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More thoughts on the Iraq war

By Scott Tibbs, March 24, 2008

As I explained last week, I have come to the conclusion that it was wrong to preemptively invade a sovereign nation which had not attacked us. The Iraq war was a mistake that will continue to be a drag on American foreign policy as long as we continue the occupation, fighting the insurgency and working to establish a democratic government. That does not mean, however, that I am in agreement with the anti-war movement's position on several key elements of war policy, or some of the tactics used in opposing the Iraq war/occupation. Take, for example, the picture below, from the March 20 edition of the Indiana Daily Student:

Does the individual on the left believe that his sign will help convince those sitting on the fence or wavering in their support of the war to recognize that the war was wrong and that the occupation should end? Such a juvenile statement may make him feel better but adds nothing substantive to the debate. Signs like the one above actually encourage supporters of the war to become more entrenched in their beliefs and less open to dialog about the wisdom of invading Iraq. I should know, because I was one of those people until very recently.

Also, I do not agree with protesting military recruiters. While many war opponents proclaim they "support the troops", holding a "die in" in front of a military recruiting office does not "support the troops". Military personnel, including recruiters, are simply doing their job. They do not set the policy and do not approve the budgets for the war and military personnel should not be the focus of protests against the war. The focus of protests should be the policy, not the military. Furthermore, harassing and intimidating recruiters (as Michelle Malkin documents here) is unacceptable and such tactics should be shunned and denounced by the anti-war movement.

Along the same lines, Congress should be careful about cutting funding for the war. If we are going to have troops on the ground, then we need to provide them with the equipment and personnel to allow them to do the job we are asking them to do. If Congress is serious about cutting funding for the war, they should (as David Keppel suggested last week) completely cut off funding and only allow funding for "an orderly withdrawal and humanitarian assistance." If Congress wants to end the war, then they should show some backbone and cut all funding for it. Playing politics by denying funding one place and approving it another does a grave disservice to our troops, damages morale, and unnecessarily puts them at risk of injury and death.

I do not believe that President Bush and his administration "lied" about weapons of mass destruction (WMD). If President Bush "lied", then President Clinton "lied" when he warned of Iraqi WMD in the late 1990's. While few people question that Saddam Hussein wanted WMD, and it is well documented that Hussein had WMD in the 1980's, it turns out that the intelligence reports indicating that Iraq had WMD were wrong. Making a mistake is not the same thing as knowingly lying about the Iraqi WMD program.

Of course, there is the question of whether the preemptive invasion of a sovereign nation which had not attacked us was wise policy, even if we had found WMD stockpiles. Would our nuclear deterrent have been enough to contain Hussein from attacking us? Should we invade and replace the government of every country that has WMD and could potentially use them against us? Would the logic that applies to Iraq apply to China or North Korea? In hindsight, would it have been better for us to directly attack the Soviet Union, which had nuclear weapons and clear imperialistic intentions, or was it better to allow the "Evil Empire" to collapse after a lengthy Cold War?

Some conservatives use Saddam Hussein's human rights record as a reason to justify the invasion. But can we invade and replace the government of every country with a miserable human rights record? As above, that applies China and North Korea, but also to the government of Sudan and the terrible treatment of Darfur. Where do we draw the line? Over 15 years ago, we invaded Somalia to stop a man-made famine, and that military adventure turned into a complete failure. Our military cannot and should not be the human rights police for the world. We should only be protecting our national security interests, with military force being the last resort to do so.

I agree with anti-war activists when they demand that we should not act militarily against Iran, especially without congressional approval. The obvious exception is in the highly unlikely case of a military offensive from Iran that makes it necessary for us to act immediately to defend ourselves. In such a case, Congress should avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and actually declare war, rather than abdicating its Constitutional authority by simply authorizing the use of military force.

I have little faith that this administration has the political will to do what is necessary to actually win the war. After all, this administration has failed to eliminate mass murderer Moqtada al-Sadr, who is arguably the #1 enemy of our troops on the ground. We should have slaughtered al-Sadr like the vermin he is four years ago, after the disaster at Fallujah. That we failed to do so shows that we are weak, and actually encourages more terrorism against us by making terrorists believe we will not retaliate appropriately.

What the next President should do is recognize that this war was a mistake and begin looking for a way to remove us from what is increasingly a quagmire. We obviously need to do so in a way that will prevent Iraq from degenerating into anarchy or full-scale civil war, and we need to be wary of allowing an increasingly aggressive Islamist regime in Iran to increase power and influence in a militarily and economically important area of the world. Before we leave, however, we should eliminate Moqtada al-Sadr both for the sake of justice and to serve as a warning to terrorists that we are not to be trifled with.