From the Washington Post:
Feb. 22, 2006, is the day the Bush administration says everything in Iraq changed.
Before that day, military and administration officials frequently explain, Iraq was moving in the right direction: National elections had been held, and a government was forming. But then the bombing of the golden dome shrine in Samarra derailed that positive momentum and unleashed a wave of brutal sectarian violence.
This is what gets me about people’s reaction to this war. I simply do not understand the number of people who have changed their mind about it. I’m especially annoyed with politicians like Hillary Clinton who seems to think she was deceived about the war. I commend John Edwards for saying he was wrong and apologizing. Nonetheless, I simply question all of their good judgment, and I have to ask what it is about this war that is surprising such as to cause them to change their minds? What on earth did they expect would happen?
The one doubtful issue was the presence of weapons of mass destruction. I opposed the war even if such weapons existed in the region not because I think a nation like Iraq, then or now, should have such weapons but because I didn’t think that was the most useful place to get them anyhow. People overestimate the value of a large country, friendly to terrorists, as a base. No doubt it is useful, but terrorists are often, unfortunately, more creative than their opponents. Governments keep thinking massive logistics, coordination, detailed planning, and command and control, while terrorists work around those things as necessary.
Nonetheless, even though I personally didn’t think it merited such priority, destroying materials and weapons would have been a reasonable goal for a war. It could be accomplished, finished, checked off, and declared a victory. The Iraqis were acting guilty, and there was enough evidence for a warrant.
But again, even so, there was the problem of what you’re going to leave behind. From a military point of view, you need a specific objective and the means to accomplish it. From the political point of view, and even from a more strategic military point of view, you need to see a situation develop from accomplishing those objectives that is better than the previous situation. Is Iraq less or more dangerous when all is said and done than it was before? And that is where I see the problem. Our troops didn’t fail. Certainly there have been problems of tactics and logistics, and political maneuvering that is not the greatest. But the one big problem with this war was there before we went in and remains there now. It hasn’t changed. There simply is no “after the war” scenario that is going to make things better than they were before.
We want contradictory things. Democracy, but no Islamic republic. The will of the Iraqi people, when the Iraqi people themselves divide into community without a strong, common national interest. Iraqi sovereignty, but measures that guarantee the security of the United States.
If we could accomplish all those goals, the cost in lives would be reasonable. I know many people will protest, but I’m a veteran myself, and when you go into the military, you know you might die. You may not think that you, personally will die, but you must be ready to put your life on the line for your country. If I were still in the military, that would be what I’d do. Further I expect politicians to be able to look at the folks in the military services and ask whether their lives will be well-expended. A peaceful, stable, democratic Iraq without weapons of mass destruction would be worth such lives.
The problem is that it isn’t going to happen, not with any amount of resources and lives we have at our disposal. That’s the tragedy of all this. There’s no turning point. Our troops have done well with the resources and the goals they were given, but the goals were badly laid out–not just badly stated. They were bad goals.
I recall a national championship game in which Nebraska played Florida and defeated them overwhelmingly. A radio commentator and Florida fan were discussing the game the next day on a call-in show, and the fan asked what was the turning point of the game. “Turning point?” said the commentator. “The turning point was the singing of the national anthem.” In the case of Iraq, the turning point was when the military was sent in to do a job that was not politcally feasible. No blame should attach to them for not accomplishing the impossible.