I grew frustrated reading Birney Imes’ Saturday rant about the Iraq war.
My frustration resulted from Mr. Imes’ repetition of the empty assertion that the Iraq war was a pointless endeavor. It seems obvious to me that a cursory examination of the state of the world 10 years ago and a comparison to today would lead anyone to at least acknowledge that some positive changes in the world have resulted from our Iraq efforts.
I agree that the price for those positive changes may be higher than we want to have paid. But another frustration arises: Exactly what alternative action are you proposing, Mr. Imes?
Consider these positive developments in the last 10 years, all or partially the result of our exertions in Iraq:
1) Iraq is no longer supporting extraterritorial aggression. It is a miss-direction to state that Iraq was not responsible for 9/11. No one ever claimed that it was. But Iraq indirectly supported many terrorist groups and it directly supported suicide bombers who attacked Israel on a regular basis. That activity has ceased.
2) Leadership in Iraq is now in civilian hands. Ten years ago Iraq had a large army and a brutal dictator, heading for a family dynasty a-la North Korea with Sadaam’s even more brutal sons lined up to take over.
3) Democracy in the Arab world: Iraq proved that democratic processes could have some foothold in the Arab world. Although not a direct result, I believe the “Arab Spring” is a long-term result of our establishing a foothold for democracy in Iraq. Will it bloom? I don’t know. But I don’t think it would have happened at all without our intervention.
4) Erosion of Al-Qaeda: The subsequent battles to gain control pulled in many jihadists who then found themselves pitted against US and Iraqi forces. We have shown that we win those battles.
Mr. Imes may think that our sacrifices in Iraq were somehow an optional expenditure to gain these benefits. Somehow I don’t think Sadaam would have suddenly decided to be a reasonable, responsible leader. The situation which started with the first Gulf War came to a head and the Iraq war resulted. Maybe a miracle could have happened?
Maybe some pinpoint mission could have taken out just the right combination of Iraqi leaders to result in a peaceful transition to the shaky democracy they currently enjoy? I don’t think so. I think the small gains we have seen have been earned through sweat and blood.
If there is any lesson, it is that the overthrow of totalitarian states is a painful process. We watch now the dynastic transition in North Korea and the growing tensions with Iran. Let Iraq be a lesson; neither of those states will overnight become Switzerland. But we either let them continue or, at the right time, we do what we can to make the world a better place.
I thank the U.S. Armed Forces for their tremendous efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. My world is demonstrably safer because of their work. And I thank our former President, George Bush for making the hard decisions, misunderstood decisions. I pray for our current President, Barack Obama, as we watch his hair turn white, as he makes decisions every day for the good of our country.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.