Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Ramparts Fall

The New York Observer has a great long article by Sheelah Kolhatkar that describes how the liberal interventionalist cadre of thinkers that supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq have faltered and fractured. Featured prominently within the article are none other than my personal favorite pugilist, Christopher Hitchens, along with other great, if misguided minds, Paul Berman and Michael Ignatieff.

While I'm not in the Sheehan or the Monthly Review crowd that says we must pull out of Iraq now, I'm still deeply suspicious of the ranks of pro-war liberals such as Hitchens and Ignatieff who supported the war initially (which I did not), because they refused to acknowledge the Bush factor and the history of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Yes, Saddam Hussein needed to be dealt with, but it's hard to argue how containment wouldn't have worked. Arms inspectors manned out across the great Iraqi expanse to search, but were pulled out before they could complete their mission. Moreover, it's ethically problematic to be for war when a different strategy could produce better results (and how can anyone say today that containment wouldn't have been a better result.) Also, why couldn't have the U.S. just sold the various arms needed to overthrow Saddam to the various Kurdish and Shiite factions? If it was kept quiet, we wouldn't have to have dealt with the influx of the Islamist threat that now multiplies daily.

I'll even give the many proponents of war that Saddam probably was in cahoots with various Islamic terrorists or at least allowed them to breed, but could they have made the advances in Iraq that they have today if we didn't invade? I think not. Liberal hawks really haven't dealt with this reality yet and it's a shame.

Lastly, but certainly not least, the war in Iraq was illegal according to international law (it qualified legally as aggression), while the U.S. Congress didn't even have the balls to declare war -- another ubiquitious and overt sign of an imperial presidency. Something is wrong when a country bypasses their own constitution to allow its executive to conduct an immoral and ill-advised war against a neutered foe.

Yet today, the circumstances are different and much more complex. Today we actually do face an increased Islamist front in Iraq that has the same goals as Osama Bin Laden (say thank you to your President). If we do in fact leave, do we not abandon the many Iraqis that wished for the fall of Saddam and dread the advance of a theocratic Islamic government? Can Iraq's ill prepared security apparatus deal with the insurgency and the terrorist threat? Will we, and indeed the world, have to worry about Iraq the failed state that breeds and distributes terrorists throughout the Middle East and increases instability -- in which I mean the degradation of human rights and democracy, not economics or earthen resources, but nevertheless encompasses all of those areas?

These are all tough questions and I'm still mired in them. You'll find no resolution here that's for sure.

As always, to be continued...