A Challenge to Those Who Supported the War

Orin Kerr has posted a very interesting challenge to those who were enthusiastic about going to war with Iraq. I hope that people take him up on it.

Another challenge would be to those who opposed the war: What do we do now? (Pulling the troops out this afternoon is one possible answer, but those who give that answer should have to acknowledge that it would entail A) significant additional loss of life for American and Coalition soldiers, as pulling out in a rout and under fire is not the same as the withdrawal from Gulf War I, and B) it would almost certainly mean the collapse of the new government and a horrifying civil war that would make the present violence seem tame by comparison.)

28 Responses to “A Challenge to Those Who Supported the War”

  1. We spoke about this about a year ago. I said then that we should declare victory and hand over authority to an interim government. If we had done that then, I submit that the now dim prospects for peace, liberty, and stability in Iraq would be brighter than it is now (though still very bleak).

    Now….because we have “decided to stay the course” the insurgency has grown, the crediblity of the Allawi government is in free fall, all recent polls indicate that the Iraqis want us to leave, and (if Novak is right), Dubya plans to bail after he is safely reelected.

    Let me ask you a questions that I asked you then: Why do you think can be accomplished by staying in Iraq? When do you think it will be time to withdraw? If you are waiting for the situation to improve, I suggest that the last year indicates that sticking around will only produce a greater waste of American lives and treasure.

  2. How about an opposition to nation-building! The war is over and Saddam’s Baathist regime has been smashed. We have moved on to a new project to transform the Arab culture, or at least Iraq, into a scaled down version of a liberal democracy. Let’s back off that goal and focus on stability in the short term by seeking a federal system that accepts local realities.

    Most of Iraq is stabilizing to a considerable extent with the exceptions of the Sunni triangle. In the Sunni triangle, Sunni Jihadists have taken control of cities like Falujah. He’s my plan: respect any tribal leader, Sheik, or local strong-man who can stabilize a region as long as they give no support to Jihadists. Show that respect by pulling out of those regions. Ruthlessly take-down all areas that support, harbor, or are controlled by Jihadists. This is a clear policy that rewards those who do us no harm and punish those who support our enemies.

  3. Bill Woolsey

    Isn’t consequence A a straw man?

    I believe the Libertarian candidate
    for President, Badnarik, is calling for
    a 90 day phased withdrawal. I think it
    is likely that some kind of orderly withdraw
    could be handled with no more American
    injuries than maintaining the current
    status. My guess is that fewer injuries
    would be likely. At least some Iraqis are
    fighting because they want the U.S. out,
    not because they have some desire to impose
    damage on U.S. soldiers.

    As for the consequences of option B, why
    exactly should Americans be protecting
    the Kurds and Shia from the Sunnis? Or
    is it that we are protecting the Sunnis
    from the Shia and Kurds? Or are we worried
    about the shoot out between the Shia and
    Kurds after the Sunnis are supressed?

    The invasion of Iraq was always likely to
    result in an Islamic Republic run by the
    Shia in alliance with Iran. Tell Sistani
    we are leaving and ask who he plans to
    tell the Shia voters to support, turn it over
    to that person, let them form a mass Shia army
    and get to suppressing the Sunnis now.
    (All of those Mahdi soldiers will make fine
    cannon fodder for the new Iraqi army.)

    I can see why Sistani and company are glad to
    have us suppress the Sunnis for them. Why
    do we want to do it?

    What is the alternative? The U.S. runs the
    place until the vast majority of Iraqis of
    all sorts covert to some version of liberalism?

    In other words, U.S. rule until the end of time.

    My view is that having the U.S. impose liberalism
    will do more to discredit liberalism than just
    about any other policy.

  4. I opposed the war, supported inspections, and have been consistently critical of post-war reconstruction and occupation policy. That said, I don’t think now (and never thought) that we should pull out precipitously. Instead, we should honor our responsibilities and stated committments and INCREASE our investment and spending, REASSESS our military occupation policy fully and without political blinders, and throw whatever moral and political authority we have in that country behind an open and robust CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS that will result in a viable representative state. The administration has been doing the bare minimum it could get away with: that is what needs to change.

  5. Get out very soon. Perhaps in a month, as suggested above. We owe something to the Iraqis who trusted us, foolish as they were, and an immediate right to emigrate to the US is perhaps the best we can offer them.

    We MIGHT also be justified im offering the Kurds weapons to preserve their independence. This is for three reasons. First, they trusted us. Unlike Bush sr., I think that creates some kind of moral obligation on our part. Second, in the long run a united Iraq on nationalist lines with a relatively free government is almost certainly impossible in the foreseeable future, and we should honor those who have managed to put together an independent relatively free society (by the standards of the area), and help it survive. Third, the only tribal societies that have any reasonably successful lengthy records are ones that were relatively homogeneous. Based on this experience, the Kurds have a shot at it. I do not know what to do about Turkey on this issue.

    From what I have read, we are not making things better, even slowly. The trend is going in the other direction. Colin Powell,less dishonest than the norm in that administration, has admitted that things are getting worse. If we haven’t been able to do anything by our presence but continue killing people and getting our own people killed, it makes no sense for us to stay, and those believing otherwise should put their bodies where their mouths are, and volunteer to go over there. Otherwise they should not call themselves libertarians or perhaps even classical liberals, until they have seriously contemplated the work of Hayek. from a Hayekian perspective, nothing that has happened is unexpected.

    A civil conflict in Iraq will probably be brutal, but it will end with either a Shiite strongman (my guess) or a negotiated peace. Removing American troops will leave the solution to the Iraqis themselves. They live there, it is their country, and they are the ones with the most at stake. Who else is more qualified? It is clear to those with eyes that the Bushies are not interested in anything but their own election. No one could be less capable than these imbeciles of contributing constructively ti Iraqi affairs.

    If we get a Islamic Republic out of this mess, as seems likely, I am inclined to think that will be a step forward over the long run. This is because it seems the only cure for many people’s fantasy that religuious leaders should run society is for to let them run it.

    Iran under the Mullahs is in may ways freer than it was under the Shah, and the people there are increasingly sure they don’t want any more Mullah rule either. Once change comes they will have received a pretty good cultural innoculation against religiious rule.

    Europe didn’t get free from religious political domination until the 30 Year War finally taught many people to look elsewhere for decent grounds of political authority. Sometimes bad ideas have to run their course in order to be defeated – and handled intelligently, an Islamic Iraq will be no military threat to the US. Its theology is surely less abhorrent than Wahabbism, at least as I have read about the two.

    One sad thing for sure – we can no longer say bloody mindedness is a disease of intellectuals of the left. It is a disease of political intellectuals generally, and they would be wise to spend some time contemplating that fact.

  6. William Marina

    With respect to Iraq, Tom Palmer asks, “What do we do now?”
    I am reminded of the Lone Ranger’s comment to Tonto (the Fool) when they were surrounded by Indians, and the LR, said, “Well, old friend, this looks like the end for us,” & Tonto replied, “What do you mean ‘us’ White Man?”
    What do mean, “we,” Tom?
    If you wish to associate yourself with the American Empire, that is your business, I choose not to do so.”
    As the Roman Empire collapsed, some Pagan Humanists sought to enlist the Christians in saving the decaying structure. and many Christians, if not the formal church structure which had gotten in bed with Caesar, simply said, “No Way,”

  7. We have already sent over 130K troops and spent billions but the situation has only continued its downward slide. Why do you believe even deeper involvement will make things any better?

    If the goal is to create a constitutional system, I suggest that the best hope is for this is if the U.S. gets out and lets the interim government sink or swim….by allowing it to gain some legtimacy as something other than an American appendage. Deeper involvement will only further taint it as an American puppet.

  8. Gwyn Thomas

    I don’t know why we on the antiwar side should be challenged to pull you out of the hole you’ve dug yourself in the first place.The US Army is unlikely to be “routed” upon departure;there is no large organized force available to do such a thing.It also seems odd for those whose last remaining justification for the war is that we are all better off without Saddam to fret over the toppling of another unelected Baathist thug.

  9. Tom G. Palmer

    I’d like to point out to Gwyn Thomas and William Marina (and also to my good friend David Beito) that I didn’t dig the hole, since I opposed going to war. It’s too typical of people who are hopping mad about something to assume that, when someone asks a question like “What’s the best policy,” the person asking the question knows the answer. The reason for posing it is because the questioner doesn’t know what the right answer is.

    I hope that William Marina would accept the above formulation of the question, “What’s the best policy?” It’s simply an evasion to say “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”, since William Marina and I are both going to be taxed or not taxed, exposed to additional risks or not exposed, depending on what “we” decide to get our government to do. The question is about finding the best policy, taking into account moral objectives and constraints, realistic risk assessment, and all the other factors that go into answering a question about good or bad public policy. Sticking one’s head in the sand and hoping that the problems go away is not a serious option.

  10. Gwyn Thomas

    My comment was actually aimed at the rhetorical hurdles you throw in the way of those who opposed the war to begin with(I’m a Welshman,and physically unable to get “hopping mad”).Even if a US departure resulted in increased casualties(and I don’t believe that to be true),that is one of the consequences that is properly the concern of the invaders,nothing to do with me.
    I’m a recent visitor to your site,so I’m assuming you’re a libertarian,and therefore don’t understand all the carry-on about “policy”.The proper “policy” would be not to bother people who are no threat to you,and let them sort out their own affairs.
    This is not sticking one’s head in the sand,as it were-it’s respecting others enough to make their own decisions.

  11. Oh please, Tom, you’re challenging yourself. Your “opposition” to the war consisted of attacking “nearly all” the opposition to the war as “childish” and beneath you, coming as it did from mere “actors.” And, hey, what about this little gem penned by yourself:

    “Or consider the sentimental invocations of principles of national self determination. Are the millions of people victimized by a brutal one-party state enjoying “self determination”? I’m pretty sure that, if a war is undertaken (and it seems almost certain to start soon), there will be jubliation on the part of huge numbers of people who will consider themselves liberated from a despotic regime that relies on torture, genocide, and terror.”

    Yeah, they sure were dancing in the streets, weren’t they? I guess your cyrstal ball was a bit cloudy that day.

    And of course one has only to click on your fabled speech to the Cato “Benefactors” conference, held a few weeks after 9/11, to hear the Bushian bs about how “they hate us for our virtues.”

    And now the despised antiwar movement has to come up with “alternatives” to simply withdrawing asap? You are so full of it — and full of yourself — that it isn’t even funny.

  12. Tom G. Palmer

    Well, look who came out from under his rock — none other than Justin “The Jews blew up the World Trade Center” Raimondo, one of the most despicable of the conspiratorial anti-Semite elements of the “anti-war” crowd, the intellectual equivalent of the Revolutionary Communist Party during the anti-draft movement.

    For anyone interested, here’s the link to my blog entry from which the quotation is taken:
    Visitors can find there a link to a much better set of arguments against war than the weak arguments that Raimondo and others offered that failed to win the argument. The pro-war crowd won the debate, not because they had great arguments, but because most of the arguments offered by the anti-war movement were weak. If you want to defeat your enemies, you have to be smarter, not just more sentimental, like the confused actors who opposed the war, or more vicious and hate-filled, like Justin Raimondo.

    And, I should point out that my point against the “Iraq should exercise self-determination” argument still stands. It isn’t “self-determination” to live under the rule of a family of a psychopaths and, indeed, there most certainly was jubiliation on the part of huge numbers of people who considered them liberated from a despotic regime that relied on torture, genocide, and terror. What do you think the Kurds and the Shia thought? They were and are happy to be rid of Saddam. (Does Justin want him back?) Right now, plenty of people want Coalition troops out, and that for a number of reasons, including A) they’re foreign occupiers, with all that that implies, including having tanks run over your cars when you don’t get out of the way, B) the Ba’athists and Jihadists are blowing up, kidnapping, and murdering plenty of people and some people hope that that would subside if the Coalition troops withdraw [I doubt it, however], and very importantly, C) the Coalition forces and the new government have shown little ability to round up the huge numbers of criminals let loose by Saddam just before his downfall (a deliberate poison pill against the occupying forces) and the Saddam Fedayeen who have turned to kidnapping and robbery. But that doesn’t diminish one bit the truth of my statement that there was jubilation on the part of huge numbers of people at Saddam’s downfall.

    I’ve been in Iraq and met people whose family members were cut to pieces, who lost limbs to Saddam, and whose villages were wiped out by him. They were indeed grateful to see him deposed. Many of them would also like our troops out. I would, too. The question is how to do so without being the proximate cause of a civil war that could kill hundreds of thousands or millions. That may not matter to the Buchananite know-nothing Raimondo, but it matters to me.

    There’s one more bit of venomous spittle that should be cleaned off the computer screen. The talk I gave shortly after 9/11 was primarily in response to those who said “We deserved the attacks,” including Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Dario Fo, and all the others who saw a silver lining in the destruction of the trade towers. I think that it still stands up pretty well three years later.

    Finally, it’s so easy for someone like Raimondo to say, “Hey, not my problem, dude. I’m clean.” Well, it is his problem. If you want peace, propose peaceful alternatives. Just throwing up your hands won’t do the job. What is needed is a proposal that various forces might find acceptable and therefore would be likely to be implemented. I could do like so many and say, “I didn’t make this mess, so you clean it up.” But over the last twenty-five years, I grew up. Raimondo just became more puerile.

    Just typing a response to Justin Raimondo, whose writings are so full of hatred and anti-Semitism, makes me feel dirty. I’m going to go and wash my hands after I post this.

  13. Really, the attacks on Dr. Palmer are innapropriate, childish, and unwarranted. Those of you who have met him, when being honest with yourselves, will admit that he is no average Joe, “full of himself” and his position as a “white man.” Dr. Palmer and I probably disagree on a (great) number of issues, but at least he isn’t afraid to be considerate to others, to TRAVEL to places like Iraq, or to dedicate his entire life to the ideas he espouses.

    I was for the war. Dr. Palmer thinks that opinion is foolish (from what I understand). His criticisms of my opinions in this matter warrant MY reconsideration as well as my response. Perhaps all of you who are all too ready to so quickly write-off his commentary would do well to look closely at his criticisms. They might reveal more about your own opinions (and the worth of those opinions) than you think.

    Thank you, Dr. Palmer for your continued thoughtfulness. Apparently, some people hate you for your virtues as well.

  14. Tom G. Palmer

    I’ll repeat my question and I look forward to reasonable responses. I’ve got some ideas of my own, althoughI don’t feel the confidence in them that some people have in theirs.

    So, realistically looking at the likely outcomes of withdrawal, what is a good map out of Iraq? And, no, it is not realistic to say to the soldiers, “Hey, guys, you’re on your own. Get a Greyhound bus ticket back to Iowa.” When my nephew’s unit withdrew from Iraq, it took roughly three months to get the personnel and equipment to Kuwait. And I am quite confident that the Jihadists will be shooting at Coalition troops every step of the way out if they can.

    Withdrawal takes time. The lowest boundary is set by physics, not by a lack of political will. Boundaries above that are set by our tolerance for the deaths of withdrawing soldiers, by our concern for what is likely to happen to the people left behind, and by our concern for the likely outcome afterwards (e.g., a “failed state” that could become a safe harbor for terrorists).

    I think that we have a legal and moral oligation to support the troops in place at least until after the elections. After that, some determinate period has to be set for how long they would remain. Regardless of who is elected, they’re not going to be pulled out before the end of January, so it’s pointless (and possibly physically impossible, anyway) to call for a withdrawal before that time, since it’s almost October now.

  15. Gwyn Thomas

    What happened to the “I don’t really know the answers,that’s why I’m asking you readers” bit?Dropped that in a hurry,didn’t we? Now we’re told that our answers were weak in a debate that never happened.George Bush decided to go to war,not after weighing the various arguments pro and con.Again,what debate?Here you have the person proposing war and conducting the war being the same,exactly what Madison and the Founding Fathers were afraid of.
    What you seem to be saying is that if we propose immediate withdrawal,the blood of the Iraqis in a potential civil war would be on our hands-as if only Allawi,a thug,bombmaker and spy,is the only thing staving off chaos.You make rhetorical demands on our side at the same time demanding nothing of the other.Even Mr.Kerr’s objections are right out of Sir David Frost–“How do you feel about the way things are going,are you upset at the news we’re rather forced to print,if you were a tree….”.

  16. So much for the reasonable, oh-so-“adult” Tom G. Palmer. How quickly the masks are dropped when somebody calls you on your complete dishonesty.

    yes, we all know what a wonderful time you had on your guided tour of the Neocon Utopia. I’m suuuuuure all the people you were allowed to meet were just head over heels at the presence of foreign occupiers. Why, just look at Abu Ghraib: gay liberation comes to Iraq!

    The arguments that I and others made against the Iraq war: that the invasion would swell the ranks of Al Qaeda, that there WERE no “weapons of mass destruction,” that the War Party was more concerned with furthering Israel’s interests in the region rather than America’s — have all been confirmed by events. On the other hand, the staged “jubilation” — the famous toppling of Saddam’s statue — was just as much a hoax as the “evidence” for WMD. And of course Tom G. Palmer was all too willing to be taken in.

    U.S. troops have been foreign occupiers since the say they arrived — so I guess the Iraqis wanted them out from Day One. right?

    And don’t forget to include Michael Scheuer, the author of Imperial Hubris, in your Hit Parade of America-Haters: he also agrees with Buchanan that “they are over here because we are over there.” The Islamists, says Scheuer, a currently serving CIA agent, hate us because of what we do, not because of who we (supposedly) are: they hate our policies, which they see as a war on Islam, not because we aren’t Muslims or because of “gay marriage.”

    As for the other blather in your demanted comment: if anyone exdues “hate,” it is you. Your crazed remarks about “Jews” and “anti-Semities” make absolutely no sense, and I must conclude that you are either drunk, or just flat out crazy. My book, “The Terror Enigma,” shows that the Israelis were watchng the 9/11 terrorists, and somehow neglected to let us in on either their location or their activities: that is a very far cry indeed from saying that “the Jews blew of the World Trade Center.”

    If my writings are “full of anti-Semitism,” then why not come up with a single “anti-Semitic” quote? You didn’t, because you can’t: no such writings exist. The government of Israel, and the pro-war policies of that government’s amen corner in the U.S., need to be opposed by all libertarians, and I make no apology for my views on these issues.

    But I can see that the rational, clear-minded if rather repressed Tom Palmer I used to know has been replaced by someone so completely subjective and emotionally out of control that it may as well be a different person.

    Chill out, Tom. And I hope you get better, soon.

  17. Tom G. Palmer

    I gather that it doesn’t occur to some people to ask, “Why did the other side get its way?” We went to war. Our side lost the debate. Maybe we could learn something from that. And what I’d like to suggest is that we need better arguments. (And I don’t count Raimondo’s fulminations about Israeli lobbyists and cabals of Jews in Washington.) Was the best way to oppose military conscription or the Vietnam War to burn American flags? I don’t think so. I don’t think that it convinced anyone to oppose the war. It mobilized more to support it for longer. If the point of discussion is just to show that you’re more bitter or vile (as in Justin’s constant references to the finer details of Andrew Sullivan’s sex life in his columns), then the Raimondos win and we all lose, because we end up going to war. I’d like to win over people to supporting non-interventionism, not simply flash people with my peace credentials or hurl insults and sexual innuendoes at people on the other side.

  18. Tom G. Palmer

    Gwyn Thomas makes a small mistake in the last posting above, and it’s an important one. There was a debate in the U.S. and in Britain. It was debated in the press. It was debated in Congress and in Parliament and both bodies voted to authorize the use of force. We failed to convince the public and we failed to convince the lawmakers. I wish that I and my colleagues had worked harder and better to prevail. But we didn’t. We failed. We did not do as well as we should have. I’d like to do better in the future. Doesn’t that matter? Which is more important, to be smug that you were right, or to be determined not to lose again?

  19. Tom G. Palmer

    So again, any ideas on proposals that might actually be implemented, rather than proposals that are impossible and sure to be rejected, thus making some people more secure in their beliefs about conspiracies and Israeli agents?

  20. Gwyn Thomas

    I see,you prefer a calm,rational approach where our side fashions better arguments..and that is why you have called Mr. Raimondo “puerile”..”a Buchananite know-nothing” who has “crawled out from under his rock” to distribute his “venomous spittle”.He’s also “despicable” and “vicious and hate-filled”.
    Again,I’m not remembering this “debate” where we failed to carry the day;the choice as I recall was rather Bush would have full rein to bomb as he pleased,or would have to get the backing of a majority of Security Council members before bombing as he pleased(that was the liberal side of the argument).

  21. Tom G. Palmer

    The good Mr. Raimondo is quite famous for his venom and has done more harm to any cause he has become involved with than one could easily catalogue. (Perhaps you did not read his extensive bloggings on Andrew Sullivan’s sex life, which somehow Raimondo thought was relevant to responding to Sullivan’s support for the war.) And perhaps, as a Welshman, you’re not so worried about Pat Buchanan, but his calls for culture wars in America, suppression of gay people, restrictions on immigration of people of the wrong hues (he elegantly referred to them as “Zulus”), and so on has, shall we say, diminished his influence on American political life, as shown by his tiny support in the last presidential poll. Raimondo managed to stake his tent in the center of the fever swamps and from there he has as much influence as one might imagine. He deserves his impotence.

    I strenuously disgree about the question of whether there was a debate, but let’s say I were to agree. Then why did we fail to insist on one? Ultimately, when one side wins, it means that the other side lost. If you’re on the losing side, as I was, you should want to learn why and to learn how to win next time, as I want to do. Does that seem so strange to you?

  22. Tom G. Palmer

    In any case, I’m not interested in a spitting fight with Mr. Raimondo. I’d like to solicit actual ideas about withdrawal from Iraq. Raimondo isn’t interested in being a part of such a discussion, so he can shove off.

    Again, any serious ideas?

  23. Gwyn Thomas

    Actually,you are in error,Dr. Palmer–the Congress has no power to “authorize force”.It can declare war,but that would require the sort of debate and vote that never transpired.It cannot fob off its responsibilities on the executive branch without making a hash of any idea of separation of powers.The same person cannot initiate a war and then prosecute it,that’s far too much power for even a principled man to have.Being a libertarian scholar,you probably already knew that.

  24. Gwyn Thomas

    I’m sorry,I don’t get the Pat Buchanan reference at all,as he’s not Welsh as far as I know.I would regard “Zulu” as a high compliment,as the Zulus fought the Welsh with great bravery at the Battle of Roarke’s Drift.I will concede that’s probably not how Mr.Buchanan meant it.

  25. Tom G. Palmer

    Well, Mr. Thomas (I presume it’s Mr., but I’m not well acquainted with Welsh names, so I apologize if it’s not), that would just push the question back a stage, no more. Congress could have insisted on a “declaration of war,” if that were the insistence. Why didn’t they? Why was there not only no vote for that, but an overwhelming vote to “authorize the use of force”?

    So for these purposes it’s not an interesting point. If you were to want to pursue it on constitutional grounds, however, those scholars who examined the case generally found that the “authorization of force” resolution satisfied the constitutional requirement of Article I, Section 8, which grants Congress the power “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal., and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” It’s not obvious from the language that that requires that the resolution say “Declaration of War,” just as the terms “checks and balances” don’t appear in the Constitution, although the branches are supposed to check and balance each other. In this case, unlike in others, there was an actual debate and the members voted overwhelmingly in the U.S. and in Britain to support war. Why? Why did we lose the argument to convince them otherwise, or at least to convince their constituents to put pressure on them?

  26. Tom G. Palmer

    Well, I’m going to reopen this thread elsewhere, since after some interesting ideas (see near the top), it got off track. I’m interested in proposals not merely to debate them (and certainly not to get down into the mud with the likes of Raimondo), but to propose something that would move us to peace and security.