Day By Day

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Was the War a Mistake?

Francis Fukuyama thinks so, but Bret Stephens disagrees. He writes:
Perhaps it's worth considering what we have gained now that Iraq looks like a winner.

Here's a partial list: Saddam is dead. Had he remained in power, we would likely still believe he had WMD. He would have been sitting on an oil bonanza priced at $140 a barrel. He would almost certainly have broken free from an already crumbling sanctions regime. The U.S. would be faced with not one, but two, major adversaries in the Persian Gulf. Iraqis would be living under a regime that, in an average year, was at least as murderous as the sectarian violence that followed its collapse. And the U.S. would have seemed powerless to shape events.

Instead, we now have a government that does not threaten its neighbors, does not sponsor terrorism, and is unlikely to again seek WMD. We have a democratic government, a first for the Arab world, and one that is increasingly capable of defending its people and asserting its interests.

We have a defeat for al Qaeda. Critics carp that had there been no invasion, there never would have been al Qaeda in Iraq. Maybe. As it is, thousands of jihadists are dead, al Qaeda has been defeated on its self-declared "central battlefield," and the movement is largely discredited on the Arab street and even within Islamist circles.

We also have -- if still only prospectively -- an Arab bulwark against Iran's encroachments in the region. But that depends on whether we simply withdraw from Iraq, or join it in a lasting security partnership.

None of these are achievements to sneer at, all the more so because they were won through so much sacrifice.
Read it here.

Fukuyama was wrong about the "end of history" and for precisely the same reasons he is wrong about the war. He defines the costs and benefits too narrowly. His end of history argument was based in the plain fact that a century of historical experience had finally settled the ongoing argument over capitalism. It demonstrated beyond any doubt that liberal economic and political systems were far more productive than any proposed alternatives. That debate has been settled, a fact that has been recognized most famously by India and China both of which have abandoned command economies for free market systems. But settling that economic debate did not bring history to an end, as a glance at the TV news will show. Fundamental conflicts remain. Fukuyama's argument works only within a narrow framework of comparative economic organization. So, too, with his assessment of the War in Iraq. He argues:
"We've spent a trillion or so dollars, 30,000 dead or wounded, a large loss in international influence and prestige, all for the sake of disarming a country with no WMDs"
and declares the war a mistake. But to do so ignores the host of other considerations, humanitarian, strategic, cultural, geo-political, etc. that might lead to a different conclusion. And it is simply wrong on the matter of influence and prestige. If anything, American influence has grown as a result of Iraq and on the prestige matter I would note that our foremost critics of a decade ago have been replaced by pro-American regimes, that the United States has emerged at the head of international security arrangements in both the Middle East and East Asia, and that we are far better positioned today to influence global events than we were a decade ago.