Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Was It Worth It?

This kind of retrospective, in this case from the pages (is that what you call'em on a website?) of the conservative American Spectator, has me concerned.  Aaron Goldstein asks, and I suspect he's not alone in asking: "Should Saddam have stayed in Power?"

This is what I worried about when I posted "Whatever..." the other day.

First, when you walk away from any task unfinished, as it looks like we are in the case of Iraq, and perhaps will as well in the case of Afghanistan, it almost by definition becomes not worth it.  Vietnam was not worth it after 1975 when we gave it up for good.

But stop for a moment and compare Vietnam to Germany, Japan, and Korea.  Would any serious person be tempted to ask whether they were worth it, where we remained, and still remain, far longer than in Vietnam, expending far more blood and treasure?

Second, while our invasion of Iraq may have wrested ruling power from a tyrannical Sunni minority and, by establishing at least the semblance of a democracy, succeeded mostly only in transferring that power to a potentially tyrannical Shiite majority, a majority, significantly, with ties to Iran, our departure almost ensures those ties will become closer still, and dangerously so.

Third, even if Saddam had remained in power and served our interests by acting as a balance against an increasingly aggressive Iran, who's to say he would have remained otherwise safely within the confines of Iraq?

He had already invaded Kuwait over a decade before, placing the "free flow of oil at market prices" (remember when that phrase would almost roll off your tongue?) to us and our allies, a vital national interest, at serious risk.  That invasion required us to assemble an always reluctant coalition and send a very large army to force him back into Iraq.  That invasion and the threat of another required as well a 12-year policy of containing him within by posting large numbers of troops throughout the region.  Troops the posting of which was never free of charge and troops the posting of which complicated our relations with other countries.

Moreover, we knew, as everyone knew, that he not only possessed, but actively sought to possess even more, weapons of mass destruction, weapons he had already demonstrated his willingness to use by using them against his own people.  So why not against Kuwait as well?  Why not against us while we were "over there" to contain him?

We also knew, as everyone knew, that he was increasingly involved in sponsoring terrorism.  After 9/11 especially, how long could we tolerate this behavior?  Tolerate it even if he did act as an effective balance vis a vis Iran?

No, Saddam had to go and, on balance, it's good that he's gone.  Good for Iraq, good for the region, and most especially, good for us.

Now we have to confront Iran, such are the duties of a responsible Great Power, and doing so effectively has just become much more difficult with our retreat from Iraq.

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