Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Necessity of the War in Iraq - Unfortunate But Needed

With all the uproar about the war the reasons why we're there have been all but forgotten. Unfortunately, even a cursory view of the situation, the way it is and without the hype, shows the necessity of the operation, not only because we're there, but mainly because this operation was needed all along. This is proven by a rudimentary analysis of cold hard facts, something missing in almost all discussions.

To begin with, UN weapons reports documented every weapon owned by Saddam in the 90s as well as as all that had been seized or destroyed to date. Based on these reports Saddam controlled thousands upon thousands of tons of weapons that could have done serious harm. By their own admission, the previous regime had stockpiles of VX, Sarin, Anthrax and Mustard Gas. Many of these items were found, as were 500 tons of more or less unenriched uranium, I say "more or less" because the anti-war at all costs paper, the New York Times, found evidence that Saddam had begun to enrich this stockpile, reporting on May 22, 2004 that 1.8 tons had already been transformed to low-enriched uranium.

Opponents of the war originally asked: What about Iran and North Korea? But they fail to realize two things. Unlike Iran and North Korea, Iraq had been given 12 years and warning upon warning to comply with destruction of their weapons piles. Had we still failed to act the threat of sanction have been rendered meaningless and there would have been no hope of a diplomatic solution with Iran or North Korea. Furthermore, concentrating first on Iran and North Korea fails to take into account the very nature of the threats posed by each. Iran and North Korea have one goal, to become nuclear and will not attack us beforehand. They have their eye on the ball. As such, we had a window of time in which to try several non-military options. This cannot be said of Saddam's Iraq. He was content with trying to off a former US President and would have been equally content to organize or support smaller, non-nuclear attacks against us. Stopping him was therefore an immediate priority for the security of our nation.

Keep the conversation to facts. President Bush did not "lie." His reports were based on international intel and the operation was extremely necessary if we were to preserve the effectiveness of diplomatic efforts and send a message that potential dangers would be acted upon. He acted in the best interests of the nation and all congressional leaders, in both parties, who had access to the same international intel that the President and CIA did - some of it coming from French and UN sources, were in agreement at the time.

There's also a humanitarian aspect to the invasion that detractors on the left ignore. Until we entered Iraq the main criticism of our policy was that sanctions were harming the populace while doing nothing to harm Saddam. This was true and needed to be corrected. Iraqis suffered because of a lack of food and an inability to clean up the chemical damage left from the Iran-Iraq War and the first Gulf War and Americans were wrongly, but nevertheless seen as the reason for this. Removing Saddam was therefore the compassionate thing to do.

This also goes to the criticism that fighting the insurgency breeds more hatred. It is true that when fighting any enemy, the enemy will gather supporters and will feel a sense of emboldenment. But not fighting an enemy that poses a risk to you will only allow the enemy to grow and strengthen, less emboldened than when war is declared against it, but in a way that it poses a much greater danger when it's finally ready to attack - on its terms, not ours, as we'll have let it grow out of control. But as we see above, they did not need the Iraq War to hate us. Many hated us before precisely because we did not get rid of Saddam but instead imposed sanctions on the populace. Doing nothing was also not an option, as that would have clearly enabled the unfettered growth of Saddam.

But What About the Implementation?

Some like to criticize the President for not sending enough troops. Surprisingly, this argument is sometimes advanced by the anti-war critics themselves. It seems that any criticism of the war is popular, no matter what that criticism might be. It doesn't matter if one says "Bush sent too many troops," "Bush sent too few troops," "Bush lied" "Bush doesn't know the facts." Any criticism of the President, no matter from what angle or even if it's wholly contradictory to other criticism, is all lauded and applauded by the same group. But it's also all wrong and ignores pertinent facts.

Too few troops would have made the war ineffective. But too many would have turned the civilians against us and served as proof in their eyes that the insurgents' claims of an American takeover were founded. This would have also greatly weakened the current Iraqi Government, who would simply be seen as US puppets and enablers of the "takeover."

This also needs to be pointed out: Contrary to the belief that the President has a "go it alone philosophy," he is in fact one of the few who have actually listened to the generals and military strategists on the field. It is the detractors, both those who call for a withdrawal and those who call for more troops, who are "going it alone" and who are truly ignoring the advice of on the ground military experts. It is they who can cause real harm, both with their calls for a premature exit and with their calls for an intensified number of troops.

This is similar to the criticism John Kerry tried to launch against the President for not "getting Bin Laden." Kerry argued that had he "been President" he would have sent many more troops into Afghanistan and not allowed the Northern Alliance to lead the battle. Yet it's precisely because we allowed the Northern Alliance to take a lead role that the population cooperated and didn't treat us as intruders. When the war started, a former Soviet officer who had long since defected told me that while he's very supportive of American efforts, he was in Afghanistan and can attest that the population is so weary of occupiers that when the Soviets were there they trained their small children to shoot at soldiers. This former officer felt that they would see us as occupiers as well and therefore warned of a long struggle. That may well have happened had John Kerry "been President." This President fortunately had the wherewithal to listen to military experts and continues to do so. And he's being blamed for it.

In Short

To be sure, a withdrawal would only embolden the fanatics and those who wish us harm around the world. Is there any other reason why the insurgents fought especially hard before the elections, hoping to secure a change in course? It's to the great credit of this President that he is not switching course. Had the media done the same in World War 2 - asking why we're "attacking" Germany when it was Japan who attacked us, blaming Roosevelt for military failures - of which there were plenty in every battle, as is the nature of war - you can be sure that public opinion may have forced us to abandon our mission, only to have to face a stronger and harder to defeat Germany a few years later.

Let us pray that the same doesn't happen here. This President definitely deserves credit for realizing what all of us should. It is also important that the entire case be laid out repeatedly to the public, so that we do not make any dire mistakes.

Let's Not Forget - What Else We Lose By Ignoring These Facts

Aside from the risk to national security, there are many other serious issues that both the right and the left should concentrate on. There are issues affecting everyday Americans such as reform of the justice system so that we stop making career criminals out of non-violent offenders and change that system to make it both more humane and more effective, access to alternative medicine and a parent's right to choose a medical strategy for their children, tax reform, how to overhaul Social Security and Medicare and what further steps should be taken to effectively ensure national security and how to balance this with, and indeed promote, civil liberties. But all this goes by the wayside as we concentrate on blaming the President for a war he would have been derelict in duty not to have entered.