Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Orin Kerr's questions

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr has posed three questions. Below are his questions, followed by my brief answers.

Q: First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

A: I was not in favor of the invasion, I was wobbly in the knees, but I've come to believe that it was both inevitable and essential. Like Humpty Dumpty, Bush was pushed. A chain of events with their own inexorable logic and irresistible force had been unleashed by 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan (which no one seems to criticize). These forces were:

One, the impossibility of accepting and living with an irrelevant UN that was skillfully manipulated by our international adversaries France, Russia, and Germany, with the active compliance of Kofi Annan and a host of smaller UN members. To back down in this international game of gutter diplomacy would have caused irreparable damage to our ability to act independently in the future, when bigger stakes would be on the table. The development of the Bush doctrine -- aggessive intervention against real future threats -- was a consequence of the refusal to back down in the face of international opposition, and will stand as the most important achievement of the Bush Administration's foreign policy agenda.

Two, we were losing our military bases in Saudi Arabia, due to the regime there increasingly leaning in favor of their own islamo-fascist supporting mullahs. We desperately needed some alternative basing in the Middle East, and getting it in Iraq was actually the best option on the table -- getting rid of Saddam and establishing permanent bases there were twin objectives of the campaign. Both these actions would put pressure just where it was needed -- on Saudi Arabia. And this has worked, very well actually. The Saudis are now much more pro-American than before, and have actively hunted down al Qaeda and their financial supporters in their country, something they would never have done without the invasion, and this has hurt al Qaeda badly.

Three, there were WMDs in Iraq, but they were moved, along with the scientists, to Syria before the war. We have actually thereby put an end to the Iraqi pursuit of all kinds of nasty weapons, even if we haven't found the materials or the scientists. This is also a success story, in my opinion. This had to be done at some point -- especially to put the fear to the Iranians that they can only push so far.

Four, al Qaeda has been vastly damaged by the invasion, and its suicide-bombing, throat-slitting tactics are now increasingly meeting opposition among moderate Arabs and moslems. Over time, the invasion of Iraq will prove to be a turning point in the war on terrorism.

Five, we have done a great thing in Iraq in that we have handed them, on a platter, something we urselves had to fight a revolutionary war to achieve: liberty. We have rammed liberty down their throats, whether they like it or not, and it's now up to them to do what they want with it. They may keep it, or they may squander it. That's a great thing, in my mind.

So my knees are no longer wobbly. Looking back, it had to be done.

Q: Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

A: All wars have sometimes prolonged setbacks, and we're in one right now -- this is our Battle of the Bulge. It's naive to think that this war was going to be a cakewalk. Bush never said it would be, but can still be criticized for having made mistakes. All war leaders, civilian or military, make mistakes. In every fog, you will lose your footing at some point. The question is not the setbacks, but how we react to them. There's no turning back now -- we do what we've done in successful wars in the past: we suck it up and go at it with fury and might. This is a winnable war against scrappy insurgents, but it'll take a bit of work.

Q: Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

A: One, increased military pressure on insurgent areas in Iraq. We have to go after these guys with more military aggression than we have so far. Two, elections in Iraq early next year, no matter if they are flawed. Three, continued support for the democratization of Iraq by al Sistani, and the snuffing out of al Sadr.

The central criterion is this: aggressive military action to gain control over the Sunni triangle. If we let this linger much longer, it can go bad. Send in the Marines, they should never have been halted in Fallujah last summer, that was a bad mistake. We are still in the middle of a war, and it's time to go after the enemy.

We are actually in danger of making another Tet mistake: winning the war on the ground but letting the enemy win the campaign for the public's support. There's only one remedy: hard aggression by our overwhelming ground forces. Hopefully, we'll do that once our election is over.