I am not someone who is at all romantic about the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. He invaded neighboring countries with no provocation. He used weapons of mass destruction against opposing armies and against his own citizens. And the general reign of terror under his rule compares favorably only to places like North Korea. As I just posted here, even if he did not have weapons of mass destruction at the time of the US-led invasion, he certainly had had and used them in the past and it is not credible to believe that he would not have jumped to get them again at the first opportunity. I am not unhappy to see him out of power.
But from the beginning I suspected that the Bush administration was making a mistake in invading the country. The combination of arrogance and incompetence will certainly go down in history books as one of history’s major blunders. We just don’t know whether the blunder will have major long term consequences yet.
And now one of the most prominent conservative voices in America is regretting the failed mission. In his article on National Review Online, William F. Buckley, Jr. writes in part:
Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans.Think about that number: 130,000 Americans. Consider that it takes a police force of almost 40,000 uniformed officers to keep order in New York City, a mostly orderly place with a low (by US standards) crime rate where people mostly get along with each other – and the NYPD doesn’t even have to worry about border controls. Did the Bush administration really believe that three times as many soldiers could keep order in a country three times as large – and control the borders – in a country that has not known the rule of law in two generations?
Mr. Buckley points out that the administration was postulate-driven, rather than empirically driven. He lists two postulates they believed in:
…the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom.But he points out:
…the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymkers to cope with insurgents bent on violence.
…the postulates didn't work….Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.The Bush administration is the most ideologically driven at least since that of Woodrow Wilson – and the comparison is not flattering. Wilson’s idealism helped win a war – and lose a peace, with horrendous consequences. Many admire President Bush as a model of moral clarity who sticks to his beliefs. But much of that alleged clarity is at the expense of avoiding unpleasant reality that contradicts his ideology – and so far I see no evidence that he has changed any of his ideas on this issue. Maybe he would do well to remember Emerson’s warning about foolish consistency?