I’m far from the only blogger who commemorated the Iraq War’s pentannual mark with an evaluation. In response to my own, one commentor linked to the assessment of Bob Lonsberry, a right-wing journalist and radio personality who also happens to be lds. This commentor advertised Lonsberry’s essay, “Iraq is Costly and Successful,” as “honest” and “refreshing.”
Lonsberry has no reservations about the war. Oh, he is critical of the cost of the conflict, and the way the war was handled during the first few years. But for him, there is no doubt about the value of the war. “It was brilliant and successful.”
The essay is littered with the typical militarist cliches and language. “Weakness invites attack, strength assures peace.” “It is only in the last year—in the era of the surge—that we have begun to fight…In a war, you either fight all out, or you lose.” It wistfully mentions taking on the government of China, ruefully suggests that we should have taken control of Iraq’s oil resources, and hearkens back to the games of Realpolitik our nation played with Iraq and Iran (Lonsberry doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to send chills down his reader’s spine by hearkening back to Bush’s dreaded “Axis of Evil”). The essay virtually reeks of testosterone. That view of the world may be very exciting in paperback thrillers and Hollywood blockbusters, but is a rather dangerous way to try to maintain either peace or a democratic society.
Lonsberry’s central argument is based on the now trite conservative platitude: “We are fighting the terrorists over there so that we don’t have to fight them over here.”
The second success—the larger success—is of great significance to us. We changed the venue of the war with militant Islam. We captured the initiative in the war on terror.
They wanted to fight our civilians in our country. We wanted them to fight our military in their country. Instead of slashing unarmed stewardesses and killing helpless business people in America, we duped them into attacking armed soldiers and Marines in Iraq…
…We turned the stampede of militant Islam. We got these morons to engage us far from our homeland, under conditions favorable to us, in a situation where we could bring our military might to bear. The key to insurgency or terrorism is battlefield initiative—they get to pick the where and the when of the fight. By invading Iraq, and drawing the attention of the swarm of terrorist wasps, we asserted the initiative and picked the where.
It is true that we have yet to suffer any attacks on our soil since 9/11. We could argue that this is because of improved border and port security or intelligence operations in the aftermath of 9/11. You could argue that the invasion of Afghanistan disrupted the communications and organization of the most prominent terrorist network. Or you might argue that this is simply because the terrorists are biding their time, waiting for the next big opportunity to make a splash. It is ludicrous to argue is that there have been no terrorist attacks in our land because we’ve made Iraq the designated battleground.
Remember, we’re talking about terrorists. They don’t engage you where you prefer; they don’t even engage whom you prefer. If they did, we’d call them soldiers.
The successful London terrorist attack and the foiled transatlantic aircraft plot both show that terrorists can and will select their targets without any consideration for which venue we’ve chosen. The National Intelligence Estimates for 2006 and 2007, documents drawn up by experts on the subject, both suggest that we are at greater risk of terrorist attack because of the War in Iraq. Lonsberry’s premise is fundamentally flawed.
But sadly, this is not the greatest problem with Lonsberry’s perspective. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that he is right, and the decision to fight in Iraq has contained hostilities to the Mesopotamian region, like some vast sheet of flypaper. In his reasoning, I notice that he entirely disregarded one enormously crucial factor.
The people of Iraq.
Seven hundred thousand dead. 4.5 million displaced. Communities in shambles. Chaos reigning in many regions. No end in sight. The people in whose land we fight apparently don’t even enter into the equation for Mr. Lonsberry. The closest he comes to addressing the issue is his tepid support for the elimination of Hussein. He does not seem to consider whether the subsequent government will be able to survive or better meet the needs of the Iraqis as relevant to the conversation. The people of Iraq are seemingly superfluous.
Perhaps a few trillion dollars and a few thousand lives is the going rate in defense of our homes, our families, and our liberties. But it would be reprehensible to claim that we are justified in thrusting the cost on the backs of a foreign people, of making their homes the battleground for our freedoms! We cannot be so ignominious as to consider it acceptable that the Iraqis serve as proxy casualties.
This war in Iraq, with all its attendant destruction and misery, can be considered worthwhile and a success only if as a result of it the people of Iraq are assured greater liberty and security. If such success is not achieved, no amount of U.S. benefit can justify the catastrophe; their suffering shall be answerable upon our heads, and we deserve all the animosity which our arrogance has engendered. As it is not our own society being ravaged, our own benefit must be of secondary import.
I’m deeply ashamed that so many of my faith have supported the sort of arrogance which presents U.S. interests as far more important than that of other people, and which suggests that those interests trump basic morality. Perhaps more people need to spend some time in reflection upon what it means to follow a Deity who is the father of all mankind, and who implores us to consider the needs of others at least as much as our own.