Which came first?

Saturday, November 11, 2006
I had a discussion with loner in the comment section of another thread where I compared the occupation and democratization of Japan to what we are trying to do in Iraq. I made mention that the difference was that one of the two major political parties had not based it foreign policy on the failure of the mission. Loner said {and correct me loner if I am wrong} that the difference is that Japan had attacked us and Iraq had not.

I think this is the debate right here. Saddam Hussein fired on our planes, refused to comply with the cease fire agreement and the UN resolutions. He tried to kill a president and he maintained that we were his enemy. On our part, we made his removal from power our national policy, we maintained no fly zones over Iraq to protect the Iraqi population from their government and we bombed Baghdad.

Does this sound like peace to you? My contention is that the war in the Persian Gulf never ended and when we invaded Iraq we were still fighting the same war. I think it is safe to say Saddam Hussein felt the same way.

Perhaps some would say that we should not have hindered Saddam in the first place. Of course if we had not he very well might control the world's oil and be in posession of nuclear weapons by now. Would that be better?

So is it really fair to say we unilaterally invaded a country that had not attacked us? We fought wars over a good deal less than the attempted assasination of a President.

If we had taken Saddam Hussein out of power in 1991 there would have been no doubt as to what happened to his weapons, no food for oil scandal, no failed weapons inspectors regime, no attempted assasination, no uprising with hundreds of thousands dead. It is also true that if we had finished that job the terrorist Yasin who escaped conviction for his part in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center would not have been allowed to find safe haven in Iraq. There would have been no Iraq War, no money to suicide bombers or offers of assistance to a myriad of other international terrorists who found Baghdad a hospitable place and its dictator a generous benefactor.

There is no going back, we can not change the past, but we should not rewrite it either. We should not pretend that the ongoing conflict with Saddam Hussein was ever likely to have an ending that was not violent. Saddam would have had it no other way.


lurker said...

How about the Kosovo / Serbia war?

And that's without Congressional approval.

According to the "Just War" doctrine, we had every reason to invade Iraq.

lurker said...

And what about Operation Desert Fox?

Operation Desert Storm?

Saddam did not attack us in either case.

What about 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act that was almost unanimously passed by the Congress? Is that forced Liberty?

Barry Dauphin said...

Gulf War I stopped with a Cease fire and not a surrender. In many respects it is difficult to fault the decisions the Bush I team made at the time with the information they had on hand. However, had we gone to Baghdad, we would have discovered his nuclear program and other WMD capabilities and plans, he wouldn't have sluaghtered as many people, the governing process would have been different, nad Saddam would have been completely defeated without having any plans for an insurgency campaign and before al Qaeda made suicide bombing a household phrase.

However, I don't see where Bush I team has understood that. They think that what they did "worked". There's a problem with that.

lurker said...


thought the point of this post was that we should not have invaded Iraq because Saddam did not attack us.

Something to do with "Forced Liberty" that loner used.

Saddam did not attack us in either case for Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Fox.

Congress approved "Forced Liberty" with their votes of 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act.

Therefore, "forced liberty" argument becomes moot in regards to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

CF said...

Stop me if I'm wrong, but I do not believe in the 20th century that Japan had major rifts between different portions of its population as Iraq has had for over a thousand years. Japan was a self contained island with a very homogeneous population. Iraq is a British construct composed largely of three very different , antagonistic population groups.

Bostonian said...

I agree that Islam does a good job of indoctrination.

I would point out animal nature which prefers freedom to a cage.

This means there are at least two opposing forces in every Muslim, and unlike loner & Rick Ballad, I am not certain of the outcome, especially if we democrats apply pressure to the belief system.

I would also note that evolution occurs much more slowly where no external stress is applied. Al Qaeda has perceived the democratic process in Iraq as a THREAT to their goals; if that is not stress on the belief system, how else could we apply it?

If the jihadis inflict a horrific attack on us and we respond with the devasting force I know we can use, I will be glad that we at least gave them a chance.

Barry Dauphin said...


I believe I undersood the point of the post and believe my comment is aimed at addressing the contours of the "Saddam didn't attack us issue" by addressing the Cease Fire from Gulf War I. I believe the "Saddam didn't attack us" reactions are "forgetting" Gulf War I and were not necessarily saying we shouldn't have fought that. My take could be different because I don't think one can simply focus on 2003 as if history began then. That makes for an artificially pristine debate about war, as if nothing preceded it.

Also the reason for any current glumness is that we have a protracted conflict now. Had there been no plan for an insurgency (and there wouldn't have been in 1991), we wouldn't be here now. The original Cease Fire meant that hostilities were never completely over. So the "Saddam didn't attack us" was always a silly bugaboo and it is very silly to be arguing that now. Why even have No Fly zones, sanctions, etc. unless you are already at war (whatever name was being used notwithstanding).

Fresh Air said...

In many ways the Bush I/Powell/Scowcroft approach is repsonsible for not only the fact that we had to go to war, but the fact that's it's so much harder this time.

There are millions of Shia who remember how the U.S. encouraged them to rise up in 1992 and then did nothing while they were slaughtered.

They don't want it to happen to them...again. So they go about their business quietly and stay the hell out of politics and ignore the Sunni terrorists. It's the safest strategy for many.

Skookumchuk said...

fresh air:

There are millions of Shia who remember how the U.S. encouraged them to rise up in 1992 and then did nothing while they were slaughtered.

Ah yes. I have often thought of this as a major factor. Interesting that we don't see any polling of Iraqis on this issue and of how their memories of this may guide their behavior now.

loner said...

It has been apparent through years of trying to explain my take on the course taken in Iraq that I simply do not possess the writing skills necessary to make myself understood and, as I've stated repeatedly, the election of 2004 settled this as far as I was and am concerned. The President's policy was ratified. He has another two years to find a way to make his policy work or to find one that will, but in 2008 there will be another election and in 2009 someone else will be President of the United States. For what it's worth, and again, I hope, despite my take on geopolitical reality, that he succeeds.


Seneca the Younger said...

The most difficult thing with the "should have finished the war in 1991" argument, honestly, is that it includes a presumption that Bush_41 "should have known" what was going to happen. There were several reasons at the time that stopping when they did seemed like the right thing to do. Was it a mistake? Perhaps. But then, if we had gone forward, would the Saudis have expelled us from the forward bases? Would the Russians have thrown in with the Iraqis (especially since we know now that they had a big hand in the Iraqi WMD programs?) Would we instead now be complaining about the ten year long middle East conflict, the draft, and the hundreds of thousands of US dead?

Barry Dauphin said...

Well, my "finish the 1991 war" comments have been scattered across a number of different posts. I completely agree that in 1991, it looked good at the time and seemed the best course of action and it would have been difficult to do otherwise. My current interest in 1991 is whether the Baker group has learned anything from the unfinished business. As far as I can tell, there answer is no. I do hope to be proven wrong about that.

Bostonian said...

It seems that the neocons are the only ones willing to discuss what might be done to eliminate terrorism by Islam.

Everyone else just criticizes.

I have hoped for an actual debate about what to do, but it never emerges. Neither the left nor the Scowcraftian right has uttered a word on the subject.

Bostonian said...

Barry Dauphin,

It is true that Bush Sr. didn't have all the information he might have wanted, but at the very least he should have considered human nature.

If you fight with a bully, you do not leave him in a position where he can claim he won. You demolish him utterly.

And more importantly, if you promise people you will support their uprising, you do not then walk away. It demeans them and dishonors yourself.

loner said...


Perhaps those of us who find the neocon answer lacking also find it hard to discuss our views with people who can't but stereotype us as being of the left or of the Scowcroftian right as soon as we've uttered a disagreeable word.

Just a thought.

Now I have to go reconcile a bank statement and do what my wife needs me to do to prepare for entertaining guests. Go Bears! Go Bush!

terrye said...


Maybe it is not your writing skills at fault, maybe it is my comprehension skills. Really.

terrye said...

I think they should have taken out Saddam back then, but I also think it was not politcally viable for them to do so. And they were not psychic.

Fresh Air said...

I agree we didn't know what would happen. And at the time we were more concerned about balancing the power between Iran and Iraq. It's possible that Iranian influence would have led to a Khomeni-style government, and today we would have an Islamist duogarchy controlling 1/4 of the world's oil reserves.

Having said that, we need to learn from our mistakes. Abandoning the country would create the deepest sort of cynicism to the point that the next war would be much more lethal and short, simply because the tyrants of the world would call our bluff.

Those Trident-class submarines as a group have more power than the amount unleashed in the history of the world. As much as the world would hate to see them angry, putting our tail between our legs pretty much assures that's exactly what they will see some day.

terrye said...

fresh air:

Yes, everytime I hear someone say we are bogged down in Iraq and can not fight elsewhere I wonder if they have any idea what one of our submarines could do to Iran? If we just let loose.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


Sorry, but I remember very vividly my astonishment when I heard that we weren't going to invade Baghdad. I criticized the decision heavily as I knew it was a serious mistake.

When you fight a war, you have to finish it, else you end up fighting it again. Three examples: 1) WWI, fought again as WWII, 2) Korean War, about to be fought again with nukes, 3) Gulf War.

In each case, the defeated party managed to convince itself that it wasn't really defeated and continued to cause problems. People don't start wars, the way Germany did in WWI and Saddam did in the Gulf War, unless they believe they deserve to be in control and simultaneously feel threatened. Pushing them back and declaring unilaterally that we're all going to play nicey-nice doesn't change either of the preconditions.

Bostonian said...

I could say the same about being called naive. It hasn't prevented me from speaking.

So, fear of being called Scowcraftian prevents you from articulating a single word on what to do about Islamofacism, but you can summon up post after post to tell the neocons why they're wrong?

Try again.

loner said...


Fear? You try again. Me? I stop talking/writing when it becomes apparent that the people with whom I'm trying to communicate don't understand what I think I'm saying.


You're sweet, but it's me.

Fresh Air said...


Yep, I was astonished, too. I guess Scowcroft never believed in Clausewitz, either.