Assessing The Iraq War/War on Terror Debate
Thanks to all who participated in our debate series covering the War in Iraq and the War on Terror. I hope, if nothing else, everyone came away with a greater understanding of the convictions and arguments of those with whom they disagree. I, for one, learned a lot.
I learned that the vast majority of Iraq opponents supported Afghanistan and, in fact, support military action as one facet of the War on Terrorism. What those who object to this war disagree with is the Bush administration’s claim that this is a war that had to be fought. Those that oppose the war simply and I think reasonably disagree that our greater interests have been advanced by toppling Saddam.
But I also learned that those who support this war have multiple, rational reasons for doing so. Most supporters sincerely believe liberating the Iraqis was a noble cause. Many note that Iraq was worse under Saddam and was also a time bomb. Sooner or later, they argue, Saddam was going to use his wealth and influence to attack us in some form or another. Better to invade now and not wait—particularly given the fact that all intelligence pointed to Saddam possessing WMD.
I also learned that people can talk about this war without getting blindingly angry. The vast number of comments were sensible and devoid of personal attacks. But I wonder if any minds were changed. I certainly learned new facts and new ideas, but I’m still pretty much where I was before.
And where I am is in neither camp. For one, I don’t think Bush lied. But I do think there was a certain level of incompetence throughout the administration in the lead up and initial execution of the war. They seemed too willing to believe the worst about Iraq and yet too willing to believe the best about our chances at a quick and decisive victory. And I think they too easily rejected the Powell Doctrine.
But here’s the thing: I’m not a military expert. And nor are the vast number of Americans. We can only make educated guesses and 20/20 hindsight criticisms. I am willing to give our leaders the benefit of the doubt. I am also willing to listen intently to the critiques from men like Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) who has been to Iraq repeatedly and met with our commanders there often. But I acknowledge that I can’t, from the comfort of my home, truly assess how this war is going and whether or not our leaders have been incompetent or if the mistakes have been acceptable considering all the unknowables of war.
What I do know is the President was reelected. Some say his support was based on lies he told but, again, I just don’t attribute to malice what I can attribute to incompetence. And most Americans stated with their vote that this President was competent enough to continue holding the job. That’s enough for me. Kerry lost. It’s time for the opposition to become the loyal opposition once more. Criticism is vital but divisiveness is not.
Thanks again to all those who participated in this debate series. I have learned that I cannot comment on this war without someone viciously calling me names and questioning my sanity. But I refuse to think we can’t talk about this. We have to talk about this. And our differences on this simply cannot be reason to hate each other. All of you who participated seemed to do so in the spirit that we are one nation. I, for one, appreciate that and think if more could act this way, more progress could be made.