Kevin Drum asks:
Question: [Re:] the primary critique among the anti-war left, has the Iraq war vindicated them?
Well, my quick answer as to my primary critque of the Iraq Debacle is – for the same reasons Bush pere did not go to Baghdad at the end of Desert Storm. But my long answer relies on the Congressional testimony of General Wesley Clark in September 2002:
GEN. CLARK: I’ve been concerned that the attention on Iraq will distract us from what we’re doing with respect to al Qaeda. . . . I think, as a minimum, that when one opens up another campaign, there is a diversion of effort. The question is whether the diversion of effort is productive or counterproductive. I really — it’s — there are forces operating in both directions at this point. You can make the argument, as General Shalikashvili did, that you want to cut off all sources of supply. Problem with that argument is that Iran really has had closer linkages with the terrorists in the past and still does, apparently, today, than Iraq does. So that leads you to then ask, well, what will be the impact on Iran?
. . . SEN. CLELAND: And if you took out Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party, the secularist party, don’t the . . . Shi’ite Muslims make up a majority of the population in Iraq, and wouldn’t that give Iran a strong hand there, and we ultimately end up creating a Muslim state, even under democratic institutions?GEN. CLARK: Yes, sir. I think that there is a substantial risk in the aftermath of the operation that we could end up with a problem which is more intractable than we have today.
One thing we’re pretty clear on is that Saddam has a very effective police state apparatus. He doesn’t allow challenges to his authority inside that state. When we go in there with a transitional government and a military occupation of some indefinite duration, it’s also very likely that if there is an effective al Qaeda left — and there certainly will be an effective organization of extremists — they will pour into that country because they must compete for the Iraqi people; the Wahabes with the Sunnis, the Shi’as from Iran working with the Shi’a population. So it’s not beyond consideration that we would have a radicalized state, even under a U.S. occupation in the aftermath.
Was General Clark vindicated?