I’ll see your reponse and raise you a…

Some more rhetorical fisticuffs…

HW maintains his insistence that “victory” in Iraq is not dependent upon keeping Iraq whole or the emergence of a certain post-war order.”

Nope, that’s not what I said. I said victory at the outset was not dependent on these factors. Once Bush proclaimed, after the invasion was complete, that victory now depended on the establishment of a unified, democratic Iraq, victory became dependent on securing same.

“The case for war could not have been made if the rationale was that we are going to invade Iraq, chop it up into ethnic enclaves, and not concern ourselves at all with the nature of the regime that emerges, probably on the heels of a bloodbath, in each independent enclave.”

Who said anything about chopping Iraq up into ethnic enclaves? Who said anything about saying anything? Before the invasion, democratization was last on the list, as rationale dressing. Bush himself decided to make it the central aim after the invasion.

“It runs contrary to American political instincts and it makes no sense strategically”

If one considers Saddam Hussein’s regime a strategic threat, it makes perfect strategic sense. American political instincts are to get results in short, sharp wars so I don’t see how it would have run counter to them.

“What guarantee that the Sunni enclave does not become a welcome home for al-Qaeda type elements?”

In an ongoing civil war, or a situation where you back a client government, this isn’t much of an issue. It’s only when your enemy is in charge that you worry about them allying with your other enemies.

“What guarantee that the Shiite enclave does not become a mere extension of Tehran’s power?”

Well, none I suppose. But what guarantee would there be that a Shiite-dominated, democratically-elected government wouldn’t be an extension of Tehran either?

“What guarantee that Kurdish independence does not destabilize NATO-ally Turkey?”

Who said anything about independence?

Again, my right honourable friend is confusing what could plausibly be claimed as “victory,” given the war aims, with what he personally might think is a good idea. These are entirely separate issues.

“The stated aim of the war in Iraq was regime change. Regime change. The concept implies that one regime will be replaced by another regime. In Iraq, one maniacal regime was replaced with a vacuum – by your own description. This is regime overthrow. Even by the impossibly narrow logic my dear friend seems intent on arguing, the war for regime change has been a failure.”

That a regime’s authority is disputed does not make it any less of a regime. That it is no longer Saddam Hussein’s regime is indisputable. That’s simple – not narrow – logic.

“Furthermore, when considered in light of how this entire adventure has strengthened the hand of Iran it becomes even more apparent that such narrowly construed war aims holds no strategic water.”

The adventure has strenghtened Iran’s hand because the occupation is failing, making the initial invasion itself too costly to be considered worthwhile. Had the United States been able to extricate itself post-invasion or succesfully stabilize Iraq, the strategic logic is obvious: saber-rattle with weapons of mass destruction and be destroyed.

“A policy of regime overthrow – to hell with what comes next – was never close to being on the table, even of President Bush never uttered a word about turning Iraq into the world’s next Jeffersonian democracy.”

Actually, that’s pretty much exactly what was on the table. I suppose they thought they could install the Iraqi National Congress – that part of the policy was never clear, which was part of the problem.

HW argues that this limited war effort is precisely what the “anti-war left” was signing on for, at least implicitly, when they called for immediate withdrawal in the aftermath of the Baathist overthrow.”

No, the anti-war left opposed any type of war. They considered the coalition presence an illegal occupation.

“For many on the left (responsible left, at least) the calculus changed when the war began. They opposed the invasion, but now that it had come they recognized that it was in the best interest of Iraq that something decent be left behind and that it would immoral, not to mention strategically asinine, to simply pack up and go home, to hell with what takes root on the lawless shores of the Euphrates once you leave.”

I don’t recall hearing this responsible leftist line. I think my good friend is again projecting his own feelings onto the debate. I don’t recall anything from the main figures and organizations of the left other than “this is bad. We did not support this.” The only policy proposal to emerge from the left has been withdrawal.

“I do think that coupled with the strategic implications of a festering civil war in the oil heartland of the world, there was not widespread support, even on the left, for leaving.”

There was a great deal of support for leaving. That was the alternate position. The reluctance to leave on the part of the American public has less to do with wanting to help Iraqis than it has to do with not wanting to admit they’ve lost.

“I do not think the various justifications for this war can be so easily segregated.”

As far as international relations are concerned, they can. The war was about toppling Saddam Hussein because he had weapons of mass destruction.

“we can’t leave Iraq (strategically and morally) and wash our hands of what could be a regionally destabilizing civil war with genocidal implications.”

Strategically, yes we can. Morally – that’s a more difficult question. But what is one’s moral obligation to a government that is made up of murderous militias and a civilian population that supports them? Ah yes, of course not every Iraqi supports the militias, but can you tell me how we identify those Iraqis who don’t?

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