“From the moment that statue of Saddam hit the ground, the mood around the Rumsfeld campfire has been all high-fives, I-told-you-sos, and endless smug prattling about how the speedy fall of Baghdad is proof positive that those who opposed the invasion of Iraq were dead wrong.”
Ms Huffington, on the other hand, argues along the lines of the French political scientist Emanuel Todd – whose main argument regarding Iraq is that an increasingly weaker superpower (yes, he is thinking about ths US) chose to rethorically prop up a weak target to demonstrate its seeming military might – by saying that –
“[i]n fact, the speedy fall of Baghdad proves the antiwar movement was dead right.”
Well, I am not too sure about this conclusion – in fact there is no way to tell who was right and who was wrong. There’s enough reality for everyone to say “I told you so.”
So having heard why the anti- as well as the pro-war camp believe their world-wiew is right in light of the quick end to hostilities, let’s do a little thought-experiment: Imagine the war had lasted six months and there would have been thousands, if not tens of thousands more victims on either side, possibly killed by WMDs. Those in the anti-war camp would have said “see, we told you so”, war is horrible and there was no immediate need to let the genie out of the bottle, while the pro-war camp would have claimed “see, we told you so”, Saddam’s regime is in fact dangerous and it was the right decision to go in now. The sad truth for everyone looking for ex-post moral clarity is that right or wrong are just the wrong categories here.
But apart from failing to see this impossibility, Ms Huffington’s article makes the important point that, following the surprisingly quick and relatively unbloody fall of Baghdad, the neoconsevervatives’ “it was easy, we can do it again”-discourse should not remain unchallenged.
Right or wrong, the neoconservative conception of preemption was never just about possible Iraqi-WMDs or about liberation of the Iraqi people. The whole adventure is probably really inspired by the desire to jump-start modern institutions of governance in the Middle East. This can probably be called neo-colonialist. But maybe there is just no other way to increase financial support to unprecedented levels without taking hierarchical control of the regions where the money is spent. Maybe this is the right way to reduce the risk of suicide terrorists exporting their societies’ 30-years-jihad to New York, Paris, or Frankfurt. Maybe there is no other way to solve-slash-control the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of the Arab nations’ tendency to scapegoat Israel for internal problems, continuing mutual violence destroying any remainder of trust between leaders as well as their peoples, and, of course, the fertility competition Jewish settlers and Palestinians are engaging in. Maybe. But probably not. Probably, there is no short cut to modernity.
I have repeatedly stated that I don’t believe their calculation is correct. But it is clearly one possibility. And the relatively swift conquest-slash-liberation has clearly made things significantly easier. Thus, Ms Huffington is clearly right to remind us that – even though things went a lot smoother than, I suppose, even most of the people who bet their careers on this war expected – the difficult times are still ahead. In her words –
“The unintended consequences have barely begun to unfold.”
Didn’t the Shiite opposition boycot yesterday’s meeting with the future Iraqi “viceroy”, Jay Garner? I’m just saying… Remember – pride goeth before the fall.