Once More with Feeling: Making the Case for the Iraq War

One of our readers sent an email today, suggesting we look at an editorial by former Senator Bob Kerrey in Opinion Journal last week. Given the responses today in our comments section to Nibras Kazimi’s essay on the war in his home country, Iraq, Mr. Kerrey’s thoughts bear partial repeating here:

Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view.

The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were “over there.”


As for Saddam…[h]e could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.

Not to mention the cynical EU nations who were in cahoots with his massive extortion. France, anyone?

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before…


The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart. [my emphasis]

These are the people who want to have it both ways. “Out of Iraq, and clean up Darfur.” We “should have intervened in the Rwanda massacre.” Etc., ad nauseam. Whatever we do, we should have been doing something else instead.
– – – – – – – – – –

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn’t you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.

You can make up the headlines yourself: “Bush is a Do-Nothing President”; there’s one likely part of the litany. “‘Bush Spineless,’ Claim Democrats” would be another favorite antiphon. With the Dems the outcome is set beforehand: whatever Bush does is illegitimate because his time in office was “stolen.” It’s only legitimate when the Dems dig up dead votes, as they did by the hundred score in Illinois for Kennedy. Or is the Camelot media myth off limits?

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy. [my emphasis]

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.

And if we had set another dictator in place, the screaming from the left side of the aisle would have been ear-shattering.

16 thoughts on “Once More with Feeling: Making the Case for the Iraq War

  1. I think it’s a fool’s errand. A waste of money, resources and lives. The flood of terrorists into Iraq will not end as long as there are infidel forces there, and it’s doubtful that the Iraqis are interested in US-style democracy and freedom. I agree that “the demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq,” but I don’t think it’s exactly the kind of self-government that that the author is talking about. They wouldn’t be running death and vice squads, bombing random civilians, ambushing Coalition troops and generally acting like monkeys if they were interested in the American Dream.

    But I guess it’s true that if the US had done nothing, people would have blamed Bush for being inactive and demanded him to do something. Regardless of what he does or doesn’t do, he’s always wrong.

  2. The left will always be hypocrites, but democracy in a country full of Muslims is almost inevitably going to lead to Islamic rule, so Bush is basically asking American soldiers to go to Iraq to die for Islam. To me, that seems bizarre.

    The invasion has given al Qaeda a huge recruiting boost and a great training ground for Islamic ‘troops’ while distracting America from dealing with real threats; with so many forces tied down by a few guys with AK-47s and RPGs, America has little ability to effectively impose power elsewhere.

    Just imagine if the same amount of money and energy had gone into protecting America from Islamic extremists at home as has been wasted in Iraq. Instead, just as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan gave us al Qaeda, the American invasion of Iraq is training a whole new generation of Muslims to fight the West; for all we know a couple of years from now they’ll be setting up IEDs on the streets of America.

    So I really think you’re on the wrong side on this one. Withdrawing troops would certainly embolden the Islamic nuts who are fighting there and probably lead to attacks by them on other Middle Eastern nations, but staying doesn’t help either. The only way to win in Iraq was not to play, and that’s not an option anymore; we now have to choose the least bad way to get out.

    I also think the Democrats are going to regret ignoring democracy in America by supporting the war, as the anti-war left at the next election vote out candidates who did so. I think it’s fairly clear that the Democrats were elected to end the war, and they’ve refused to do so.

  3. has anybody ever read “The Third Terrorist” by Jayna Davis? Having read it again recently, I wonder about the whole Iraq thing. She makes a solid point, with a LOT of eyewitnesses, that the “mythical” John Doe Number 3 in the Oklahoma City bombing was not only an Iraqi (who she names), but who seems to have been a member of the Republican Guard. He lied about his background in order to be allowed to come to the US. Sounds suspiciously as if Saddam might have been attacking the US before Sept. 11.

    Oh, and she also finds links to al-qaeda, Syria, Iran and Palestinians.

    I’m not saying she’s absolutely 100% right (though it’s possible), but I think her work should be examined by all Americans, who can then make up their own minds how much of a threat Saddam and his friends were.

    And just to forestall many, she ran her evidence by prominent anti-terrorism experts and prosecutors, who went on the record to say, respectively, that she’s right, and that they could get an indictment of several of the people she named, just on the strength of her information.

    I’m just sayin’.

  4. Jesus and Alien —

    The problem is not the Iraq War. The problem is a half-fought war with half-measures and political correctness and domestic spinelessness and laziness and a lack of will to destroy the political opposition when it counted.

    The problem, broadly for America from 1972 when US diplomats were murdered in the Sudan by Yasser Arafat’s order (Operation Cold River) to the Embassy Take-over in 1979 to the Beirut Barracks in 1983 to Mogadishu in 1993 to Khobar Towers in 1996 to the Embassy bombings in 1998 to the Cole in 2000 and 9/11 …

    Has been a lack of America punishing it’s enemies to deter further attacks.

    We live in a dangerous world. The Soviets were deterred from attacking us by MAD, which we meant and which we spent trillions of dollars on showing we would in fact retaliate massively if they attacked us with nuclear weapons.

    However, we face a decentralized, distributed non-state enemy, i.e. Islam. Which MUST destroy us or be destroyed by America’s role in globalization and modernization and consumerization, which destroys Islam in both it’s traditional and Islamist forms. MAD and Cold War models don’t work.

    Because from Arafat onwards, leaders like Khomeni, Khameni, bin Laden and Ahmadinejad have claimed America is a weak and paper tiger, citing the above attacks on America that went unanswered, the problem broadly is nothing less than our enemies do not fear our reactions and so see us as weak. And as Putin noted, the weak get beaten.

    Just today Ahmadinejad noted that America is like “a battery running out” and that Iran will soon use it’s nukes to “dominate” the US and destroy Israel.

    The problem with Iraq is we STOPPED there. Instead of overthrowing Syria, and then pivoting to Iran, taking out that regime. We don’t need to build better lives for Muslims, or do anything but make them fear us. Fear attacking the US through deniable proxies. Fear that America will not be deterred by borders and boundaries. Fear that any hand-off to deniable terrorist groups of a WMD will cause so much trouble due to fear of America’s reaction if it’s even suspected, not proven, that it’s far more sensible to simply kill said terrorist groups on their own.

    However the Bush Administration, which is very liberal, has fought a JFK-style Politically correct war, with Wilsonian ideals, limits on ROE, pc-pandering to the Human Rights lobby (which is anti-American and pro-Jihad, you never hear one peep out of them of the murder of Pvt. Anzack). Bush has further allowed the lunatic left to run the Democratic Party without punishing them from the beginning. When Moveon.org ran demonstrations just days after 9/11 arguing against bombing Afghanistan, and guys like Biden called it a war crime, Bush had a duty to the nation to use that to destroy the Democratic Party to deter such lunatic leftism. But he wanted to be “nice” and “get along.”

    The Democratic Party is sick and in denial, awash with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about 9/11 and so on, and unable to comprehend the threat of Jihad plus WMDs given by hostile states seeing America as weak and lacking any will to retaliate or deter. Getting rid of Saddam was a necessary first step but only the first step.

  5. “We don’t need to build better lives for Muslims, or do anything but make them fear us.”

    And the invasion of Iraq has convinced them that the US military can be beaten. Carrying a big stick is much more effective when you _don’t_ use it but just threaten to do so.

    A ‘we had to kill them all to save them’ war in Iraq was politically impossible, and the US military is hopeless at dealing with insurgencies because every time you kill an insurgent their family turn against you… kill one and suddenly you have four or five more to deal with. Worse, the US forces are spending time and money training Iraqi troops who’ll probably be shooting back at them the next week on their day off.

    I really recommend reading Martin van Creveld’s comments on the Iraq war; he’s a highly respected Israeli military historian and should know what he’s talking about. He’s also called the invasion the worst military blunder in 2000 years, since the Romans sent Legions into barbarian Germany and lost them all; needless to say, that was one of the turning points in the fall of the Empire.

  6. The major stumbling block by the Left and the Right, for their own but parallel reasons, is the non-recognition of the high level of internetworking between terrorist organizations, rogue Nation States and organized crime. Even just starting to outline the basics, which I have been trying to do, leads to high levels of interconnectivy between purely Nationalist terrorist organizations, like the IRA or ETA or PLO, and the transnational types, like al Qaeda and Hezbollah.

    Once that is understood as a working paradigm for sharing knowledge, techniques, supply and financial contacts and training, adding in rogue Nation States like Syria or North Korea, goes beyond immediate support for the direct organization and spreads out into the larger internetwork. Especially that web of contacts leads to expansion of the interconnectivity between groups, so that groups that may have started out with different source points and aims will end up sharing resources via similarity of need. That expansion into organized crime then puts a different face on the entire connectivity as the merely criminal networks allow for quickly distributed supplies to be shifted without direct payment by the receiving organization.

    That points up to the semi-legitimate, private financial networks that grow up in relatively poor regions that then extend into industrialized Nations as immigrants go to such places for more fruitful employment. Those networks operate not only as a money laundering system into the ‘white market’ but also into the grey and black market. And because these are ‘home grown’ person-to-person financial networks, actually infiltrating and curbing them is a near impossibility in the modern world. Using the old adage of ‘follow the money’ doesn’t really get you anyplace when money is distributed to multiple organizations, used for small purchases, those then smuggled into Nations and sold at high markup, and then those funds becoming available in that area via the grey market or black market route. A payment in Kabul can wind up as arms in S. America with *no* good money trail between the two that can be captured and identified. If Nation States can’t do that for merely criminal enterprises, then how will they do so against the melding of the criminal and the terrorist?

    Putting an end to rogue Nation States is a help, and shutting down those sources of funds, knowledge, training and supplies is vital in a long term effort to curb terrorism. Getting Iraq out of the multi-organization funding and support role is necessary, but not sufficient in and of itself to lessen the threats of violence used to erode the ability of Nation States to protect themselves against this form of illegitimate warfare.

    Until the Left comes to terms with the concept that their very rights and freedom depends upon a robust Nation State system, they will forever be decrying anything done to support that system… and thereby putting their own rights and lives at increased risk over time as the ability of the Nation State to protect its citizenry is put at peril. International or Transnational bodies have no standings upon any basis for upholding rights and liberty as no one elects them and they cannot be held to any standard of accountability. A transnational world has no basis for protecting human liberty and has every basis for putting a rights ending conception in place for ruling peoples.

    Similarly the Right needs to get off of its strange ideas that ‘free trade frees people’ as that has proven not to be the case where it was first put to effect: the Ottoman Empire by Woodrow Wilson in 1917. That is false on its premise as the United States had *no* free trade in 1776 and yet came through to liberty on this idea of: “No taxation without representation.” Liberty and freedom, thusly, determine economics, not the other way around. Instead a world awash in cheap and deadly weapons, readily available through multiple supply channels, networks for laundering or filtering money, and very cheap communications and travel all lead to a world where the enemies of freedom can cheaply and easily associate, share capabilities and then disseminate that through their combined networks. And those networks are directly aimed at the ability of the Nation State to have legitimate aims and goals for its people so that they may act together with their outlook on the world and be held accountable to other Nations for those actions.

  7. I wonder, do we influence them a single bit by fighting in Iraq? And is there a winning strategy at all? They have been very succesfull in making disorder during last 1400 years. It seems that anarchy is just one of their operation modes, the other being the dictatorship. We just switched them from one mode to the other.

  8. The invasion of Iraq, although it raised in me, from the start, the question “Why Iraq? Why not Iran or Saudi Arabia?”, wasn’t the problem. The problem is Bush’s naivism, his belief that mere democracy could win the hearts and minds of the “Iraqis” (in scare quotes because, like the “Palestinians”, there isn’t really an Iraqi nation–Iraq is an artifact of the rulers and pencils of British colonials, an artificial entity comprising a multitude of sectarian divisions).

    Victory should have been defined as, “Iraq being turned into a non-Muslim state”. Not just on the institutional level, but down to the very people–mass de-Islamification. As it happens, the opposite has been achieved, by removing the secular restraints that Saddam had put over the shariah advocates. The great failure of Iraq is not the “moral degradation” as the Leftscum put it, but the fact that the Christians of Iraq are near extinction, and Iraq is set up to become one or more shariah states, a base for Islamic terrorism. In this sense, there is nothing special about Iraq: this is the scenario that we’re doomed to repeat until our leaders realize that the enemy is none other than Islam.

    That means leaders who are no longer beholden to Cultural Marxism, a.k.a. Political Correctness. Everything goes back to that issue.

  9. So many great comments on this thread. Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:

    whiskey_199 said…
    We don’t need to build better lives for Muslims, or do anything but make them fear us.

    I was saying immediately after 9/11, “I don’t care whether they like us, but we damn well better make them fear us.”

    ZionistYoungster said…
    Victory should have been defined as, “Iraq being turned into a non-Muslim state”. Not just on the institutional level, but down to the very people–mass de-Islamification.

    I realized that this whole project was spinning out of control when we allowed both Iraq and Afghanistan to adopt constitutions that enshrined Islamic law. That should never have been allowed to happen.

  10. I respect van Creveld tremendously, and agree that he’s one of the best historians of our time, but I have to point out some flaws in his comparison (based solely upon the description here). First off, the Roman legions were *defeated* in Germany. Our forces are, as usual, winning the actual battles. Further, we can maintain the forces there, or could even replace them if they were beaten. Remember, we’ve only lost less than 4000 soldiers total. Out of a population of 300 million, that’s hardly a catastrophe.

    It’s all about willpower. And sadly, too many Americans lack it. Especially politicians.

    And of course, the Bush administration has shown itself incapable of explaining the situation with anything resembling coherency.

  11. hmmm. Rickl made a good point while I was writing my comment. So here goes.

    I would remind everyone of something I and many other folks with military/historical backgrounds have said from virtually from the moment we invaded Iraq.

    Wars start when 2 countries disagree about their relative strength (granting there are other factors. I suggest reading Geoffrey Blainey for more info). The war ends when they “reach agreement”.

    Germany and Japan, for instance, knew they lost WWII. There was no room for anyone to misinterpret the facts. When your cities have been levelled by the enemy, your military has been wiped out, you have no economy, your transport system is crippled (at best), and the enemy is fighting in your capital- or preparing an invasion you have no chance of defeating, you give up. And you take whatever terms they give you.

    In Iraq, we played “nice” all along. Tanks parked in a schoolyard? We’ll ignore it. Men sniping at our troops while wearing civilian clothes (which leaves them eligible for a quick execution, as war criminals)? We’ll let them go. And on and on.

    Had we gone in and blasted the Iraqis much harder, they would have realized that we were the biggest, baddest dog on the block. They wouldn’t have liked it, but they would have respected it. Then, once they started planting bombs at the roadside, they would have quickly learned that we don’t allow that either. Eventually, they would have simply realised that they couldn’t win.

    Then keep them under military rule for a few years, blasting anyone that takes up arms against us, and they would give up. And eventually the children, if not their parents, would have known enough not to fight, and also understood that Americans are friendly people when you are friendly to us.

    It took a while, eventually we convinced Germany and Japan that we’re really on their side, and will be friends to them.

    To quote one of Sherman’s lesser known lines; “War is war and not popularity seeking”.

  12. “…democracy in America…” First of all, America is a Republic not a democracy, and was never intended to be a democracy. See:
    http://gawfertest.blogspot.com/2007/04/republic-vs-democracy.html for a complete explanation.

    “…And the invasion of Iraq has convinced them that the US military can be beaten…” Nice of you to throw in the towel along with the rest of the defeatocrats like your poster child Harry Ried.

    Let’s see, in 4 years we have contributed 22 billion dollars and have:
    1. Completed 3,200 projects rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq;
    2. Average daily hours of power have increased from 11 to 13 hours per day (25% increase over what it was before the war);
    3. Oil production capacity is in line with the U.S. goal of 3 million barrels per day;
    4. And 138 primary health care clinics are nearing completion throughout the country. See: http://gawfer2001.blogspot.com/2007/05/4-years-in-iraq.html;

    I for one see our achievements as monumental, and will continue to support the efforts of military and civilian personnel working for a cause beyond their own front yard.

  13. Gotta wonder if we REALLY went to town a second time instead of waiting for the Iraqis to fight. But they did not and we are still waiting. FUBARS are fun huh.. Now we have libtards running the show.

  14. Alien — after retreats in Beirut, Mogadishu (Saddam watched Black Hawk Down repeatedly) and arguably, in Iraq against Saddam in 1991 no one feared the US at all.

    A big stick is useless if you run away instead of using it. Which is just what we did. The only thing that bought us a lick of peace from anyone was sinking Iran’s Navy in a day during 1988.

    No one is convinced, least of all jihadis, that the US military can be beaten in a fight. Politically however it’s another thing as seen by Adam Ghadan aka Azzam al-Amriki’s latest AQ threat: even if you retreat from Iraq it won’t save you unless you essentially surrender to bin Laden. But even arguing that we are seen as militarily beaten, that would require nothing less than unalloyed victory.

    We are not fighting a counter-insurgency. If Iraq remains the way it is for the next twenty years the issue for American national security is irrelevant. If we have to destroy a million villages to “save it” it’s worth it. Because we are not fighting Ho Chi Minh, in a limited proxy war that’s controllable against the Soviets and Chinese. We are fighting directly AQ and Iran and if we are forced off the battlefield in Iraq we will be in Afghanistan (look at a map, it’s landlocked, we can only air supply a small force, and nuclear Iran and Pakistan surround the place).

    But even more importantly, bin Laden already followed us home. Ho Chi Minh never dreamed of bringing down the World Trade Center. Or hitting the Pentagon.

    And no, the destruction of the Legions in Germany was not the turning point. A younger Emperor would have simply raised more legions and cut down the fricking forest to hunt down Germanius. But Augustus was old and sick. The Empire lasted a mere 400 odd more years in the West after that, and until 1452 in the East. So I have problems with Creveld’s take right there. A mere 60 years or so before Ceasar had killed (with swords mind you) about a million Gauls in pacifying Gaul and crushing Vercingetorix. The Roman legions were simply stupid in marching out to ambush in a forest under treacherous allies. Since they were built to fight in the open maximizing both shock and flexibility.

    Regardless, remaking Iraq into a civil society is unimportant. Denying it’s use to Iran and AQ, and being seen to face down both, is critical. Unless you want to lose a few US cities first and then be FORCED to wipe out whole nations to save the rest of our cities.

    Ajacksonian — my thoughts as well. Beautifully put sir.

    Guntoting — also beautifully put. Sherman said as well, “War is hell, and there is no use reforming it.” He found journalists to be nothing more than Southern spies and detested them.

  15. Iraq was a bad idea, poorly executed, by people who don’t really have America’s interests at heart. I hope the genuinely patriotic Jacksonian populists who still support an administration that despises them come to realise this sooner rather than later.

    To turn away from destroying Bin Laden and Al Qaeda after 9/11, leaving them intact, was a huge disaster and an act of betrayal against the American people and (incidentally) against all of Western Civilisation.

    To then fritter away American money and lives in Iraq while simiultaneously helping to mobilise worldwide Jihad against us, and do nothing to counter that Jihad – because they’re apparently blind to the genuine threat – is almost beyond belief.

    There are two viable approaches.

    One is all-out war, and there is a popular constituency for this in the USA, but there is no constituency in the leadership classes, it would mean the end of the modern era, and if it failed would mean total defeat.

    The second viable approach is separation and containment. Separation is far easier and far more likely to succeed. It is compatible with the continuation of modern western civilisation with our liberal plural democracy and individual rights. It is the policy advocated by all the most insightful commentators, from Fjordman to Lawrence Auster to William S Lind. It’s our best hope.

  16. vol-in-law-

    Free tickets to Mecca is my feeling, also.

    Containment allowed the Soviets to implode under the weight of their own unrealism.

    It’ll work even better with the more irrational Mohammedans.

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