New Sisyphus: Why We Fight

Despite being a very busy guy, New Sisyphus took some time out to write a very cogent, very considered essay on why it was right to take the war to Iraq (emphases mine):

A number of reasons made dysfunctional Baathist Iraq the obvious choice: it was a once-prosperous, multi-ethnic community in the heart of the Islamic world that had been brutalized by an insanely aggressive regime that not only had invaded neighboring countries twice but had used long-banned chemical weapons in doing so. It also had an on-going program to further develop WMD for its use. It had used WMD against its own population to strengthen its rule by fear. It was still technically at war with the United States, violating a cease-fire almost daily by firing upon American pilots. It had attempted to assassinate an ex-President of the United States. It was supporting suicide bombing in Israel by providing financial benefit to such fanatic’s families. It had given refuge to terrorist groups and terrorist leaders. In short, Iraq was the poster child for the type of dysfunctional political culture that had given rise to the grievance-based ideology of Islamic Fascism.

Thus, Iraq presented the President with a convergence of strategic sense and tactical opportunity. Strategic, in that a conversion of Iraq to a more democratic and prosperous country would provide a counter-model to that proposed by the Islamic Republic and Bin Ladenism in the heart of the Islamic world; tactical in that its WMD program, aggressive behavior and some links to terrorist groups represented a threat to the United States.

In sum, the short-term problem of active Al-Qaeda support was solved (to some extent) by the change of regime in Afghanistan while the long-term problem of Islamic Fascism would be countered by the democratic rise of a new Iraq, leading to the spread of the ideals of democracy and liberty in the greater Middle East. Together, both prongs, along with the aggressive use of law enforcement domestically and abroad, diplomacy, and special operations in remote theatres, make up the wider War on Terror. Both were prompted by the adoption of war goals by the President, whose judgment was largely colored by what he felt were the central lessons of 9.11.

Thus, for the NY Times and liberals at large to say that Iraq had “nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks,” is to miss the larger point the President is making, made last night and will continue to make for the rest of his term. Iraq is central to the President’s war aims in that he seeks to inject a radical new order in the heart of the Middle East, one that will present an alternative and democratic space that will deflate the appeal of the fascism that gave rise to 9.11 and similar attacks.

For liberals to pretend not to understand all this—for them to lose their vaunted sense of nuance and understanding—reveals a profound and distasteful dishonesty on their part, as well as a whiff of desperation. Beyond indicting Bin Laden in District Court for the Southern District of New York, liberals have been without a strategic plan on how to win the War on Terror. In fact, they would deny such a war even exists.

Exactly. They didn’t get it during the Cold War, and they don’t get it now. Their ostrich-like perspective and their paranoid style of rhetoric has, unfortunately, stripped them of all credibility on issues of national security and foreign policy.

One important point, which I readily concede to antiwar friends, is that the Iraq War was a war of choice. Indubitably. But that’s like trying to decide where in the house to lay the roach traps, or even trying to decide whether to merely mop up after roach attacks, or proactively going after the roaches, or even worse, doing nothing at all. Similarly, Iraq was a crossroads of Islamofascism (of which bin Ladenism is only a variant), was already in a state of hostilities, and had provided plenty of legitimate reasons for the resumption of military operations.

Read the whole thing; it is without a doubt one of the best essays out there.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

6 thoughts on “New Sisyphus: Why We Fight”

  1. New Sysiphus nails it, but OIF’s critics are immune to facts – no matter how eloquently they’re laid out.

    I wonder how the Dem’s would have approached the “Iraq problem.” I recall that the voices in this country that advocated a relaxation of the U.N. sanctions regime are the same ones criticizing the war today. I can safely guess that once the sanctions were revoked and France’s TotalElfina began drilling in Saddam’s Iraq, the Baathist coffers would burgeon.

    How would he spend those monies? Would he up the pay-off to the families of Palestinian “martyrs” to a generous $50,000? Would he invest in a revamped war machine? Would he begin to build a new nuclear program under peaceful pretense, and with the avid support of Chirac’s France and Putin’s Russia? Would he expand the Baathist party’s power by greasing the palms of an expanded and largely inert army of “civil servants?”

    Gladly we won’t have to find out now. But the war’s mindless critics should be made to answer those questions, or they should shut-up!

  2. If Iraq is important to the jihadis, and they’re willing to fight there, then let’s fight them there. There are no obvious advantages for the enemy at that place, and in anything approaching an equal fight, they lose big. Beats fighting them at Logan or Kennedy Airport.

  3. Are these well articulated rationales by New Sisyphus or Robert Kagan (Quote of the Day 6/20/05) actually connected with Bush’s original decision process for going to war? Or are they ideas that we project and embellish on the slate of Bush’s rhetoric and leadership?

  4. These arguments seem quite self evident if one takes the trouble to think them through with a clear mind unfettered by Bush hatred or america hatred.

    That means that virtually no journalists in the western world are capable of approaching this topic with a clear mind. The overwhelming hatred toward either Bush, america, or both, prevents rational thought.

    Another way to look at it is that Hitler lives on in Islamofascism. Leftists support Hitler reincarnated, in their unending reactionary war against the western enlightenment.

  5. Mark, President Bush actually articulated all these points in speeches. A particularly lengthy address took place on October 7, 2002:

    Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? And there’s a reason. We’ve experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.

    On Saddam Hussein’s orders, opponents have been decapitated, wives and mothers of political opponents have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners have been forced to watch their own children being tortured.

    America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights, to the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery; prosperity to squalor; self-government to the rule of terror and torture. America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi’a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.

    Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq’s people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors.

  6. This was a helpful post (and helpful discussions) because they seem to cut through the noise.

    Speeches such as this do not seem to be news; they do not become part of our national discussion. I am not sure that is Bush’s fault; the White House gives them titles like “President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat” and they fall into black holes (even for pundits of the right). Maybe Bush should print them as ads in newspapers or run them on CNBC as infomercials. (Of course, if they were paid for by the government they would be illegal campaigning and paid for by the RNC they would be simple propaganda.) Maybe he should include in each speech news of a kidnapped child, murdered, or, best of all, molested but missing. Reporters would have to listen to find the nugget of “news.”

    Sometimes we do not seem a serious nation of grownups. I’m not saying all grownups agree with Bush, but some engagement with his arguments might be helpful. Such engagement presupposes a sense of history, geography, time. Quagmire and debacle aren’t words used when discernible changes can be reported–such as, oh, I don’t know, elections, Hussein in jail, Libya’s weapons turned in. And I’d like an occasional awareness of the dogs that haven’t barked. While the lack of WMD is brought up (ignoring the shades of gray of that), the humanitarian catastrophe, the refugee problem, and the rise of the Arab street are not.

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