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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

 
Dick's Big Flop.


Most of you have undoubtedly seen this Campaign Extra post featuring an interview with Dick Cheney in 1992 via Atrios, but it's worth thinking about a little bit.

Here's what he said back then:

We stopped when we did, and it was a unanimous recommendation on the part of the President's advisors, civilian and military, we stopped when we did because we had achieved our objectives. We had said from the outset that our purpose was to liberate Kuwait and destroy Saddam Hussein's capacity to threaten his neighbors, his offensive military capability, we did that. We destroyed about two-thirds of his army in that portion that he sent in to Kuwait and Iraq, and stripped him of most of his weapons of mass destruction.

We could have gone on. There is no doubt in my mind, from a military standpoint we could have sent forces on down the road to Baghdad, captured Baghdad, but I would expect in terms of trying to get rid of Saddam Hussein that it would not have been an easy task. I don't think it was the kind of situation where we could have pulled up with a paddywagon in front of the Presidential Palace and said, "Come on Saddam, you're going to the slammer." I think we would have had to run him to ground, and doing that in Baghdad or in a nation as large as Iraq would have involved a lot of US forces.

Once we rounded up Saddam, then the question is what do you do? You're going to put a government in his place. Presumably, you're not just going to turn your back and walk away. You have to put some kind of a government in its place. And then the question comes is it going to be a Shi'a government or a Kurdish government, or maybe a Sunni government, or maybe it ought to be based on the old Baathist Party regime, or some combination thereof.

How long is that government to be able to stay in power without US military support to keep it there? How long can we maintain the coalition?

Remember we entered into this activity with the support of 30 other nations. A very important part of that support was the support of other Arab nations who took up arms against a brother Arab state, who allowed us to operate military forces from their territory, who sent combat forces to fight alongside our people in Kuwait.

How long could we have maintained that coalition of Arab states if we had been involved in the long-range occupation by the US in Iraq? I would guess if we had gone on to Baghdad I would still have forces in Iraq today. I don't know how we would have let go of that tar baby once we had grabbed hold of it.

A final point that I think is very important. Everybody is fond of looking back at Desert Storm and saying that it was, in fact, a low cost conflict because we didn't suffer very many casualties. But for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it was not a cheap or a low cost conflict. The question, to my mind, in terms of this notion that we should have gone on and occupied Iraq is how many additional American casualties would we have had to suffer? How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer I would give is not very damn many.


Not very damn many...

Now, the harpies will screech at the top of their lungs, "But, 9/11 changed everything OHMYGODTHEYARETRYINGTOKILLUS!!!!!"

But, you know, it didn't change the fact that Saddam had not reconstituted his WMD, that he had no ties to al Qaeda and that all we needed to do was to get weapons inspectors back into the country to harrass him and keep him in line. An invasion and occupation simply wasn't necessary for our safety or the safety of those in the region.

Junior will wax on about liberating the Iraqi people and freeeeedom and demaaahcracy and loving yer neighbor like you just love to love yerself. But, if that's why we did it --- because we're so good --- then Unka Dick sure has some splaining to do. How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer I would give is not very damn many. Yup.

It's funny to me how differently I see the events of 9/11 changing "everything" than these people do. To me, it meant that we could not go gallivanting around the world "liberating" people if it meant that we would exacerbate the terrorist threat without any tangible benefit in security. Until this period of radicalism is brought under control or ends through other means, wars of liberation in the mid-east and the Indian subcontinent anyway, are just too dangerous. 9/11 turned me, a dyed in the wool liberal, from something of a Wilsonian internationalist into much more of a realist.

And, as I have written about many times before, we are much less safe today that we were before we let the entire world know that our vaunted intelligence services couldn't find a weapon of mass destruction if it fell out of the sky and landed on the White House lawn. And now we've also let everybody know that we have a thinly stretched part-time military and a government that can't get it together enough to plan an occupation properly.

A little mystery about the super powers of a super power is a very powerful thing. We are now looking pretty damned weak compared to what the world thought of us in January of 2002.

Weirdly, I think that Dick Cheney, of all people, would have agreed with me back in 1992. Sometime between then and now he drank the neocon fire water and it packs a punch. What did Lady MacMyleroie put in that stuff, anyway?





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