A Room with a Viewpoint

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax— Of cabbages—and kings— And why the sea is boiling hot— And whether pigs have wings.” (Lewis Carroll)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The War

For a number of reasons, you won't see many posts from me about the war. But I may from time to time (including today) post links to thoughtful commentary--or rather, commentary that makes me think.

And, for the baseline record, here are my thoughts on the war so far:

I don't know whether the Bush administration lied about WMD or was merely misled itself--and right now I don't really care. As far as a lesson to be applied in the future, as far as any political campaign that might involve Bush or Rice or Powell or any of the players, I believe it matters a great deal. For the present, it seems irrelevant.

However, FTR, my own belief about the rationale for war is this. I believe that Bush et al had decided a long time before then to go to war against Iraq. It had its reasons that may have been good or may have been bad, but I believe the decision had essentially been made. The only issue was to sell it to the public and the world. As with any sales effort, they chose what they believed was their strongest argument. As it turns out, it wasn't. Bad sales plan. But the question about the sales plan is a political one; the question about the war is a reality one. We bought the war, for good or bad. Let's decide what winning means, and then let's win it.

As the question about whether to go to war unfolded so long ago, I remember that I was pretty confused about the need for it. I didn't have all the information, nor did I have the expertise to evaluate all the information if I had it. My opinion seemed to change daily. But that didn't matter. I didn't have to make the decision. The facts are rarely clear, but leaders have to make decisions based on the facts at hand. They are second-guessed by people who didn't have to made the decision. I don't like Bush. I didn't vote for him, I still wouldn't vote for him. But he was and is president and he made a decision--one that was "supported" by Congress (including a number of legislators who were against going to war, but who voted after putting their fingers to the wind, instead of based on their consciences). Once it was decided to go to war, we had one choice--to win.

The one thing that I remember clearly about that time was that I had a great fear that we had no clue about what we would do once we won the war. We believed we would win, people would cheer in the streets and we would go home. Even I knew we needed a better plan than that. I believe the U.S. and its allies spent nearly the whole duration of WWII planning for the military government that would be necessary once we won the war. We were ready to go into Japan and Germany and other countries the second we won them. We didn't have nearly as much time to plan for the win for this war, but it seems clear that we didn't use even the time we had. Unfortunately, my fears were proved true.

We won the war, but we badly bungled the after-war. We will pay for this for many years. At some point, we may have to take the very sad but necessary step to "declare victory and go home." Again, I don't have the information or the expertise to decide when this might be. I wish we had the ability to make a good decision about this. But we seem so polarized that every voice is drowned out by the shouters on both sides who seem only to wish to score points. The Democrats attack and the Republicans attack back. But it's all hat and no cattle (sorry, but I love that phrase).

We can't cut and run. It would be disastrous to us, to Iraq, indeed, to the world. But I still feel that we don't really know what we're doing. I still don't feel like we have a plan.

Oh, and on to the commentary I promised. Charles Krauthammer believes we need to shut Saddam up.

UPDATE: Another thoughtful commentary, from a soldier on the ground (found on my visit to Delftsman3):

Though soldiers bleed for the right to dissent, we must remember that at times dissent will embolden our ... enemy...
Such is the dilemma of a free society.