While Jonathan Edelstein, Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum were pro-war and have major misgivings now, I have been trying to move in the opposite direction. I was very skeptical about Gulf War II initially. Not because it would be a quagmire during the war itself, rather because of what would come after the war. Driving Saddam out of power and then packing our bags would have been useless. Staying for a lengthy occupation to rebuild the country and build democratic institutions has the danger of ending up as a bad colonial adventure. This is no longer the 19th century and the results of an occupation can be nasty. In my opinion, the Iraq war could likely increase the terrorist threat to the US as well as nuclear proliferation in the world.
But Saddam Hussain is a thuggish and brutal dictator. What to do about him? Would removing him really be a negative thing for the Iraqi people? That was my dilemma. Overall, I thought the war could have positive consequences for the Iraqi people but would probably not be in the best interests of the United States. Thinking about it and resigning myself to the inevitability of war, I was coming around to the idea that we do need to do something about despotic rulers like Saddam. So what is the solution other than war? I am not sure. May be we could help the Iraqis get rid of him. May be we shouldn’t have stood back and looked on while the Marsh Arabs and Kurds got slaughtered after the first Gulf War.
However, if the solution is war, then it has to be done right. The only way something good could come out of it is by going in with the consent of the United Nations and other major countries (both European and Middle Eastern specifically), then setting up a postwar plan to liberalize Iraq. I sorta agree with CalPundit here:
My support for war has always been strongly influenced by the likelihood of using it as a springboard to build a better Middle East, something that the U.S. simply can’t do alone.
But there is ONE problem. I don’t trust the Bush administration to do the right thing. I have always been suspicious of the moral clarity claim since in my experience a lot of the “moral clarity” people are just holier-than-thou. I hate the contempt in which the administration and most war hawks hold anti-war view viewpoints and foreigners (whether they be French, German, Arab or Muslim). Also, I am afraid that all Bush would do is remove Saddam and install a client regime. Plus I like the international institutions and would be dismayed to see the US bring down the whole international order that was mostly created by the US. As Josh Marshall quotes someone about the repurcussions of an Iraq war by this administration:
His greatest worry was not in the neighborhood, but the world: the costs — unreckonable to some degree — of wrecking the international state system to get this done. The pros and cons of handling Iraq have never been separable from how you do it, the costs you rack up in the doing of it, calculated against the gains you’ll get in having accomplished it. At this point, we truly have the worst case scenario on the international stage. And I think that those costs now outweigh the gains.
And finally, this quote from Jonathan which clinched the deal for me:
There is a difference between principled unilateralism and contempt for the rest of the world. There is a difference between vigilance at home and gratuitous erosion of civil liberties. There is a difference between measured use of military force and wanton disregard for the political and social elements of the conflict. There is a difference between genuinely humanitarian intervention and a Noriega-style takedown of a former client, based on manufactured excuses, that will result in continued Ba’athist rule with the serial numbers filed off. All these things will happen if this war continues on its present course —- and all these things will exact a terrible price in broken alliances and lost freedoms without bringing victory.