Monday, August 15, 2005

A War Supporter Deals With the Wreckage

The difficult road traveled in Iraq has left those of us who supported the President's policies to grapple with the contradictions, costs and the reality of lowering expectations.

Andrew Sullivan published his thoughts on the matter in early July and I just came across them last night. I found myself pretty much in lockstep with his views, best summarized here:

I guess it is something of a rightful come-uppance that so many of us who were so sure about the necessity for deposing Saddam are now beset with a very complicated series of doubts. History does that to true believers. I confess to what should be called a chastening. But I should still say that the one doubt I do not hold is over whether we should continue fighting this war. We should. The war is indeed a war for our survival; and winning in Iraq is a necessary but still not sufficient condition for a future where we are not immediately threatened by an Islamo-fascism, armed to the teeth with devastating technologies of destruction. That much I still believe, with a heavy heart but a resilient grasp of the realities some still want to avoid.

I continue to support the strategy, but it is in the execution of it where I have found fault with Bush's Administration and where improvement must be made. The diplomacy following the near-miracluous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 has been bungled at almost every turn. This burden did not need to be so disproportionately borne by the U.S. And that's unconscionable when one considers that this was, generally speaking, a war of choice. The failure to find Weapons of Mass Destruction was nothing short of a credibility-sapping humiliation. And while Paul rightly points out that there was a plan, it wasn't at all adequate. And neither was American willingness or ability to adapt to changing circumstances on the ground. Troop levels do not appear to have been sufficient. The borders (as in Afghanistan) were not locked-down. Dissolution of the Iraqi military is a mistake for which we are still paying. And Abu Ghraib will be a mistake for which we will pay even longer. $9B that has simply gone missing should remove all doubt as to the Keystone Cops nature of this intervention.

I held my nose in refusing to extend George W. Bush's contract for another four years. Though I had no enthusiasm for John Kerry, I could not, in good conscience vote for a man who bet the ranch on a policy for which it now seems clear he was ill-prepared to steward. And now, as public enthusiasm for the project wanes, the management of expectations seems to presage a modified cut-and-run conclusion to this endeavor. Prior to the war, I poignantly argued that Iraq was only worth doing provided the country was prepared to "do it right." That meant we would commit to the project as many resources as were required to ensure a quality result. The poor execution in the post-war period was bad enough, but the unceremonious "claim victory and get out" that now seems inevitable should be rejected by people of wisdom.

The liberation of Iraq remains a noble cause and, at long last, "getting it right" and keeping our commitments should remain our utmost priority:

The way ahead is undoubtedly brutal and unsure. But let's not delude ourselves that the alternative was that much better: an Iraq pulverized by still more sanctions, poverty and tyranny or one in which Saddam lived to see another day and gave aid and comfort to al Qaeda. We chose the better of two options. Both were and are still hellish. But this war is young and was always going to last a generation. We owe our government sturdy, even fierce, criticism but we also owe our civilization support. That civilization - one in which people live free from tyranny and suffocating theocracy - is being fought over in Iraq today; and I have not the slightest hesitation in knowing whose side I am on. Our enemy is targeting innocents daily; while we are doing our best to advance their freedom. The Iraqi people told us what they want last January - peace with democracy. We cannot afford to betray either them or our principles now.

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