In criticizing Patrick McIhleran's column on the surrender resolutions, Jay Bullock says he doesn't like this essay by Victor Davis Hansen. Responding to Hansen's suggestion that more troops would not necessarily have hastened the defeat of terrorist insurgents, Jay writes:
I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I think he's suggesting that no matter what we could have done in Iraq, there would have been no way to avoid the kind of insurgency (bordering on civil war) that we see now. Gee, I wish he would have figured that out three years ago and told someone in power who might have suggested that we give the inspectors more time to do their jobs.
In other words, for Jay, if we knew it wouldn't be a complete and total cake walk (and over quickly), it should not have been done.
What Hansen is saying is that we need to be grown-ups about this. The invasion of Iraq was a bold and aggressive gambit to address the "root causes" of terrorism. Sure, everyone thought Saddam had WMDs and he was a tyrant who regularly killed far more people than have died as a result of the war, but there was more to it than that.
Bush was trying to do two things. First, he was sending a message that, in the war on terror, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. The ties between Saddam and al-Qaida may not have been strong (although they were not, as is commonly claimed, "nonexistent"), but Saddam was leading state-sponsor of Islamofascist terrorism. In taking down Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush was sending a message that you do this at your peril.
Second, he is trying to introduce democracy into the middle east and is having some success. We don't know what will happen in Iraq, but it is certainly too soon to declare defeat. (I'd argue that the odds for success are greater than the chances of failure.)
Given the enormity of these objectives, Hansen is saying that it is unreasonable to think that they could have been achieved instantaneously and without cost. If the goal is to establish an independent government and turn over security to Iraqi forces, too many Coalition troops is a hindrance. And leaving too soon would be a disaster.
Hansen sums it up:
Syria is out of Lebanon — but only as long as democracy is in Iraq. Libya and Pakistan have come clean about nuclear trafficking — but only as long as the U.S. is serious about reform in the Middle East.
And the Palestinians are squabbling among themselves, as democracy is proving not so easy to distort after all — a sort of Western Trojan Horse that they are not so sure they should have brought inside their walls. When has Hamas ever acted as if it has a "sort of" charter to "sort of" destroy Israel? We worry that Iran is undermining Iraq. The mullahs are terrified that the democracy across the border may undermine them — as if voting and freedom could trump their beheadings and stonings.
Ever since 9/11 we have been in a long, multifaceted, and much-misunderstood war against jihadists and their autocratic enablers from Manhattan to Kabul, from Baghdad to the Hindu Kush, from London and Madrid to Bali and the Philippines. For now, Iraq has become the nexus of that struggle, in the heart of the ancient caliphate, rather than the front once again in Washington and New York. Whose vision of the future wins depends on who keeps his nerve — or to paraphrase the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, “Hard pounding, gentlemen; but we will see who can pound the longest.”
War is a nasty business and should never be entered into lightly. The casualties of this war are all tragic, but they are a fraction of what opponents of the war said they would be. (Much like the casualties from Katrina were a fraction of what was feared prior to and immediately after the hurricane.)
I have always thought that the decision to go to war in Iraq was a close call. I'm glad I didn't have to make it. But it cannot be undone and having been done, it must be done right.