Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain towards the end of January 2018 for about a month
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday, 16 October 2006

Very depressing - the war in Iraq has probably failed ...

... unless a radical change of strategy happens fast. I have always been supportive of the need to remove a brutal and sadistic tyrant, Saddam Hussein, from power in Iraq and for me the suspected possession of 'weapons of mass destruction' by his regime was not critical to that support; I thought that the moral arguments were themselves sufficient justification and my own earlier contacts with Iraqis and Koweitis who had personal experience of Saddam's tyranny seemed to me to be key. In a post I wrote in the comment section of my main website in September 2002 (amplifying a briefer post in this blog at the time here), which dealt with the impact of the now discredited 'dossier' our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, used to support the case he was gearing-up to make for action against the Iraqi regime, I nevertheless did refer to some anxieties I had, but tended at the time to discount these because I could not believe they could be true:

It is possible, I suppose, that Blair is a participant (willing or unwilling) in a grotesque plot to label Saddam Hussein as a dangerous tyrant in order to justify action against Iraq, so that 'the West' might gain control of the oil resources of the country with the second-largest reserves on the planet. Whatever I may think of Blair and his New Labour government, and my opinion of both is not particularly high, I have yet to conclude that he is a liar. Nor do I think he is completely mad - which I consider he would need to be to acquiesce in a military adventure purely for the purpose of securing oil supplies from a region which is already lacking in much political stability; the resources that would need to be devoted to maintaining control of a 'conquered' Iraq for any length of time would probably be immense.

I still have not come to the judgement that Blair was a 'liar', but it is unfortunately all too clear that his (and my, at the time) confidence in the strategic planning and objectives of the US Administration led by President Bush, aided and abetted by his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and his Vice President, Dick Cheney, was wildly inappropriate in the light of the way the post-invasion phase has been so chronically mismanaged, as I wrote here on a related matter only a couple of weeks ago.. The final words of Norman Geras in his post yesterday on the matter are sobering, but irrefutable and mirror closely my own steadily developing view over the past three or so years, a view that began to form in my darkest thoughts only a few months after the invasion and removal of the tyrant:

Had I been of mature years during that time, I hope I would have supported the war against Nazism come what may, and not been one of the others, the nay-sayers. The same impulse was at work in my support for the Iraq war. Even so, I am bound to acknowledge that, though I never expected an easy sequel in Iraq, much less a 'cakewalk', I did not anticipate a failure on this scale, and had I done so, I would have withheld support for the war without giving my voice to the opposition to it.

I also share Andrew Sullivan's view as expressed here, however:

I stand by my good-faith belief that ridding the world of Saddam's tyranny was a great and important thing. I even stand by my naive but sincere faith in the Bush administration in 2002. But I was wrong, as events have proven. And the human carnage in Iraq today, taking place because the U.S. refused to provide order after the invasion, renders the justice of the war deeply compromised. A war that was not, it turns out, the last resort; a war that has authorized torture; a war that has led to a civilian casualty rate of around 7,000 a month; a war that has unleashed far more terrorism than it has stifled: whatever else this is, it is not the just war some of us once supported. It is in another category now.

That does not mean our moral responsibility is to abandon Iraq even further. It may require the opposite. But it does mean that we have witnessed a moral failure on an epic scale.

As a non-American I don't see utility in echoing his final sentence, however, in which he says: "I cannot see how voters with consciences can reward those who let it happen.", referring to the mid-term elections to be held in the US in early November. Hindsight is a wonderful and dangerous thing, but I do wonder if my reaction in December 2000 (in my main website, long before I began this blog) at Bush's ultimate success in the election of November 2000 against Al Gore was completely and utterly wrong in the light of all that has happened since:

Vice-President Al Gore has, at last, accepted that all legal efforts to allow him to continue his struggle to be declared President-elect have been exhausted. His 'concession' speech was superficially generous, but a more than cursory study reveals it to be a mean-spirited bowing to the inevitable. With luck, this character will never again be a presidential candidate.

Would Al Gore have handled the events of September 2001 and subsequently better and more competently? Unfortunately we are where we are, but it is clear that a completely new strategy for Iraq is urgently required - either to withdraw quickly (a shameful course I do NOT advocate) or to double and if necessary triple our military effort there; whether even the US is capable of mustering the additional 'feet on the ground' to do this without the active and major help of additional allies, inside or outside NATO, is I'm afraid a factor that needs to be looked at urgently and dispassionately and diplomatic efforts to enlist that additional support developed accordingly.

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