GULF WAR II: Did the U.S. do the wrong thing for the right reasons?

Since this is a GD thread, I’d like to get the opinions of the Doper community regarding the most-recent war in Iraq and whether our actions for going to war and our motivations (i.e., overthrow an evil despot, enforce the UN ban against WMD, spread democracy in the Middle East, secure a steady supply of oil, etc.) for doing so were justified.

I’ll save my own opinion for later. Right now, I’m opening it up to all possible arguments on the subject.

Right thing, wrong reasons. This was my favorite justification. Two birds meet one stone. Saddam. Splat! Sanctions. Splat!

That was not initially offered as a justification, it was only thrown in later as a red-herring to confuse the issue for those who oppose the war for other reasons. The supposed justification was that Iraq had WMDs and supported the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attack.

This is a pretty weak argument, since the UN didn’t authorize the war. To say that we were carrying out a UN mandate that the UN didn’t want us to carry out, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“Spreading democracy” is not a very good justification for war. A lot of countries are going to interpret that as American imperialism.

I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.

Actually, I think the US did exactly the opposite : the right thing (removing Saddam from power) for the wrong reasons (I’m not going to elaborate on this one, since there has been one thousand thread on this topic).

We did the right thing for arguable reasons in probably the wrong way at almost certainly the wrong time.

To explain:

  • the right thing

Obviously getting rid of Saddam is the Right Thing™.

  • for arguable reasons

The rationale for the war was (and still is) iffy in my estimation. There were humanitarian reasons, but I don’t think anybody should believe they were the primary motivation. More importantly, it is the brutality of the Ba’athist regime that helped lead us to feel that Iraq was a substantial threat to national security. The events of 9-11 brought the fear of foreign powers to a peak, and the war with Iraq was a product of that fear. Whether or not that fear for national security was justifiable is an open and debatable question, but IMO it was not.

  • in probably the wrong way

As has been constantly debated elsewhere, the post 9-11 goodwill and sympathy of the rest of the world has eroded… the reasons should be self-evident, though no doubt some of you are in serious denial on this point.

  • at almost certainly the wrong time

A real effort at reconstructing Afghanistan would have gone a long way toward demonstrating our good intentions. But instead our attention wavers there, as it will likely do in Iraq. Indeed, the attention span of the American people now seems to be woefully short unless Americans might die or are dying, or perhaps if massive numbers of people are dying at all once.

We long for the quick fix, for maximum return with minimum effort. We want our quick weight-loss programs that cost us nothing but three easy payments of 19.95. Instead, we wind up with garages full of unused plastic crap, 10 more pounds on our guts, and small spaces in our wallets where 60 bucks used to be. Oh sure, we’re willing to suffer for a few weeks, maybe months. But after awhile we slip right back into the same habits. After a few months of national building, Iraq will slip to the bottom of the third or fourth page of the newspaper. “Another American Soldier Dead Today” or “Iraqi Cleric Slain” it might say in small print, right there beside the ad for Sears or Saks Fifth Avenue. “Riots in Baghdad” across from the next new thing in women’s shoes, this year’s best stock picks, the hot action movie.

Oh, certainly… Americans will take a challenge to their survival with the best of them. And many individuals will show resolve to the end, carrying out their valiant struggles to their dying breaths, above and beyond the call of duty. Yet as a collective in the face of prosperity and apparent safety, the individual American frequently takes a limited view of his own world, as does the individual anywhere for that matter. The plight of the Iraqi people will quickly grow old in our minds, and our eyes will turn from them, only to be inspired to rage when we start to realize the number of our soldiers who are being butchered in an effort to bring freedom to people we think ignorant. And we will butcher them back, and so on, and so on, until we are tired and leave.

Alright, so it doesn’t have to turn out that way. I really hope it doesn’t. But we are not our grandfather’s country, not really, not if we’re honest about it. In some senses, that’s a good thing, but in others it is not. I think we’ve deceived ourselves by remembering the glory days of the past through a nice prism–we read Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and like to see ourselves as heroes. Like them, we’ve “lost” our innocence. Yet those who couldn’t conceive of a 9-11 were, in fact, shown to be naive of the world around them. After all, plenty of signs from the past pointed to the possibility of such a disaster. We were surprised at Pearl Harbor too when we really shouldn’t have been. The Trade Centers were targets in '93 by the same man. And we had seen a small plane try to hit the White House–a madman’s effort to assassinate Clinton. Even to an untrained eye, without the security clearance of a John O’Neill, it was not so hard to connect the potential dots. Personally I thought terrorists might some day use private jets laden with high explosives, remotely piloted. I suppose they still might, but I guess pragmatically hijacking is cheaper and easier.

It’s a dangerous world. Our populace has long been blessed and cursed with a near-sighted view of that world coupled with a veneer of safety. In this instance, that myopia bit us hard. And I think it’s going to continue to bite us because we refuse to admit we need glasses.