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Monday, September 27, 2004

Orin Kerr's challenge 
Orin Kerr has thrown down the gauntlet in this Volokh post to those who supported military intervention in Iraq. He poses three questions, and has promised to link to blogged responses to those questions. I was in favor of military intervention when it became clear that Saddam had no intention of complying with the UN weapons inspectors. So I will post my answers to the three questions, and I hope that any of you who might have points to add would post follow-ups to my answers.

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time
of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good
idea?
Why/why not?

Yes, I do think it was a good idea. First of all, I want to make it clear that I think it is only fair to evaluate whether or not the Iraq invasion was a good idea based on information available at the time. In doing so, I concede that our intelligence information may have been inaccurate. But this only underscores my primary point, which was that we simply did not know, and had no way of finding out, because of Saddam's intransigence. The fact that we could not know meant that we had to assume a worst-case scenario, involving a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon being transferred from Saddam to a terrorist organization was at least possible, if not probable. Since the invasion, we may be able to conclude that at that time, the actual risk was not as high as we thought, but more importantly, we now know what the risk is. A lack of actual knowledge is at least as dangerous as actual knowledge of nefarious plans, and that danger has been resolved.

Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq
these days, such as the stories I link to above?

My first reaction is to be concerned, and to be a little disappointed. But I also have a skeptical reaction, given the tendencies of these reports to be often second-hand, and often coming from people or organizations that have evinced a clear bias against our involvement there. I also try to maintain a little perspective, in that it could realistically be much, much worse than it is. I did not expect perfection, and I was well aware that we would make mistakes and some things would not go as we hoped. Such are the fortunes of war. Most importantly, however, I feel no reaction of being inclined to abandon the project. Not only would this be counterproductive to our interests in a free and democratic Iraq, but it would be extremely dishonorable to the Iraqis to do so.

Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the
coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

Success has already been achieved for the most part, from a security standpoint. We can now be relatively confident that the chances of trerrorists receiving WMD from the Iraqi government are very low. For longer-term success, I would expect to see:

  1. A (relatively) free and democratic Iraq, including a quasi-capitalist economy
  2. An active Iraqi anti-terrorist force that cooperates with the U.S.
  3. Unrest and upheaval in the militant factions of Islam in the region, spurred by a redefinition of Islam as a religion of peace by Iraqi clerics
  4. Unrest and instability in other oppressive countries in the region, caused both by a demonstration of U.S. will and by an Iraqi example of the success of freedom.

I believe that our best chance for these outcomes is to maintain a strong presence in the region until the Iraqi government is able to take over both the political and security functions of a state. It is very close politically, with the January elections a major milestone. Security may take longer, but ultimately I think the key to success in security is success in politics. To abandon the government now would be disastrous for its prospects and distastrous for our credibility.

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