Sunday, March 10, 2013

Was the Iraq War Worth It?

My answer to that question is an unequivocal no. Except for Dick Cheney, the fractured neocons, and the Bush dead-enders, it's generally agreed that it was one sorry idea foisted on us with the same verisimilitude as the Gulf of Tonkin incident used to justify getting into Vietnam. America is nothing if not good at inventing its justifications for military intervention.

As we come up on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, the judgment of history is beginning to be applied. The first is a bit of analysis by Carne Ross in Slate, and it's pretty straight-forward:

Ross' message is on point: We never needed to invade Iraq, we merely needed to shut down Saddam Hussein's oil smuggling, which was propping up an otherwise tenuous regime.

Now comes another, deeper deconstruction of the War's pedigree in the context of just which wars throughout history were "successful." This one appeared in today's Washington Post, written by Boston University history professor Bacevich. It's a fascinating article about war, with these words the most pertinent to the Iraqi conflict:
I am prepared to speculate — unlike McCain, I make no claim of offering a definitive judgment — that, in its historical importance, the Iraq war will end up somewhere on a par with the War of 1812 (though without a comparable musical legacy). If not forgotten, it will be subsumed into a much larger story, remembered not as a big, important war but as a small, insignificant skirmish. Indeed, that process of diminishment has already commenced, albeit with an unwelcome twist.
In what has become one of the most momentous stories of the 21st century, the inhabitants of the Islamic world are asserting the prerogative of determining their own destinies. Intent on doing things their way, they are increasingly intolerant of foreign interference. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington sought to revalidate an altogether different prerogative, one pioneered by Britain: an entitlement to meddle.
To reaffirm that entitlement after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States sought to demonstrate its capacity to impose its will on its designated adversaries. The failure of U.S. forces to do that — to win clearly and unambiguously — calls any further exercise of that entitlement into question. More to the point, it suggests that the big story of Muslim self-determination is likely to continue unimpeded, whether Washington approves or not. Sure, American troops captured Baghdad and overthrew Saddam Hussein. So what?
Back in 1947, the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine kicked off Washington’s effort to put its imprint on the Greater Middle East, while affirming that Britain’s exit from the region had begun. U.S. power was going to steer events in directions favorable to U.S. interests. That effort now seems likely to have run its course. The United States finds itself today pretty much where the British were back in the 1920s and 1930s. We’ve bitten off more than we can chew. The only problem is that there’s no readily available sucker to whom we can hand off the mess we’ve managed to create.
In this deeper context, it's easy to see where George W. Bush's fiasco fits in and why it was the usual American mistake. We don't blunder into war, we blunder out of them. Can we stop this insanity some day?

I sure hope so. The exit from Afghanistan is being dragged out, not for strategic reasons but simply to delay the inevitable. Whatever we do and whenever we leave, Afghanistan will go back to being what it is: Afghanistan, and it'll be no better for our having been there, not matter how long that will have been.

I wonder how many Very Serious People in Washington were never quite sure how good an idea it was to stay in Afghanistan for thirteen years, but I'm sure that it's exceeded by the number of Dirty Fucking Hippies* that thought the idea was fucking stupid from the beginning. But who listens to them?

Iraq, 2013. The bombings have never stopped. Heckuva job.

*Dirty Fucking Hippies © 2006 Atrios of Eschaton

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