Remember why we went to war in Iraq (beyond the WMD argument) in the wake of the September 11th attacks America realized our Mideast policy of propping up dictatorships was failing miserably. Al Qaeda was seen in the region not as the barbarous band of Muslim murderers they subsequently showed themselves to be, but as the only force effectively fighting regional dictators and their American sponsors.
Bush, I think correctly, diagnosed the problem and realized we needed to offer a competing narrative to win over the people of the region. Iraq, with its underutilized oil resources, reasonably educated population and historical significance in the region would serve as an example for the rest of the Muslim nations of the Mideast. Remove the dictatorship, the argument went, and with help and guidance from the US the country would flourish. This would be our answer to the Strong Horse/Weak Horse narrative bin Laden had been selling for a decade. In addition, we’d turn a country that had been a terrorist haven into a fighting ally against these very groups.
It was a reasonable play considering the stat of the world and the options available to us. It offered up the possibility of changing the game in a region where our policy had grown stale and began producing far too many costs for too few benefits.
But like any opportunity that presents possibility of great gains, it also entailed great risks of equally high or higher losses.
Unfortunately, it appears we are going to reap the losses.
And predictably so (at least I predicted it – after reading Angelo Codevilla’s brilliant and incisive analysis of the Bush actions).
We invaded Iraq without first asking ourselves three questions:
1. What and who are we at war with?
2. What is the best way to defeat this enemy?
3. What will we call victory?
The answers are, in order:
1. We were, and still are, at war with Muslim terror gangs who wish to attack us primarily on religious, but also geopolitical grounds.
2. The best way to defeat these groups is to destroy the regimes that arm, finance, train, shelter, protect, and use them against us and our interests and allies.
3. We will have achieved victory when we no longer fear attacks from them, and no longer feel the need to give up our essential liberties in the name of temporary safety in order to protect ourselves from them.
Drew is misrembering something else here: We didn’t decide on “regime change” as a strategy. We (apparently) decided on regime change followed by the establishment in Iraq of some sort of multi-cultural/religious/tribal “democracy.” This new democracy would serve as the destabilizing factor in the Muslim world, and help to bring the rest of it into the world of modernity.
That was always a fool’s game, and obviously so, right from the start.
I said so at the time, I’ve continued to say so, and you know what? I was right.
Bush, supposedly but not really a military man, forgot the first principles of war: Know your enemies – they are the ones trying to kill you. Kill them until they no longer wish to, or are even able to try to kill you.