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« The National Organization For Far-Left Women. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 97 -- Independence Day. »

Iraq: What Might Have Been.


Americans, of late, have gone a bit wobbly on the mission in Iraq. After all, it has been two full years since the beginning of the ground invasion, and it is not yet a full and functioning democracy, with a stable security situation and a vibrant and diversified economic engine. More importantly, Americans are still over there. Americans, although we shrugged off our isolationism for good after Pearl Harbor, still don't like Americans being over there.

The left turned on the mission in Iraq long ago, and they've managed, through their establishment media, to hammer, day after day, slowly-but-surely, confidence in the mission. The terrorists in Iraq have managed to game the American media, as well, with high profile (but low strategic value) kidnappings and explosions and such.

They've managed to plant the seed of doubt in the minds of even those who demanded justice, no matter what it would take, for what happened on September 11, 2001. People see the car bombs, the rocket propelled grenades, and the jihadis, and they say "let's hightail it outta there." Some would like to take back the Iraq war entirely. Afghanistan was so much more fun. Even Iraq was more fun the first time around. The green tracer rounds lighting up the night. The correspondents wearing helmets, reporting live from the rooftops of the al-Rashid hotel. The good guys winning. The bad guys losing. Yay. Fun. Easy. Nintendo war. When is the victory parade through New York City?

But with no Iraq war, the advance of freedom would have been set back decades. Yes, decades. The events that the Iraq war set in motion will fan the flames of liberty for generations to come. Backing off of Saddam Hussein and relying on international institutions to contain the tyrant would have been a signal to the world that President Bush is not a very serious person, and the American people are not very determined in this whole getting the bad guys thing.

It's clear that Saddam Hussein was using and abusing the sanctions and the Oil-For-Food program. It's also clear that leaving Saddam Hussein in power would have led to a major relaxation of the sanctions, maybe even within months.

Leaving Saddam Hussein in power means no Bush Doctrine, and no Bush Doctrine means very bad things for the course of human history.

The Bush Doctrine can be summed up rather succinctly:

"The defense of freedom requires the advance of freedom."

And the advance of freedom is not going to happen in a fortnight, or even sixty fortnights (approximately how long it's been since the initial invasion of Iraq, in March of 2003).

Imagine, for a moment, no Iraq war.

With no Iraq war, there is no Bush Doctrine. With no Bush Doctrine, there is no impetus for change in the gurgling cauldron of poverty, corruption, Islamic fundamentalism, seething resentment, and rage, known as the Middle East. With no Bush Doctrine, the Cedar Revolution may or may not have happened. With no Bush Doctrine, it is far from probable that we would be seeing the kinds of stirrings of reform and progress in Egypt, in Kuwait, and even in Saudi Arabia itself. The Middle East is awash in a revolutionary zeitgeist, a moment of change-- and for the better.

President Bush loves to call the bluff of his rivals, adversaries and enemies, revealing them for the frauds they really are. One of Osama bin Laden's fundamental reasons for his jihad against the United States was the presence of the infidel in the holy land, adjacent to Mecca and Medina. American troops, of course, were stationed in Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Thousands remained there until shortly after the resumption of the Gulf War two years ago, when their mission (protect the Saudi oil fields from Saddam) was no more.

Okay, so the troops leave Saudi Arabia, what else can we do to call the bin Laden bluff? The al-Qaeda ideology is no ideology. It is nihilism. It is totalitarianism. It is chaos. It is extreme order. It is anything and everything, all at once. It's based on pure Islam, or on exacting revenge for centuries-old Arab grudges against Christendom, or on glory for those in charge. Whatever it is, Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and their ilk, are beginning to be exposed for a movement without a cause, an ideology without ideas, and a religion without God. Other than the destruction of the West, the al-Qaeda cult has nothing.

Osama bin Laden has no moral reason for his evil deeds, and he knows it. So he sells his death and destruction through the things that bother the Muslim people. When those things go away, when American troops are no longer on holy ground, the idea of suicidal terrorism in the name of fundamentalist Islam to force change becomes thoroughly unreasonable to even the most bitter and brainwashed of young men.

So, other reasons for jihad against the infidels. Other reasons, other reasons. Hmm...

Oh, how about that whole "support for corrupt Arab leaders" thing. That's a good one. Easy. Nearly every nation in the Muslim world has terrible, corrupt, and immoral governance. Just blame America for propping up your neighborhood dictator. It might even be somewhat true!

Even that is changing, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice applying pressure recently:

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

...although not at the kind of pace that would undermine the primary mission. And we're also not demanding democracy immediately in every country around the world.

Indeed, the U.S. does not have a spotless history in the Middle East or elsewhere when it comes to our Cold War era geopolitical alliances. Charles Krauthammer posits that the alliances were:

...necessary and temporary. Our deals with right-wing dictatorships were contingent upon their usefulness and upon the status of the ongoing struggle. Once again we were true to our word. Whenever we could, and particularly as we approached victory in the larger war, we dispensed with those alliances.

Furthermore, the left enjoys bandying the "hypocrisy" label about with regard to the Bush Doctrine, screaming about how American can continue to allow the dictatorial Saudi monarchy, the Pharoahic kleptocracy in Egypt, or the military dictator of Pakistan to hang around if the goal is the spread of freedom.

Krauthammer has the answer:

Alliances with dictatorships were justified in the war against fascism and the cold war, and they are justified now in the successor existential struggle, the war against Arab/Islamic radicalism. This is not just theory. It has practical implications....

Some conservatives (and many liberals) have proposed instead that we be true to the universalist language of the President’s second inaugural address and go after the three principal Islamic autocracies: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Not so fast, and not so hard. Autocracies they are, and in many respects nasty ones. But doing this would be a mistake.

Krauthammer also explains that there is no need to apologize or be defensive about our kid-gloves handling of Mubarak or Musharraf:

The principle is that we cannot democratize the world overnight and, therefore, if we are sincere about the democratic project, we must proceed sequentially. Nor, out of a false equivalence, need we abandon democratic reformers in these autocracies. On the contrary, we have a duty to support them, even as we have a perfect moral right to distinguish between democrats on the one hand and totalitarians or jihadists on the other.

This is a point that needs to be stressed. If the goal of ending tyranny in the world is legit, we need to use legitimate means of getting there. That does not mean we fight a war against every country not on Freedom House's list of free countries. It doesn't mean we necessarily support opposition groups, just because they are the opposition to the corrupt regime.

In all seriousness, the United States has begun to take away the causus belli (justifications for war) against the infidel West from al-Qaeda, one by one, all while destroying their networks and eliminating the root causes of terrorism over the long-run.

And there's no question that the very existence of Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a contributing factor to the lingering instability and suffering of the people of the Middle East. Saddam Hussein's Iraq had everything to do with terrorism.

Iraq was a unique threat, with distinct circumstances, and President Bush and the world were presented with a unique opportunity to not only end that threat, but advance the cause of liberty. Striking a blow against tyranny in the heart of the Middle East (the fertile crescent, no less!) can and will have enormous long-term consequences for the region. We're already seeing some positive stirrings; it is difficult to imagine that we won't see much more than stirrings in the years ahead.

The Bush Doctrine is an Alka Seltzer tablet tossed into the gurgling cauldron of resentment that is the Middle East. It fizzes and snaps and crackles and pops, then, suddenly, the acid is neutralized. Going into the war on terror was never supposed to be easy. President Bush warned the American people early and often that this global war against terror would not be quick and painless:

This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists....

Indeed, in his Second Inaugural Address, President Bush noted that the sweeping goal of ending tyranny in the world is the "concentrated work of generations."

Twenty years from now, the world will look so different than it does today, that a world without the removal of Saddam Hussein just might be as unfathomable as a mid-1960s world with an aging set of WWII Axis regimes, still sticking it out, still causing trouble.

So imagine no Iraq war.

There'd still be the Afghan quagmire for Ted Kennedy to quack about.

There'd still be Guantanamo Bay gulag for Dick Durbin to spout drivel about.

There'd still be the full triumvirate of the axis of evil, taunting us, testing our weakness and irresolve.

Specifically, there'd still be a Saddam Hussein regime paying the families of Palestinian suicide terrorists for blowing themselves up. There'd still be a Saddam Hussein with a thirst for weapons of mass destruction, and a history of seeking, developing, and using them.

Some would have declared the United States victorious in the war on terror. Hooray, we've won.

Others, in the 2004 campaign, would have started challenging President Bush for his absurd restraint, or for bringing so many troops home from the theater so soon. Surely there are caves yet to be explored in Afghanistan!

In short, the "let's go back in time and not do Iraq" squad is disingenous about the reasons for the Iraq war, they are too quick to declare the war at present a disaster, and they are entirely lacking in the requisite "vision thing" that would allow them to forecast positive ramifications flowing from the liberation of Iraq over the next generation.

The most interesting counterfactual history of Iraq is the history yet to be written. If and when Iraq becomes a tourist destination for Westerners, if and when Iraq begins actively helping other nearby countries develop into free societies, if and when the vision of a prosperous, democratic, and independent Iraq without constant terror becomes a reality, it will mark the fruition of a key plank in the Bush Doctrine.

Over the next generation, watching the Middle East emerge from the Dark Ages into the 21st century will be wonderful/discombobulating/miraculous/frightening/amazing thing to witness. A true Middle Eastern Renaissance, emanating from Iraq.


Wizbang is rounding up some "what-if" posts, plus Jay Tea's two takes (one and two).

The Shape of Days blog has a contribution.

As does The Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill blog.


Joust the Facts has more thoughts on what might have been.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 July 2005 06:15 AM


hehe I feel like the Who when they had to share a billing with Jimi Hendrix. Nicely done.

Pierre Legrand

Posted by: Pierre Legrand at July 4, 2005 09:37 AM

Beautiful...Thank you!...It is about time someone just spoke the truth and stated the facts! ...I get so tired of hearing the liberal lies !!!
Thanks Again!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 4, 2005 10:59 AM

Someone would have to be on crack to think it was a good idea to invade Iraq. Let's see...if you invade a Muslim country that was doing NOTHING to provoke it then it is going to create legions more jihadists, not less. As it is, America's cowardly "military" can't even cope with a bunch of rag-tag Rebels who have small-arms, mortars and an occasional RPG. As soon as an American unit sees one or two Rebels with rifles, they panic and call in air support. Try using this coward tactic against anyone that has even a decent amount of surface-to-air missile launchers and see what happens. But how likely is that to occur? The brass and the administration it answers to are just as cowardly as the troops, in that it shrinks from REAL threats like North Korea or Iran. North Korea ACTUALLY HAS weapons of mass destruction... what's the Bush administration do about it? They beg North Korea to come back to the Six-Party talks. No threats. No bullying. Begging instead. Now that is one cowardly bully.
Every day the U.S. "military" proves it lacks the courage to actually FIGHT the insurgents and instead relies on aircraft to bomb every single foxhole. Don't think real threat countries' military high commands aren't watching this, rubbing their hands in glee as they can see the obvious, that America is too cowardly to use fire & maneuver tactics, (the bread and butter of infantry fighting), and they see exactly how to beat America: by making them actually FIGHT.
Calling in air support when encountering a couple Rebels instead of using one element to provide suppressive fire, while the other element maneuvers around the enemy's flank to close with them and destroy them, shows they lack the courage to even be called "soldiers" and "marines". Better stick to picking on Panama or Grenada, something your military can actually handle.

Posted by: Danny H. at July 4, 2005 12:36 PM

Danny, When you hear about the mass graves does that not give you enough reason for the USA to be in Iraq?... When you saw the Iraqi people knocking down the statues of Saddam and being free from his evil Dictatorship, does that not justify the USA being in Iraq?...Obviously, the Congress agreed to this war or we wouldn't be there today! Freedom and Democracy is something we take for granted! Anti Americanism is not acceptable! Not now! Not Ever!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 4, 2005 01:04 PM

Danny you are a parody arent you?


Posted by: Pierre Legrand at July 4, 2005 04:33 PM

This is PURE Gold. Excellent blog!

Posted by: Robin at July 4, 2005 06:06 PM

I keep reading it over and over! I love the
Alka-Seltzer part! It gives such drama and meaning you can really see!...I Love WILLisms.com

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 4, 2005 06:26 PM

Someone needs to give Danny an Alka Seltzer! Those are the type of scum bags who really need to go live in Iraq! Maybe an Alka Seltzer isn't the right medicine for him after all...Hmmm... I would prescribe something for anti-diarrhea of the mouth and brain pill for him! His type of spewing is shameful and sick! ...I really don't like him!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 5, 2005 12:13 PM

"With no Iraq war, there is no Bush Doctrine."

Oh, that's nonsense.

The governments of Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan and Saudi Arabia are still intact, and there is a Bush Doctrine.

So what makes Iraq so special that the Bush doctrine's very existence hinges on a US invasion of it?

Posted by: Joe Grossberg at July 5, 2005 01:14 PM

Wasn't it Iraq that was supposedly Eden?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 5, 2005 09:25 PM

Actually, the most important difference is that if not for the Iraq invasion, all those foreign Islamist crazies blowing people up in Iraq (and being killed by the thousands) would instead be doing their damndest to get accross our undefended, and near undefensible, borders.
The idea that these killers only hate us because of Iraq is fatuous. The Cole was before Iraq, as were the embassy bombings in Tanzania. Perhaps the Achille Lauro piracy and murders were because that particular bunch of crazies somehow knew that a not-very-successful but well connected Texas businessman would sober up, acchieve some success in business and then politics and someday invade Iraq.
I can think, off the top of my head, of some very good reasons why Iraq was the next best step in this global war. I can think of several other places we could have made that next step just as well. Iraq was the choice. We had plenty of time to debate, we had a Congressional Resolution authorizing it, it's time to shut up and fight.
I can see this current crowd during WW2. In '42 it would have been "North Africa didn't bomb Pearl Harbor". In '43 it would have been "But Italy had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor". In '44 it would have been "there were no ties between Normandy and Tojo."

Posted by: Peter at July 5, 2005 09:39 PM

I would like to add something about the elephant in the room that no one addressed yet: If John Kerry had won, we still would have had troops in Iraq, but would it have still been a quagmire? Of course not. But instead the Media darling lost and the message of "anyone but Bush" hasn't changed. I don't mind that too much because as long as that's the Democratic plan to automatically nay-say then only the Republicans are a logical answer because only they have a plan.

One day the Republicans need to plan a "week of peace" and be totally silent and not speak to the press and keep quiet for one week. With no original ideas from the left, the silence would be deafening.

Posted by: Rob B. at July 5, 2005 10:56 PM

Peace and Quiet Week sounds good to me!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 17, 2005 10:21 AM

Will, the war in Iraq is not an issue of Democrat vs. Republican, Liberal vs. Conservative, Isolationist vs. Imperialist. This war was indisputably contrived, hurried, and grossly mismanaged by a collection of neo-conservative (which is to say, not conservative at all)extremists. There was no clear rationale for invading Iraq when we did, other than for the administration's apparent zeal to capitalize on the American public's outrage over 9/11.
Your arguments for what might have been if we hadn't invaded this sovereign nation are intelligent and informed by history, but are nonetheless speculative at best. The arguments against the war were solid, indeed there was simply no rationale for it at all.
The president and his underlings cooked up reasons to suddenly dispatch Saddam, who is by all accounts a megalomaniacal murderous socipath. However, we seemed to have developed a sudden distaste with such monsters. Under Reagan we supported some of the worst human rights violators in Latin America, including Samoza in Nicaragua and D'Aubisson in El Salvador. Jean Kirkpatrick, the U.N. Ambassador at the time, defended the administration's policy of supporting brutal dictatorships. Violent suppression of a nation's citizenry was the price of maintaining stability (and forestalling the dubious spread of communism).
Such is the case with Iraq. A secular nation at odds with its neighboring theocracies, Iraq was never a breeding ground for terrorism. Saddam and Osama bin Laden were sworn enemies, so a connection between the two should never have been made. Indeed, the bi-partisan 9/11 commission, which the Bush administration stonewalled at every turn, confirmed as much in its report. There were no WMD, as it turns out. Yes, democrats, John Kerry among them, worried about Saddam's possible control over such weapons (including potential nuclear capability, but U.N. inspections were in place at the time, and Saddam was (finally) cooperating. The argument that this is a "war on terror" (or whatever Bush is calling it this week) has always been disingenuous.
The potential benefits of this invasion are dubious at best. Initially, Cheney and Rumsfeld repeatedly minimized the risks and grossly exaggerated the outcome. Rumsfeld said we'd be "greeted as liberators," and home within ninety days. Not even close. There is no hope that this insurgency (call it what you wish) is leaving any time soon. You'd better figure on ten to twenty years at best. If you check, that's the fairly standard lifespan of insurgencies. Ultimately, they either prevail, swirled into a larger and protracted civil war, or crushed by another authoritarian regime. Ironically, as this administration has continuously sold the Iraq war as the planting freedom and democracy in the middle east, the exact opposite is happening. Another theocracy (or something close to it) is on the rise in Iraq. Instead of democracy spreading, Iraq is imploding from the influence of Islamic extremism from without.
Meanwhile, we cannot overlook the terrible costs of this bogus war. As our economy was tanking, this president decided to go to war, obviously underestimating the costs: now $200 billion plus and counting. We have over 1800 men and women dead, thousands more maimed, disfigured, and dismembered, and as many as a third who will develop severe mental disorders including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Moreover, there are tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis dead. The "liberal media" presents the anguished faces of families who've lost loved ones. How can anyone not be moved? Though killed by terrorist insurgents, and protected by U.S. Marines, the Iraqi dead would likely have be alive today if we hadn't created the power vacuum that now exists there. This war is producing nothing more than pain and suffering; not hope, not freedom.
All this, and I haven't even entertained some of the more conspiratorial arguments of the far left (we wanted their oil, Bush was completing his father's mission, the war was a smokescreen to obscure a failing economy at home). I find the lack of outrage mystifying.

Charles J. Carroll

Posted by: Charley Carroll at August 15, 2005 12:29 PM