Lots of folks are pointing to the new TNR blog, Iraq’d. I’m of two minds on it (as I am on many things), so let me hit the three points that define the gap.
The blog opens with a strong statement:
If you’re a pro-war liberal, chances are you’re probably feeling burned right now. The case for the Iraq war rested on three pillars: The danger of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, with the clock ticking on a nuclear capability; the danger of Saddam Hussein’s connections to Al Qaeda; and the human rights imperative of deposing one of the world’s most despicable regimes and assisting newly-freed Iraqis in building a democracy. Well, it turns out that Saddam didn’t have much in the way of WMD, or even ongoing WMD programs. And it also appears that his ties to Al Qaeda were tenuous at best. So all that’s left for the war rationale is the human-rights-and-democracy argument, which for liberals is intuitively appealing (or should be).
Uh, no. In fact, hell no.
The case for the war in Iraq was made on September 11, 2001, in New York City. Earlier, less powerful arguments had been made in Beirut, the Red Sea, Dhahran, and again in New York City. The notion that each of the increasing in scope acts of terrorism against Americans and American interests was an independent act is a charming conceit, much like that which suggests that the rash of murders that periodically break out in disputed gang territories are individual acts of passion.
We are confronted with a multinational terrorist enterprise that has declared war on us. Much as I might ignore a twelve-year old who announces his intention to rob me, and even treat his efforts to attack with amusement when they are limited to taking swings at me as I hold him away by his forehead, I am likely to feel and act differently when he shows up with a loaded shotgun.
We have to dismantle this terrorist enterprise, and to do so will take a long time, a lot of money, and not a few lives. Some of them will be American, although I wish it were not the case.
I believe that we will not win until we manage to dismantle the philosophical outlook and social conditions that have bred it, but that while we figure out how to do that we also need to keep the bad guys away from our homes.
I believe that the Clinton Administration – who I disliked because I felt they had sold out to corporate interests and were not populist or liberal enough to suit my politics – did a pretty good job of mobilizing international sentiment and working the international system. The FBI, for all its failings, worked damn hard to bring the terrorists they could find to justice, and met with not a little success.
But it didn’t stop 9/11. And little that they proposed or could have done would have, because 9/11 was a doctrinal failure. It was a doctrinal failure at a tactical level on three of the four planes, where the passengers did what they were supposed to do and sat and waited for the grownups to take care of things. And it was a doctrinal failure at a national security policy level as well, because the international efforts and criminal prosecutions hadn’t blocked the growth of the movement.
The national security doctrine failed because as long as the terrorists had the tacit support of state actors, our criminal justice system and the international criminal justice system were essentially helpless.
So we had to remove that support.
On March 16, I wrote:
…I believe the answer is to end the state support of terrorism and the state campaigns of hatred aimed at the U.S. I think that Iraq simply has drawn the lucky straw. They are weak, not liked, bluntly in violation of international law, and as our friends the French say, about to get hung pour l’ecourager les autres…to encourage the others.
Now this may seem like a week reed on which to base a war.
But it is stronger than it appears.
First, there is a legitimate case for regime change in Iraq, regardless. I’ll refer the reader back to Salon in 1998…
And nothing since then has come close to changing my mind.
The war was briefer and less bloody than I anticipated, a testimony to the effectiveness of our men and women in the military (soon to be joined by my son).
The aftermath, while chaotic, and less simple than some may have wished, is moving slowly in the right direction. I certainly held no illusions that Tikrit would, a week after we invaded, suddenly become Anaheim. This is going to be a long, slow, painful, and messy process. And what we need more than anything is an ‘iron butt’ – the clear willingness to simply sit it out and win.
And here, the Iraq’d blog has a point to make.
But then along comes the Bush administration’s November 15 Agreement to relinquish sovereignty by June 30, which tells the Iraqis that, owing to election-year considerations, the United States can’t be bothered right now to midwife a democracy. You might say you’ve been Iraq’d.
One of the premises of Iraq’d is that the U.S. decision to cease nation-building jeopardizes our own national security as well as Iraq’s. After all, if we believe that Iraqi democracy would be a model for the region, then the converse is also true: If we leave behind a failing state in Iraq, then we provide Middle Eastern autocrats with a pretext for cracking down on the reformers and liberals in their midst, since they can point to the chaos in Baghdad as the likely fruit of democracy. And since Islamist terrorism feeds in part on Middle Eastern tyranny, then we’re in a lot of trouble.
Yes. In fact, hell yes.
I also wrote:
Look, for me it’s simple. I’m willing to overlook a lot of what I don’t like about the Bush Administration because I believe that he’s the only candidate whom I believe (today) is resolute about this whole war thing.
The second it looks like he’s planning to ‘declare victory and leave,’ I can promise you that Atrios will look like Karl Rove in comparison to me.
That’s because I’m convinced that decision leads almost certainly to nukes in the U.S. and then the real possibility of a genocidal war abroad.
Now on one hand, I tend to have a high tolerance for ‘fluff’ or spin; it’s the language of modern politics. And it’s certainly possible to make pronouncements about how things are to be turned over o the Iraqis by a deadline of X, and mean it in the narrowest legalistic sense, as a sop to both the Iraqis and to the opponents of the war here in the US.
But I’m damn concerned that that’s not what’s going on, and there I’m happy to see Iraq’d holding the Administrations collective feet to the fire.
On the third hand…
There’s something disingenuous about the antiwar left that, on one hand, howls at the human and financial cost of the war and occupation, and with the next breath, busts Bush for cutting and running.
I don’t know this blogger, and don’t know his or the magazine’s history on the war. But when the anti-war, anti-Bush side (and note that I haven’t begun to get my head around this election yet) plays this game, it’s somewhere between annoying and infuriating to me. It’s dishonest at best, and if that’s in fact what’s going on I mean to call people on it.