Jerry Pournelle posts on the situation in Iraq in response to an E-mail that, amongst other things brings up the silly "Bush Lied" meme...
To deal with the last paragraph first, don't be silly. Everyone thought Saddam had WMD. Even his own generals thought it. The French thought so. The Russians thought so. The CIA thought so. MI 6 thought so. Of course they could all have been that wrong. Saddam wanted them to believe it; he needed to be seen to have WMD for his own purposes.
As to why we are in Iraq, the President is a Jacobin as are most of the intellectuals in the United States. He truly believes that democracy is the only legitimate form of government, and that all people truly long for democracy and freedom. Most of the intellectuals DO NOT beleive that but they PRETEND TO BELIEVE IT and about half the time they have convinced themselves they believe it; but for the most part the neo-con chicken hawks wanted the war for a whole bunch of reasons unrelated to US interests.
Understand: if Iraq could have been converted into a reasonable democracy, or even into a simile of Jordan, it would have been good for the United States, and very good for the Middle East. A multi-cultural democracy in Mesopotamia would be a wonderful thing. That was the goal, and had we achieved that goal the President and the neo-con chicken hawks would -- rightly -- be exalted as public benefactors.
No doubt there were people in the neo-con advisory circle who had ulterior motives; but most of them, and certainly the President, really believed that we have the military power to bring about democracy in Iraq. There really were people who believed the "End of History" nonsense that floated around in academia around the time of the Gulf War. Certainly the President wanted to put right the ghastly mistake of his father: encouraging revolts against Saddam then leaving the rebels hung out to dry. Wouldn't you? And certainly our military success in the Gulf War made many think it would be a cakewalk to Baghdad -- after all, it was -- and since few intellectuals study any history why would they not believe that conquest works, and pacification works? Saddam pacified Iraq. If he could do that, why can't we?
I think you do not appreciate the ability for self-deception among the neo-con chicken hawks.
General Colin Powell tried to warn them. He believe the intelligence reports of WMD -- Saddam was damned good at that deception -- but even then he had misgivings about regime change. He understood how brutal one must be to govern without the consent of the governed, and as an American of African origin he understood better than most just how difficult multi-cultural democracies are to establish. Powell, I am sure, went along with the invasion somewhat reluctantly because he feared Saddam with WMD. He had his misgivings about it, but he was on the team.
I understand his dilemma. Like Powell I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq for reasons I gave at the time, and those included my conviction that we could win the war but not the peace: but once we sent in the troops, what could we do but stay out of the way? It was the wrong war for the wrong objectives begun on the wrong theory and in disregard of history. But if it failed, Powell was damned if the failure would be his fault. So was I. What other course could an honorable man take?....snip
Unlike Dr. Pournelle, I did not oppose the war and still think that an good ethical and strategic argument can certainly be made for it, both on humanitarian grounds as well as the realpolitick reasons I chose to embolden in the quote. Given what was known at the time the argument IMHO was stronger still.
Dr. Pournelle's warnings were, however, certainly prescient as were those of Secretary Powell and many other conservatives (and let us be quite clear, despite the Orwellian rantings of David Frum Pournelle IS a conservative....and hell of a lot more credentialed one than Frum himself ).
In fact the only people who were right about the aftermath were conservatives...the left opposed the war for reasons mainly revolving around the "R" behind the Presidents name and was quite inconsistent with their worldview as their enthusiasm for getting us involved in a petrodollar financed race war in the Sudan shows.
That the warnings of Pournelle and others were not heeded and acted upon because of faulty intelligence or poor preparation is a tragedy, but it is also water under the bridge. We cannot change the past but must deal with it's consequences...the current mess in the middle east is largely a result of the machinations of France and Britain after World War One, with the complicity of witless Wilson.
We did not start this fire but it will likely burn us if we don't take steps to put it out. In Iraq we are trying to fight fire with fire.
I don't think that the aftermath of war is yet lost, though the perception of its hopelessness may yet prove self fulfilling and that would be a great tragedy, for if we can make Iraq in to any sort of bulwark against the retrograde pathologies that are currently such a strong force in the Muslim world we will have done not only a useful and strategically sound thing, but a damned good thing.
The troops who continue to re-enlist there certainly think we can and must pursue this, for one of the results of this situation is that we have befriended and made promises to people...people who are fighting some of the most malignant evils on the planet and people who will come to a VERY bad end should we abandon them.
...and despite their fitful and infuriating starts in trying to get things going, despite the setbacks and the calls by many to just let them sink or swim as they are so "obviously" not trying and not worth our time....They are taking steps that many of their detractors here would balk at.
In this country there are people who take umbrage at being asked to show ID to prove they are not voting twice.
Over there, despite the fact that the jihadists target those who move beyond the 8th century, people went out and dipped their fingers in ink to identify themselves as having voted. This made then targets . Women voted to stave off the 8th century forces that would reduce them to chattle. Those on the Left who crow loudest for us to abandon these people like to sneer at any in this country that are lockstep with their world view. They look down on those of us in flyover country with the utter disdain of those who smugly consider themselves to be the true humanist progressives and friends of women's rights. If they cannot bring themselves draw a line here, against this they are neither, just cynical opportunists, or perhaps Chambelainesque cowards.
These are people we have made a promise to, people who we pulled the rug out from under once. This war is neither lost nor won. It is in the balance and it is going to be a close run thing for a very long time. There were many principled reasons to avoid this war. As we are there, those reasons are moot. The Libertarian right were right about the cost in blood and treasure, but to cut our losses now and abandon these brave people to this wicked evil after we propped them up and gave them hope is one of the cruelest and most vile pranks imaginable, almost sociopathic in its callousness, and would seem to affirm the worst, over the top, stereoptypes of the Randian Libertarian smugly looking down his nose at the flood victim who didn't have the good sense to put his house on stilts or be somewhere else. If this Libertarians have done anything it has been to convince me I'm not a Libertarian....( Hamilton was more my cup of tea anyway) . As long as the men and women on the ground believe there is a chance to win this fight we are morally and ethically obligated to try. To leave now would be well and truly wrong.
Here Via Defense Tech is an interesting interview with Pamela Hess on what she saw. No water carrier for the administration she gives 9 minutes of perspective on what we are fighting.
Greyhawk says it well here.
I do not suggest we fight all the worlds demons. If blood and treasure do not, the world wide "gratitude" we have reaped from our efforts in Mesapotamia should remind us of that folly, which in the long term is likely a healthy lesson to learn.
However, promises must be kept.
This long war is being fought on many fronts. Iraq is the most visible of them. To stop the spreading malignancy so entrenched in that part of the world requires our being seen as a strong horse and not a bug light. If we can make Iraq safe from becoming another Afghanistan, we will have done ourselves and the world a tremendous service...and dealt the forces of 8th century jihad a severe blow. We will also have kept our promises and saved many people we swore to protect from hell on earth.
To walk away now would be the a great crime in and of itself..