Consequences of Losing the Iraq War
Christopher Hitchens has a piece in Slate whose headline asks the awkward but provocative question, “Losing the Iraq War – Can the left really want us to?”
Thankfully, the piece actually does not actually try to make the case that anyone but the lunatic fringe wants us to lose, but rather argues that, regardless of whether one thought intervention was a good thing, winning is essential.
There is a sort of unspoken feeling, underlying the entire debate on the war, that if you favored it or favor it, you stress the good news, and if you opposed or oppose it you stress the bad. I do not find myself on either side of this false dichotomy. I think that those who supported regime change should confront the idea of defeat, and what it would mean for Iraq and America and the world, every day. It is a combat defined very much by the nature of the enemy, which one might think was so obviously and palpably evil that the very thought of its victory would make any decent person shudder. It is, moreover, a critical front in a much wider struggle against a vicious and totalitarian ideology.
It never seemed to me that there was any alternative to confronting the reality of Iraq, which was already on the verge of implosion and might, if left to rot and crash, have become to the region what the Congo is to Central Africa: a vortex of chaos and misery that would draw in opportunistic interventions from Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Bad as Iraq may look now, it is nothing to what it would have become without the steadying influence of coalition forces. None of the many blunders in postwar planning make any essential difference to that conclusion. Indeed, by drawing attention to the ruined condition of the Iraqi society and its infrastructure, they serve to reinforce the point.
How can so many people watch this as if they were spectators, handicapping and rating the successes and failures from some imagined position of neutrality? Do they suppose that a defeat in Iraq would be a defeat only for the Bush administration? The United States is awash in human rights groups, feminist organizations, ecological foundations, and committees for the rights of minorities. How come there is not a huge voluntary effort to help and to publicize the efforts to find the hundreds of thousands of “missing” Iraqis, to support Iraqi women’s battle against fundamentalists, to assist in the recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands, and to underwrite the struggle of the Kurds, the largest stateless people in the Middle East? Is Abu Ghraib really the only subject that interests our humanitarians?
An interesting question, indeed. The opening sentence from the excerpt above seems to be the answer. Because the run-up to the war and then the war itself was part and parcel of the 2004 election campaign, this conflict has been seen by many (on both the Left and the Right) as a domestic political game rather than as a key part of U.S. national security policy.
Coincidentally, Victor Davis Hanson has a piece in NRO whose subtitle asks, “Why do we keep fighting each other over Iraq?”
Most paleocons did not support either the attack on Afghanistan or Iraq Ã¢€” and did not in the sincere belief it was not in the interest of the United States. From the Right they believed both were a waste of precious American resources overseas, and would only prompt another dangerous increase in the powers of the federal government here at home. Their worry was not so much in the use of violence against radical Islamicists, but rather the cost to the United States, both in the short-term in lives and treasure, and the long-term implications of Ã¢€œimperialismÃ¢€ on the fabric of the republic.
Many agreed on the Left that Afghanistan and especially Iraq were bad ideas. Their much different complaint was no so much it weakened American interests here or abroad (otherwise they would support the war), but that America is by nature suspect in its use of power and oppresses third-world poor abroad. The lexicon of left-wing anti-Americanism is multifaceted: colonialist, hegemonic, imperialist, racist, or capitalist. Take your pick: We were attacking indigenous peoples either for profit (e.g, Halliburton, the mythical Afghanistan pipeline, the transnational oil companies, private contractors, etc.), or out of racism and ethnocentric chauvinism.
He goes on to identify several other groups and their motivations for supporting, not supporting, or being on the fence about the war. It’s a useful synopsis.