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Monday, March 12, 2007

Walking Into the Bar

Andrew Sullivan quotes from Dinesh D’Souza1 in a post expressing dismay about the real, cynical reason that the United States went to Iraq in 2003:

Dinesh D'Souza's view, from his book:

Why Iraq? One reason is that after 9/11, a number of leading figures in the Bush administration came to the conclusion that, in the face of a catastrophe of this magnitude, it would not be sufficient to go to Afghanistan and shoot some people on the monkey bars. Rather, America needed to take action in the heart of the Middle East. Remember the old Western movies where John Wayne is called into town as the new sheriff to apprehend a bunch of cattle-stealers? He goes into the bar, where the bad guys are shouting and jeering at him. He doesn't know who the culprits are, but he finds a couple of obstreperous hoodlums and slams their heads together, or pistol-whips them, and then he walks out of the bar. The message is that there is a new sheriff in town. After 9/11, I believe, the Bush administration wanted to convey this message to the Islamic radicals. In Saddam Hussein, Bush located an especially egregious hoodlum who would become the demonstration project for America's seriousness and resolve.

A "demonstration project". Suddenly, the otherwise mystifyingly troop-free war-plan makes more sense, doesn't it?

We think Sullivan is playing a little bit of Captain Renault. The fact that we were going to war to shock the Arab world into submission and not simply to “eliminate weapons of mass destruction” was not difficult to figure out to anyone who was paying attention in 2002.

Steven Den Beste (who is no longer blogging but you should read everything in his archives) noted that this was the case way back in 2003 in his “strategic overview” post where he stated that going to Iraq was necessary in order to:

· To make clear to everyone in the world that reform is coming, whether they like it or not, and that the old policy of stability-for-the-sake-of-stability is dead. To make clear to local leaders that they may only choose between reforming voluntarily or having reform forced on them.

· To make a significant long term change in the psychology of the "Arab Street"

· To "nation build". After making the "Arab Street" truly face its own failure, to show the "Arab Street" a better way by creating a secularized, liberated, cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation. To create a place where Arabs were free, safe, unafraid, happy and successful. To show that this could be done without dictators or monarchs. (I've been referring to this as being the pilot project for "Arab Civilization 2.0".)

Kid Various agreed with this back then. He still agrees with it now. We will not be secure until the dysfunctional Arab traditional culture begins to change.

The fact is that we relied so heavily on the weapons of mass destruction argument because it was the easiest rung on which to hang our hat. Because, of course, everyone knew that Iraq had stockpiles of at least chemical weapons. And once we got in there, who knows what we’d find on the biological weapon or nuclear weapon front? (Nobody in the Administration, contrary to conventional wisdom nowadays, ever claimed Iraq had or was close to getting nuclear weapons. However, who knew for sure? After the 1991 Gulf War, inspectors were shocked at just how advanced Iraq’s nuclear program was.)

The fact that Iraq had WMD wasn’t even a question in anyone’s minds - ours or other foreign intelligence services. So we relied on that rationale, because it’s hard to make an argument that “we need to go in there and knock heads.” Even if that is what needs to be done.

Obviously, the strategy of relying on that justification was a horrible mistake. We’ve now lost total control of the narrative.

It doesn’t make D’Souza’s point any less relevant though.

The problem is not that the United States went into the bar to rough up some thugs and show that there was a new sheriff in town. The problem is that if you are the sheriff, you can’t go into the bar and get your ass kicked.

Walking into that bar is about demonstrating your power and credibility. If you get beat up, you’ve only demonstrated how weak you are. Even if you are eventually victorious, if you don’t dominate – you lose. If the sheriff manages to beat the local thugs into submission, but suffers a broken nose and cracked ribs and has to take the next few days off recuperating, then he’s lost all credibility both with both the thugs and the townsfolk.

This is basically the situation we are in now and why, instead of victory, we’re fighting for a narrow loss.

The Kid is from the Eliot A. Cohen school of Bush Administration criticism. He has a list of complaints as long as your arm, but it focuses exclusively on the conduct of the Iraq Campaign, not its basic underpinnings.

WMD, links to terrorism, threats to neighboring countries, vicious human rights violations – these were all valid reasons to go to war (singularly or in concert,) but they were not the primary cause for Iraq.

In order for us to be secure, the dysfunctional Arab traditional cultures must change. And in order to jump start that process, we had to walk into that bar.

Too bad we got thrown through the plate glass window.

Update: This post was originally an email response that Kid Various sent to Andrew Sullivan. The Kid reworked it a little bit and posted it here. And now we find Andrew Sullivan has excerpted the original email on The Daily Dish! First linked by Instapundit, now an excerpt on Andrew Sullivan. Kid Various is on a roll!


1 Kid Various has not read D'Souza's new book so he can't comment on it. However, from the reviews, it seems troubling in that the point seems to be that the reason the jihadists hate us is because of the licentiousness of our culture and that therefore, we're kinda "asking for it." Which would put himself in direct opposition with one of the theses of his outstanding book, "What's So Great About America?" which holds the honor of being the only book that Kid Various has read in which he agrees with everything. In that book, D'Souza notes that the enemy hates us because of our freedoms. Because, as he notes, their societies value "virtue" over "freedom." Better that men act correctly, than that they be free. Of course this freedom entails the freedom to do ill - which is exactly why the enemy despises it. But it seems in his new book excoriating the Left, that D'Souza is kind of agreeing with enemy in saying that our freedom has let us go too far. Again, not sure, because The Kid hasn't read it.

1 Comments:

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 8:35:00 AM EDT, Anonymous hepzeeba said...

This is a great post, Kid---and not just because I agree with it. Rather, because it takes messy, illogical, non-cartoon reality into consideration and describes the way things work (or don't work) in the real world. It makes (common) sense of the mess we're in.

I wish I heard more of that these days.

 

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