How stupid can a neoconservative be?

Joel Pollak over at inexplicably chose to tie a noose around his credentials as a conservative- and then proceeded to kick the chair out from under himself:
Though the execution of the war was deeply flawed, there are at least five reasons it was justified, even without WMD. 
1. In a post-9/11 world, uncertainty about WMD is not an option. The central preoccupation of policymakers after 9/11 was preventing any further mass terror attacks against the United States. The George W. Bush administration would have been blamed–and rightly so–if Iraq had used WMD or passed WMD to terrorists. It was not a chance the U.S.–or the world–could afford to take. And given the refusal of Saddam Hussein to cooperate with the UN, there was no alternative. 
2. An American force in the Middle East would increase pressure on Iran. Removing Saddam Hussain meant removing a threat to the Iranian regime. But putting hundreds of thousands of American troops on Iran’s western border–along with those already in Afghanistan to the east–meant posing a much more potent threat to the regime. That is why Iran temporarily slowed its nuclear program after 2003–and why the Iranian people found the courage to rise in 2009. 
3. Freeing the people of Iraq was, and is, a worthy goal. Just a few years ago, with American and allied troops still in Iraq in significant numbers, the sectarian violence and terrorism that had plagued the country for years had begun to slow down. The Iraqi people began to enjoy some semblance of order, of democracy, and of liberty. Instead of staying in Iraq to guide and protect that process–as Obama had promised to do in 2008–Obama abandoned the Iraqi people. 
4. International law means nothing unless it is backed up by the will to enforce it. Saddam Hussein defied international law repeatedly: He used WMD against his own people; he invaded his neighbors; he sponsored terrorism. And he did it because he had no fear of facing the consequences. International law, flawed though it is, is a necessary and stabilizing institution–and needs enforcement, even (especially) when global institutions are too corrupt to enforce it. 
5. There is potential for freedom in the region–with American leadership. The fall of Saddam Hussein inspired the Lebanese people to rise up against Syrian occupation, and planted the seeds of what later became the Arab Spring. If American leadership had remained strong, that process might have been a positive one. (Certainly Syria would not have become a killing field.) The Middle East may never be fertile soil for democracy, but it can certainly be freer than it is today.
If this is the best that American neoconservatives can do to defend their hubris-driven and utterly failed vision of a democratic Middle East, then one would be fully justified in holding their opinions on any other subject in utter contempt.

Here are a few simple, straightforward, and easily understood rebuttals to Mr. Pollak's points above.

1. WMDs in the hands of sovereign states are not a problem. This might sound radical at first, but in fact there is considerable theoretical reasoning and practical evidence to support this assertion. Martin Van Creveld pointed out in his excellent book, The Transformation of War, that the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons, will actually make a sovereign state that possesses such awful weapons rather skittish about having to use them- at least, against other sovereign states. The reason is simple. No sovereign state wants to risk utter destruction at the hands of enemies with access to similarly nasty weaponry.

Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of non-sovereign jihadist nutbags are an entirely different story. Such wackos have absolutely no hesitations or compunctions about using weapons like these on their most hated enemies, because there is no one single entity against which retaliation can be visited. But in Iraq's case, we know now that there was never any real threat from WMDs in Saddam's hands; nor, for that matter, was there any real threat at the time either.

2. And what exactly is Iran up to now? If the end goal, or at least one of the goals, of invading Iraq was to put pressure on Iran, why then is Iran evidently just as strong, as stable, and as repressive as ever? Why is Iran funding Islamist nutball organisations throughout the Middle East in a clear bid to destabilise its Sunni Arab enemies? Why is it becoming clearer by the day that the Middle East is rapidly destabilising, as the old sovereign states are destroyed by internal and external pressures, and far more dangerous and fractured 4th-Generation, non-state entities take over them?

The realities of the Iranian situation are far more complex than any neoconservative can bring himself to admit. Iran is facing a population crisis without precedent in its, or any other Muslim nation's, history- and as David P. Goldman states in that flawed but rather good book, nations facing long-term demographic suicide do not act or respond rationally. It is particularly unwise to attempt to provoke such a nation, since its actions will inevitably be anything but predictable.

Yet that is precisely what the neoconservatives under President Bush did. They invaded and occupied a Shi'a nation in the hopes of pursuing some damned fool Wilsonian quest for "democracy" (once it became clear that the WMD shtick was nonsense, anyway), and were then surprised to discover that Iran did not cower down in fear, but responded by lashing out, and hard.

3. Imposing democracy and freedom on those who do not want it is idiotic beyond belief. Arabic cultures have a very hard time thinking beyond family and tribe. This is one of the many reasons why a federalist republican form of government- let alone full democracy- is unworkable in an Arab nation. The very idea runs counter to the entire grain of Arab culture.

What neoconservatives consistently fail to understand about democracy is that it only works, if at all, in high-trust societies. For a democracy to work, you have to be at least somewhat willing to trust your neighbour not to screw you over the first chance he gets. Yet the Arab mentality of "me against my brother; me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against my tribe; me and my tribe against the world" gives you some idea of what would happen if democracy were introduced into a society where no one trusts anyone else.

A democracy is merely a stepping-stone between rule by the few and rule by the mob, but incalculable damage can be done between those two points in a low-trust society. And that is precisely what we have seen in Iraq, where democracy has been nothing short of a disaster.

4. International law means nothing, full stop, except for the arbitrary value assigned to it by sovereign states. The entire canon of international law essentially comes down to gentlemen's agreements between governments. This is no bad thing, since international law regulates the flow of commerce between states and ensures that war and its manifest unpleasantness is kept to a minimum. If war does occur, states are generally interested in "playing by the rules".

When Saddam Hussein defied "international law", he was really just defying the US and its proxies in the United Abominations. Russia, China, and other less gullible nations were rather less willing to play along with the foolish American policy of pursuing the wrong enemies to the wrong ends of the Earth, and rightly made their objections felt on the assembly floor of the UN. When it became clear that "Iraq's defiance of international law" was not in fact sufficient reason for the world to go to war against a single relatively defenceless nation, the US went to war on rather sketchy Constitutional grounds.

So who, exactly, was defying international law here- Saddam Hussein, or George W. Bush?

5. American "leadership" has now created a massively unstable vacuum of power in the Middle East. It is directly due to George W. Bush's decision to invade, and subsequent decisions made by his Administration to handle the various crises that came their way, that trillions of dollars of American taxpayer's money and tens of thousands of lives were ruined and wasted in the sands of Iraq. When America left, bloodied and beaten- there is no use softening words here- the result was an entirely predictable vacuum of power that has led to the emergence of a very nasty 4GW entity in the form of ISIS.

As William S. Lind pointed out in his columns from 2004 to 2007, the war in and occupation of Iraq lurched from disaster to catastrophe with almost monotonous regularity, simply because the Administration refused to admit that it was fighting 4th-Generation enemies with 2nd-Generation military tactics and strategies.

It's actually something of a miracle that President Bush never went to war against Iran as well. And if he had done that, then he truly would have gone down in history as the absolute worst President since Woodrow Wilson; even the jug-eared idiot in the White House today would not have been able to better such a monumental act of stupidity.

In every way, the current Middle East and its attendant instability, chaos, and bloodshed are directly attributable to George W. Bush's flatly wrongheaded decision to invade a nation that posed virtually no threat whatsoever to America or its interests.

The results of the last 12 years have clearly shown that America and its allies are utterly incapable of facing and defeating 4th-Generation enemies in open battle. Even Israel, doughty and redoubtable as she is, has struggled and mostly failed to meet the challenge of 4th-Generation, largely stateless enemies like Hamas and Hezbollah for the past 10 years.

Yet instead of learning lessons from these failures and revising their worldview accordingly, neoconservatives continue to insist that they were right, and that their vision of a democratic, stable world order is possible if only more American blood and treasure is sacrificed upon the altar of their prideful stupidity.

The reason they continue to insist on this nonsense is because, like all unreconstructed Leftists, neoconservatives are ideologues. True conservatism is not an ideology- it is the opposite of ideology. A true conservative accepts Man for who and what he is, and accepts Man's nature for what it is. A true conservative recognises the futility of attempting to change Man's character, and is content to leave well enough alone.

Not so the ideologue. Such a man seeks to perfect the character of his fellows, and in so doing opens himself to the worst of all possible bad consequences. In a fight between what Man is and what Man wants to be, never bet against Man's character- as everyone but the neoconservative has been discovering for the past 15 years, you'll always lose.


  1. On the other hand: +

  2. +

  3. And how exactly does any of this contradict my original set of points?

    Where is the direct evidence that Saddam Hussein genuinely would have used CBN weapons, that could have been traced back to him, against American targets?

    Saddam Hussein's biggest concerns, beyond defying the embargoes imposed upon him by the US and the UN, amounted to the preservation of Ba'athist power with him at the head of Iraq's national power structure. His biggest threat was not the US. It was not Israel. It was Iran.

    In the process of invading and destroying the Iraqi regime, the US simply removed one of the major regional players that could have counterbalanced an even less rational and even more dangerous actor in the form of Iran. And it replaced a relatively strong centralised (though evil) Ba'athist state with, basically, no real state at all.

    Most of the arguments provided in favour of OIF in your second link amount to nothing more than retreads of the usual appeals to regional stability, the (uncontested and undeniable) fact that Saddam was a brutal and evil abuser of his own people, and the need to secure ambiguous "American interests" in the region. Yet the region is now more unstable than ever, the Iraqi people have experienced death and destruction on a scale that even Saddam never dared inflict upon them, and America is now, thanks to its adoption of revolutionary fracking technologies, less dependent on Middle Eastern energy resources than at any time in nearly a century.

    The results of 15 years of nation-building efforts, in regions that neither want nor understand Western-style democracy, human rights, equality, and culture, have been a colossal expenditure of blood and treasure for no gains whatsoever. Iraq is lost. Afghanistan is being lost. The Middle East is caught between the rising forces of ISIS and the declining forces of existing dictatorships. And caught up in the middle is America's rapidly deteriorating overseas empire.

  4. We didn't go to war with Iraq on "rather sketchy Constitutional grounds". The 1st 2 sources taken together explain thoroughly that the decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom was correct on law and policy grounds. Saddam was guilty of material breach across the board for casus belli, including the non-negotiable disarmament and terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 as well as the cornerstone humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688.

    When Saddam chose to call our bluff again rather than comply in his "final opportunity to comply" under UNSCR 1441, which was also our final opportunity to enforce Saddam's compliance, the decision for America to submit to Saddam's breach boiled down to trusting an unreconstructed, evidently rearming and terrorist Saddam.

    You trusted unreconstructed, evidently rearming and terrorist Saddam. Presidents Clinton and Bush did not.

    Clinton: "Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors; he will make war on his own people. And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them."

    Bush: "Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."

    As far as what happened to Iraq (and the region) after President Bush left office, see the 3rd source +

    1. The 1st 2 sources taken together explain thoroughly that the decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom was correct on law and policy grounds. Saddam was guilty of material breach across the board for casus belli, including the non-negotiable disarmament and terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 as well as the cornerstone humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688.

      When Saddam chose to call our bluff again rather than comply in his "final opportunity to comply" under UNSCR 1441, which was also our final opportunity to enforce Saddam's compliance, the decision for America to submit to Saddam's breach boiled down to trusting an unreconstructed, evidently rearming and terrorist Saddam.

      Since when do United Nations resolutions have anything whatsoever to do with Constitutional law? The Constitution is the recognised law under which the Federal government must abide, by definition.

      Moreover, reading through the text of the actual AUMF resolution, the resolution states clearly that the President was authorised to use force to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq". Which is all fine and dandy.

      Except... where was the threat, exactly?

      The first two sources you provide point convincingly to Saddam Hussein's attempts to use state-sponsored Islamic terrorism against targets- in Europe and, overwhelmingly, the Middle East. Where, exactly, was the direct and terrible threat to the US that would have justified an all-out invasion?

      The answer is that there wasn't one.

      The Bush Administration had its chance to make a convincing case for intervention before the world in 2003. His presentation was an utter failure.

      And if, indeed, large quantities of WMD stockpiles were unaccounted for, and Iraq's WMD program was indeed rapidly growing despite US-enforced no-fly zones and UN sanctions, why was evidence of this not uncovered after the US invasion? In spite of initial near-total control of the US military over Iraq's national infrastructure?

      The only reasonable answer, after 12 years of repeated failure to prove the "immediate WMD threat" canard, is that there was no real threat.

      The reality is that President Bush's actions were made on deeply questionable, though not necessarily outright incorrect, Constitutional grounds; they destabilised the region, badly; they have now embroiled the US in 4th-Generation warfare, a form of fighting that the US military has proven utterly incapable of fighting beyond a handful of limited successes; and has severely drained the American fisc in a poorly-defined, poorly-executed, utterly unnecessary exercise in imperial overreach.

      This episode will probably be remembered by future historians as America's "Syracuse Expedition", the adventure that destroyed an empire, and with it a once admirable and virile culture.


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