Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Reasons for Invading Iraq 

Andrew Sullivan recently posted "two fundamental reasons for war against Iraq and posted a letter from a Bangladeshi Muslim questioning why we went to Iraq when the real source of radical fundamentalism is Saudi Arabia (partnered with Egypt and Yemen). Andrew gets two good points, and another reader gets one more, but I feel there are a few missing, ones that might answer the questions asked by our Bangladeshi friend, and so I, too, will revisit the topic in, hopefully, a clearer way.

1. Potential Threat Posed by Iraqi WMD. Andrew, and most others, are spot on when they cite Iraq's suspected WMD as being of paramount importance in initiating the Iraqi campaign, although I differ in opinion if this premise has been as convincingly disproved as he seems to feel. As I have said before, no amount of revisionism will change the fact that everyone with an official opinion felt that Iraq posessed both proscribed weapons and programs to make more and better weapons. Likewise, Iraqi intent with regard to WMD had been demonstrated to be offensive. This is key in light of my reason #2.

2. Iraqi Cooperation With and Support of Terrorists. While many detractors of the Iraqi campaign adhere to the mantra "Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11" there is noone informed that can convincingly argue he had nothing to do with terrorist or terrorism. The presenece of training camps for Ansar al-Islam and the Salmon Pak training camp (including aircraft fuselage for hijack training) are just two undeniable physical representations of this. Material support of Hammas suicide bombers, Abu Nidal and other notorious terrorists and terrorist leaders is well documented and, in some cases, was even bragged about. While not directly impicated in 9/11 attackes, there is plenty of evidence of Iraqi contact with the al-Queda group. Now, couple the presumed WMD capability with Saddam's demonstrated petty minded vindictiveness (e.g. the tile of G.H.W. Bush in front of the Palestine Hotel, not to mention a few hit-men) and partnership with terrorists, and who would not think he would take any opportunity that afforded plausible deniability to use surrogates in his vengence? Additionally, removal of the Ba'ath government has dried up another source of financial support for terrorism, really one of the most important and least publicized fronts in the War.

3. Humanitarian Case. Andrew gets this right, but only from a compassionate liberal perspective. Freeing the Iraqis was absolutely the right thing to do. But not just because of human rights benefits to mankind as a whole, but it was justified in terms of cost to coalition nations because it serves the greater goal of protecting civilization. Prosperous, free nations do not engage in petty wars because they are too busy working for and enjoying their prosperity. One reason Radical Islam has no problem recruiting people to fight against "Western Cilivilzation" is their lack of understanding about what Western Civilization really is. Granted, what we saw on 9/11, when men who had lived and worked in America for years still followed through with their plan means this is not the whole answer, but for many, how are you gonna keep them down on the farm once they've seen the big city?

4. Demonstrating American Resolve. This is what Andrew's reader touched on, but he went at it more from the angle of ensuring the credibility of the UNSC. I, however, feel that the Oil-for-Graft UNSCAM scandal will absolve any thinking man of accusing the UNSC of being credible. The credibility of the U.S., however, has already been of great importance in the GWOT. It was a perceived lack of credibility that, in large part, emboldened al_Queda to undertake the 9/11 attacks. It was imperative that we demonstrate the error of that thinking as strongly as possible. In Iraq we were offered an avowed hostile that failed to meet its international commitments and tried to face down American resolve. It would have been impossible to continue prosecuting the GWOT with any degree of success and cooperation had we not demontrated that we meant what we said. Other countries have apparently taken note, to the benefit of the GWOT.

5. Cultivating a Regional Ally. I feel this is the most important long-term reason for the Iraqi campaign. We need real allies in the region as well as a regional base of operations. Who are the main supporters of global terrorism? Iran, Syria and, of course, Saudi Arabia. Now look at a map and tell me what's smack-dab in the middle of them all? Iraq. It is the perfect geographic location from which to base our operations and affords the best flexibility, allowing humanitarian action, political action, unconventional action or, if called for, conventional military action. Not only that, but Iraqis are intelligent, well edudated by regional standards and the country possesses natural resources, all key in a comparatively rapid rise to proserity and national reconstruction. Add in broad cultural contacts with all major groups in the region (Kurds, Shiia, Arabs) and a largely appreciative population and Iraqis may well end up being one of the most important allies we will ever have in the GWOT. This is where the Abu Ghraid incident concerns me, but a lot of what I've been reading indicates that the process by which the incident has become public and the open accountability for the actions seem to be more important in the long-term than the abuses themselves. I hope so.

So, my Bangledeshi friend, I don't think anyone has forgotten your Sauds or Egyptians or Yemeni. But to eat an elephant one must take many bites. And if you want to bite the head you had better first eat the legs or bring a ladder. I believe Iraq is our ladder.

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