Sunday, November 16, 2003[posted by jaed at 7:05 PM]
The measure of success
Instapundit sets a low bar for success in Iraq:
But, you know, Russia was a mess (and remains one) after the fall of the Soviet Union, for many of the same reasons. But it's still better the way it is, for them and for us. So it doesn't have to be perfect. Just good enough. The problems that Bannion describes remind me of Nigeria, which isn't a great place, but it's better than a lot of countries in Africa. Likewise, Iraq isn't a great place, but it's better already than a lot of countries in the mideast, and it's on the path to improvement. Given the enormous damage to the physical -- and especially the social -- capital of the country done by decades of dictatorship, that's good enough.I have to disagree.
If we were judging "success" in isolation, I might agree. "Better than under Saddam" isn't a very high standard and it's one that the end result can easily meet. Even another dictatorship - under someone somewhat less bloodthirsty, with less-evil spawn, and with fewer territorial ambitions - would be a "success" in this limited sense. We could simply shrug and say "Well, as long as we're not going to be digging up mass graves with hundreds of thousands of corpses in thirty years, this is a signal improvement." And we'd be right, as far as that goes
Except for one thing: Iraq and our strategy there don't exist in isolation. The Iraq campaign was, and is, only part of the war. One of the several strategic reasons for dealing with Iraq first is that Iraq in many ways has a high potential to become a democratic and open society compared with other Arab countries, for a variety of reasons, and that transformation is part of our war strategy. Success in Iraq has to be judged in this broader sense, of whether it accomplishes our war aims.
An Iraq that is run by a dictator, or in constant danger of sliding into lawless authoritarianism, won't do that. It will instead strengthen the stability-uber-alles theoreticians, offering evidence that Arabs are incapable of democracy. It will cement our reputation for cutting and running. It will effectively take hope away from any Arabs entertaining the idea that democracy might be possible in their countries. It will ensure that the next time we need to take any kind of military action, the people will expect nothing but the worst of us; we can only dine out on our success with WWII Germany and Japan for so long in the face of a very public failure in Iraq.
It will do us enormous strategic damage. It will very likely lose us the war - the entire war, not just the engagement in Iraq. And this is not a war we can afford to lose.
Iraq can do better than "not as bad as under Saddam", and so can we. We have to.