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May 25, 2007

John Bolton Calls Occupation of Iraq A "Mistake"

Can't say I haven't had this thought myself. I don't know that he's right; just saying it's occurred to me.

While not intimately involved in decisions on Iraq, Bolton said his close observation of the situation leads him to some tough conclusions.

"It is what has happened in the last four years that's made our involvement in Iraq unpopular" throughout the world, said Bolton, "not the original overthrow of Saddam Hussein."

"If we had said shortly after that statue (of Saddam) came down in Baghdad, 'Here are the keys to the Green Zone, Iraqis — you have our best wishes and whatever support we can give as we are packing up and leaving, or at least moving out of Baghdad,' then I think public opinion in our country might be different.

"Having overthrown Saddam, we had an obligation — it was a short-term obligation — to provide security until some kind of government of Iraqis could have gotten back up, for us to hold the reins for a short time for them to start forming a government," he said.

But the notion that America had to occupy Iraq or guarantee the country's security for a protracted time, or indeed indefinitely: "I just think that's a mistake."

The U.S. properly acted to protect itself from the external threat of Hussein, Saddam, Bolton said.

However, it is the Iraqis' responsibility to decide for themselves what kind of government they will have, even to the extent of whether Iraq should be broken up into two or more countries, he said.

"We didn't have any responsibility to provide tutorage for them," said Bolton, adding that he didn't have a lot to do with Iraq policy because former Secretary of State Colin Powell "excluded me from it, probably the best favor he ever did for me."

Two things precluded that sort of quickie handover of power:

1) The failure to find of WMDs, which kept the US committed merely to searching for them far longer than I believed anyone imagined we'd have to. And then, having failed to find WMDs, we also failed to find Saddam for a long time -- leaving two key war-goals unsatisfied, making it more or less impossible to do a quick-and-dirty exit on the third (stabilizing Iraq towards decency and democracy).

2) Colin Powell's "You break it, you bought it" dictum. Which contradicts his "have a clearly defined exit strategy" dictum, incidentally, but no one bothers pointing out the Sage of Bureaucratic Asscovering isn't much of a deep thinker, because he's buddies with all the liberal politicians.

I never really understood that "you break it, you bought it" idea, as if we have an obligation -- independent of our own security interests -- to repair a country and nuture it into good health simply because we'd acted to remove a dictator from power. If it's in our own security interests to nation-build after a war, fair enough. But Colin Powell's rule didn't seem to be open to an evaluation based on self-interest. He seemed to be saying that no matter what our own interests and no matter what the costs, we have an anbsolute morality-based responsibility to commit oursleves to lengthy nation-building after every war.

Whatever the outcome of the Iraq War, I'd say that's another bit of discredited Powell wisdom. If we have to take out the government and military of Iran -- which we almost certainly will be forced to do -- I doubt very much the US will take a "you break it you bought it" position, nor that the public would permit them to even if they were so inclined.

Once we accomplish what needs to be accomplished in Iran, the operative rule will be "You made your bed now lie in it."

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posted by Ace at 02:50 PM

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