Monday, September 27, 2004

Orin Kerr's Questions

I'm taking a short break from my usual blogging goals to answer Orin Kerr's questions for hawkish bloggers. I supported the war at first, so I should be up front about where I stand now:

1. Today, I believe the Iraq War was a bad idea. The primary reason I have changed my mind is that the war's opportunity costs have been greater than I expected. E.g., the U.S. presence in Iraq has left the U.S. less able to respond to the genocide in Darfur, to Iran's nuclear weapons program, and to crises in Haiti, Venezuela, and the Ivory Coast. I think the world is clearly better off without Saddam, but, I would prefer a world with Saddam but without a nuclear Iran and without a Sudan capable of getting away with genocide.

My opinion here has been less affected by events in Iraq than by my wrongly expecting the peace treaty in Sudan to work and Iran to be further from getting nuclear weapons than it is today. Worse, it is possible that their knowledge that the U.S.'s attention was elsewhere may have emboldened those countries to do things they knew the international community would oppose.

2. None of the negative stories Orin has linked has affected my judgment of the war very much, although the deaths of U.S. soldiers have affected my emotions greatly.

The reason they haven't affected my opinions much is that most of what I've heard suggests the U.S. is currently stepping up its offensive operations, first vs. Sadrists in Najaf, and now vs. Sadrists in Baghdad and holdouts in the Sunni triangle. I am no military strategist, but, I would expect greater U.S. military action in Iraq to lead to a surge in attacks against U.S. forces and in Iraqi unhappiness. The test will be whether it is a surge of attacks followed by a U.S. military victory, or a surge of attacks followed by still more attacks.

3. The primary criterion I would use to judge the success or failure of the Iraq War is whether the war causes other nations critical to the war on terror to bend to U.S. pressure more quickly, or whether it causes them to take U.S. threats less seriously due to our troop commitments, perceptions of U.S. failure, or loss of international goodwill. Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are all test cases for this.

A secondary criterion I would use is whether Iraq becomes a haven for people like Al-Zarqawi and Al-Sadr. I never had high hopes for a democratic Iraq, but I really don't want it to become the world's biggest terrorist training ground.