Iraqi Elections: Right Wing Gloating?

Matt Yglesias, while generally conceding that the elections themselves went well, laments that

It’s time to prepare for three weeks of gloating from the hawks before they realize that nothing has really changed and they return to previous hawk practice of not mentioning Iraq.

Most of the serious right-of-center sites I’ve seen, including this one, have openingly acknowledged that a successful election doesn’t mean that Iraq will live happily ever after. Still, a bit of celebration about something that is obviously good and that would not have occured absent the leadership of the United States is certainly warranted.

That the first truly democratic elections in the history of the Muslim Middle East is a good thing is something that we should be able to agree upon. That’s true, incidentally, regardless of whether the war was itself advisable. Good outcomes are good even if they result from bad policy, just as good policy is good even if it results in bad outcomes. To take a few modern examples:

  • While I thought Jimmy Carter’s Iran policy was a total disaster, I thought the Desert One rescue mission was absolutely the right thing to do, if much later than I’d have preferred. That it was an unmitigated disaster from an execution standpoint doesn’t change that.
  • While I supported it at the time, on mature reflection the 1989 invasion of Panama to remove President Noriega was probably not justified and set all manner of bad precedents. Getting rid of Noriega, though, was a good thing and Panama is certainly better off.
  • While I opposed intervention in Kosovo on ideological (not partisan) grounds, it’s hard to argue in hindsight that getting rid of Milosovek at the cost of very few American military personnel was a bad thing.

The cost of this war in terms of blood, treasure, and international capital has been high and the end result anything but certain. While I still believe the incredibly high rewards that could be achieved in the most dangerous region in the world justify the war, intelligent and decent people can disagree. Matt once supported the war but ultimately opposed it because of the way it was going to be conducted. That’s not an untenable position.

Regardless, at a cost in casualties equaling something like 10 minutes on D-Day, we’ve managed to rid the world of its most brutal dictator and give democratic governance a chance in his stead. Americans, even those staunchly opposed to the war, helped make that happen. We should all be happy about the outcome regardless of how we feel about how we got here.

As Steven Taylor notes,

The bottom line is: not every event in the world is part of a game between Reps and Dems where one side scores and the other side falls behind.

Exactly. While we seem to be in a perennial campaign these days, we should keep that in mind.

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.

Comments

  1. Crerar says:

    I think Tony Blair summed up the whole of emotions regarding the Iraqi elections, “The war in Iraq divided people deeply here and round the world. But I know that whatever view people took of how this has come about we will all embrace today the birth of Iraq’s new democracy.”

  2. Paul says:

    While I thought Jimmy Carter’s Iran policy was a total disaster, I thought the Desert One rescue mission was absolutely the right thing to do, if much later than I’d have preferred. That it was an unmitigated disaster from an execution standpoint doesn’t change that.

    Tell us more Senator Kerry. 😉

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Carters’ failure to use standard, historic diplomatic measures against Iran, such as arresting Iranian diplomats both here and in friendly foreign powers was a big impetus to more Islamic attacks on us.
    Wave a blue finger at a liberal today.