Saturday, October 03, 2015

Why did we go into Iraq?

 Is it possible that what we sought to create over there was a democratic "beachhead" that was supposed to lead other Arabic nations to accept democracy? That has the advantage of being a more noble motive than oil, but it has the disadvantage of being doomed from the start.

14 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

What was so bizarre about the Iraq invasion was that the side of American politics (the conservative right) which is normally isolationist or an advocate of realpolitik took on a progressive mission. If a Democrat had been President no way Congress would have approved that invasion.

I think all the American politicians were temporarily stunned and confused, thinking that because a conservative administration wanted to invade there must be advantages and spoils. Imagine the surprise when it turns out that we didn't know what the heck we were doing, and that there weren't going to be any advantages and spoils.

Oh, that's right. We don't have to imagine what that would be like.

Victor Reppert said...

I think the natural position for conservatives is isolationist. But when the enemy was the communists, the conservatives thought we should be proactive in fighting it. Of course, now corporations are global, and I am afraid that while conservative Christians think that the Republican party is concerned about religious interests, they are primarily funded by large corporations and are primarily beholden to their interests, which from what I read in the Gospels, are completely at cross-purposes with the teachings of Christ. So because the Republican party supports them on things like abortion and gay marriage, they supply a lot of the ground volunteer force for the Republicans, but the money comes from the corporations, and in the last analysis, it's the money that does the talking.

Peter Johnson said...

And when you think it can't be more bizarre, someone's interpretation of Ezekiel, as explained by Patheos here, was important for President Bush http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kermitzarleyblog/2013/04/did-president-george-w-bush-use-the-bible-in-deciding-that-the-u-s-attack-iraq/

Jim S. said...

There's an extensive outline of the causes and motives behind the Iraq War by Steven den Beste here. He's a conservative, so take that into account. But the idea that oil was even a minor concern was just a conspiracy theory, like the whole Afghanistan natural gas pipeline hypothesis that Michael Moore advocated. The primary issue was, after going after the specific terrorist organization that was behind 9/11, we should go after terrorism in general, and to this end, we should go after one of the main terrorist sponsoring states. I'm not suggesting it was justified or that it was well-orchestrated, just that that was the primary motive given (of several). The Bush administration always presented the case for the Iraq War as a cumulative case argument. The media latched on to the weapons of mass destruction issue, but that was a subsidiary issue to the terrorist connection: the concern there was that Saddam might share his WMDs with terrorists (who could use them to attack us or our allies), so we had to remove him before he could.

Jim S. said...

I forgot to mention the main point I wanted to make. One of the motives given for the Iraq War was precisely what Victor mentions: to establish a beachhead for democracy in the Muslim and Arab world. There were several Iraqi blogs that popped up immediately after the war that sought to promote this: Iraq the Model, The Mesopotamian, Healing Iraq, Hammorabi, etc. It would have taken decades to see the result of this, and it probably would have required a continued military presence there, so I don't know if it could have been successful or not had we stayed the course.

Victor Reppert said...

I have severe doubts about the biblical motivation story. I have lots of problems with Bush, but I don't think this is very plausible.

By the way New Atheists Hitchens and Harris supported the war in Iraq.

Peter Johnson said...

The Bush-Chirac story can be traced back to this magazine, http://www2.unil.ch/unicom/allez_savoir/as39/index.html
What is the reason(s) for your doubts?

Btw, since I'm a Christian, the Hitchens argument don't turn me on...

Victor Reppert said...

I don't think there are plenty of good explanations for Bush's actions in Iraq without this.
The assassination attempt on his father is probably up there as a motive.

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

steve said...

Traditionally, success or failure in war depends on whether one side has enough force, and the will to use it, to defeat the enemy. In that respect, the terms of success are one-sided. If you have enough wherewithal, you control the outcome.

The Iraq war shifted control. Because it was packaged as a war of liberation, success was contingent on the cooperation of the Iraqis. That meant they control the terms of success or failure. It that respect it was unwinnable unless enough Iraqis shared our aims. It was predicated on a very optimistic scenario.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't think democracies work unless religious majorities are prepared to grant religious freedom to religious minorities. That had no chance of happening in Iraq.

steve said...

Unlike liberal and libertarian critics, I don't think the so-called neocons were evil. Rather, I think they were too reasonable. Rational to a fault. They were more reasonable than those on whose behalf (Iraqi Muslims) they presumed to speak.

It's like a throwback to McNamara, who thought winning a war was just an engineering problem. He failed to make due allowance for the human component.

Very cerebral people can make poor war planners and social engineers because they don't think like the people on whose behalf they presume to act. They don't have the same values. They are out of touch with that demographic. It's not their social circle.

Jim S. said...

An article I read towards the tail end of Bush's presidency was written by a journalist talking to an Iraqi woman about the freedoms they now (then) had. The Iraqi woman was just gushing: all her life they had to fear the worst atrocities from their own government, and now the danger of violent death was much lower and the people doing it were recognized by everyone as criminals and so had no official power. She was just over the moon at how wonderful her society was and was becoming. Then they saw a couple of American servicemen in the distance. Immediately the Iraqi woman's face clouded over and she expressed a desire to personally kill those servicemen for daring to be in her country, and seemed to sincerely hope that someone, at least, would kill them. The journalist was shocked, and said, "But it's only because of those servicemen that you have the freedom you were praising. They're the ones who gave you the freedom you were just extolling." The Iraqi woman's response was that it was humiliating for them to have been freed by someone else. They couldn't do it themselves, they were too weak, and now they had to see the superior strength of their liberators every day. The juxtaposition between her joy and appreciation of the gift and her contempt and hatred for the givers was astonishing.

Victor Reppert said...

This sketch, from Monty Python's Life of Brian, might help American leaders think clearly about how people in a foreign country would react if we went into that country, removed a bad leader, and set up an occupation. It doesn't matter how much good you do, it's their country and they want to rule it themselves.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father's fathers.
Loretta: And from our father's father's fathers.
Reg: Yeah.
Loretta: And from our father's father's father's fathers.
Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don't delay with the point. And what have they ever given us in return?
Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?
Reg: What?
Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that's true, yeah.
Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.
Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.
Reg: Yeah, all right, I'll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.
Matthias: And the roads.
Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads...
Revolutionary III: Irrigation.
Revolutionary I: Medicine.
Revolutionary IV: Education.
Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.
Revolutionary V: And the wine.
All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!
Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that's something we'd really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.
Loretta: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it; they're the only ones who could in a place like this.
All revolutionaries except
Reg: Hahaha...all right...
Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Revolutionary I: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

Jim S. said...

It doesn't matter how much good you do, it's their country and they want to rule it themselves.

But that was the idea, to let the Iraqi people rule Iraq themselves instead of being under the thumb of a psychotic. Letting people decide what kind of government they want is democracy. The occupation after the war was necessary in order to establish and maintain their fledgling democracy. We occupied Japan for seven years after the end of World War 2, and we still have military bases there. When I was in the Marines (20+ years ago) they closed the military bases in the Philippines that were from the Spanish-American War. So, of course people won't like being occupied by a foreign power. But I contest your claim that "it doesn't matter how much good you do"; I think it did matter for Japan and may have for Iraq. The problem is that a lot of it is guesswork: you're trying to do good that counterbalances the evil of occupying a country, but no one's going to know whether it really will counterbalance it for a couple hundred years.