Thursday, February 12, 2004

Enough already! (updated)
I’m so fed up of the (was there any/wasn’t there any) WMD discussion. It wasn’t about WMD. It wasn’t even about Saddam being a very nasty tyrant. It was about the big picture. It was about 1991 and the U.S. not sticking around to win the war, and deserting the local opposition. It was about the U.S. and the West coming out of that war, in the eyes of the Arabs, as weak and decadent, and about the Arabs seeing themselves, at last, as a worthy adversary and serious threat to the new sole world leader, in the post-USSR era. And that is what led to the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a real threat to the world as we know it.

What’s Iraq got to do with al-Qaeda and terrorism, you ask? Well, as I see it, even if there were no direct connection, there is the connection of empowerment; of nationalistic pride; of saying “boo” to the big guy and watching him retreat, red-faced, with his tail between his legs; of understanding Western weaknesses and learning to effectively exploit them.

And that’s why taking out Saddam was so essential for the first stages of the global War on Terror (remember the War on Terror?). WMD really wasn’t the issue. So why did they go to such lengths to say that it was? Big mistake.

Haggai has posted the most intriguing comment on the subject. It’s got everything – Hitchcock, Kipling, lions in Scotland. I love it. I have a slight problem with the bottom line, because I personally really do think it was never about WMD. I just can’t understand (and couldn’t understand at the time) why anyone ever said it was. Still, Haggai’s idea is so creative and fascinating, you just have to read it.

Update: Haggai says

My bottom line is actually a lot more involved than what I put in that post. I do think the war was a good idea overall, partly for some of the reasons you specified. But for me, the ultimate success of the war, and the ultimate success of anything this big that the US attempts to do, depends very heavily on a phrase that became widely used during Vietnam: "the informed consent of the American people," with they key word being "informed." Everyone's gotta know what they're getting into. When it comes to the cost of the war in terms of money, the number of post-regime US casualties, the length of time for the reconstruction, etc., there's just no doubt for me that most people in the States were NOT informed about it by the administration ahead of time. There really is a lot of concern about how expensive it is, how messy and violent it is, how long it's taking, etc. I think these things are absolutely tied in with the credibility of the case that was made ahead of time for going to war, and they're very important in terms of how successful the whole thing ends up being in the long run.

With WMD, specifically, I don't think the lack of WMD means that one has to retract their support for the war in retrospect. But it's undoubtedly an important issue, for US credibility and for the future of dealing with these problems with other regimes. When people say things like, the war was a good idea even though we haven't found WMD, there were other reasons to care about more than WMD, etc., I think that's fine, and it's largely what I think anyway. But when people here in the US say that they NEVER cared about WMD AT ALL, that the obvious disconnect between what the administration said going in and what's happened since then doesn't matter at all, and that it doesn't raise serious questions about the specific way in which we went to war, then I really find that troubling. In a movie, OK, it's the MacGuffin, it doesn't matter, but this is real life!

As a mother of twelve years, four months, eleven days, four hours, and three minutes, I think I have enough experience to safely say that the truth, the whole truth (as far as possible), and nothing but the truth is always, yes always, the best policy for parents interacting with their children. It may not be easy, it may require courage at times (and I am eternally grateful to Bish for helping me daily with my considerable flaws in that department), but there is no alternative policy that works, not in the short run, not in the long run. Even at a very young age, kids can take far more than most people realize. How they react to the truth is mainly a result of the way they are told and the emotions their parents transmit to them.

If this is true for children, even very small children, why should anyone think it wouldn’t be true for adults? Governments should have more trust in the collective common sense of their people.

(There are, of course, things that are not for public consumption, for reasons of safety and security. A child should not know the combination of a safe containing weapons, for instance, but it is a good idea that he or she should be aware that there are weapons in that safe, and how to behave around those weapons to make sure that they are not harmed by them.)