Success in Iraq

SUCCESS IN IRAQ….Josh Marshall asks today: what are the criteria for success in Iraq? I remember asking this question back in February, right at the time I was wobbling on my support for the war, but since it was before Calpundit had comments there was no response aside from a few emails.

The question is obviously even more germane now than it was then, so I’m going to reprint the post now. I’m curious to see what the response is.

I might write it a bit differently today than I did six months ago, but I think it’s best just to reproduce it exactly as I wrote it then. Here it is.


Let’s take it as given that one result of the war will be a relatively swift regime change in Iraq, with Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants either captured or killed. As nice as that might be, however, I think there’s a bipartisan consensus that there are several other outcomes we would also like to see. For example:

  • Introduction, to at least some extent, of democratic institutions in Iraq.

  • Rapid reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure and introduction of market reforms, food aid, and medical aid.

  • A clear demonstration to the world that Iraq did indeed have the hidden WMDs that we said they had.

  • Continued protection of the Kurds and other ethnic minorities in Iraq.

  • At some level, evidence that Western values introduced in Iraq are starting to make inroads in the rest of the Middle East.

And then there are the possible disasters that a war might bring:

  • A serious uprising of the “Arab street” that ends up promoting increased terrorist activity.

  • Additional wars in the Middle East, whether they involve us or not.

  • Pursuit of WMDs by countries like Iran or Syria, which don’t currently have them.

  • A serious attack, possibly nuclear, on Israel.

  • An interruption of the Mideast oil supply, either via embargo or war, that causes a serious recession in the rest of the world.

So I have this question: if you’re in favor of war, is anything more than regime change needed for you to consider it a success? And would any of the disasters on the bottom list convince you that it was, in the end, a failure?

For anti-war partisans, the question is the opposite. How many of the items on the top list would have to happen to convince you that the war, in fact, turned out to be a positive development?

To put it more simply, what are the criteria for success? Does moral clarity begin and end with forcibly removing Saddam Hussein from power, or is there more to it?

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