Many people have noted that the military has done a great job in Iraq, against terrible odds. I agree. We can win in Iraq. And we must.
The question I have is why did we end up invading Iraq?
For some it is simple - 9/11. There is no proof of that. If there were it would not be an issue today.
Others note how brutal a dictator Saddam was and say it is great that he is gone. I agree, but that doesn't justify an invasion - are we going into North Korea next, a much more brutal and repressive regime which has sworn to destroy us? And assuming that the argument "Saddam is bad" is a good one, it seems a good argument for an Iraqi, not an American. We were spending US blood and treasure to defeat Saddam, and pointing out how that benefits Iraqis isn't enough for me.
Others say "WMD." Fine, but that is just an acronym. The issue is did Iraq present a threat to our national security that justified an invasion and occupation? That question has not been answered.
Iran apparently has closer ties to Al Queda and both Iran and North Korea work on nuclear bomb-building. Our military is overextended. Was there a better alternative for our national security than invading Iraq? And is the Iraq war really part of the war on terror or something different that has hurt our campaign against Al Queda?
Many military experts predicted that an invasion would be a long and costly effort with little reward for us at the end - the risk wasn't worth the reward. Many (most) of the senior military leadership felt that invading and occupying Iraq would harm our national security. So it has, at least in the short run. The Iraqis win because Saddam is overthrown. Iran wins because an enemy is destroyed. Terrorists win because the Islamic world is enraged. What do we win?
These were questions that the administration dodged or that they believed would all go away when the Iraqi people greeted us as liberators (to quote Mr. Cheney AND Mr. Wolfowitz).
Mr. Bush endlessly repeats that an evil dictator is gone. True. I don't care. I want to know if we are safer and if it was worth the cost. I'm not Iraqi, I'm American. I put American interests first.
Rather than blasting each other with the same lines we have been using, how about we go to some non-partisan experts. I welcome your views on these three studies.
From The Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute: Bounding the Global War on Terrorism by noted national security expert Dr. Jeffrey Record. His take is that "The global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security. The United States may be able to defeat, even destroy, Al Qaeda, but it cannot rid the world of terrorism, much less evil."
He calls the war in Iraq "an unnecessary preventative war" that has "diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable Al Qaeda." The Iraq war was a "detour" from the war on terrorism, he said.
Daniel Benjamin, a member of the National Security Council staff in the late 1990s, said, "The criticism does not seem out of line with many of the conversations I have had with officers in every branch of the military."
The essay carries the standard disclaimer that its views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Army, the Pentagon or the U.S. government. But retired Army Col. Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., director of the Strategic Studies Institute, whose Web site carries Record's 56-page monograph, hardly distanced himself from it. "I think that the substance that Jeff brings out in the article really, really needs to be considered," he said. Many of Record's arguments, such as the contention that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was deterred and did not present a threat, have been made by critics of the administration. Iraq, he concludes, "was a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al Qaeda." But it is unusual to have such views published by the War College, the Army's premier academic institution.
In addition, the essay goes further than many critics in examining the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism. Record's core criticism is that the administration is biting off more than it can chew. He likens the scale of U.S. ambitions in the war on terrorism to Adolf Hitler's overreach in World War II. "A cardinal rule of strategy is to keep your enemies to a manageable number," he writes. "The Germans were defeated in two world wars . . . because their strategic ends outran their available means."
He also scoffs at the administration's policy, laid out by Bush in a November speech, of seeking to transform and democratize the Middle East. "The potential policy payoff of a democratic and prosperous Middle East, if there is one, almost certainly lies in the very distant future," he writes. "The basis on which this democratic domino theory rests has never been explicated."
Bounding the Global War on Terrorism found at http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pubs/pubresult.cfm?pubid=207.
IRAQ AND VIETNAM: DIFFERENCES, SIMILARITIES, AND INSIGHTS at http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pubs/pubresult.cfm?pubid=377. It notes that most comparisons overplay the similarities and understate the differences.
Strategic Consequences of the Iraq War: U.S. Security Interests in Central Asia Reassessed at http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pubs/pubresult.cfm?pubid=383.