A recurring theme in the comments about Iran is that we could have dealt with Iran if only Bush hadn’t foolishly squandered our resources and our people’s trust with his horrible misadventure in Iraq.
What are we supposed to make of this?
Well, first of all, I’d say that an insurgency and a thousand deaths per year is a small price to pay to keep Muslim fanatics from getting nuclear weapons. If we can bungle Iran four times as badly as Iraq, but ensure there’ll never be any nuclear weapons to find there, we’ll be way ahead of the game. The Iranian government cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons – their officials have made too many flippant comments about the advantages of a nuclear exchange with Israel (a.k.a. the Little Satan; remember who the Great Satan is?), for one thing, and for another thing Iran is known to sponsor terrorist groups that it will have no incentive whatsoever to restrain once it has its own nuclear weapons. Even if they never use nukes on us, how’d you like Iranian sponsored terrorists frequently setting off regular bombs in the US?
So the prospect of “another Iraq disaster” sounds pretty damn good to me compared to the alternatives.
Now, assuming that we decide to use force to deal with Iran, would we be in a better or worse position if we hadn’t dealt with Iraq? Without a large body of troops already in Iraq, how exactly would we invade Iran? Over the mountains of Afghanistan? From Kuwait? Let’s not be silly. Not only that, if you don’t think we can invade Iran with an active insurgency in Iraq, how’d you like to try an invasion and occupation of Iran with Saddam Hussein in power next door? Maybe invade both at once? (Actually, that wouldn’t have been a bad idea two years ago… better to be hung for a sheep, as they say. What’re people going to do, accuse us of imperialism?).
Finally, let’s take a look at this “betrayal” that supposedly has all right thinking people aghast at the very idea of doing any other military operation anywhere in the world…
The one thing we need to understand is that this “insurgency” we’re dealing with would attack anywhere American troops went that they could reach. And if American troops went anywhere that lots of people live, those insurgents would hide among those people. They’d do that not because Americans enrage the population or because Bush is an idiot, but because those tactics make it easier for them to kill American soldiers without getting killed themselves. They’re the enemy, and the enemy is going to go for the strategy that we have the worst time dealing with.
(And they’ve also got a nasty habit of killing civilians that get in their way or show too much enthusiasm for this individual liberty and democracy crap, or take too much candy from us. They’re the bad guys!)
The only open question was how many insurgents there were going to be; how many people would actually pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the cause of slavery and tyranny? This number is not easy to determine beforehand, and it seems this number was underestimated at the outset of the war. Such is war. We’d have had to deal with these characters one way or another eventually; the Iraq war is not the worst way it could have played out.
But what about the missing WMD? First of all, no one ever said that there were definitely WMDs in Iraq. The problem was that we didn’t know what the Iraqis had or what they were working on because they weren’t cooperating with the inspectors charged with finding this out! Second, it’s a good thing we didn’t wait until there were WMDs to find, or else they would have been used against us, and our body count would have been in the tens of thousands two years ago. Third, it’s a damn good thing we didn’t wait until there were WMDs to find in Iraq and a known nuclear program in Iran. Saddam wasn’t going anywhere. His sons weren’t going anywhere. The sanctions weren’t going to last forever any more than they did in the 1930’s. The fact that we went in before we had any real knowledge of WMD progress and found out there was none is not a betrayal! It’s a relief.
(And yeah, there were intelligence reports that suggested there was nothing to find. You think we should have taken them as Gospel? Have you ever heard of a 100% reliable intelligence report? I haven’t.)
Well, what about the fact that we sent too few soldiers or too little equipment? That objection presupposes that we’ve got more soldiers and/or equipment that we could have sent… you think there might be a good strategic reason to hold some of it back in case something else needs dealing with? Something like another tyranny working on WMDs, perhaps?
Let’s keep our eyes on the ball here. The whole area is infested with people who think killing non-Muslims is a good way to get to heaven. Al-Queda was the first group to jump the ocean with a spectacular way to kill lots of infidels; there’s no reason to assume that they’re going to be the last. We’ve got to stop them from getting WMDs (you know, the rationale that everyone supposedly would have accepted for the Iraq war but somehow practically undeniable efforts toward WMDs on Iran’s part don’t justify the exact same thing there…), and we’ve got to somehow pick out and kill the worst of the fanatics before they hatch another mass-murder plot, and we’d really rather do it without incinerating millions of civilians in the process. A military presence in the Middle East, preferably in a good strategic spot such as Iraq, is absolutely imperative, and if it brings the jihadis out of hiding, that makes it easier to find them and kill them. The bad guys are not winning, and we’d need to keep fighting them even if they were.