For those of us who felt in 2003 that the US/UK invasion of Iraq was – on balance – the right thing to do, 2006 has been a particularly humbling year. I had the utmost in confidence at the time that the militaries involved had it in them to bring that country out of the religious stone ages and into a secular-ish quasi-democracy, albeit one that would probably have to install or would beg for a strongman leader sooner or later. I overestimated the ability of our military to fight a true 21st century war – through no fault of the men & women on the ground – and severely underestimated how strongly the religious hatreds underneath the hand of Saddam were boiling, and just how violently evil the Shi’ites and Sunnis could be to each other when the kettle top was lifted. It sucks to be wrong, you know what I mean?
This war’s led me to question my mislayed confidence in this particular branch of the government being able to run itself like a smart, streamlined, flexible organization, when I’ve never believed in the innate ability of any of the other branches of government to do so. It’s led me also to harden my resolve against the nihilistic violence and fanatical zealotry of modern-day radical Islam, and to remember to never make common cause with its apologists, no matter how badly this war muddies the waters for what is essentially an assault on civilization itself. I honestly have no idea on how to stop 50-100 sectarian kidnappings, murders and drill-to-skull tortures every day. More troops, less troops, no troops, tough talk or appeasement – it all sounds bad, and the fundamental issues that we’re fighting for don’t resolve themselves in any case.
I continue to believe that we undertook this war with the best of intentions, but the United States and United Kingdom suffered from hubris, from a Cold War-era military mentality, and from structural blinders that I myself also had at the time. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.