Ahhh, new blood in the water… Noble reader Andrew sent the following message (green text below) to address my question of why we attacked Iraq. My thanks for the contribution. Worthy adversaries are always welcome, as is his counter-point, or yours. My response is in the normal text.

OK, I’ll bite. Your explanations, to finish the job daddy started and due to our oil interests are both correct, but far from a complete list and a bit too simplistic (coursn’ dubya likes to keep it simple). Occam’s Razor might not be the best tool for analyzing foreign policy or the rationale for war.

Certainly my explanation is overly simplistic and doubtless incomplete, but as you note, that does not invalidate the explanation. I do appreciate your recognition that ‘dubya likes to keep it simple. However, I do draw a distinction between people like Stephen Hawking who comprehend the complexities of the world and have a gift for explaining complex ideas in simple language, and people like Bush who just see the world as simple. It is not remotely obvious that ‘dubya has a clue about the complexities of the game he is playing.

Unfortunately, Bush’s justifications, diplomatic acrobatics leading up to the war and now evidence of the over-zealous sales pitch, has left a good sized stain on what otherwise was a pretty damn good war.

I’m intrigued by your definition of a “good war”. I understand the concept of a just war, a necessary war, or even a noble war. But “good” is not an adjective I find remotely applicable to the reality of war. Humans, as a species, will always engage in war. It is our nature. We compete with each other on scales both subtle and gross. As long as there is competition in our blood, we will spill it. I accept that, but I don’t find it good.

This is a case where we should of shot the messenger. Anyone who has ever uttered the phrase “evil-doer” that isn’t wearing a red cape, is probably going to have a hard time conveying complex ideas. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. In this case, and just about only this case, I find myself in agreement with the current administration. This is to the consternation of just about everybody I associate with, and I’m not yet ready to join the local branch of the Rush Limbaugh fan club.

I couldn’t agree more. He should be shot. Unfortunately, that would just make him a martyr at this point. The really scary part is that I think he truly believes his quest to rout evil from the world is divinely inspired. He thinks his god is more righteous and powerful than the Muslim god. He hasn’t said that explicitly, but I think he believes it. He his guilty of acting with the same air of moral superiority as the terrorists he purports to hunt. Things like the Patriot Act and the positioning of those with opposing views as unpatriotic simply reek of the tactics McCarthy employed in the ’50s and are the precursor to even scarier things to come. Is it not ironic that we are losing our own freedoms while we wander the globe spreading it elsewhere? If the Bush administration’s plans are rational and just, then he should be able to play fairly and above board with supporters and detractors alike. Truth withstands criticism and critical analysis. Passion and dogma do not.

And the usefulness of a stopped clock depends greatly on the willingness of the observer to depend on a device which is wrong over 99% of the time.

Anyhow, I believe, the attack on Iraq was justified, in our long term interests and on balance, will be shown to have made the world safer and more democratic. It helped stabilize the Middle-East, and therefore the world. Reestablished a credible American force that has strengthened our diplomatic hand with rouge/terror sponsoring nations. Liberated a nation from a regime that was horribly brutalizing it’s people (as we have done, for example, in Bosnia and Haiti)

I would welcome more detail on why you believe what you state above. As I stated earlier in the blog, this war broke new ground. It was pre-emptive. We attacked to remove a perceived threat. A perception which is turning out after the fact to have been greatly exaggerated. If this qualifies as justified, exactly what would not qualify as justification? If this becomes the international standard for war then as a planet we are about to experience a great deal more of it.

Will the world be safer and more democratic now? It’s not clear Saddam was ever much of a threat to the world at large. His own populace was in the most danger, followed by his immediate neighbors. Curiously, the other Middle East nations were not pleading for U.S. intervention (excluding Israel who’s always up for kicking a little Arab butt). And what hubris drives the assertion that democracy is the only benign form of government? By implication, non-democratic institutions are less ideal. I don’t buy it. The majority of the planet’s population does not live under a functional democracy. Are they all oppressed? Do we need to go free the rest of them now? And I will be greatly astonished if anything resembling a democracy survives in Iraq after the U.S. forces leave. Look around the Muslim world and find me good examples of democracies. It’s not the cultural norm for them. That doesn’t mean they are doomed to oppression or even that they are wrong. Everyone doesn’t need to be like us.

If the Middle East is more stable post-invasion it is only because there are hundreds of thousands of our heavily armed troops over there. If we left tomorrow, it would be way more destabilized than it was before we showed up. And by what rationale did this war strengthen our diplomatic hand with terror sponsoring nations? Do you mean that we are probably more intimidating now so they are less likely to mess with us? That’s only considered diplomacy if you’re Bill Gates. We have established ourselves as the quintessential 500lb gorilla, but that’s a double edged sword. The bully gets a lot of respect in the light of day, but needs to sleep with one eye open.

And I’ve addressed the “liberation” angle many times before. Yes, that was goodness and light. Yes, we’ve liberated other countries. But we’ve also ignored the plight of countless millions where liberating them was not politically feasible or economically viable.

As for finishing up daddy’s fight, in fact we were. Iraq never complied with the treaty at the end of the first Gulf war and therefore that war never truly ended. Daily sorties were still the norm. So if the first gulf war was justified, so was the second. They were in effect the same war, with a 12 year intermission.

I understand your point, but you can’t play both sides. The first war was a U.N action and it accomplished the U.N. goal of driving Iraq from Kuwait, and officially ended. The goal was never to depose Saddam. Yes, Iraq didn’t comply with the U.N. sanctions after the war. But the U.N did not reauthorize a war to enforce them. The U.S. was the dominate military force in both wars, but they were different legal entities launched by two separate governments. You can’t join them as contiguous actions of a single government. Emotionally there is a connection. There is continuity for the U.S. involvement. But that doesn’t make them the same war.

Was this war partially about oil? I think so. Does that necessarily make it unjustified? I’m don’t think so. Probably every war that has ever been fought can be seen in strictly financial terms, that doesn’t mean that they are unjustified or without merit. The American Revolution is a decent example of this. The US didn’t however, as some suggested, seize the oil fields for our own profit. Do we get any credit here?

I agree that war is often financially motivated, and this one was no different. Yet it remains to be seen if we seized the oil fields for our own profit. Yes, the current rhetoric is that we are redeveloping the Iraqi oil business to benefit the Iraqis. And I have no doubt that they will benefit to a degree. But at this point, we would be morons to absorb the cost of “liberation” and “reconstruction” without recouping our investment. And I’ve no doubt we’ll take a little profit to boot. How much we take will speak loudly to our true motivation. Stay tuned…

The reality is that the US and the rest of the world could not survive for one month if the oil was turned off. It’s not just that we would have to tough it out for a little while, use our fireplaces, wear an extra sweater, and ride our bike to work. Everything, everything that makes us a modern society would disappear, poof. The vast majority of us would literally die of starvation within weeks. We are a 20 million barrel a day, oil-junkie. (see Jeremy Rifkin’s “The Hydrogen Economy” for some facinating/scary insights)

Sure, we’re oil junkies. I drive a big honkin’ truck, so I know a thing or two about being addicted to oil products. But we survived for 12 years without Iraqi oil on the market. Was the price rising? Sure. But we weren’t in danger of losing our oil supply. Besides, if the real issue was flooding the market with Iraqi oil to lower the price, that could have been accomplished by pressuring the U.N. to remove the oil sanctions under the premise of providing revenue to improve the standard of living for Iraqi citizens. No one would have died and we wouldn’t have invested billions to accomplish that.

If protecting the free flow of oil isn’t in our national interest, I don’t know what is. I think the whole “No Blood for Oil” slogan is a nice sentiment, but is at best, naive. Don’t get me wrong, I actively support moving away from oil and a switch to a hydrogen, but even the best estimate is that it’s at least a decade away, probably more like 30 years. Personally I’m enthused about “Thermo-Depolymerization Process” Anyhow, that’s it for now, gotta go check my blood pressure.

Protecting oil is in our national interest. Granted. I’d love to make tons of oil from turkey guts and other discarded organic material (despite the Soylent Green flashbacks) or have a Mr. Fusion machine in my kitchen. But (as you note) that future’s been a decade away for several decades now. We need oil. If necessary I could even back a military action to assure that we were not held hostage for reasonably priced oil. But that wasn’t the stated reason for this war. We’re back to the honesty and integrity of our leaders. If oil was the reason, then say that. I take umbrage at the notion that Bush et. al. are trying to manipulate public opinion to create the illusion of morally righteous actions when the reality is otherwise – even if they truly believe that their real agenda is in my best interest. How the hell does that remotely translate to the precious democracy which we are so desperate to spread to everyone else?

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