “Reflections on the Invasion of Iraq” is instructive only because it reveals an almost universal belief that the period from the time the statue fell until the new counterinsurgency strategy developed by General Petreaus was implemented turned out to be wasted due to incompetent leadership and poor planning.

There’s no other way to say it except Bush blew it. And his incomprehensible decision not to change strategy sooner while sticking with a secretary of defense whose lies about how well things were going in Iraq echoed the worst of what the government was telling the American people during the Viet Nam war was a monumental error in judgement.

The President’s mistakes will be paid for by the next Chief Executive. I have no doubt both Clinton and Obama are sincere about wanting to leave Iraq. But I would say to my liberal friends if you believe they will be able to just walk us out in the six months promised by both, you are radically mistaken. If you have listened to them, both have said as much - that all depends on what the military says and conditions on the ground. Given those caveats, I have no doubt we will have a sizable contingent of combat troops in Iraq until the Iraqi army is big enough and trained well enough that they can take over completely. That will almost certainly take longer than 6 months and may be years in the making.

The only certainty about the outcome of the war we have today is that it will end eventually. And years from now, when the veil of history is uncovered and we glimpse what effect the Iraq War had on us, on the region, and on the rest of the world, I suspect there will be some surprises. Clio is a mischievous mistress and works very hard to make those who try and predict her verdicts look like fools.

By: Rick Moran at 9:57 am
16 Responses to “IRAQ 5 YEARS GONE”
  1. 1
    syn Said:
    11:32 am 

    I cannot predict the future however the past informs me that war has been waged against America and the West far longer than the time spent in Iraq; whatever preceptions people hold about the last five years in Iraq one must see that what has been accomplished during these short years under the Bush administration is far more constructive and victorious on the side of freedom in comparison to the numerous defeats we have experienced over the last thirty years or so.

    War may be a waste however appeasement is what begins war; we gave appeasement a chance and for that, we got 9/11. Obviously, thirty years of the implementing the wrong strategy was a monumental error in judgment; it empowered the enemy to wage an even greater war than we were willing to fight.

    History also informs me that just because I live in America that I don’t have a problematic, corrupt government; take a look at the incompetence seen in our own Congress which if not confronted today will lead to servere problems in the coming decade, the New Deal’s Great Society is crumbling and this war zone will not be pleasant once it is fully waged.

    When I converted to Conservatism after 9/11 I came across a quote I had never heard before:

    Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defend constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again.” (Reagan, 1967)

    I will never again assume that just because I live in America that my freedom is guaranteed; after 9/11 I learned to take part in defending and protecting my freedom rather than my past habit of expecting others to do it for me.

  2. 2
    Dale in Atlanta Said:
    2:25 pm 

    In my 54 years of life on earth, I have come to see war in rather stark and uncompromising terms:

    1. War is waste.

    2. There is nothing moral about any war except working to end it in victory as soon as possible.

    Rick, you’re taking an extremely shallow view of war and warfare, to in fact I think, do nothing more than make it seem as if you are against the Iraq War. It’s a stance you switched to over a year ago, and it’s a meme that you now have to constantly defend.

    I won’t even go into the Iraq war, which is the main thrust of your generalization.

    You completely ignore a totally “moral” war, and that was the US Civil War, the purpose of which was to end the absolutely horrific institution of Slavery in this country.

    That WAS a “moral” war, and despite the slaughter and horry, it was not only justified, but would have been justified even if the cost was higher; for no matter the cost, we fought a war for the very soul of our nation and ideals, and the cost was nothing compared to the previous hundreds of years of misery and slavery and slaughter and denigration and the loss of our souls.

    WWII was a “moral” war, we faced an evil in Hitler and the Holocaust that was just as insidious and just as evil as the institution of slavery; maybe even worse! That cost too was high, but it was a cost worth bearing for ourselves, and the world.

    The war that we didn’t fight, in the mid-90s during the Clinton Administration in Rwanda and Burundi, would’ve been a totally justified “moral” war, our inaction led to the deaths of over 1,000,000 innocents, children, babies, pregnant women, men; most slaughtered in the most horrific way, hacked to death with machetes!

    I could go on and on; your heart is in the right place Rick, I know that, but you’re expressing it completely the wrong way.

    And you do NOT have to keep writing against the Iraq War, to prove anything to anyone; the Invasion of Iraq was the Correct thing to do, though I will not say it had reached the point of a “moral” war. It was the correct thing to do, we are not losing, we never were losing, and it’s something that will ultimately make the Middle East the the World a better place.

    Aside from Iraq thought Rick, there were, and are “moral” Wars, you’ve just not put enough thought into this one.

    1. There is every reason to believe that slavery would have died under the weight of its own contradictions without killing 600,000 Americans not to mention the consequences of “reconstruction” which are still being dealt with today.

    2. Hitler was not our problem. He had no bombers that could reach us nor a navy to ferry an invasion force across the Atlantic. We chose to take on Hitler. The Japanses freed hundreds of millions from European colonialism. The fact that they took the place of the European overlords was none of our business. A foreign policy that reflected those ideas would have not have given the Japanese any reason to bomb Pearl Harbor.

    I don’t subscribe to either of those arguments but they are legitimate.

    There are arguments against any and every war - good, sound moral arguments.

    Ed.

  3. 3
    Hope Muntz Said:
    4:56 pm 

    What utter hogwash. And coming from someone I normally respect. Of course war is moral–as moral as anything else in life. War exhibits all the successes (penicillin, jet engines, full employment, closing of death camps, heroism, and sacrifice) and all the failures (destruction, cruelty, casualties, cowardice, and profiteering) of absolutely any other human endeavor. War is in short, exactly like a day in a normal metropolis like New York City. To treat it as an abstraction–like a tsunami or a plague or pestilence–and therefore ‘bad’ is to infantilize both it and yourself. Many wars have begun from the most exemplary moral reasons–to rescue co-religionists or other persecuted minorities, to free a people from cruelty, oppression, or slavery, to honor solemn commitments of mutual defence, etc etc–and many of the most ‘moral’ of these have been lost. That doesn’t mean they weren’t worth fighting. To declare all war immoral is to brand all who fought in them criminals and to demonize the memories of those millions who heroically gave their lives for others–often having their names and cultures obliterated in the process.

    War was once an intrinsic part of being a man. Just because Code Pink finds that concept nauseating doesn’t mean you should.

  4. 4
    mannning Said:
    5:48 pm 

    >>>There are arguments against any and every war – good, sound moral arguments.

  5. 5
    ChenZhen Said:
    6:24 pm 

    Clio is a mischievous mistress and works very hard to make those who try and predict her verdicts look like fools.

    Nice reference to Greek mythology. Of course, speaking of predicting, Clio is not to be confused with Miss Cleo. lol

  6. 6
    mannning Said:
    8:06 pm 

    Please disregard the fragment.

  7. 7
    Ron Beasley Said:
    8:29 pm 

    Boy Rick, you nailed it here:
    “but failed to take into account those other historical forces at work 40 years ago, including one even more powerful than Communism – anti-colonialism.”
    Something few on your side of the fence will admit. And yes the same thing is going on in Iraq.

    MMMM…not sure that anti-colonialism is quite the strong force it was 40 years ago. I was actually referring to other currents underlying the Arab world including the Shia awakening that began actually early in the 20th century but has now accelerated tremendously with Iran, Lebanon’s Hezb’allah, and a few other organizations in the Gulf states that are empowering Shia Muslims. That is a much more potent force in Iraq than anti-colonialism which Saddam’s rise pretty much took care of.

    Btw - I’m not sure that Arab nationalism is all that potent a force either. They’ve been trying to unite the Arabs for 100 years and it has proven to be impossible. The real question is whether these forces are actually changing the middle east for the better or are they liable to rip it apart. The jury is out on that one.

    Ed.

  8. 8
    jambrowski Said:
    11:14 pm 

    Rick,
    I/we feel your pain, please keep the chin up and the chest out… remember

    “It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

    we will keep on keeping on till the water parts or we dive down… I can dare say I know the hearts and minds of the men really making the choices these days (nor do I want to make the choices they make) I can only hope that they carry us down a better road.
    Thanks for what you do, you bring sunlight into many, many, many peoples days…

  9. 9
    tHePeOPle Said:
    12:47 am 

    Actually, it’s fairly easy to predict how history will view the war if you actually understand the reason for the war in the first place.

    Right. For your next trick, I’m sure you can pick a stock or two that will go up by next week.

    ed.

  10. 10
    tHePeOPle Said:
    9:54 am 

    The United States spent two full years preparing for the occupation of Berlin during wwII. The same United States spent less than 60 days preparing for the occupation of Baghdad. It’s not that hard to grasp that this was intentional.

    I agree. Bush WANTED to screw up. He enjoys those 30% approval ratings and failure in Iraq. What better way to be thought of as the worst president in history than not planning the post war environment?

    ed.

  11. 11
    David M Said:
    10:13 am 

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/17/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  12. 12
    Sweating Through Fog Said:
    10:15 am 

    As I wrote here, I believe we were right, after 9/11, to go in and chase down Saddam in his hole. It was a good lesson to teach our enemies and potential enemies.

    However, we should not have stayed in Iraq. We should not stay anywhere in the Mid East. Any “stability” we preserve (for a time until we are driven out) only serves to keep all our enemies alive.

  13. 13
    tHePeOPle Said:
    1:27 pm 

    Bush doesn’t think he screwed up. Why doesn’t he think he screwed up? Obviously it was intentional. Chaos was the plan. He doesn’t care about his low approval ratings because he thinks history will vindicate him. He’s looking at eternity, not the immediate. He thinks that the middle class is too dumb to comprehend what it is the administration is trying to do. Bremer didn’t get the presidential medal of freedom for nothing.

    There was a reason they de-baathified. There was a reason they didnt plan for the occupation. There was a reason they disbanded the Iraqi military. These things are too big to have been oversights. They wanted chaos. As much as I dislike the administration, I refuse to believe that they were so colossally stupid that they overlooked all of this. There is a greater goal here.

  14. 14
    mannning Said:
    10:04 pm 

    I think there is a moral component to every major decision made by the government, and tacitly or directly so by the people, and which extends to the resulting actions from those decisions.

    That includes starting a war, continuing a war, stopping a war, and post-war actions, too. Other factors include: political; social; econimic; religious; military, geographical; historical; humanitarian; and, legal, each of which also has a moral component.

    1. Civil War: From a Southern viewpoint, both the States and the people believed they were morally right to defend their territory, their citizens and their way of life against Northern aggression.

    2. WWII: The US went into the war to prevent Nazi Germany and Japan from carrying out their avowed objective of conquering the world, first Europe (which was done), then Russia, then the Middle East, North Africa, Far East (well on the way) and eventually North/South America.

    This was a morally defensive position, and we could not wait around for further developments. Few think that we could have stayed out of it.

    3. Iraq: There were 22 morally valid reasons to go into Iraq in a preemptive strike. So one of them didn’t pan out fully(the 500 chemical shells seem not to count as
    WMD, but they were, in fact). Not the least of which is the necessity for fighting to quell, yes, Islamic aggression.

    Thus, one should say that there are valid reasons– good, sound moral reasons– to go to war, to continue a war, and to end a war.

    Or else, to go dig a hole somewhere and shiver with fear and cowardice.

  15. 15
    Dale in Atlanta Said:
    10:51 pm 

    Rick: you CAN’T be serious about the below:

    1. There is every reason to believe that slavery would have died under the weight of its own contradictions without killing 600,000 Americans not to mention the consequences of “reconstruction” which are still being dealt with today.

    2. Hitler was not our problem. He had no bombers that could reach us nor a navy to ferry an invasion force across the Atlantic. We chose to take on Hitler. The Japanses freed hundreds of millions from European colonialism. The fact that they took the place of the European overlords was none of our business. A foreign policy that reflected those ideas would have not have given the Japanese any reason to bomb Pearl Harbor.

    I don’t subscribe to either of those arguments but they are legitimate.

    There are arguments against any and every war – good, sound moral arguments.

    Ed.

    Number One is completely and factually bogus, this para from the Wiki proves it:

    In 1962, Saudi Arabia outlawed slavery, freeing about 10,000 slaves out of an estimated 15,000-30,000.[22] Slavery was ended by neighboring Qatar in 1952, the Yemen Arab Republic in 1962, the UAE in 1963, South Yemen in 1967, and Oman in 1970. Some of these states, such as Yemen, were British protectorates. The British left South Yemen without forcing it to give up slavery, but did pressure the UAE into giving it up. In 2005, Saudi Arabia was designated by the United States Department of State as a Tier 3 country with respect to trafficking in human beings. Tier 3 countries are “Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”

    And those countries only so-called “outlawed” slavery under international pressure; fact it, it’s still overtly permitted, and that’s not even to get into the vast swath of Sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan, etc., where slavery has never ended!

    As far as Number Two is concerned, c’mon, you really really really can’t be serious?

    So that argument is completely and thorougly bogus; and I’m completely STUNNED that you even imply they are “legitimate” not even counting the fact that they are historically and factually WRONG!

    The Japanese didn’t free anybody from European colonialims, they replaced sometimes benign, sometimes oppressive European colonialism across SE Asia with a brutal and bloody form of Japanese colonialism the effect of which to this day have still poisoned normal relations between Japan and it’s Asian neighbors

    Considering the age you said you are Rick, you should be ashamed of yourself to even make such a ludicrous statement as you just made above; you should know better, if you don’t then I’m appalled.

    Rape of Naking, Rick?

    Rape of Manial, Rick?

    Japanese forces in a six week period murdered over 200,000 Chinese civilians in the Rape of Nanking, Rick, are you completely out of your mind?

    America, at it’s worst, anywhere, has NEVER done anything like that.

    In the Rape of Manila and the Philippines, it’s estimated that the Japanse military Raped over TWO MILLION Filipina women!

    Are you kidding me?

    Bad American miliary personal in Iraq rape ONE Iraqi women, and they are punished and we are vilified around the world, and someone would equate that with the the deliberate rape of over TWO MILLION women? Are you kidding me?

    As many as up to 200,000 women from all across SE Asia were forced into Prostitution as “Comfort Women” for the Japanese Miliatry.

    My god Rick, you’ve got to be kidding me on this.

    Besides, we didn’t “take on Hitler”; the Japanese bombed on us, and Hitler declared war ON US!

    “He had no bombers that could reach us nor a navy to ferry an invasion force across the Atlantic. ”

    Again a completely stunningly ignorant of history comment!

    WOW!

    The Japanese actually developed an Atomic bomb, and probably tested it in Korea before the end of the War; they even sent a Submarine ladened with a “dirty bomb” to nuclear contaminate the West Coast of the United States, and it was only by dint of luck that it didn’t succeed.

    As far as the Germans were concerned, they did not have an “amphib force” to ferry an invasion force, but that is the ONLY aspect of the comment that is correct!

    They had EVER intention, with Strategic plans, as soon as they took over England, to turn it into an island “Aircraft Carrier” from which to attack and destroy the United States.

    That you don’t know this, is completely baffling; German scientists were ahead of us in the nuclear arms race, and it was only due to British special forces that they didn’t actually explode one first.

    They developed the V1 and then V2, NOT to attack England, the developed them to build follow-ons to attack the United States, and we had not defense against them.

    They were planning and building Intercontinental bombers, to attack and raze US mainland cities, especially NYC.

    Hitler himself approved the building of several variants that were developed and tested before the end of the war; it was only because of the extreme pressure from the Russians and us after Normandy, that they never succeeded.

    If we hadn’t had been in Europe at all, they WOULD have succeeded.

    You’re betraying an ignorance of history Rick, that is frankly stunning to me, and one that is clearly you putting the blinders on, in order to not only “prove” your post is correct, but in order to back up your other posts where you have criticized the War in Iraq, and have been subsequently proven incorrect!

    I like you Rick, you’re a good guy, you’re heart and head are mostly in the right place, but sometimes, you fall in love with your own analysis and writings, and you back yourself into a corner with them, and then you continue to defend them with increasingly shaky post after increasingly shaky post, in order to a) never admit you were wrong, and b) in order to what I can only surmise is a type of Patrick Buchanan/John Bircher/Ron Paul-esque type affectation; sometimes in an attempt to show you are “even-handed”.

    You’re wrong Rick, in your examples, and in the thrust of your post, I’ve proven it, and if you don’t know it, you should a) be ashamed that you allowed yourself to parrot things that as so demonstrably historically wrong and b) put yourself in the position in the first place to even attempt to legitimaize such ludicrous statements.

    There are, and will me “moral” wars Rick; to deny that is to go so far to the Right, that you are now sitting firmly on the Left with the Moral Relativists and Moral Equivalence-ists!

    WOW!

  16. 16
    Iraq War: Five Years Later « The New Centrist Pinged With:
    12:54 pm 

    [...] The surge has done a remarkable job in the first category. Progress has been made in categories two and three as well. But by the time you get to categories four and five, progress is minimal. Right Wing Nut House’s Rick Moran has this to say: [...]

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