Strategy Page lists "Ten Myths Of the Iraq War", most of them are standard issue complaints about how the war is mis-represented by the administration's adversaries in the press and Congress, but there are a few points worth noting.
The article notes that at the time of the invasion there was good reason to suppose that Saddam had retained WMDs, and that he had the means of reconstituting them; that the war was not illegal, either in terms of domestic or international law; and that the sanctions regime put in place at the end of the first Gulf War was by no means working. These are well known points that have been endlessly treated in the press and political forums, and in each of them the administration has been shown conclusively to be in the right. Contrary positions deserve to be called "myths."
More problematic is the argument that Iran benefited from the overthrow of Saddam. Strategy Page makes the contrary argument:
Iran's clerical dictatorship did not want a democracy next door. The ancient struggle between the Iranians and Arabs was brought to the surface, and the UN became more active in dealing with problems caused by pro-terrorist government of Iran. As a result of this, the Iranian police state has faced more internal dissent. From inside Iran, Iraq does not look like an Iranian victory.This is something that can be reasonably debated. There is no doubt that Iran's leadership has become more aggressive since the Iraq invasion. Is this due, as critics of the war claim, because the collapse of Saddam's regime has presented the Mullahs with a golden opportunity to expand their influence; or is it, as Strategy Page argues, because the Mullahs feel threatened by the emerging Iraqi democracy and are desperately trying to ward off the threats they see emerging from the American success there? Only time, I fear, will tell. It is too early to make a firm judgment on this issue.
Strategy Page also disputes the judgment that the invasion was a "failure." The major goal, the overthrow of a brutal dictator, was accomplished quickly, cleanly, and efficiently. The mission, as originally defined, was accomplished. The aftermath, the article argues, was quite another matter and is the result, not so much of administration missteps, but of the incredible, almost incomprehensible, stupidity of the Baathist remnants.
Here again there is plenty of room for debate. I still don't understand the thinking that would hold the Bush administration responsible for the fact that Iraqis are killing other Iraqis -- it's not as if they weren't enthusiastically doing so before the invasion -- but the question of which policies may or may not have contributed to what outcomes is ongoing, and will continue to be so far into the next century and beyond. Here there is no prospect of a rational resolution to the debate and all we are left with is people taking positions based on their biases. Repeat, this debate cannot be resolved rationally. Some progress may be made, but not in the forseeable future.
As for the argument that the invasion helped al Qaeda. The evidence is clear, it did not. As Strategy Page writes we must judge that as:
One might at this point insert the question: had there been no invasion, what alternative course could have been taken. There is no clear answer to this and all is supposition. There is no convincing argument to be made that al Qaeda would have suffered greatly in the absence of an Iraq invasion.
Compared to what? Al Qaeda was a growing movement before 2003, and before 2001. But after the Iraq invasion, and especially the Sunni Arab terrorism, al Qaeda fell in popularity throughout the Moslem world. Arab countries cracked down on al Qaeda operations more than ever before. Without the Iraq invasion, al Qaeda would still have safe havens all over the Arab world.
The article also rightly notes that the whole question of whether or not Iraq is in a state of Civil War is meaningless, simply a matter of partisan rhetoric. It also disputes the silly notion that Iraqis were better off under Saddam. The great majority of Iraqis demonstrably are today much better off than they were before the invasion, although the Sunni Arab minority has much to complain of. The article also successfully disputes the argument that the invasion is responsible for the rise of Islamic radicalism in Europe. That movement long antedated the Iraq war and can be attributed more plausibly to conditions within Europe itself than to any exogenous happening.
Finally, with regard to the assertion, frequently made, that the war is "lost" the article asks:
By what measure? Saddam and his Baath party are out of power. There is a democratically elected government. Part of the Sunni Arab minority continues to support terror attacks, in an attempt to restore the Sunni Arab dictatorship. In response, extremist Shia Arabs formed vigilante death squads to expel all Sunni Arabs. Given the history of democracy in the Middle East, Iraq is working through its problems. Otherwise, one is to believe that the Arabs are incapable of democracy and only a tyrant like Saddam can make Iraqi "work." If democracy were easy, the Arab states would all have it. There are problems, and solutions have to be found and implemented. That takes time, but Americans have, since the 18th century, grown weary of wars after three years. If the war goes on longer, the politicians have to scramble to survive the bad press and opinion polls. Opposition politicians take advantage of the situation, but this has nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with local politics in the United States.To which I can only say, "amen"! If the war is to be lost, it will be in the halls of Congress and in the American media, not in Iraq.
Read the whole thing here.