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August 31, 2010

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Yet most of the people here and elsewhere in the US, even on the left, seem to be ok with it.

Is that the case on the Left?

It has always been a sidenote and a catchy slogan, never a good faith argument.

Here's the thing, do the people on the left that use that argument/slogan also support Gulf I?

And while I agree with you regarding the fact that we let a lot of other aggression slide, there at least was a legal basis for Gulf I in international law.

Another hilarious example of McCardle's reasoning and analysis.

Phil makes my point. There was never any side to this issue but his/Eric's. Everyone else was an idiot.

I didn't say you were an idiot. I said you were wrong. (Which you were!) (I mean, right?)

And that it behooves you to understand why you were wrong, not to continually be defensive (i.e., butthurt) when confronted about it by those who were right.

"This, to me, is the crux of it. Because if there's one thing I feel absolutely sure about, there will be a next time.

Unfortunately, given that many of the architects of our excellent adventure were just given TV airtime to take the President to task for not giving GWB enough credit for his awesomeness -- and given Tony Blair's new book ("Yeah, it's a bummer about all those dead kids and everything, but I'd do it all again") -- and given the iron-clad conviction of so many serious people out there (and right here) that the real tragedy of the Iraq war is that stupid peaceniks got an excuse to get all cocky about being "right," when they were just lucky...

...given all that, I think it's safe to assume that absolutely nothing has been learned. And when the next Republican administration decides that we absolutely cannot wait another day to act against Iran or Venezuela or Yemen or whoever, people like Phil and Eric and I will once again be wrong...even if we're right."

BRA-EFF-VO, Uncle.

Cosign.

Bah. I fail at praise. Bra-effing-vo. Bravo, with feeling. Yeah.

Nevermind.

Gulf war II was a cessation of the ceasefire of Gulf War I because Saddam did not fulfill his ceasefire obligations to be fully compliant with inspectors at all times. (Which is evident in the four year gap where the inspectors were basically locked in their hotels). Which is why Clinton started the war up again in 1998. (The idea that huge amounts of bombing don't count as war, is just strange IMO).

Does it make invading a good idea? No. Does it provide a legal basis in international law? Absolutely. And so did 1441. Blix was absolutely clear that Saddam, even with the US poised off the shore to invade, was not fully complying with the inspectors, setting up obstructing demonstrations, disallowing private interviews, interfering with the inspectors flight capability. You're fine on the moral case, but don't confuse that with the 'legal' case. (I use the scare quotes because the international law on war is notoriously slippery--causing such things as trying to deny for years that Sudan committed genocide because of the implications of the law.)

But arguing over the psuedo-legalisms of war isn't what I'm saying anyway.

In the "war for oil" category, Gulf II was no more "for oil" than Gulf I. In the sense of why we care about Iraq at all as opposed to Somalia, they were both 'for oil'. In the sense of why it was important to deal with Saddam in one or the other or both cases, it was not about oil. The differences in the actual moral cases between the two have nothing to do with 'war for oil'. Which is why it isn't a sign of good faith above to cite war for oil unless the person arguing is also arguing against Gulf I.

Does it make invading a good idea? No. Does it provide a legal basis in international law? Absolutely. And so did 1441.

No, it actually didn't provide a legal basis in the sense that the war was illegal under international law - even though there are "arguments" about why it shouldn't, none actually pass muster.

Gulf I was actually legal.

But otherwise, this is a side point that I, too, don't care too much for.

Point being that the UN authorized the combat in Gulf I, but didn't in Gulf II.

Some argue that we had a right to invade/bomb because of violations of past UN resolutions, but the resolutions didn't actually provide for that.

So, the one was illegal under international law, the other not.

Especially because there was no imminent threat to create a self-defense situation.

But, again, that's probably more than I care to delve into this.

Are you really that confused about the difference between somebody describing their understanding of what motivated a war, and approving of that war?

Your statement sounded pretty approving, actually. If you want to say "War for oil" doesn't mean making sure a vital resource can make it to market, so that we can compete on an equal basis at buying it at market prices, you should probably add "which I personally abhor", since it more or less sounds like an endorsement.

Another hilarious example of McCardle's reasoning and analysis.

Hilarious indeed, Phil -- thanks for the link. My favorite line:

How does one miss an entire chapter in a book you're writing about publicly?

Sigh. I'll say it again: doesn't anyone know how to play this game?

since it more or less sounds like an endorsement.

Not only that, but since this...

"War for oil" doesn't mean making sure a vital resource can make it to market, so that we can compete on an equal basis at buying it at market prices. It means the sort of war to take resources that we haven't been involved in for my whole life.

...strikes me as a distinction without a difference, I don't know why anyone would bother to make the distinction unless they were trying to justify approval of one in the face of disapproval of the other.

The whole thing is a befuddlement. Making sure something comes "to market" via armed conquest is a way of ensuring competition "on an equal basis"?

Right.

Right, but none of the arguments against II vs. I even remotely turn on the "for oil" issue. It is a slogan, not an argument.

"What do you mean "gamed the system before"? After Osirak, there was no inspections/sanctions regime for him to game. He didn't achieve that progress despite inspections/sanctions."

I did however want to revisit this. He gamed the entire IAEA system when he switched from plutonium to uranium. And of course the IAEA didn't stop Osirak either. The switch to the uranium program (with no useful nuclear energy coming out of it) strongly suggests that Iran and Israel were right about Osirak, and Blix's IAEA were wrong. The IAEA did not stop Osirak, Israel famously/infamously did. After Osirak, the IAEA praised Saddam for his further cooperation. After Gulf War I they found out they had been played, that his cooperation had actually just been distraction, and he was (according to the UN inspectors) less than a year from getting a bomb with that method.

That kind of history was very important to the case at the time. That history was important to making the Bush case for WMD *including nuclear* so persuasive. Saddam had completely shut down the inspections for four years. The UN didn't particularly care about it until the US had to literally bring the invasion force across the world and park it just outside. And *even then* Blix reports in January that Saddam is obstructing, and most crucially not permitting private interviews--which Blix says is one of the most important information gathering techniques. The out of nowhere near miss there, combined with the out of nowhere feel of the hit at the New York World Trade Center, made a lot of Americans think that further games weren't acceptable.

Now I'm perfectly ok with you saying that in light of all of the above, the invasion was still not justified. You're right.

But we shouldn't be hitting a charicature. And even for liberals who were right about the invasion, the non-charicature version can offer some useful sight if you bother with it.

For example, the UN letting the inspections cease for 4 years was a bad idea. The UN not ramping up the international push for the inspections to be re-opened in light of 9-11 was a bad idea. Security Council members in late 2001 and throughout nearly all of 2002 talking about ending the sanctions without bothering to push on inspections was a bad idea. Making the US actually park the invasion fleet on the doorstep before acting on the four-year closed inspections was an especially bad idea.

you would disregard all evidence in support of the possible presence of WMD for what inspectors on the ground failed to find. This is not reason or logic, it is ipsi dixit: inspections trump all, period, full stop.

Well, direct evidence is a great deal more persuasive than indirect evidence. As it should be. Evidence based on inference is worst of all.
So yes, even beforehand it was relatively easy to stack up indirect evidence and inference on one side, and direct evidence on the other, and make a pretty convincing case.
Put another way- if we knew, as we said, so much about Saddam's nuclear program, it ought to have been easy to direct thje inspectors there. The failure to be able to do that strongly suggests that the weaker evidence in favor was incorrect, rather than being correct about everything but getting the locations wrong in every case.

At that point, we had three choices (1) accept the findings of the inspectors (who could not and did not rule out WMD) and go home, (2) continue to hover endlessly, degrading morale, unit cohesion and effectiveness or (3) invade.

Why must point 2 contain "endlessly"? Why could we not wait another 6 months so that point #1 could either turn into "inspectors find WMDs and we insist that Saddam hand them over and destroy the facilities or we invade?" or "inspectors become more and more convinced that Saddam does not have any WMD capacity"?
In fact, does that not sound like the best solution, far better than the 3 that you offered? If your concern was that the inspectors didn't have a firm enough case one way or the other, how does that possibly lead to the conclusion that they should stop immediately and we should get our war on?

And of course the IAEA didn't stop Osirak either. The switch to the uranium program (with no useful nuclear energy coming out of it) strongly suggests that Iran and Israel were right about Osirak, and Blix's IAEA were wrong. The IAEA did not stop Osirak, Israel famously/infamously did.

I'm not sure I follow this. Why "should" the IAEA have "stopped" Osirak? It was not a violation of any treaty to which Iraq was a party.

Incidentally, AFTER Osirak, then Iraq began an active weapons program clandestintely.

After Osirak, the IAEA praised Saddam for his further cooperation. After Gulf War I they found out they had been played, that his cooperation had actually just been distraction, and he was (according to the UN inspectors) less than a year from getting a bomb with that method.

Actually, the IAEA always remained suspicious.

Incidentally, the attack on Osirak was also a violation of international law, and I wonder if you would claim that any Arab nation was "right" to bomb Israeli nuclear facilities.

Phil: I think the phrase "butthurt" is tainted with anti-homosexual overtones and I would request that you don't use it in the comments.

Thanks.

Phil: I think the phrase "butthurt" is tainted with anti-homosexual overtones and I would request that you don't use it in the comments.

A total aside: I've seen this phrase popping up a lot more lately in the political blogs, and I never really thought of it in that way. To the extent I thought of it at all, I think I was more parsing it along the lines of WATB: "widdle baby's all sad and whiny 'cause s/he got a spanking."

Just saying. Eric's blog, Eric's rules, bien entendu.

UK: Some of the commenters and others had expressed these concerns to me, and I'd just as soon err on the side of not offending people in such situations.

Oh. Well, John Cole's been using that term since...well, since before I started (and, much later, stopped) frequenting his blog.

I think. I don't even really remember what John was like back then all that well, but I think Phil was a fairly frequent commenter.

My apologies if I've got that wrong, Phil.

To me, "butthurt" is entirely unremarkable, but it's not a term I make use of, these days.

UK: Some of the commenters and others had expressed these concerns to me, and I'd just as soon err on the side of not offending people in such situations.

No argument from me, Eric.

No argument from me, Eric.

[tempted to go all John Cleese on you for that one ;)]

tempted to go all John Cleese on you for that one

No, you're not!

What UK said: Your blog, your rules!

It combines the homosexual slur with the 'take it and like it' rape garbage. It is akin to prison rape jokes. So to overanalyze, you've proven your dominance, you got to rape your effeminate gay victim in the ass, and if they 'whine' about it they shouldn't be all 'butthurt'.

Slarti, clearly I was!

Just today, Anne Laurie of Balloon Juice used the aforementioned offending terminology: "Squid Cloud of [email protected]@@hurt"

May we use "squid-cloud", which seems so descriptive so much of the "discourse" from certain quarters?

As for "bu**hurt", like the term "co**su*ker, I find either or both terms particularly useful in starting fist fights with the sensitive goat-f#cking manly men who refer to me and my fellow liberals as a "tra*tor" or c*mmunist or **z* during political discussions.

It's amazing how little free speech those types scan handle.

"There have been plenty of other violations of international law by invading neighbors before and since Kuwait's invasion by Iraq. Most of those we let slide. We didn't with Kuwait because of oil. Yet most of the people here and elsewhere in the US, even on the left, seem to be ok with it. Which strongly suggests that the 'war for oil' part of the decision isn't really how they/you make the decision of whether or not a war is moral.

It has always been a sidenote and a catchy slogan, never a good faith argument."

I thought I replied to this, but don't see my answer. Maybe I put it in the wrong thread or didn't click on the right button.

Anyway, your response seems to be to someone else. Maybe I wasn't clear. Leftist critics of the 1991 war said it was hypocritical because we didn't care about violations of international law in other cases (like East Timor) and they also said it was about oil and that if Kuwait's main product had been cashew nuts we wouldn't have cared. (I'm not completely sure about that--by this time maybe the US had decided Saddam had outlived his usefulness as an ally and were ready to put him in his place).

For myself, I think it was about oil and the international law rationale was hypocrisy on the part of the Bush I administration, but that the international law argument did have some force, even if our own government is hypocritical in deciding when it matters. I was opposed to the war in part because of the hypocrisy angle and also because I thought we'd probably commit some massive atrocity or other, which turned out to be true--the deliberate bombing of Iraqi civilian infrastructure probably did cause an increase in mortality rates.

On the question of international law violations, while this is not my internal compass on what constitutes the important parts of international law, Iraq invading Kuwait seems a lot more cut and dried (sadly) than slaughtering a particular minority in your own country, or deporting all the Roma as France is apparently working on. I'm trying to think of the times when one country took over another since Gulf War 1 and I'm drawing a blank. The closest would have been the Georgia-South Ossetia thing, but that didn't get anywhere near having one country completely occupy the other. Incidents before this, Tibet in 1950, and East Timor in 1975, but others where there was a functioning government, I can't think of any. This is not to accept that preventing nations from waging war against each other should be the highest goal of international law, but to claim that there because there were other violations, complaining that Iraq invaded and took over Kuwait is not a good faith argument, seems a huge stretch.

This is not to accept that preventing nations from waging war against each other should be the highest goal of international law, but to claim that there because there were other violations, complaining that Iraq invaded and took over Kuwait is not a good faith argument, seems a huge stretch.

That's true, but if we extend the cases from outright invasion-and-annexation then I think it's more clear that the US treats international law as compelling only when it wishes to be compelled. During the runup to Gulf War II, many people observed that the US was treating UN resolutions as binding to the point of war, where it has continued to support Israel's violations of UN resolutions.

On the third hand, Gulf War I was IMO a good thing. My problem isn't when we use international laws and institutions to achieve our ends, strengthening them and usually producing good outcomes. It's when we ignore international laws and institutions, weakening them and often producing bad outcomes. Kuwait was an example of international law and US foreign policy aligning, to the benefit of pretty much everyone (except the Iraqi ruling clique).

IMO the single largest foreign policy mistake of the US since WWII is our failure to build stronger, more respected international institutions. Or, I used to think that: now I guess Gulf War II would be #1 and that's dropped to second...

"aligning, to the benefit of pretty much everyone (except the Iraqi ruling clique)."

There were more that suffered than just the ruling elite.


link

The key phrase there is on the next page--that the US destroyed Iraqi civilian infrastructure in order to put pressure on Saddam.

This is the sort of thing that turns even "good wars" into war crimes.

link

On the third hand, Gulf War I was IMO a good thing.

I find this perspective difficult to fathom. I am not brave enough to walk up to a grieving mother and tell her "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but your son is dead because we just had to make sure that Kuwait was ruled by its original vicious dictator instead of this new vicious dictator"; maybe you've got the guts to look at a grieving mother and explain that but I don't, and I really can justify sending American soldiers to die unless I feel comfortable explaining why to their grieving families.

I find this perspective difficult to fathom. I am not brave enough to walk up to a grieving mother and tell her "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but your son is dead because we just had to make sure that Kuwait was ruled by its original vicious dictator instead of this new vicious dictator"

Saddam was a genuinely bad actor, iirc considerably worse than the Kuwaiti government.
Land grabs by force should be opposed by everyone.
Having a bad actor like Saddam grabbing big chunks of the world's oil is potentially destabilizing to the world's economy- for better or worse, at the time there was no quick way to get off of oil. (We've known since Carter that getting slowly off of oil would be a Good Idea, but this never gets implemented).
Having a bad actor like Saddam becoming more powerful as his military adventure grows unchecked opens other potential destabilizing paths in the Middle East- another war with Iran, a clash with the Saudis, etc.

As for the explaining to the family bit- I think that's a very bad standard to have, although I understand why you propose it. I mean, Id have a very hard time foreclosing on a family where the breadwinner had lost their job. Id have a very hard time telling someone that a loved one died in a drug test that didn't even produce a marketable drug. Id have a hard time telling someone that their family member died in a perfectly justified war in a feint meant to distract the enemy, or a badly-planned operation, or an offense made to satisfy an ally of our good faith effort rather than justified by the situation.

But those things need to happen- at least, one would have to propose a pretty serious reworking of our society to not have them. And, in the end, do more people die because we chose not to intervene and the Middle East gets out of hand? Do we wash our hands of it then and say- at least the harm here is from our inaction rather than our action, so we can duck responsibility if we're so inclined?

For example, the UN letting the inspections cease for 4 years was a bad idea. The UN not ramping up the international push for the inspections to be re-opened in light of 9-11 was a bad idea.

Why?

Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, nor do we have any evidence that he would have traded or given nuclear weapons to anyone who would use them on us. What does 9/11 have to do with it?

Carleton, if Saddam had restarted the war with Iran, he would have got applause from the usual suspects. From Saddam's POV it was of course much more reasonable to take on Kuwait: 1.weaker and much easier 2.some actual historical claims to the territory 3.perfect for a short decisive strike to improve his image damaged after the fruitless struggle with Iran

A couple of things.

First, I remember the run-up to Gulf I and there was considerable debate about whether it was (a) legitimate and (b) a good idea. There was nothing like a consensus, whether composed of conservatives, liberals, or anyone else, that we should go to war.

Second, the topic of the original post was the general lameness of McArdle's "mea culpa". It is, in fact, lame. It's jejeune, and callow, and is not a mea culpa at all, but a childish excuse for her original position.

"Whoops!" is not a word that's going to appear in a sincere acknowledgement that you misjudged an issue as grave as the decision to go to war.

For some reason, folks seem to feel obliged to defend McArdle's work. To my eye, she is a lazy and careless thinker and writer, with a tendency to irritable defensiveness whenever anyone calls her out on her poor work. As far as I can tell she has no academic or professional qualifications for covering the topics she's responsible for discussing.

Last but not least:

What does 9/11 have to do with it?

9/11 made it acceptable to go kick the living shite out of any available Middle Eastern Muslim nation.

All of the discussion of the details of international law, Hussein's history of stupidity and half-assed defiance of UN sanctions, the gassing of the Kurds and the attempted assassination of GHW Bush are interesting, but none of them are the reason we invaded Iraq.

We invaded Iraq because, post 9/11, we wanted Arab Muslim blood, and Iraq was the most likely target.

There were some additional perks and side bets that made Iraq particularly attractive to a variety of constituencies who were in a position to influence policy.

But net/net we invaded Iraq because we wanted to pound the crap out some Muslims.

That is the reality.

"Saddam was a genuinely bad actor"

So are we. Carleton, what do you think of how we fought Gulf War I? Should we have targeted Iraqi civilian infrastructure in order to harm civilians as a way of pressuring Saddam or causing a revolt that would overthrow him? I'd say no--it's a war crime.

I'll repeat my earlier point, because IMO it's one that gets glossed over a lot. Even when a war is just, and pushing Saddam out of Kuwait would qualify, it's not a warrant for using tactics that deliberately harm civilians.

it's not a warrant for using tactics that deliberately harm civilians.

What I remember most vividly from Gulf I was everybody watching missile strikes in real time on the TV and then talking about them around the water cooler the next day like it was some kind of reality show.

Seriously, it made me wonder what kind of people we were. I still wonder.

Really, it was kind of sick.

A guy I know works for a major defense contractor and occasionally has access to video of missile or other heavy ordinance strikes from Iraq or Afghanistan. He sends the "good ones" around to his buddies via email.

SSDD.

Nobody alive in this country has ever had their own, personal city or town blown to bits, or seen their own neighbors turned into hamburger, through an act of war. IMO we have a bizarre blind spot about the reality of what war actually is, and that blind spot distorts our foreign policy in really harmful ways.

What I remember most vividly from Gulf I was everybody watching missile strikes in real time on the TV and then talking about them around the water cooler the next day like it was some kind of reality show.

Yes. I had a friend at the time -- quite a good friend then, a friend no more now, and as I think about it the end of the friendship had something to do with who we are in relation to this kind of thing -- who was dazzled by the "precision bombing" she saw on TV.

This woman is a doctor, for crying out loud. But she's also the person from whom I first heard of Martha Stewart, so maybe that says something.

Saddam was a genuinely bad actor, iirc considerably worse than the Kuwaiti government.

Ah, I see. So do you think we're obliged to restore any dictator to power, now matter how awful, as long as the dictator who seized power from him is somewhat less awful? Is that the operating principle here?

Land grabs by force should be opposed by everyone.

I don't think this is relevant. Opposition, as in, "we strongly condemn" is meaningless. What matters in this discussion is military force. Do you think the US should go to war over every single land grab by force in the world? Should we have gone to war over South Ossetia? Or Lebanon?

Having a bad actor like Saddam grabbing big chunks of the world's oil is potentially destabilizing to the world's economy- for better or worse, at the time there was no quick way to get off of oil.

What does "destabilizing" mean here? And why couldn't we have adopted a wait and see approach? Is that because the most likely outcome would have been that we would have waited and seen no significant adverse economic effects?

At the end of the day, Iraq needs to sell us oil just as we need to buy the oil.

Having a bad actor like Saddam becoming more powerful as his military adventure grows unchecked opens other potential destabilizing paths in the Middle East- another war with Iran, a clash with the Saudis, etc.

First off, the US has no problem with bad actors becoming powerful. So please, let us dispense with this absurd fiction.

Secondly, there was no indication that Iraq was going to attack Iran or Saudi Arabia. And if Iraq did, well, we could respond with military force then. But such an attack wouldn't make much sense to begin with.

As for the explaining to the family bit- I think that's a very bad standard to have, although I understand why you propose it. I mean, Id have a very hard time foreclosing on a family where the breadwinner had lost their job. Id have a very hard time telling someone that a loved one died in a drug test that didn't even produce a marketable drug. Id have a hard time telling someone that their family member died in a perfectly justified war in a feint meant to distract the enemy, or a badly-planned operation, or an offense made to satisfy an ally of our good faith effort rather than justified by the situation.

I'd have no problem doing any of those things. People die sometimes. Because of screwups. But death seems a lot more tolerable if made in the course of, say, stopping a genocide.

Kicking a family out of their house sucks, but at the end of the day, a house is a thing -- it seems bizarre to compare losing a thing to losing your own child. In all honesty, I can't imagine making this comparison in the absence of mental illness. I know parents who have had to bury their children and their grief is not remotely comparable to that of people who have been foreclosed on.

But those things need to happen- at least, one would have to propose a pretty serious reworking of our society to not have them.

You haven't made the case for why we had to send soldiers to die in order to replace one dictator in Kuwait with another. You've just asserted it.

And, in the end, do more people die because we chose not to intervene and the Middle East gets out of hand? Do we wash our hands of it then and say- at least the harm here is from our inaction rather than our action, so we can duck responsibility if we're so inclined?

See, this sort of rhetoric makes it difficult to take you seriously now. Because minimizing the total number of deaths in the middle east, or indeed anywhere else in the world, is so obviously not a significant metric in American foreign policy. You are a smart guy, I'm sure you know this. It is insulting to all the people we've killed over the years to invoke our desperate desire to prevent needless deaths as a rhetorical strategy when convenient.

Nobody alive in this country has ever had their own, personal city or town blown to bits, or seen their own neighbors turned into hamburger, through an act of war. IMO we have a bizarre blind spot about the reality of what war actually is, and that blind spot distorts our foreign policy in really harmful ways.

I stopped listening to NPR news during the early months of the Iraq War (and I haven't gone back since). One of the final straws was a think-piece by a young woman in her early 20s. She'd been at work when a soldier in uniform showed up at her workplace. He was there to tell a coworker that her loved one (maybe son, maybe husband, don't remember) had been killed in action.

And what did the author of the piece take away from this? That her generation, which had been so sheltered up to now, was finally seeing "the reality of war."

She actually used that phrase to describe momentarily coming into vague contact with a tragic loss suffered by someone she admitted she barely knew. "The reality of war."

The callousness, narcissism, and blind entitlement of so many of my fellow Americans is rarely summed up so succinctly.

"Nobody alive in this country has ever had their own, personal city or town blown to bits, or seen their own neighbors turned into hamburger, through an act of war. IMO we have a bizarre blind spot about the reality of what war actually is, and that blind spot distorts our foreign policy in really harmful ways."

9/11 comes close enough to this, IMO--3000 dead. But your point stands, because our reaction to it became one of sheer hysteria and blind lashing out.

Carleton, if Saddam had restarted the war with Iran, he would have got applause from the usual suspects.
and
First off, the US has no problem with bad actors becoming powerful. So please, let us dispense with this absurd fiction..
and
See, this sort of rhetoric makes it difficult to take you seriously now. Because minimizing the total number of deaths in the middle east, or indeed anywhere else in the world, is so obviously not a significant metric in American foreign policy.

A number of people are under the mistaken impression that if I support any particular action by the US government, I support any and all actions by the US government. Or that if I use a particular justification, that I support any and all actions taken by the US under that justification. Or if I support something that is also supported by eg Dick Cheney, then I must support everything supported by Dick Cheney.
That is just sloppy thinking, and requires no further response.

Carleton, what do you think of how we fought Gulf War I?

Not the matter Im trying to discuss.

"Land grabs by force should be opposed by everyone."

I don't think this is relevant. Opposition, as in, "we strongly condemn" is meaningless. What matters in this discussion is military force. Do you think the US should go to war over every single land grab by force in the world? Should we have gone to war over South Ossetia? Or Lebanon? ... So do you think we're obliged to restore any dictator to power, now matter how awful, as long as the dictator who seized power from him is somewhat less awful? Is that the operating principle here?

Trying to intervene in someplace like Northern Ireland or Israel/Palestine or South Ossetia would be counterproductive I think. So no, we're not obligated to intervene when it likely produces a worse result than not doing so. Nor would it be useful to attempt to overthrow every dictator in the world, although Id certainly like to see a US foreign policy that was based on support for democratic institutions in general rather than only when convenient.
But in this case, I think that removing Saddam from Kuwait did more good than harm. Kuwait, while ruled by a king, also has a parliment and constitution, and a history of relative tolerance and freedom for its people. So it's a positive good to restore such a regime rather than allowing Saddam to expand his territory to include Kuwait.
[nb not saying that Kuwait is perfect, before someone tries to refute such a claim.]

Having a bad actor like Saddam grabbing big chunks of the world's oil is potentially destabilizing to the world's economy- for better or worse, at the time there was no quick way to get off of oil.

What does "destabilizing" mean here? And why couldn't we have adopted a wait and see approach? Is that because the most likely outcome would have been that we would have waited and seen no significant adverse economic effects?

At the end of the day, Iraq needs to sell us oil just as we need to buy the oil.

For the last point, consider the oil shocks of the 70s.
We don't agree that the most likely outcome was no destabilizion to the region or the world economy. Not an easy thing to prove either way.
What does "destabilizing" mean? I can't answer that any better than Webster can.

Secondly, there was no indication that Iraq was going to attack Iran or Saudi Arabia. And if Iraq did, well, we could respond with military force then. But such an attack wouldn't make much sense to begin with.

Because Iran and Iraq have always been at peace. Gotcha.
And there were no indications of an immediate attack on Saudi Arabia, but having allowed the absorption of Kuwait it would not be surprising if Saddam continued to expand his territory. And why would you argue for defending Saudi Arabia? They're ruled by an autocrat, so we can just let Saddam absorb them as well, right? No reason to sacrifice US lives to protect an autocrat.

Kicking a family out of their house sucks, but at the end of the day, a house is a thing -- it seems bizarre to compare losing a thing to losing your own child. In all honesty, I can't imagine making this comparison in the absence of mental illness. I know parents who have had to bury their children and their grief is not remotely comparable to that of people who have been foreclosed on.

I did not say that the two things were comparable in terms of their emotional impact. I said that they would both be very difficult things to do, but that they are necessary sometimes absent large-scale changes in society. I can't imagine making this misunderstanding in the absence of, well, poor reading comprehension skills.

You haven't made the case for why we had to send soldiers to die in order to replace one dictator in Kuwait with another. You've just asserted it.

Ive made a case. You may not like the case. You may disagree with the case. I don't know why so much of the debate on this site consists of claiming that the other person has not presented an argument.

9/11 comes close enough to this, IMO--3000 dead.

I agree, especially if you lived in NYC, worked at the Pentagon, or were on one of the planes.

The significant difference is that war at the scale that we brought it to Iraq is something like 1,000 9/11's.

Carleton, I did not really meant to critizize you. my remarks were meant as a slight correction and/or addition.
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But net/net we invaded Iraq because we wanted to pound the crap out some Muslims.

Rumsfeld is on the record saying that he preferred to attack Iraq instead of Afghanistan because there were to few good targets in the latter country.

Rumsfeld is on the record saying that he preferred to attack Iraq instead of Afghanistan because there were to few good targets in the latter country.

There were some additional perks and side bets that made Iraq particularly attractive to a variety of constituencies who were in a position to influence policy.

In Rumsfeld's case, the "perk" associated with invading Iraq was the opportunity it afforded to work the kinks out of his new and improved Leaner Meaner Armed Forces concept out for a spin.

As it turns out, he got to experiment in both theaters, and perhaps ironically his concepts were more effective in Afghanistan.

Eric: "One of the reasons cited for her, admittedly, flawed decision to support the war seems a bit odd, however:"

Megan: " I erroneously believed that I could interpret the actions of Saddam Hussein. He seemed to be acting like I'd act if I had WMD. Whoops! I wasn't an Iraqi dictator, which left huge gaps in my mental model of Hussein."

Megan's prime theme is that her superior Chicago econ training allows her to understand a vast number of fields where she doesn't know what's going on, or how the people involved think.

With that comment of hers she's basically admitted that 90% of her writing is no better informed or trustworthy than what the guy next to you at the bar is saying after six shots.

Gareth Porter has a good summary of the actual Iraq narrative, to counter the official hurrah narrative, by the way.

Pretty much.

Well...except for the conclusion:

For the Democratic foreign policy elite, staying ignorant of the real history of the Iraq War allows them to believe that deploying U.S. military forces in Muslim countries can be an effective instrument of U.S. power.

I don't think that they are ignorant at all. I think that they realize that their chances of maintaining domestic popular opinion without also embracing American militarism are slim and that any wavering will get them branded as DFH pacifists.

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