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More on Iraq

I’ve gotten some more comments on my earlier post about Iraq. I saw my friend Jason commented, and started to craft my own, but decided it would work best as a separate post, rather than as a comment.

I think it’s a grave mistake to believe this is a problem that originated with the United States, and that by retreating, we can solve it. When I say that Al-Qaeda felt they could attack us with impunity, I do not mean that they felt that we would just sit back and shrug it off. What I mean is that Al-Qaeda felt that they could attack and defeat America. Whether that involved drawing us into a war in Afghanistan, or Iraq, that would turn into a quagmire, is of little matter. They felt it was time to take us on, and their narrative centers around western weakness and softness, and up until post 9/11, we hadn’t done much in the way to dispel that narrative.

That’s why I think leaving would be dangerous. Radical Islam aims to re-establish the caliphate, and to instigate a world wide Islamic movement. It’s absurd only in the sense that the west has the capability to largely destroy Islam as an ideology of any serious consequence. But we don’t want it to come to that. Iraq is an experiment to determine whether an Arab and Islamic society can be brought into a globalized world, and able to live among us, without having to resort to terrible measures.

I don’t think we really have a choice here. We either fight now, where we have the luxury of a measured response, or we fight later, when we might have to do it with nuclear weapons. Right now the choice is ours, it deosn’t make much sense to wait until we have no choice, except pushing the button.

Whether we like or not, at the end of World War II, Europe basically handed us the keys to their former empire, and said “Well, we’re quite tired of working on the place. We’ve decided to retire to greener pastures. Here are the keys. Hope you don’t mind the mess too much.” We didn’t ask for it, and I wish we didn’t have to do it, but we’re stuck with it. I’d rather do everything we can to win now, when we can keep the body count to a relative minimum, than to fight later, when that could end up meaning total war. I don’t really see any in between ground on this issue.

8 Responses to “More on Iraq”

  1. “I think it’s a grave mistake to believe this is a problem that originated with the United States, and that by retreating, we can solve it.”

    I would agree. The problem originated with the Brits, who cobbled the country we know as Iraq from whole cloth and thought it’d be a good idea to have three disparate, very distinct tribes mashed together in a 3rd world desert.

    I don’t think the point of retreating is “solving” that fiasco. The point of withdrawing is to quit pouring gasoline on the fire (and squandering American lives in a foolish, ill-conceived gambit at democratizing people who don’t really care for democracy).

    “I do not mean that they felt that we would just sit back and shrug it off. What I mean is that Al-Qaeda felt that they could attack and defeat America.”

    Eh, not really. They’re not stupid. They have TV, Internet, newspapers, etc. OBL was a bright boy. A sociopath of the highest order, but a bright boy nonetheless. They never thought they could “defeat” (whatever that would constitute, anyway) the greatest industrial, military, and economic power on the planet.

    But what they did think they could do was bait us into a quagmire conflict chasing them around the 3rd world fruitlessly, they did think they could get us to squander all the international good will we’d ever had, they did think they could damage our economy because of the cost dichotomies of asymmetrical warfare. We’re spending billions and billions while they lurk within the populations we’re occupying.

    We took the bait, hook line and sinker. Like I said, the only thing OBL got wrong was where the quagmire is. Wait till we start bombing Iran…phew.

    “Whether that involved drawing us into a war in Afghanistan, or Iraq, that would turn into a quagmire, is of little matter.”

    3000+ dead, 25K+ wounded, 100K dead Iraqis, hundreds of billions spent with no end in sight, our international standing destroyed, terrorism on the rise, and civil war iminent (really already underway) in the country with the 2nd largest proven oil reserves is OF LITTLE MATTER?

    With all due respect…WTF? It was exactly, explicitly, and precisely what AQ was hoping we’d do, and we did it. We’re playing into their hands and it’s making fighting terror harder, not easier.

    Uh…it matters. A LOT.

    This was a war of choice, not necessity, and it’s turning out to have been a poor choice. Once again, we’re not fighting AQ by fighting in Iraq. Yes the fight against AQ is important and a war a necessity. Too bad it’s NOT the fight we’re fighting there.

    “We either fight now, where we have the luxury of a measured response, or we fight later, when we might have to do it with nuclear weapons. Right now the choice is ours, it deosn’t make much sense to wait until we have no choice, except pushing the button.”

    Who are we going to nuke? What problem is that going to solve? Pretty hard to nuke a global underground network of cells that is hiding from plain sight.

  2. Sebastian says:

    I was saying it was of little matter from Al-Qaeda’s perspective, whether they defeated us in Afghanistan or elsewhere. As far as the nuclear issue goes, I would direct you to Wretchard’s three conjectures.

    There two follow ups to that here and here.

  3. Sebastian says:

    I do think it’s very unlikely that terrorists will develop a nuclear capability independent from a state actor, at least for the foreseeable future. We’re fortunate that it’s technically very difficult to build a nuclear device. But that doesn’t really change the formula. Even if Iran acquires the bomb, and slips to to a terrorist group in order to attack the United States, we won’t really have much of a choice except to destroy Iran, and most of the people who live there. For now, the real worry is state actors slipping WMDs to non-state actors. Terrorism offers both a simple delivery mechanism, and plausible deniability for the state. The typical MAD scenario goes out the window in this situation, so how do you apply deterrence in that case? The only real way to do it is to threaten all the terrorist sympathizing states with complete destruction if a nuclear weapon goes off in the United States.

    That’s a world I’m hoping to avoid.

  4. Guav says:

    We will not be retreating, we will be withdrawing. There IS a difference. We’re not leaving because we have been beaten—we haven’t—but because staying is not the most effective way to meet our goals, and in fact, is arguably counterproductive to our goals.

    Al Qaeda did not feel they could defeat us by attacking us, they felt they could defeat us by causing us to overreact to their attack. Whether or not we chose to grant them their wishes was entirely up to us. You should read The War Bin Laden Wanted from The American Conservative.

    The thing is, the “terrorists” we are fighting in Iraq—the ones you would have us stay there and fight—are not the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. They are not Al Qaeda the international, well-funded terrorist organization. They are random groups of terrorists, some calling themselves “Al Qaeda,” some not. Some have come from surrounding countries to get a crack at the Americans, some have merely been radicalized by their experiences during our occupation. If we leave, these people will not “follow us home” because they can’t—they’re poor footsoldiers, cannon fodder. And the ones that are able to come here can do so at any time they please, they don’t need us to be in Iraq in order to come here.

    And while we are there doing a piss-poor job of nation building, using the most highly-trained and best military in the world as police and peace keepers—spending blood and obscene amounts of treasure—the real bad guys, the ones who attacked us on 9/11, the REAL Al Qaeda, are planning their next attack on us. Probably on my city.

    The idea that our presence in Iraq is somehow preventing or making less likely an attack on American soil is not only incorrect, but dangerously so.

  5. Guav says:

    In regards to Iran, states do not spend decades and billions of dollars developing nuclear weapons—which are traceable anyway—in order to hand them over to unpredictable and unreliable terrorist organizations. Why do you think al Qaeda had to to use boxcutters and airplanes? They have been trying to get a nuclear device for ages. They can’t.

    And if they are ever going to get ahold of a nuclear device, it will be from Pakistan or more likely, from one of the former Soviet republics or Russia itself. Iran is not going to give terrorists a bomb—if they are even capable of making one—to use against us, it would make no sense at all for them to do. If they make a bomb, they will keep it for it’s deterrent effect, which is why they want one in the first place.

    What makes everyone think that Iran has some deap-seated desire to actually attack the United States anyway? Rhetoric aside, why would they bother? What would they gain? A sea of glass?

    Iran: Past the Paranoia

  6. Sebastian says:

    What makes everyone think that Iran has some deap-seated desire to actually attack the United States anyway?

    You’re kidding right? They attacked our embassy in 1979. Hezbollah bombed our embassy in beruit, were being the marine barracks bombing in 1982, were behind the kidnapping of our station chief in Lebanon, were behind the attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Iran has been attacking us for quite a long time.

  7. Name all the wars of aggression where Iran attacked a foreign country militarily in the last two hundred years. (Hint: this shouldn’t take long…why? The answer is “none.”)

    The best course with Iran is trying to continue to open up the discussion with the secular, Western-philic half of the country without dignifying too much of the Islamist Shia sabre rattling. John Q. Iranian knows damn well that nuking Israel or a US friendly country is going to be VERY bad for them. Iran’s a fairly modern country for the region and the people aren’t unaware of the ramifications (and Ahmadinejad’s power has waned as a result).

    A preemptive strike on Iran however will squelch secular dissent and empower the hardliners.

  8. Guav says:

    No, I wasn’t kidding Sebastian. As far as Beruit goes, we were attacked by a Lebanese organization, in Lebanon, in the middle of the Lebanese civil war. Was Iran involved? Some say yes, some say no. But uhm, why would Iran have any animosity towards us? I mean, it’s not like we backed Iraq when they attacked Iran in 1980, leading to an eight-year war where we looked the other way while Saddam used poison gas against the Iranians or anything, right? What right did the Iranians have to be mad at us?

    The embassy was taken over by group of militant students who were pissed at us for supporting the Shah and intervening in Iranian affairs. I’m seeing a pattern here, aren’t you? Has Iran ever shown aggression to us when we weren’t mucking around in the Middle East?

    It’s not 1979 anymore. Iran has a relatively stable nation going now, when all is said and done. The idea that they have an interest in launching a war of agression against the United States is, at best, laughable. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

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