D-DAY

Thomas Friedman’s column today is rather confusing, which isn’t that surprising since he is of mixed minds on the war.

President Bush is fond of cowboy imagery, so here’s an image that comes to mind about our pending war with Iraq. In most cowboy movies the good guys round up a posse before they ride into town and take on the black hats. We’re doing just the opposite. We’re riding into Baghdad pretty much alone and hoping to round up a posse after we get there. I hope we do, because it may be the only way we can get out with ourselves, and the town, in one piece.

Well, no. We’re hardly “pretty much alone.” We have the UK, Australia, and 30-odd other countries going with us. The US has by far the best military force the world has ever seen. The Brits have one of the best of the rest. I’ll take my chances with that coalition against the Iraqis.

The president’s view is that in the absence of a U.N. endorsement, this war will become “self-legitimating” when the world sees most Iraqis greet U.S. troops as liberators. I think there is a good chance that will play out.

But wars are fought for political ends. Defeating Saddam is necessary but not sufficient to achieve those ends, which are a more progressive Iraq and a world with fewer terrorists and terrorist suppliers dedicated to destroying the U.S., so Americans will feel safer at home and abroad. We cannot achieve the latter without the former. Which means we must bear any burden and pay any price to make Iraq into the sort of state that fair-minded people across the world will see and say: “You did good. You lived up to America’s promise.”

To maximize our chances of doing that, we need to patch things up with the world. Because having more allied support in rebuilding Iraq will increase the odds that we do it right, and because if the breach that has been opened between us and our traditional friends hardens into hostility, we will find it much tougher to manage both Iraq and all the other threats down the road. That means the Bush team needs an “attitude lobotomy” — it needs to get off its high horse and start engaging people on the World Street, listening to what’s bothering them, and also telling them what’s bothering us.

So, on the one hand, he agrees with Bush and his supporters, including me, that ousting Saddam and bringing democracy to Iraq will silence the critics and prove the cause a noble one. But on the other, he’s taking the Daschle line that this has been a disastrous diplomatic effort. Despite the fact that it is now patently obvious France and Company were totally unpersuadable and indeed intentionally trying to undermine the US.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.