Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Vichy Democrat's View

If you go into your logic pretzle with the supposition that the war in Iraq was a complete mistake, you can come up with some interesting and thought-provoking conclusions, as Thersites of Vichy Dem posted recently in my comments:
But with Iran feeling threatened, our troops at the breaking point, and the UAE ticked off, I think we're going to have to face a nuclear Iraq fairly soon. An outcome that, had Bush not invaded Iraq, we wouldn't have had to face.
Thersites thinks our invasion of Iraq speeded up Iran's nuke-quest, that the public's rejection of the UAE in the Dubai Ports deal reduces our Iranian options since we need UAE's ports and proximity to Iran, and that the "failure" of the US to contain the Iraqi insurgency has reduced Islamists' fear of the US.

He fails to consider that Iran began its active pursuit of nuclear weapons 20 years ago. They may have done so because they feared a US invasion -- or because they wanted to eliminate those infidel Israelis Jews or Sunni Baathists -- but they didn't start their program because the US had invaded Iraq.

And what if we hadn't invaded?

For starters, we'd have active WMD programs in two neighboring nations, both quite hostile to the US. Sure, you can point to the fact that we didn't find real, live WMDs in Iraq (other than some nerve gas reserves), but no one can rationally support the view that Saddam wasn't pursuing WMDs aggressively.

Perhaps the Sunni/Baathist Iraqis would have used their nukes against their Shi'ite/Islamist Iranian neighbors, or vice versa, but it's much more likely both countries would ultimately have found a way to use them against Israel, Europe or the US. Or, Saddam could have used them against the Kurds. Or Iran could have used them against the Saudis.

Even if none of these decidedly unattractive alternatives came to pass and the weapons weren't used, they would severely limit our options for keeping this critically important corner of the world relatively stable.

If we hadn't gone to war in Iraq, would the Islamists think we were a greater, more powerful country, as Theresites posits? Doubtful. Islamists hate us because we're us, not because we invaded Iraq. And not going into Iraq would have reinforced the view that we are a paper tiger that can be challenged.

Also, had we not invaded Iraq, the Islamist armies would not have been tied up there and would have been doing their dastardly deeds elsewhere, so we either would have gotten involved elsewhere, or we would have an even greater reputation as a paper tiger.

It's easy to ask "what if?" and it's a useful exercise to ponder it. But it's impossible to answer the question, and our current strategies shouldn't be based on these speculations.

Theresites is right about Dubai, though. The importance of the UAE to us militarily is unarguable, and should have been given great weight before the Dubai Ports deal was sprung upon us.

Remember how the news was sprung -- by lawsuits, as reported on CS-M on Feb. 18 -- not in any carefully thought-out way. In the long run, the handling of Dubai Ports will go down as one of the most significant strategic blunders of the Bush adminstration.