Some Libertarian readers of my June 17 and 18 articles on Iraq, ‘Peace Requires a Permanent Commitment‘ and ‘Our Intolerable Success in Iraq,’ have interpreted them as apologia for George W. Bush’s initial invasion and have taken the occasion to excoriate them on that basis. I stand accused of defending a permanent commitment, not to peace, but to war. I hear of the many Iraqis now nostalgic for at least the stable and predictable times under Saddam Hussein. I am told that our over-extended global adventures must ultimately lead to the collapse of our global empire, as they did with (now not-so) Great Britain. I am asked to consider how people from around the world, in particular South America and the Middle East, feel about our interventions in their countries. They tell me that to be pro-free-market, and to be logically consistent, requires being non-interventionist if not isolationist. And finally, the whole notion of fearing ‘the terrorists’ (their quotation marks) is ridiculed as so much irrationality, comparable to the communist ‘red scares’ of yesteryear that turned out, according to them, to be groundless.
While I do defend the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 as arguably the best that could have been made under the circumstances– with virtually the entire world, including prominent Democrats like Hillary Clinton as well as the UN, France, China, and Russia in unanimous agreement on the facts about Saddam Hussein, his crimes, and his intentions–that wasn’t the primary point of my articles. My point was that given the stable status quo of 2008-2011, the decision to withdraw in 2011 and pretend that Barack Obama had masterfully achieved the peace and triumphed over Bush was a short-sighted and politically-motivated blunder of colossal magnitude, if not a crime.
That said, having unleashed the Libertarian furies, so to speak, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that we respond to at least some of their more thoughtful comments.
By “permanent commitment,” I mean keeping the peace that has been won at the cost of blood and treasure in police patrol mode. What city in the United States today decommissions its entire police force once the murder rate (temporarily) drops below some threshold? Would we try that in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Detroit, and then congratulate ourselves, proclaiming that “Our urban war in America’s cities ends this month”? If the peace is kept more effectively and justly by us than by anyone else, then we are the ones who must do it. This doesn’t mean we charge into any and every unstable country to impose our will. But it certainly means we stay where we find ourselves the only thing standing between relative justice and open kill zones, even if it wasn’t our political party who got us there. The decision to pull out of a former theatre of war is at least as serious as the decision to go in in the first place, perhaps more so if recent experience is any guide. The next Republican president will have to deal with the world as Obama left it, not as he should have or as President Romney would have.
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom