Blogs > Liberty and Power > Iraq, Three Years Later

Mar 24, 2006 10:43 am

Iraq, Three Years Later

I suppose there's no way to do this without looking graceless, but on the oped pages and the blogs, this is the week for looking back on the Iraq war and reevaluating or reaffirming your views. And with three years gone, this piece, which I wrote in December 2002 for Liberty magazine, holds up pretty well. Some excerpts:

Refusal to take administration officials at their word when they allege that Iraq had a role in September 11th or that the regime harbors Al Qaeda isn't paranoia: it's hard-headed realism, borne of experience. When you're listening to our leaders make their case for war, remember that--despite what they told you in civics class--the citizen's first duty is skepticism. ...

The MacArthur Regency worked in Japan because the U.S. occupiers entered a country sick to death of war, with a tradition of deference to authority (encouraged by the Emperor's call to cooperate with U.S. authorities) and a monocultural middle class that could form the basis of a democracy. As historian John Dower puts it,"the ideals of peace and democracy took root in Japan—not as a borrowed ideology of imposed vision, but as a lived experience and a seized opportunity…. It was an extraordinary, and extraordinarily fluid moment—never seen before in history and, as it turned out, never to be repeated." That process is particularly unlikely to be repeated in Iraq, a fissiparous amalgam of Sunnis, separatist Shiites and Kurds. Keeping the country together will require a strong hand and threatens to make U.S. servicemen walking targets for discontented radicals.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger-—no dove, he—-noted that he was"viscerally opposed to a prolonged occupation of a Muslim country at the heart of the Muslim world by Western nations who proclaim the right to re-educate that country." As well he should be. Such a policy would be the most generous gift imaginable to the Al Qaeda recruitment drive. It makes Bin Laden's ravings about a Crusader-Zionist alliance to de-Islamicize the Middle East look half-plausible to the angry young men of that hate-filled, backward region.

Regrets? I have a few: I believed that Hussein had WMD, and placed too much emphasis on the possibility that an American invasion would encourage him to pass them off to terrorists, though I did note that"WMD" is a misnomer and the hysteria over chem/bio is unwarranted. I'm also deeply ashamed that I used the term"fissiparious amalgam" to describe Iraq's ethnoreligious makeup. What was it, Consult Your Thesaurus Day?

More generally, and more seriously, I regret this entire hideous mistake of a war, and I hope we don't have cause to regret it even more later.

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