Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Today's Thought on Iraq

Quite a bit of the current criticism of the Bush policy on Iraq is an assumption that although the goal is admirable, Bush will get it wrong - he will sell out the Kurds, or kill too many civilians, or make Iraq a US protectorate, or destroy the economy, or let al Qaida go, or lose track of North Korea, or what have you.

My thought for the day. As long as you assume (1) Bush is not actually a Hannibal Lector monster who enjoys mass murder for its own sake and (2) Bush is not actually a Hee-Haw straw patch parody of a Southerner fingering his overalls and staring into space, then it's worth remembering that Bush knows that his presidency is going to be judged in a couple years. By that time, we'll know the answer to several questions:

  • Will Bush avoid an Iraqi civil war?

  • How much progress have we made towards transitioning Iraq and Afghanistan to stable, locally controlled governments?

  • Can we finesse the Turkey/"Kurdistan" conflict so as not to screw the Kurds, but also not to destroy the best existing example of a secular Muslim state?

  • Will Bush set off civil wars in nearby states, or get the US into cold or hot wars with nearby states?

  • Once we actually know how many WMD Saddam had and what his likely plans for them were, how imminent was the risk and was the UN successfully containing it?

  • How will did the war and reconstruction cost?

  • What will happen to the US economy and diplomatic relations with the rest of the world after the war?

A few things to consider are (1) Bush and his team aren't stupid people; and (2) Bush absolutely knows that if he screws this up, he's done. He has his father's example to teach him, and by all sources, that's the political history that has affected him most deeply.

If John Kerry or Edwards can stand amidst a ruined economy and point to evidence that Saddam actually wasn't a threat and call for us to get our troops out of the constant civil war Bush has created, then Bush loses. No reelection, no Republican majority in Congress, and, in the worse case, another 20 years of post-Vietnam American unwillingness to use military power. If Bush is taking this big a gamble, it's because he honestly thinks he can pull it off.