Urine Big Trouble

Sorry, sorry. But all this talk of tents and pissing has addled my mind. Let me address my right ‘orrible friend’s questions and objections in reverse order.

The honourable member for Dupont Circle asks me whether it would have been viable (strategically and/or ethically) to exit Iraq the day Saddam was captured? Strategically, I would have thought a troop draw-down at the very least would have been possible at that point. Although, if the strategy was to make sure Hussein himself could not return to power it would have been better just to shoot him in his spider hole rather than throw him in prison. Ethically? Now that’s a more difficult question. The key ethical requirement, it would seem to me, would be to back the new government’s efforts at counter-terrorism. Whether this could have best been done with more troops, less troops, different methods or another Secretary of Defense are tactical questions that I’m not really qualified to answer fully, though I have my biases.

Moving on, it is true that the key foreign policy narrative that emerged after 9/11 was a new realization that collapsed states in far off areas could, if unattended to, lead to wholesale slaughter in American cities. But I would venture to say that this narrative is flawed. If its template is Afghanistan, it is inaccurate. Afghanistan was not a “failed” or “collapsed” state. The Taliban was able to assert its control over the country to such an extent that almost all of its female population was barred from school. The Northern Alliance was little more than a thorn in its side until the CIA went into action and American bombs started falling. The Taliban was certainly a poor and diplomatically isolated government, which is why it gladly put up Osama Bin Ladin and his millions. But the state itself had not collapsed. A country in chaos and ongoing civil war is a lot less desirable as a terrorist base. It’s once the civil war ends and someone takes control that you have to worry about who won.

As for “the left,” by which the honourable member apparently means centrist Democrats, they have not articulated any position since the invasion other than benchmarks or a draw-down of troops (though now they are keen on talking to Iran and Syria). Since these were responses, however weak, to their base’s demand for withdrawal I can’t see how they would have found a policy that envisaged a weaker commitment to post-invasion Iraq objectionable. To object would have put them in the rather uncomfortable, and politically untenable position of arguing for a more extensive and prolonged troop deployment.

I agree that it is a dicey proposition to try and divine what is in Bush’s heart (what’s in his brain – or what’s not in there – might be a safer bet). But the argument put to the world in the deliberations of the United Nations Security Council was that the invasion was justified because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, flouting the Security Council’s numerous resolutions. Bush may have articulated a democratic vision for post-invasion Iraq but no-one took this seriously and no-one would have held him to it. The policy he articulated was regime change. Indeed, on the eve of the invasion the administration announced that it would be content for Saddam Hussein to go into exile. A less belligerent dictatorship was apparently quite alright.

More to the point, the policy after the invasion became one of creating a unified, democratic national government – a centralized and inclusive state that would transcend ethnic factions. This has proven impossible, at least in the shambolic fashion in which the administration pursued it. The United States could have claimed a much more credible success if it had simply backed the Shiite dominated government that emerged from the elections rather than trying to get the Sunnis to buy into a unified order. Declare a victory for democracy and look the other way when the government’s forces (read: Shiite militias) use grizzly tactics to crush the Sunni militias.

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4 Comments on “Urine Big Trouble”

  1. Dan Goldman Says:

    On behalf of “the Left”, by which I mean any non-Christianist/neo-conservative, (Think that definition’s overbroad? Contrast that with anyone on “the Right” in the ’90s who were just anti-tax and spend liberalism of the ’40s-’80s, but I digress) since Bush and Co. want to hear other plans and not just complaining, here’s one….

    Withdraw troops to secure Kurdistan, continue to fight Baathists in Al-Anbar (sp?) and secure borders with a combination of Iraqi and American forces. Wait for everyone else to kill each other in Baghdad. Brutal? Sure. But is anything else worth risking more young American lives? Maybe I’m biased ’cause I didn’t think removing Saddam was worth even 1 young American’s life. Maybe older soldiers, like Generals, but not young grunts and certainly not reservists and National Guard.

    As for the rest of this pissing contest, you’re both way too smart for your own good and I can hardly follow one thesis to the next. Try dumbing it down for the rest of us.

  2. HW Says:

    “I didn’t think removing Saddam was worth even 1 young American’s life.” You won’t hear me saying this often but I think reasonable people can honorably disagree on this point. Perhaps I’m biased because I know the person making it is both reasonable and honorable (well, for the most part). But I can’t help but be somewhat replled by the callous disinterest in Saddam’s crimes and victims among some anti-war activists.

    My question for Dan though is this: would you consider the securing of Darfuri civilians worth the loss of one young American life? Perhaps even more? Or should the Sudanese be left to kill each other? (It may surprise you to know that I don’t have a solid answer to this myself.)

  3. Herbesse Says:

    Will this make my Dictatorship stocks on trendio rise? http://www.trendio.com/word.php?language=en&wordid=2293

  4. Dan Goldman Says:

    First, let me admit that I let my impetuousness get the best of me when I said, “I didn’t think removing Saddam was worth even 1 young American’s life.” because I’m not indifferent to the crimes of Saddam or the suffering of those living under his rule.

    What am I is concerned with using American military power (and by extension, the lives of the young grunts and officers who serve honorably) to remove dictators from power. Yes, we have an all-volunteer army and yes, people presumably understand the risks of joining the military, including death and disfigurement, but I guess my statement really revealed the level to which I just naturally assumed the Bush administration would bungle their stated objective. (What was it again?)

    It’s not simply that I believed they were lying about WMDs. I mean, I had no proof Saddam didn’t have ’em (or hid ’em, or whatever.) Or that if he did have them, that it would nevertheless be extraordinarily difficult to use them against us inside the cozy confines of the U.S., or our interests in the region.

    I just assumed that Bush would fuck up the war in Iraq as badly as he fucked up looking for oil in Texas. So with regards to other conflicts, like Darfur, do I think the life of a Darfurian (or hundreds of thousands of them) is worth an American life? Yes, I’m internationalist enough that I probably think that it is worth it. (Although I’d certainly like to think about it a little more.)

    I just think that our defense forces should be used to defend America and her interests and that some other sort of parallel peacekeeping force should be used in other contexts. I’m thrilled Saddam is gone. I’d like it if other dictators were also gone, but I’m not so easily convinced that it’s in America’s interests, or in the interest of the young folks who serve, that we go around the world deposing dictators whenever and wherever we find leaders flagrantly violating the human rights of those who live under their rule.

    So where do I draw the line? Why Darfur and not Burma or North Korea? I’m not sure I have an answer to that question.

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