Everybody's Got One
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Friday, October 04, 2002


Listening to Carl Levin (D-Narnia) on last night's Newshour arguing for the importance of delaying until the entire International Community™ can be cajoled/shamed/bribed into signing on to Iraqi disarmament at the point of a sharp stick (and, if they don't, well, we'll just have to call a special post-election session of Congress to vote on a much firmer resolution, again), I wondered, Why isn't anyone pointing out that the international coalition so slowly and painstakingly assembled in 1990-91 is responsible in a non-trivial measure for the mess we're in today?

It was the "partners" in the coalition that were satisfied when Saddam was driven out of Kuwait and wanted him left in power, to keep the region "stabilized" at the status quo ante. (Yes, the Bushies and Gen. Powell agreed, and then tried half-heartedly for regime change on the cheap.) Had Schwartzkopf kept his forces driving down the Highway of Death into Baghdad, it would have been bloody as hell – and not just for frightened Iraqi conscripts. US casualties could have hit four digits, easily. But how many tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – Kurd, Shia, Sunni – who died over the last eleven years would be alive today? How many Israelis (and Palestinians)? How many Western victims of Saddam-facilitated Islamist terrorism?

I'm not trying to rewrite history – I wanted the war to stop, too, as quickly as possible, and after South Africa we all believed that sanctions could be effective – but we'd best learn from it. First, that containment works less and less adequately in an interconnected world. Second, that international consensus reduces action to the lowest common denominator and increases idealistic rhetoric and expectations exponentially. The road ahead is long and uncertain – do we really want to partner with people who helped us to a bad outcome last time around this block?

When you're in a hole, stop shoveling it.

Update: Den Beste has, of course.

The quote, from a long post on many things beside: As to the "broad coalition" in 1991, one consequence of it was that the majority of those nations were only willing to participate on condition that we not finish the job. They'd help us if and only if we promised not to depose Saddam. ... Let's not make that mistake again, OK? Let's not get sucked into yet another coalition which will yet again force us to make commitments which yet again prevent us from actually finishing the issues.

posted by Kelly | 5:15 PM link