This isn't the completed post yet, due to a schoolwork surge (engineering projects are fun) and the overall difficulty of preparing this post (maps, tables, old news stories and such), I've written 14 of 16 reasons so far. The rest will of course be added as they're completed.
All maps are courtesy of the CIA so I don't think there's any issue using them. I also realize that my additions are crudely drawn at best.
The second part of my series on Iraq is about the reasons we should have toppled Saddam. I haven't written much about Iraq simply because most of the arguments over it are essentially over ancient news. Like it or not it happened, the important thing is what to do now. However, since a lot people seem to have either forgotten or never knew that there were many valid reasons for invading Iraq I figured I'd add them into an Iraq series. This is generally from reasons I developed prior to 2000 and fleshed out for chat room debate, if it can be called "debate", prior to 2003. Anyways, onto the matter at hand, I should note that I don’t agree with all of Bush’s stated reasons for invading Iraq so there are differences on key reasons (I’d also add spare me the flurry of comments over WMD’s but I don’t get a flurry in the best of times so knock yourself out). I of course have no idea what convinced President Bush to order the invasion so I’m not saying we invaded for any of the following reasons (though I know a few played a role). I’m also not saying that the goals of any of these reasons were necessarily met; several of them will show up in the next post about what we should learn from mistakes in Iraq. . I have them listed by overall rationale, direct, indirect, long-term, and non-Iraq specific and in no particular order therein.
Direct Reasons to Invade
The UN needed to decide whether it was going to play a useful role in the world.
This argument did appear a few times in Bush’s speeches. The UN has thus far been failing to live up to the hopes and dreams some have placed in it to prevent mass slaughter around the world. For good reason, it is no more than the sum of its member states and when none of them wish to do anything, the sum of their action is nothing. This had been learned over the years and most tinpot dictators had long since learned that they could ignore the UN if it suited them to. Saddam was far and away the most egregious example of this. Threatening and if necessary using force was a way to see if the problem was just none of the member states wanting to act or if it went much deeper into the very structure of the UN. It seemed to me that the value of the UN was learned when it did nothing to stop the slaughter in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and Chechnya, but since it could be argued those cases were only because no one wished to act (indeed the US is regularly criticized for not acting in most of those cases) we needed one more go of it. If the UN refused to go along with one of its member states finally handling the most recalcitrant dictator, when would it go along?
Saddam was breaking out of his box and becoming the hero who defeated America.
One of the popular mantras of the Clinton years was that we had Saddam safely in cage. The sanctions were working and would be in place be forever I guess. Neither was true. As we found out, as anyone who cared to know before the war could have, the sanctions were deeply subverted by Saddam with the aid of permanent members of the Security Council. They were well on their way to falling apart and allowing Saddam free access again to the supplies and equipment he needed for his military and NBC forces. Attempts to reverse this by Bush in 2001 through tougher/smarter sanctions ran into UN and regional intransigence. We would later find out that a major reason was that the Oil-for-Food scandal reached to the highest levels of governments and the UN. Had we allowed the sanctions to collapse, as they would have, while Saddam was in power it would not have been seen as anything but what it was, a defeat for the United States. Where Saddam would have gone from there is impossible to say, but with Iraq's oil wealth and victories over the hated Persian and Crusader under his belt it would have been entirely up to him and almost certainly against our interests. Initiative when loss is very difficult to regain.
We needed to remove a potential terrorist & WMD threat.
The second threat is obviously the one that got the most attention in the run up to the invasion. The main threat from the WMD wasn’t in any that would have been piled up prior to the invasion as they would have mostly degraded. The primary problem was the knowledge and equipment that could be put to later use; hence the term “pre-emptive war” (as in before the threat manifests itself). I know it’s some consider it axiomatic that “secular” Saddam would never ally with Islamic extremists, but that was the same attitude that caused the French and British to prepare for war with Hitler believing that Stalin would be at the least be confrontational towards Germany. We also found out in 2004 that after 9/11 Russian President Putin informed Bush that Russian intelligence believed Saddam was planning attacks against the US with Islamic terrorists. Given the disintegration of the UN’s sanctions, and with it the last check of any sort on Saddam’s activities, he was simply too dangerous to leave in power. While I didn’t know about the Russian info prior to 2004 I did know enough to realize it was a possibility, one that especially after 9/11 had to be avoided at all costs.
This one is sort of self-evident so there isn’t too much for me to add to it. Clearly amongst modern dictators, Saddam had one of the larger butcher’s bill. Not the largest to be sure, but he had still oppressed and killed enough Iraqis to justify his removal on that count alone in my opinion. A victim of mass murder doesn't only count if they're European (even then only because Americans decided to do something).
Indirect Reasons to Invade
Occupying Iraq placed us in a better position to deal with Iran and Syria.
Although Saddam supported terrorists somewhat more than the anti-war crowd would let on, he was by no means the biggest sponsor. Iran is far and away the biggest state sponsor of terror in the world as a whole with Syria predominating among anti-Israel terrorists. Iraq isn’t officially in league with Iran and Syria but it does have one valuable trait, it is between both and was the only country adjacent to each that was not in some way aligned with us in 2002. Syria especially benefited from Saddam as it was a key smuggling route for him which provided Damascus with precious hard currency. By occupying Iraq we placed ourselves in a position to more easily and forcibly attack or destabilize both Iran and Syria increasing our leverage over them to effect peaceful resolutions. Without Iraq our avenues of attack with Iran were limited to the ocean and small thrusts from the north and east, and with Syria from the sea (since using Israel would have been a diplomatic nightmare). Another major benefit was that Iraq is next to some of the most restive minorities in each country. The Kurds of each country are next to their brethren in Iraq as are the Arabs of Iran. Given the natural permeability of any long border we would be excellently placed to support each. The Iranians could be exceptionally hard pressed as the Iranian Arabs mostly inhabit Khuzestan province, home of Iran’s oil fields. While they didn’t prove much help to Saddam in the 80’s, it’s not hard to blame them. Not only did Saddam prove utterly incapable of even taking the province when his soldiers outnumbered the Iranians 10:1, but they were then quickly ejected by inferior Iranian forces. That and it’s hard to see how trading the Ayatollahs for Saddam was something worth fighting for. Should the Iranians and Syrians try to destabilize Iraq we could then destabilize them and trade stability for stability. As with Italy in World War II, Iraq would allow us to hit the soft underbelly of the Tehran-Damascus Axis when and where we chose to. This one was something of a risk since Iran and Syria could just as easily do the same to us in Iraq should we prove, as we have, unwilling to actually follow through with this option. Risky though it was, fortune favors the bold.
This map shows the situation with Iran and Syria. Blue borders are where we had them surrounded in 2002, red borders are those countries' borders with Iraq that as can be seen completed the encirclement. Yellow dotted areas are Kurdish and maroon dotted is most of Khuzestan province, the area with Iran's Arabs and oil. The maps this is based can be found here for the Kurds and here for Iran.
It would upset the Sunni-Shiite balance of power in the Mideast and place us at its fulcrum. The balance of Shiites and Sunnis in the Arab part of Southwest Asia is greatly in favor of the Sunnis. Of the nearly 120 million people, 84.3 million are Sunni and around 27 million Shiite. This changes markedly when Iran is added to the picture. With Iran the Sunnis only slightly outnumber the Shiites, 89.6 million to 88.5 million. This specter greatly scares the Arabs as the Persians have always proven so much more capable such that when Saddam, with the most powerful military ever fielded by an Arab nation, attacked an extraordinarily weak Iran the result was a draw. The one thing holding back the Sunni nightmare scenario was Sunni control of Iraq, the second biggest Shiite country. With Saddam in Iraq, countries ruled by Sunnis were marginally larger than those controlled by Shiites. Further, the Levant, while technically Shiite controlled (Alawis are only like Shiites in that they are heterodox, but they claim to be Shiite) it’s Sunni majority and was detached from Iran and surrounded by Sunnis. By replacing Saddam with a Shiite government we greatly altered the overall Sunni-Shiite balance. Now Shiite ruled nations hold an almost 2-1 population advantage over Sunni ruled ones. The Shiite Arabs of Iraq, on the whole, hate the Persians as much as the Sunni Arabs. We could then be the guarantor of the Shiite Arab country and if they didn’t go along then we could threaten to leave them to the Ayatollahs or the Sunnis who would put themselves back in power with the help of their coreligionists in other countries. Meanwhile, as the Sunni Arabs gaze nervously at the new Shiite crescent to the north they must also worry about their own large Shiite minorities. The Sunnis could then be presented with three options, rely on the Turks who they hate almost as much as the Persians and who want nothing to do with Arabs anymore, rely on poor, far away, and Israel checked Egypt for support, or help us deal with the Sunni Iraqis so that Iraq did not become a full blown member of the Shiite crescent. If they chose, as they did, to not help us work with Iraqi Sunnis but rather to aid the Sunni revanchists then we could threaten to leave Iraq to Iran and be done with the region. Essentially, we would be able to make the first side to be uncooperative the loser. Of course, like before, this would have required at the least our appearing to be willing to follow through with the threat. Russian President Putin is making a move to become this very fulcrum. To which I must once again say bravo, he has yet again shown himself to be quite expert at improving Russia’s place in the world regardless of its effect on other nations. If only we could get him to teach American foreign policy makers how the world works.
This table is compiled from population data in the CIA World Factbook. The key thing to note is the radical shift in the share of population under Sunni governments versus Shiite governments following the Iraq war. Before it a slight majority were under Sunni governments but today the Shiites hold a 5:3 advantage. It's even more dramatic excluding Iran, the Sunni advantage in just the Arab part of Southwestern Asia fell from just under 4.2:1 to under 1.4:1. (Iraq should be 33% Sunni, due to the difficulty of switching out pics in the middle of posts in Blogger I'm leaving the incorrect one with this correction)
See if the Arabs proved as ready for democracy as they and liberals before 2002 claimed.
Back before 2002 there was two main trains of thought over Middle East democracy. The foreign policy realists, who had largely dominated US foreign policy to that point, claimed that Arabs couldn’t handle democracy. It either leads to chaos or the election of Islamic fundamentalists. The foreign policy liberals argued that Arabs could handle democracy if we would stop supporting dictators and help them achieve it. Around 2002 those two schools of thought largely merged as a greater threat arose, the “neo-conservative” (still haven’t really heard that defined, they seemed more neo-liberal to me, but whatever). Contrary to the “you can’t spread democracy at the point of a gun”, it has been spread that way before, in Germany, Japan, Italy, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Panama, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It has also failed before, most notably on numerous occasions in Haiti, but also Cuba, Mexico, and other Central American States. Each has differences with Iraq of course, Germany, Italy, and Japan were devastated to a degree we would never imagine doing in Iraq and were functioning nations prior to WWII, Panama, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are small countries, and the Philippines and Dominican Republic are islands with little prospect of foreign meddling. Even so, the Philippines in particular was close to what Iraq would be like. We had to deploy a huge army for the time (initially 120,000 but falling to 80,000) for 8 years to suppress 2 separate insurgencies (like OMG that’s 2.3 WWII’s, how did we ever manage). The Filipino Insurrection lasted 4 years and involved fighting mostly on the northern and central islands against Christian Filipinos. As that was suppressed, another insurrection by fanatical Muslims in the south who used suprise suicide attacks took a further 4 years to suppress (the Moro War). A low grade insurgency continued for another 7 years in the south. It was several more years before the Filipinos were ready to run the country, we stayed longer than necessary due to the Japanese threat, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it will take many a year to fully establish an Iraqi democracy. That is should it prove viable. If it doesn’t, and if the Arabs simply use the opportunity to kill kill kill and bring in Islamic extremists then the issue is settled in the realists favor. We will then need to move to the long term Syngman Rhee/Chiang Kai-shek/Pinochet form of economic/political development. We should change our policy to finding nicer free market strongmen who can keep the baser instincts of their populations under control as they take 50 years developing their countries and steadily introducing more freedoms. I don’t think it’s quite to the point of throwing in the towel on Arab democracy, but it’s getting close. Whatever the Arabs choose, we needed to see for certain what it was before we ultimately choose. Nicer though those strongmen were, we still shouldn’t relegate hundreds of millions of people to living under them for decades unless we have to.
Take the fight to the terrorists’ home front.
This has been dubbed the “flypaper strategy” and has appeared in many of Bush’s speeches. The goal is to draw the terrorists into a combat zone where justice can be dealt out far more swiftly and effectively than if we wait for them to come here where lawyers can protect them. It undoubtedly would create more terrorists (just like the German army of WWII grew larger until the last months of the war) but it would result in most being killed. Soldiers would sadly be killed also, but the critics who focus on casualties get it backwards, the purpose of a soldier is to fight and if necessary die so civilians back home don’t (certainly something that I and many of the guys I met in the army understood when we volunteered). The other thing it did was force the terrorists to react to the American victory in the heart of the caliphate much quicker than they would have liked. This led to the bombings in Saudi Arabia that got the Saudis to finally shut down terrorist organizations in their country though still not international funding apparently. Similarly, the attacks in Jordan that culminated in the dreadful bombing of the wedding party in Amman showed the Arabs what the terrorists were capable of. Jordan also became even more committed to fighting terrorism, though they were already very committed for an Arab country. Inside Iraq the terrorists, if not the run of the mill insurgents or militias, are deeply unpopular. As I recall the most popular Iraqi TV show simply has captured terrorists being interrogated and humiliated on their way to an inevitable execution. It is true that Iraq opened the possibility of a greater threat migrating to certain countries in the Arab world and Europe. Again, this could have been another useful tool to pry cooperation from them. We were going to invade Iraq with or without them, if Iraq generates a flood of terrorists because it fell apart, most of the terrorists would head back to their own countries or to Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, or Rome (well for some that is their home country) whether those countries helped or not. Given that they might as well help and lower the odds of that result. As the others, this is assuming we would seriously make that case.
Long-Term Reasons to Invade
By spreading democracy to Iraq we would help it spread throughout the Middle East.
This is another of the reasons that can be found in many of Bush’s speeches. Helping Iraq develop a democratic government would serve two purposes in the wider goal of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East. It would firstly be a clear example to Arabs and other Muslims that they could indeed manage a democracy. Clearly, this is tied to the reason above about seeing if Arabs could handle democracy. If the Iraqis failed the test then obviously it wouldn’t be much of an enticement. The second effect this would have is to put our money where our mouth is and show the various dictators and indigenous voices for democracy that we will support democracy now. This one isn’t as tied to the success or failure of the Iraqis as the very attempt is what matters. The ultimate strategic goal would be to use Iraq to encourage the indigenous spread of democracy in other nations as the people demand it and the petty tyrants fear ending up at the end of a noose like Saddam. It would be a sort of reverse domino effect. Bush has made much of the draining the swamp aspect of this argument, the idea that until the Middle East has freedom and liberty it will continue to produce terrorists. This would primarily target next door Iran and Syria. Iran in particular would prove susceptible to such democratic undermining since it is run by extraordinarily unpopular theocrats and has one of the most pro-America populations in the world (New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman noted on one of his documentaries that American college students in Europe were subjected to constant anti-Americanism until they visited Iran). Another strategic advantage to the United States and other democracies is the same one that spreading democracy had to Athens in ancient Greece. Similar governments tend to be much friendlier with other than with different government types. This can be seen in our alliances with Europe, Australia, Turkey, Japan, Taiwan, S Korea, etc versus China’s ease of maneuvering with countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Saddam’s Iraq, Cambodia, Burma, and so on. Especially as we see an undemocratic Sparta and Thebes (China and Russia) rise to challenge the free world it is in our interests to flip as many dictatorships to democracies as possible. Since it is much easier for China or Russia to shore up a dictatorship than for us to change it to a democracy and since short of a World War II scale effort we are not going to be able to take the kind of direct role that we did in Iraq with many other countries we had to move quickly if we were to have any impact before China and Russia got into the game. This would require a great deal of follow through however. By its very nature it would hit the more moderate dictators who were friendly with us along with impinging on the interests of great powers like Russia. It’s easy to say we will help if people rise up, but it’s much harder to actually support them when they do.
It would give us the Kurdish card.
The Kurdish card is the ability to create or threaten to create an independent Kurdish state. This is a particular case of the next reason for invading Iraq but it’s the biggest one since it affects most of the major players in the Mideast since a free Kurdistan is greatly feared by Turk, Arab, and Persian alike. The majority of Kurdistan is in Turkey where around 14 million of the 25 million Kurds live. Iran and Iraq each have over 4 million Kurds and Syria has the remaining million or so. Iraq only has about 1/6 of the Kurds but it is in the center of their homeland and is also the most economically viable due to the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields. It’s also the one we have the most influence over. With direct control over the future of Iraq we would be in a position to utilize this card as negotiating tool with Iran, Syria, and if need be with an increasingly Islamist Turkey. This would be similar to the Polish question of the late 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe. The Russia, Austria, and Prussia had divided Poland between during the 3 Partitions and had unwittingly created a serious weakness for themselves that Napoleon would later exploit. By invading Iraq and helping the Kurds we would give ourselves enormous leverage over the other peoples of the Mideast. They could be presented with a choice of either cooperate or see an extremely capable, pro-America, stable, prosperous Kurdish state arise in the heart of the Middle East. This would be a long-term policy since it would obviously undermine any attempt at Iraqi democracy and assumes a high degree of uncooperative behavior from the Sunni Arabs, Persians, and Turks. It goes to show though that even should things turn out worse than expected after the invasion, it would open other options that still make it worthwhile.
Map of the Kurdish lands.
A possible revolutionary redrawing of the Mideast could occur.
In line with the prior reason, this one is a long-term plan that would primarily be used should the direct and indirect benefits of invading fail to materialize. It seems that most people view the Middle East as a monolithic bloc of Sunni Arabs with a few Jews in Israel. This is no doubt how the Sunni Arabs themselves wish the Middle East to be viewed. However it is very divided both by ethnicity and religion. A previous reason focused primarily on the power struggle between the two largest religions in the area while the previous one dealt solely with the Kurdish minority. This diversity in the Mideast makes it extremely susceptible to the ancient tactic of divide and conquer which has been used frequently in the region. The following graphs show the divided nature of the region.
The most recent such division was the reorganization of the former Ottoman provinces by the French and British after World War I. That worked for its day but many of the problems in the Middle East today stem from the refusal to realign the region to suit today’s situation and interests and not the interest of two defunct empires a century ago. One example of this is Lebanon. The area that is now Lebanon was generally combined with Syria until the 19th Century. Initially Beirut was broken off to be its own duchy. It was expanded under pressure from Europeans in the late 19th Century to include the Christian central Lebanon region after increased oppression of the Christians by Ottoman authorities. When the Levant passed to France following World War I, they expanded the duchy of Beirut to what we know as Lebanon today so it would include as many Muslims as possible while keeping the pro-French Christian population in the majority. That was all well in good in the early 20th Century but no longer serves any purpose but causing chaos in Lebanon today as the Christians are no longer a majority and no longer have the French Empire backing them. Invading Iraq would allow for the encouragement and support for indigenous nationalist movements to gain independence from the current powers in the region. This would be similar to the redrawing of Eastern Europe following World War I after dissolution of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires (similar since the mistake of the Kingdom of the Southern Slavs shouldn’t be repeated). A primary benefit of such a redrawing is that it would mainly impact the key problem country in the region, the current decrepit form of the Persian Empire, Iran. One delicate area here is the pro-America views of the Persian people. Hopefully we would be able to encourage a sentiment of “Persia for the Persians” amongst them (which I was surprised to find was generally well taken by many of the Persians with whom I chat). If not then we should still go through since it would help with many of the problems in the region. Iraq would be the largest part of the western half of the division and is the easier of the two. The eastern half draws in Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan and is an entirely different order of magnitude as a result. This map shows what a possible new Middle East could look like. Red denotes the western division while blue represents an eastern division. A- Shiite Arab State. B- Kurdistan. C- Greater Azerbaijan. D- Sunni Arab State (or seperate Greater Syria, Jordan, and Anbar). E- Beirut city-state. 1- Greater Turkmenistan. 2- Hazarastan. 3- Baluchistan.
Since invading Iraq is the key the western division I won’t go into the eastern one. The Azeri, Kurd, and Shiite Arab parts of Iran could be broken off and combined with their compatriots across the border. Lebanon could be reduced to its 19th Century Christian majority Beirut duchy status with the Muslims either returned to Syria sans Kurds or combined with a Greater Sunni Arab state. The change this would cause in the populations of the various Mideast nations is roughly estimated on the following table.
The effect this would have is to create more stable nations with clear ethnic/religious majorities. It would also cause America to be seen as the granter and guarantor of the newly independent nation-states in much the same way that France created a ring of pro-France states in the Balkans following World War I. This would have obvious benefits to the US although it would also require us to defend the new nations from any revisionist moves by the Persians, Turks, and Sunni Arabs along with possibly Pakistan (a much thornier issue). I am not to say that this would be the end of changing borders. Nothing is ever final.
A developed Iraqi oil industry would break Saudi control of global oil prices.
Ahhh, oil, the black gold that we supposedly invaded Iraq to steal according to the international left. Not quite the reason to invade, but there is an oil-related reason for the invasion. The Saudis are well known to essentially control the price of oil since they are not only the largest exporter of oil, but they also have by far the largest reserve production capacity and the ability to cut millions of barrels of oil production almost overnight. Obviously they aren’t the only factor in oil prices, but they are the only controllable factor (i.e. global economic growth, the weather, international conflict are difficult to impossible to influence by a single government). This causes far more power and influence to accrue to the Saudis that makes it difficult for any country to stand up to them. To counter Saudi influence we would need a country with similar production and capabilities as the Saudis. Looking around the globe there are not many countries capable of doing so. The Saudis can produce between 10 and 11 million barrels of oil per day. The other two major oil producers, Russia and America, produce about 9 and 8 million bpd respectively. However, both America and Russia cannot greatly influence oil prices as both have little reserve capacity, do not produce oil based on political decisions, and have little ability to lower production. Other smaller producers such as Canada, Kazakhstan, and Iran that with significant investments could produce far more oil than they do each have problems that would keep them from matching the Saudis. Canada is free market, Kazakhstan lacks reliable access to global markets, and Iran would first require regime change. The only country that has the ability to match Saudi Arabia in oil production and that could counter-manipulate the oil market is Iraq. Iraq at one point had the capacity to produce 6 million bpd and could probably exceed that with investment in the future. Like Iran though, that wasn’t possible without regime change. Saddam had shown that he was not trustworthy when it comes to managing tens of billions of dollars of oil production each year. We would also need a more pro-America government since Saddam would not likely manipulate the oil market to our favor anyways. There is nothing wrong with the global superpower making war with the interest of stabilizing a key global commodity. As the general guarantor of the global economy it is in the interest of everyone for us to stop the wild oscillations in oil prices. The British had the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in their day and we would do better to have an American-Iraqi Oil Company today (much fairer AIOC of course).
Non-Iraq Reasons to Invade Iraq
We need nation building experience.
It’s been a long time since the United States successfully helped rebuild a nation. Since World War II we largely ignored the nation building game until the 90’s. Through out the 90’s we had a series of largely botched exercises in nation building. We tried in Somalia until a few soldiers were killed and we ran away with our tail between our legs. We intervened in Bosnia after hundred of thousands were killed, but unless success is lowered to mean that 11 years after maintaining a military force equal to 1% of the countries population to simply separate the warring parties into their own de facto countries we haven’t been successful there. Kosovo is an even worse example than Bosnia. 8 years after attacking Serbia to protect the terrorist KLA, all we have to show is a non-functioning country that is only marginally peaceful since we’ve allowed the Albanians to drive out most of the Serb population. East Timor is the smaller example, less than a million people live there, but even it has decayed into little more than a broken protectorate of a UN that as with the KLA is only capable of protecting the troublemakers not the country or the people. This is all not to even mention the Congo, which lacks direct US participation and as a result is fairing even worse than the Balkan efforts. The UN internationalist way of nation building has been tried and found greatly wanting. If billions around the world who are born into non-functioning tyrannical countries are to have any chance of a better future we will have to figure out how to do nation building. Like the other reasons in this category, this is not a reason to invade Iraq per se as much as it is something that invading Iraq allowed. Iraq is not a particularly large country with less than 27 million people. The average size of the 192 countries of the world is around 33 million. However, Iraq is far larger than any of the other rebuilding efforts except the half-hearted Congo one. As such Iraq is large enough to be a serious exercise that can teach useful lessons and is small enough to minimize the cost of the operation and mistakes. These mistakes are bound to occur, why it is so shocking to the left and some on the right that they do is beyond me. Last I checked no one walked without first falling. Conversely, Iraq would reveal whether the America and the world have the stomach for real nation building. If not then it would allow us to change our foreign policy to compensate. The Romans and British also had a moment when they switched over from wars of expansion (nation building in our case) to punitive wars. Iraq would show whether we need to plan future wars in the Iraq mold with a full occupation and reconstruction or more in the mold of the Kosovo War, air and missile assault to destroy the power of the country. With whatever lesson learned from Iraq we would be better able to adjust our future policies to be inline with our capabilities and national will.
The military needs an occasional war to combat test new tactics and weapons.
This seems cold-hearted but stems from the desire to ultimately save soldiers lives while also advancing America’s interests as best as possible. Military affairs involve such morbid calculations. Soldiers are going to die, nothing will ever change that. All that can be done is to minimize the deaths while still achieving the objectives. For example, the Dieppe raid of 1942 was certain to fail and produce an extremely high casualty rate. Yet it was willingly launched since the Allies had to learn how to launch amphibious landings in Europe. Better to sacrifice 6,000 soldiers today to prevent the 180,000 landing at Normandy from being destroyed tomorrow along with allowing the war to be won. The Prussians were so successful in 1870 not only because they were fighting the French but because they had just fought and learned from the smaller war with Austria in 1866. The Prussians were so successful against the Austrians because they had just fought and learned from the war with Denmark in 1864. The 25,000 Prussian casualties in the 1860’s helped prevent even more casualties in the much larger Franco-Prussian War and ensured that Germany’s interest were advanced to the utmost. The German military, from 1740-1790 and 1860-1945 the finest military machine in history, had a saying that one short war was worth 10 years of peace-time training. Like all great powers we have the same requirement today. Military weapons and the tactics they require change frequently. If we were caught in a major war, say with Iran, N Korea, or China and used our weapons incorrectly the price in lives would quickly dwarf the 2,700 or so combat deaths in Iraq thus far. It would also potentially cause irrevocable damage to America’s interests. As with nation building, this isn’t to say Iraq was the only option but it was an option (the only one besides North Korea we had a casus belli against). Also like with nation building, Iraq had the benefit of being large enough to teach real lessons but not so large as to cause enormous casualties and cost overall and for mistakes that would undoubtedly happen. One mistake nations tend to make is to learn too much from small wars which often teach lessons contradictory to the needs of larger wars. The British were alone in 1914 among Western Europeans in expecting their cavalry arm to play a major role in the war. They believed that because cavalry had played a major role in the Second Anglo-Boer War. They didn’t seem to realize that cavalry was only effective because of the open flat veldt of South Africa and the fact the Boers generally fought with under 1,000 men per mile of frontage. In cluttered northern Europe against 5,000 men per mile such tactics led to the slaughter of the British cavalry that happened at the Somme in 1916. Along with not teaching false lessons, Iraq was small enough to limit the damage from mistakes. Against far more capable Iranians for example, the unarmored Humvee mishap would probably have led to the loss of at least 4-6 times as many soldiers as it did in Iraq. Since Iraq caused a critical short fall in munitions of almost all types in 2004, it is unlikely that we would have been able to meet the demands of a far larger war like Iran or China. Our military has been able to perfect and figure out how best to employ the new weapons developed during the 90’s and have been able to come up with new previously unthought-of weapons and tactics. We also now have a generation of combat experienced officers and NCO’s, the most valuable trait for any military. When we inevitably have to fight again against a far more powerful enemy, our military will be fully prepared. In addition to advancing the interests and safety of their country, the sacrifice of our soldiers today will help advance the interests and safety of their country tomorrow while lowering the sacrifice required of their brothers in arms. Our soldiers will always be called on to sacrifice for the good of our country. The only way to stop it is to abandon the second part which I, and many Americans, would never support and which is only temporary. Thus it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to limit the amount of sacrifice for which we call on them. Along with a larger military budget (5% of GDP plus war appropriations, or about $800 billion this year) I think periodic medium wars is the best way history will sadly show.