This is a bit off topic for this blog but I want to get off my chest some thoughts I have had in recent weeks.
I have come to the conclusion that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. I say this with a sad heart and as a big supporter of President Bush. This is not to say that I didn’t support the war at the outset. I did. Nor is it to say that we should pull out. We shouldn't.
The fact is that Sadaam Hussein’s regime was one of the most anti Israel in the Middle East. There is no question that he at one time had WMDs and used them on his own people. And the best intelligence estimates at the time were that he still had, and was hiding such weapons and his penchant for attacking neighboring states and perpetrating near genocide against his own people all argued for the kind of immediate action that the President took. It should also not be forgotten that Iraq was one of the countries that rewarded successful Palestinian suicide bomber’s families with cash payments.
Nor should anyone think for a minute that withdrawing troops now, is a good idea. The fact is that the insurgents there now, whether they are Al Qaida or rivaling religious factions is more than enough reason to stay the course. Leaving now would create chaos and open up Iraq for a takeover by Islamist fundamentalists that would make the Taliban look like a bunch of boy scouts. So even though it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq based on what we know now, it would be an even bigger mistake if we left. We have to see the job through no matter what it takes. If 911 taught us anything, it is that.
So why was it a mistake to attack Iraq based on current information? Because in the end they posed no real danger to the world, or even to the region. They were being contained and had no WMDs at all. And most importantly we attacked a secular government not an Islamist government of the type we attacked in Afghanistan. True, Hussein was a tyrant, bigot and dictator but he was not an Islamist. And he ruled his people with an iron fist. He did not abide dissent... particularly the dissent of Islam. Islamists were afraid of him and with good reason. He held the country together. And if you were an Iraqi citizen... as long as you didn’t oppose him you could live a relatively quite, peaceful, and prosperous life. Of course he was evil and would have wiped Israel off the map. But that was at best a remote possibility. Israel had little to fear from Iraq because he simply did not have the means to do anything more than control his own people.
So what’s wrong with getting rid of this dictator? It opened up a Pandora ’s Box of violence, chaos and civilian strife that seems to be spiraling into a civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims that can end up becoming another Iran, or worse.
And Iran is the real problem. It is Iran that should have been attacked. They are the kind of fundamentalists who attacked us on 911, not the formerly secular Iraq of Sadaam Hussein. It is Iran who speaks of wiping Israel off the map. It is Iran who spouts the kind of theology spouted by the Taliban and by Bin Laden. They are the ones with the desire to develop weapons of mass destruction. Had the US attacked Iran instead of Iraq and just continued containment of Iraq as they had since the first Gulf was, the fight would have been indeed taken to the terrorists.
But instead we are in Iraq fighting a war that we should be fighting in Iran. We could have had a secular dictator remain in Iraq who was not interested in forcing Islamist ideals onto the world. Hussein was only interested in controlling his people, and enriching himself through fear and intimidation. Any ambitions to foment war against his neighbors through military means had been thwarted by the first Gulf war and he was being prevented from doing so again. Iraq was neutralized for practical purposes and this would have freed up American forces to attack Islamism in its bosom, Iran. Unfortunately we are now stuck in Iraq and we are stuck with a militant Iran threatening destruction to Israel and forging ahead with their nuclear program thumbing their noses at the US and the rest of the world.
Like I said at the outset, there is nothing that could have been done given the information we had and nothing we can do now to leave. But I definitely think that with 20/20 hindsight, the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But one thing is certain. We cannot ignore Iran. They are the spiritual fathers of 911 and the real enemy.
OK. I feel better now.