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Three Questions
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Orin Kerr over at Volokh poses three questions to those who supported the Iraq War. He wants bloggers to post their answers, and he'll provide a link round-up afterwards.

I'll bite:

1) Assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?


I don't know about "good", but I still believe it was the best of a host of poor options. It's hard to know what the world would look like right now had we not toppled Hussein, but more than likely the terrorists groups that have migrated to Iraq, such as Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad, would be in Afghanistan instead, setting off car bombs, kidnapping, and beheading people. Hussein would still be in power, with Uday and Qusay his successors.

We would not have been able to sustain the large buildup of troops in the region that had pressured Hussein to re-allow inspectors to Iraq, so the likeliest scenario is that we would have stood down, withdrawing the build-up. It is equally likely that after calling our bluff, Hussein would have continued his pattern of uncooperation, so we would probably still not know Iraq's true WMD capabilities. The U.N., per their previous schedule, would probably have passed another resolution or two condemning Iraq's lack of cooperation. There would be ongoing criticism of the sanctions, mostly blamed on the U.S., and Hussein would have continued to skim profits from the corrupt oil-for-food program.

In other words, the boil of Iraq would have been left to fester. The U.N. would have continued its tradition of hollow rhetoric and corrupt bureaucracy. And Saddam would have been perceived as having scored yet another victory over the infidels.

I have yet to hear a realistic depiction of the alternative to the Iraq War. Anti-war proponents seem to want to pretend that everything would have been rosy had we not invaded, but that is a delusional fantasy. I often hear that the troops now in Iraq should have been used in Afghanistan. If that were the case, would they not have been engaged in a large-scale guerilla war there?

So is the status quo better than if we had not invaded? I honestly don't know. But I do know that Hussein is sitting in a cell awaiting trial. His sons are dead. We now know for certain what WMD capabilities Hussein had (little to none, thankfully). And Iraq has more hope for a humane, representative government than it did before.

That still seems to be a better choice than most other realistic alternatives.


2) What reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?


I'm disheartened, of course.

Though I remain optimistic. It still seems to me that most of the headlining violence is perpetrated by foreign terrorist groups and Ba'athist remnants. I'm somewhat discouraged by reports of Iraqi opinions, but I don't believe if there were really a widespread resistance by average Iraqis, we would last very long at all.

I supported the war with the realistic expectation that perhaps thousands of our troops would be killed in battle (at that point there were fears that Iraq, backed into a corner, might use chemical weapons, or that a seige of Baghdad might take months). Given the fact that we're essentially fighting multiple enemies (ex-Ba'athists, foreign terrorists, and domestic hardcore Islamists intent on grabbing power), in an unconventional guerilla war where the enemy is not in uniform and willing to use virtually any tactic, I think our soldiers have done remarkably well.

I think the only viable option is to continue to support our actions there. And that means doing so even when the news is bad.


3) What specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?


How well elections are carried out; how well the Iraq oil industry and economy as a whole are doing; how well infrastructure in Iraq is restored; Iraqi employment; Iraqi morale.

I think the measure of success should be positive indicators in Iraq, and not necessarily kidnappings, bombings, or deaths. It is entirely likely that violence will increase (as Colin Powell noted yesterday) as elections grow closer and begin to become a reality in Iraq. Yet I think it is possible that all the above criteria could improve, even as violence worsens, and that those standards present a truer measure of the success of Iraq than headlines regarding sensational violent events.

If six months from now, elections have not taken place or were so poorly administrated as to appear invalid, the Iraq economy and infrastructure are worse, and Iraqis have an overwhelmingly negative view of us, then we will be losing. Conversely, if all these indicators are better in Iraq, they will be more important measures than the violence



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