Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Progressive Case for US involvement in Iraq

Many liberals and now many conservatives have used the 3rd anniversary of the Iraq war to renew their attacks against US involvement in Iraq. My position three years ago was insufficient information to pass judgment (I tend to have a high bar) and thus willing to defer to those with more information. Someone asked me today how my opinion has changed. It hasn't.

West Wing (excellent show) has just had Jed Bartlett sending a comparable number of US troops to an oil rich central Asian country to avert a civil war. It seems this is a typical left wing progressive position: US troops should be used to stand between combatants in potential civil wars, Sudan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Nigeria, i.e. nation building. It seems that a large part of the attacks in Iraq are between Iraqis. Shouldn't the US be there to minimize the damage? Yes, there are other problems we are ignoring, but isn't something better than nothing?

Note that this is totally independent of the US invading in the first place. Even if you disagree about that, what's that have to do with pulling out today. And there are strong progressive reasons for invasion as well. The people of Iraq clearly wanted to be free of Sadaam Hussein's rule. Every opinion poll shows they are still overwhelmingly happy to be rid of him. Isn't inaction in helping kick out a dictator the same as action in propping up a dictator (a standard left wing indictment of US foreign policy) [And yes, those classical liberals/libertarians especially make a big difference between action and negative inaction, but economists and progressives tend not to care] {And of course I always thought there are good reasons sometimes to support dictators, it's just interesting now that there are so many progressives out there that wish we had.}


alex said...

Ah, then I ask (and I shouldn't, since I don't necessarily have the energy to engage your answer), do you continue to support the administration that got the US into this position, or trust this administratioin to lead us at through this war?

Which is to say, I don't. I think some of the questioning of why we're there ties into the fact that the progressive case for involvement in Iraq wasn't the one that was presented to the country at large, and many pieces of the runup and conduct of the war make me want any other (presuambly competent) administration to do the job instead of this one.

HoBs said...

I guess I feel both those points are invalid. Yes, no WMD were found, but that the threat was always there. A common anti-Bush complaint is that not enough is being done to secure Russian nukes, "anybody could get one". (I reject that assertion too, but the point is, it is possible that he could have gotten them.)

But for me, and the economist magazine and the neo-cons, the WMD threat was always just rhetoric to persuade the people, just like Woodrow Wilson used the bullshit excuse of the Lusitania to convince the Ameircan people to go to WWI when he personally had much better reasons (wow, never thought of that analogy before). The good reasons for going to war, to plant the seed of democracy to infect perhaps all of the middle east still holds.

And people say it is going poorly, but I reject that premise too. I don't see why people think they are so smart that they think they could do better. I think it is just inherenly a hard problem. Korea is my model, and I would say Korea is a resounding success, but it took 40 years later and we still have 10's of thousands of troops there.

And I voted for Bush thinking that he and Kerry/Gore are really not as different as people say, and those who say that Kerry/Gore would never have gone into Iraq forget that Tony Blair (a clinton/kerry/gore clone = intellectual central left triangulator) is a staunch supporter of the war, and is encountering the same problems.

alex said...

You know, I have to say I'm insulted by the dismissal of war reasons via "oh, its all rhetoric" tag. Thats a pretty rank sort dismissal. And anyway I recall a certain Blair, dented as he is by the 45 minute thing, actually saying "we're doing this for democracy" style speeches. But not Bush. And considering the enviable position he was in, with political capital et al, I think he could've pushed for this war then not using fakery rhetoric.

Dude, Korea is hardly a model for this. Fine, forget it. I'll split the middle and sayits not a matter of me saying tis going poorly, its a genuine belief that a non-rumsfeld led DoD would be better. "Presambly competent" wasn't actually a knock on this one, it was actually a half-assed descriptor for the democrats. If anything, the overwhelming generic sort of competency in this administration has been aweinpsiring. So well-constructed, and successful in its loyalty and insular nature that its built up a pretty significant instititutional blocks to correcting or altering itself. You want some negative oriented thinking? Do I think this administration can do worse? No, but its not likely to. Do I see anything that suggests its flexible enough to do better? No. But I don't think a different one would do worse either, and has the potential of doing better.

I can recall we're going to iraq jokes because of his dad bush jokes before he was elected. I think its a leap to suggest that we'd certainly have gone into Iraq with Kerry/Gore. And frankly, irrelevant. I think a McCain/Bradley/Kerry/Gore whatever administration would not do worse, and could all potentially do better.

And besides, the moral and ethical calculus that is going on to say the unstated ends justify the clunky means doesn't negate the notion that those means could have been better.

HoBs said...

but on what basis do you say a non-Rumsfeld DoD would be better? (Rumsfeld, I thought desserves a lot of credit for at least trying to reform an outdated system.) The British have been in charge in Basra and things aren't much better there as it turns out. What about all the civilians killed by Clinton in Bosnia. Or the mistakes made in Somalia. Nation building is hard. (and despite the jokes about Bush redeeming his father, Clinton drew up plans to invade Iraq while he was in office, and more bombs were dropped on Iraq under the Clinton admiinstration than under Bush Sr)

And why so hung up on rhetoric? FDR (one of the most popular presidnets ever) didn't even have enough capital in 1939 to muster any excuse to attack Germany. He used Pearl Harbor as an excuse to fight Germany.

Heck, it sounds like lots of wars were started on specious rhetoric. Aside from WWII, WWI and the lusitania. The Spanish-Amerian War and the Maine. The Revolutionary War and the Boston "Massacre"/No Taxation. The Mexican-American war had some bullshit border dispute that started it.