Question for Rick Santorum
    and other unreconstructed hawks

If Iran is the Maximum Islamofascist Enemy, wasn’t it obviously a bad idea to strengthen Iran by invading Iraq?

If in fact Iran is the Maximum Enemy, wasn’t the invasion of Iraq obviously (at least in retrospect) a huge mistake? After all, it (predictably):

1. Strengthened the lunatic anti-American party in Iran and weakened what had been very substantial pro-U.S. sentiment there;

2. Eliminated Iran’s most potent regional adversary;

3. Gave Iran substantial power in Iraq through its influence over the Shi’a there;

4. Made U.S. forces in Iraq virtual hostages to the threat that Iranian-influenced Shi’a leaders could call for jihad against the foreign occupiers.

I supported the invasion of Iraq, (though with bunches of reservations and caveats) given the apparent threat that Iraq would soon acquire nuclear weapons. But of course we now know that there was no such threat in reality. The notion that seriously aggravating the threat from Iran, including the very real possibility that Iran will join the nuclear club, could be justified by finding a bunch of rusty nerve-gas artillery shells left over from the Iran-Iraq war doesn’t pass the giggle test.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

15 thoughts on “Question for Rick Santorum
    and other unreconstructed hawks”

  1. Re: Strengthened the lunatic anti-American party in Iran
    As an American, I am very reluctant to use the phrase "lunatic" when referring to parties in other nation-states. In the past year, we have had a Republican Senator call for nuking Syria – and offer to fly the plane that would do the job; a prominent Republican clergyman call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez; the Republican leader of the Senate claim that he can diagnose Terri Schiavo by watching a short video clip; the entire Republican leadership of the House convene to intimidate the court system in Florida concerning Terri Schiavo; the President refer to the leveling of 3/4 of Lebanese bridges and the creation of 1 million refugees as "birth pangs"; and the President's mother declare on public radio, "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this — this [she chuckles slightly] is working very well for them."
    I'm just scratching the surface. With the exception of Al Qaeda (and perhaps Saudi Wahhabi clerics), I doubt that any group in the Middle East or Iran can compete with the US Republican Party in level of mendacitiy, hysteria, paranoia and cruelty. Hezbollah and Hamas engage in extensive community organizing and social welfare work and seem more in touch with elementary principles of science, ethics, geography, and international law.

  2. Santorum looked pretty lame, spouting the same old stuff, about not finding "new" weapons, but lots of old ones from the Iran war. We should have recognised them immediately, since we probably made and sold them to SH back then. (the interviewer glossed that right over) Like they say, we know he has weapons of mass destruction, we have the sales receipts and bank deposit slips.
    Personally, I'm annoyed at the continuing stupidity of the pundit class, not to mention the demo party. Stand up on your hind quarters, fellows, and bray loudly. Helen Thomas hit it correctly this weekend, the demos have to start calling for withdrawal right away, before we have to evacuate using helicopters, a la saigon…
    btw, my website got hacked by anti-israeli hackers this weekend and filled with pictures of dead Lebanese children and Israeli schoolgirls painting anti-muslim slogans on the bombs and artillery shells. The pictures are gone, but so is my site. We are under attack here, they have brought the war to us, unlike what the pResident says. Have you bought gas lately?

  3. I'm amazed that anyone bought that pack of lies from the Decider when he rushed to war with Iraq. I mean no offense, but damn, B. Come on. That whole thing had LIE written all over it.

  4. It is weird. Along with Mark Kleiman, my three favorite bloggers — Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall — all supported the decision to confront Iraq over WMD. Of course they came to regret it.

  5. Two things:
    (1) Giving our assertively expansionist, nuclear-pursuing and theocratic regional rivals their very own client state, complete with 100,000 of our very own soldiers as leverage, was a foolish idea.
    (2) I have to take issue with this:
    "I doubt that any group in the Middle East or Iran can compete with the US Republican Party in level of mendacitiy, hysteria, paranoia and cruelty. Hezbollah and Hamas engage in extensive community organizing and social welfare work and seem more in touch with elementary principles of science, ethics, geography, and international law."
    Aw, c'mon. I'm a fervent opponent of Santorum and his crazy ilk, but Hezbollah and Hamas engage in *kidnapping and bombing* as a primary political tactic. As loathsome as the various GOP behaviors you cited above may be, it's out of bounds to say that Hezbollah is more ethical or less cruel. Let's argue in good faith here, 'k?

  6. So did I, JJF. And the reason, in all our cases, was the same: while it was very easy for us to believe that this administration's officials were venal, never in our darkest dreams did we suspect that Cheney and Rumsfeld — supposedly the two grownups who would keep President Snerd from doing anything seriously dumb in the foreign policy/military field — would themselves turn out to be suicidally stupid, and capable of lying in order to lead us into an extremely dangerous military misstep which has seriously increased the odds of a smuggled nuke going off in Washington while they themselves are in it. (Indeed, the people who've known them closely for a long time, such as Brent Scowcroft, have publicly stated that even they can't explain what's happened to these two men. Maybe they've been possessed by evil aliens or something.)

  7. I agree with your conclusion, just not your reasons. The reason it was a mistake to keep our troops in Iraq is that we now don't have the ability to do much about Iran.

  8. One hears a great deal to the effect that the Bush Administration has admittedly created a disaster in Iraq, but the Democrats have no plan to extract us. Lessons may be learned from the last two times Presidents were perceived to have entered and/or misfought a badly-begun war in a region we clearly had not understood. The first was Korea and the second Vietnam. North Korea's invasion was widely attributed to Truman's Sec'y of State's public exclusion of South Korea from the zone of U.S. protection. When Truman proved unable to win or end the resulting conflict, we elected the war-hero, Ike, who had no better plan to end the war, but to "go to Korea" if necessary. In other words, throw out the crowd who began it and couldn't end it, and trust a new Administration to handle the situation better.
    Much the same thing happened to Johnson and Vietnam – the President who enlarged the war, and couldn't end or win it, gave way to Nixon, whose secret plan for "Peace with Honor" prolonged the war, which eventually had to be ended by his resignation (Watergate), and the votes of an outraged (Democratic) Congress. [1see below]
    To those who say that Iraq is not like Korea or Vietnam, because we are not free simply to leave, and the Islamic radicals will take over the Middle East, we should counter that you do not recall history. We were not free simply to abandon South Korea, nor did we. And the Communists did not over-run Southeast Asia when we left Vietnam, as was widely predicted by that generation's hawks.
    Lesson? Throw out the crowd who are responsible for this mis-begotten and mis-fought war, and elect a new Administration with a realistic sense of our allies and of the region. No other or more detailed plan is necessary.
    Sincerely, Bruce
    1 10 May 73 – Due to continued bombing of Laos and Cambodia, the House voted (219-188) for the first time to cut-off Indochina funds
    31 May 73 – The Senate took strong action prohibiting the use of any funds appropriated by Congress to be used for combat activities in Laos or Cambodia

  9. Lesson? Throw out the crowd who are responsible for this mis-begotten and mis-fought war, and elect a new Administration with a realistic sense of our allies and of the region. No other or more detailed plan is necessary.
    Absolutely. The door swings both ways with democracy. You can elect someone on the basis of their manifesto for the furutre; but you can also throw someone out on the basis of their past record. The time for decisions will come when we see who the Democrat and Republican Presidential caniddates will be.
    President Bush is not facing another election, but some of his most vocal supporters are… and soon.

  10. Hm, objectively? I'm looking at a map, and we've got troops on Iran's Eastern and Western borders, and sea power to the South of them. Doesn't strike me as all that bad a position to be in at the start of a war with Iran. Better than trying to beg flyover permission from the Saudis, that's for sure.
    "Tied down" or "easy striking range", the only difference is whether you think the costs of pulling up stakes are worth it. Considering that most of those consequences would be imposed by the same Iranian government that's currently supplying the Iraqi "insurgency", attacking them might leave them a bit to preoccupied to impose 'em. And open war would make sealing that border against Iranian supplies a bit less problematic.
    Bottom line? It's not an open and shut case at all that the war put us in a worst spot to deal with Iran.

  11. >2. Eliminated Iran's most potent regional adversary;
    We eliminated Iran's enemies on both sides: Iraq and Afghanistan. Half of the refugees from the Taliban were in Iran, so there is great friendship among the Afghani towards the Iranians.
    >…but the Democrats have no plan to extract us…
    Why should I save you from your own stupidity. If you're falling off a cliff, I'm not going to risk my life saving your's, I'm going to cut your fingers off so you can never threaten me and my family with your irresponsible wars.
    >And the Communists did not over-run Southeast Asia when we left Vietnam?
    Vietnam is trying to join the WTO. Both China and Vietnam are participants in the global economy. If it weren't for Chinese investment in the US, we wouldn't have the money to engage in unbridled military wargasms around the world.
    >Considering that most of those consequences would be imposed by the same Iranian government that's currently supplying the Iraqi "insurgency"
    One need only look at the borders of Iraq to see just what country(ies) might be supporting an "insurgency" in Iraq. Kuwait, Turkey and Jordan depend upon US support, so that ain't likely. The Iranians are tickled pink that they now have a shiite dominated government imposed by the US at no cost to themselves. Syria is run by a bunch of hashemites with no love for sunnis. That leaves one country with a long straight border along Iraq, a country run by sunnis, a country that funded 911 and provided the world with the madras schools fueling "islamofascism" and that country is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
    And don't forget the 250,000 tons of munitions that were looted after Iraq was taken. Through the incompentance of our "leadership," the US forgot to guard the known ammo dumps and at current levels of "insurgency" those 250,000 tons of munitions will supply about 200 years of IEDs, mortars and death squads. Could some of those looted weapons have made it to Lebanon to shoot at Israelis? It wouldn't surprise me one whit.

  12. Gee,who could have seen this coming?How about anyone who spent a couple of hours researching the middle east.(what do you guys do in your spare time anyway?)Before we went into Iraq ,Iran was ready to elect a rather liberal leader one who would be less hostile to us.Then we invaded Iraq and SUPRISE Iran got all paranoid on us.And who knew Iraq was majority shia(who would they be allied to?)I say lets do Iran ,get a draft going freak out russia and china and really have some fun.

  13. In Iraq and elsewhere, we are just beginning to see the crippling costs of electing leaders who believe they are controlled by supernatural beings.

  14. In Iraq and elsewhere, we are just beginning to see the crippling costs of electing leaders who believe they are controlled by supernatural beings.

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