Saturday, January 20, 2007

George Jonas - wobbly on Iraq?

I’m an admirer of George Jonas’s writing which appears regularly in the National Post. Being an admirer means liking his style and mostly agreeing with him. Mostly. His two recent columns on Iraq, I found problematic.

In his column on January 13th, A Waste of American Lives and in a follow-up column today, Shades of Vietnam, he argued that while he supported going into Iraq, the U.S. should have gotten out “at least three years ago”, shortly after toppling Saddam. He believes that attempting to bring democracy to Iraq was too grandiose and implausible a task and that it is a mistake to commit more troops to it now. Naturally, if you believe a task shouldn’t have been attempted in the first place, it follows that you wouldn’t support trying harder to finish it. So he hasn’t really gone “wobbly” as one reader accused - he never did go along with the hard part of the Bush plan.

But I doubt that George Jonas’s preferred approach was feasible at all:

First, it is doubtful that Britain and the other allies in the war would have gone along with it, so you have to ask whether Bush would have ever pursued it alone. If he had, with the disaster, chaos and civil war that would almost certainly have followed, the political cost to Bush would have been huge, at home and abroad. Would Bush have survived the 2004 election? Who knows but I’d bet not.

Would victory have been achieved in any meaningful sense? Would the world have been safer? Who would have taken control in Iraq? Saddam’s supporters, the Sunnis, controlled the police and military apparatus and presumably knew where the weapons were stashed. Would they have regained control and suppressed the Shiites (again, as they did following Gulf War I)?

Would al-Zarqawi and al-Qaeda have moved in to support the Sunnis? Would we have another pre-9/11 Afghanistan on our hands - this time one with oil resources?

Would Iran or Syria have attempted to take advantage of a weakened Iraq?
There were many unknowns and huge risks associated with the simpler ‘Jonas plan’. The Bush plan was and is superior and while, in hindsight, mistakes were made it could still work. The alternatives were and are worse.

Post Script: A fallen soldier's view of the war and his reasons for joining.

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