Doug Bandow: Ground Shifting on Iraq


Since Steve graciously hasn’t pulled the plug on me (or Chris), I thought I’d drop a short post. (I don’t know if the failure to act reflects Steve’s natural good nature and tolerance or his busy search for the best angle of the sun, which has put the plug out of easy reach. But I’ll take advantage in any case.)
The deaths of 21 reservists in the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, have dramatically brought home the cost of the Iraq war for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention. The incidents should make us worry even more about the future. The insurgents/terrorists are using bigger bombs, one of which killed 14 Marines. The guerrillas also killed six snipers, presumably through close-in combat rather than a roadside bomb. It appears that the bad guys are mixing better intelligence with improved skills, which is a very bad combination.
Although I hate to think of politics when contemplating the deaths of so many sons, brothers, and fathers, imagine if they had died a couple of days earlier. There might have been a different result in the special election in Ohio’s 2nd district to replace former congressman and now trade representative Rob Portman. That race featured Paul Hackett, a Democrat who was an Iraq veteran and who vigorously criticized the administration’s Iraq policy. As it was he came far closer than anyone expected in the solid Republican district.
One bit of good news: traditional conservatives seem to be growing increasingly uneasy over the policies of this administration and Congress. The GOP really has grabbed the “big spending” mantle from the Democrats. Some on the right also are fretting over the ongoing mess in Iraq.
It wasn’t surprising that National Review online would run a piece of mine decrying Republican big-spending. (No entry barrier here–sorry about that with the earlier Salon article.) But I was particularly pleased that Human Events, which has been around for 60 years and was favorite reading for Ronald Reagan, ran my analysis of the London bombings.
I hesitate claiming to see a trend, but conservatives who really believe in limited government and the sort of international “humility” advanced by candidate Bush so long ago will have increasing trouble remaining silent.
Before I go I want to endorse Chris’ comments regarding Kosovo. I don’t think it is Clinton bashing to point out that President Clinton side-stepped the UN because he knew he could not win Security Council approval. I opposed both the Kosovo and Iraq wars, but in my view at least the latter arguably involved fundamental U.S. security interests, and could be solved by no one else. Kosovo was a tragic civil war, not unlike dozens elsewhere around the globe, but Milosevic was a bit player with no capacity to harm America. And the Europeans were capable of acting if they desired to do so. So the argument for acting without international sanction there was far weaker than in Iraq. (Of course, the ultimate consequences of the Iraq war are proving to be far more deleterious.)
Moreover, I believe that Kosovo was more important than Iraq in encouraging countries like India, Iran, and North Korea to develop or expand nuclear arsenals. It was Kosovo that dramatically demonstrated there were two categories of countries: those which bomb and those which get bombed. If you wanted to get into the first category, developing nukes was your best strategy. The Bush administration’s attack on Iraq has reinforced this lesson for any state that might have missed it the first time around.
Doug Bandow