Righty: The U.S. was completely justified in its invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a monstrous dictator who massacred his own people and threatened the stability of the Middle East. We had solid evidence that he possessed weapons of mass destruction, and the only reason we didn’t find them was because he hid or destroyed them. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we had to do whatever we could to stop Islamic aggression against the West. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the most powerful force in the Middle East, capable of knocking out Israel and destabilizing the entire region. We know that Saddam funded terrorist activities and communicated with al-Qaeda. We simply couldn’t risk letting him furnish the terrorists with weapons. On top of that, Iraq continually violated the terms of the peace agreement following its defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. We would have been justified in invading Iraq for that reason alone. But when you add Saddam’s transgressions and the need to stabilize the Middle East following 9/11, the justification for the war becomes indisputable. And after all, we won the actual war inside of a few months; you can’t blame Bush if those fanatical insurgents refuse to surrender. You have to agree that we’re safer today than before the war. Those jihadists haven’t been able to pull off an attack on American soil since 9/11, thanks to our vigilant president and his administration.
Lefty: Don’t get me started. The invasion of Iraq has been the single greatest foreign policy disaster in U.S. history: more insanely wrongheaded than Vietnam, and ultimately more costly in terms of what we’ve lost. And what have we lost? Not just billions of dollars and thousands of lives. We’ve squandered the good will of the allies who flocked to our side in the aftermath of 9/11; we’ve lost our reputation as a force for justice in the world. Iraq wasn’t responsible for 9/11; can you understand that much? Bush pulled a classic bait-and-switch: “We misunderestimated that slippery rascal Osama bin Laden and couldn’t ketch him, so how ’bout goin’ after ol’ Saddam Hussein, who had it in for my Daddy?” He and his neocon ventriloquists lied to drum up support for a totally unprovoked war in which the U.S. played the disgraceful role of wanton aggressor. And the astounding thing is that the nation fell for it — including Democratic senators and representatives who must forever be held accountable. The war in Iraq has not only failed to bring stability to the region… it has actually fueled the Islamic jihad movement with new recruits and intensified animosity toward the West (and especially us). Within Iraq, our invasion has propelled dueling religious factions toward bloody civil war. What profound evil we’ve unleashed on the world! What a nightmare of a conflict, with no end in sight! We must withdraw from Iraq immediately. I’d move to Canada except for the fact that my dissenting voice is sorely needed to rouse this nation of sheep.
The New Moderate:
There’s nothing immoderate about denouncing this sorry excuse for a war. Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks. In fact, it was one of the more secular and stable Islamic states in the region. We had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was planning to equip terrorists with his elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Did the Bush administration think we’d quash worldwide terrorism simply by toppling an ornery dictator in Iraq? Or that our invasion would make the Islamic world safe for democracy, which would then spread virally from Morocco to Indonesia? Whatever the real motive for the invading Iraq (oil? Israeli security? Bush family vendetta?), wiping out Islamic terrorism doesn’t seem to have ranked especially high on the list. The sad irony is that terrorists never gravitated to Iraq until we invaded it. Now, of course, the country is Terrorist Central.
You can’t defeat terrorists by conventional military tactics. (When will our leaders awaken to this obvious fact?) Terrorists have no territory, no capital to occupy, no infrastructure to destroy. We’re at war with scattered fanatics who live in places like Germany and England as well as Syria and Afghanistan, and we’d have to kill them all to win. Even if we did accomplish that impossible feat, two new terrorists would rise up for every one we’ve snuffed out.
The only way to beat terrorists, aside from foiling their attempts to attack us, is to make them hate us less. You don’t soften their hatred by bombing the bejeesus out of their kinsmen. In the Iraq War we essentially took a baseball bat to a hornet’s nest and expected the hornets to like it. We’ll be feeling those stings for a long time to come.
So what happens now? Do we pull out overnight and let Iraq disintegrate into full-scale civil war? Do we stay and force our military personnel to fend off suicide bombers for the next fifty years, while our overextended empire slowly bleeds to death amid the ruins of Ur and Babylon? The one glimmer of hope that emerged during this war — the one moment that caused me to reconsider the ghastliness of Bush’s Folly — was the sight of Iraqis risking their lives to vote in their first free election. We could let those voters decide if they want us to stay. (If the Iraqis give us the thumbs down, we’d be able to vamoose without guilt.)
One widely suggested (but less-than-ideal) solution would be to partition the country and let each faction have its own territory. The world has been reverting to tribalism since the end of the Cold War, and all tribes need a patch of land to call their own. But the balkanization of Iraq would simply open another bloody floodgate. (Remember Yugoslavia?)
The ultimate solution — the one we New Moderates dare to dream of — is for a reformist Islamic faction to emerge and put an end to the insanity within their religious ranks. But we can’t wait that long, and neither can Iraq. If Iraq is truly to belong to the Iraqis, I say we let the people decide who fights the remaining fight.
Summary: The war in Iraq was (and will remain) a colossal blunder, but now that the damage is done we should let the Iraqis decide if we stay or go.