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March 13, 2006

The "To Hell With Them" Hawks

Powerline quotes and critiques a Rich Lowry article in National Review (paper version only, so here's your chance to get a taste of it if you're not a subscriber).

Basic idea: There is a schism now between hawks. There are those who still embrace the idea of democratizing the Middle East.

And there are a growing number of those who once supported that idea who now say "The Hell With Them" all, let them rot.

I have to say that I was only a tepid supporter of the democratization project. It sounded good in theory, but I couldn't really get on the bandwagon of calling liberals "racists" for suggesting that democracy would have a hard time taking root in the bloodsoaked soil of the Middle East. My inclinations in this regard tend to be punitive and Jacksonian, not ameliorative and Wilsonian.

There's one big difficulty with the "To Hell With Them" position, though: It's a political disaster for Bush and American foreign policy.

As common wisdom now holds that Saddam did not have WMD's, was not a threat, and had no ties to Al Qaeda (all very dubious propositions, but accepted, I think, by a majority of Americans and certainly a great majority of the world's population), there is only one real remaining victory condition for a successful Iraq war: the transformation of the country into a functioning, peaceful semi-democracy which respects pluralism and human rights.

The "To Hell With Them" brigade, of which I could see myself joining had other victory conditions been more clearly met (finding and seizing WMD's, proving close connections between Saddam and bin Ladin of the sort the media would actually acknowledge), would essentially be calling for an acknowledgement of failure in Iraq were we to simply let the psychopaths butcher each other and let the country descend into civil war.

So, alas, we have to stay and fix this fucked-up country if we are to preserve American honor.

That's not the most tangible reason for continuing to fight a war, however. In fact, it's gotten us into trouble before.

I wouldn't say the project to create a stable, peaceful Iraq is doomed. Things may well work out. The threat of a civil war is frightening not only to Americans, but to the Sunnis who continue to support the terrorist insurgency, and they may recoil from the coming horror they are about to inflict on themselves at the last moment.

I have to admit, though, that if I knew the country were to be in this sort of shape this long after the invasion, I think I would have objected to the ground-troops option and supported instead a sustained airstrike campaign designed to simply destroy Saddam's ability to control his country. And then to let the inevitable civil war that would follow sort everything out.

In other words, if civil war is inevitable anyway, why have our boys in the thick of it?

I don't know that civil war is inevitable. It may yet be avoided. But if civil war does break out, I can't see how our invasion and attempts to rebuild the country can be viewed as useful.



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posted by Ace at 03:03 PM

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