Clark was wrong …

… to say that Iraq was a “sideshow” in the war against terror. It was actually a “detour,” according to a study coming out of the Army War College.

Study abstract here.

Of particular concern has been the conflation of al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat. This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in charcter, threat level, and susceptibility to US deterrence and military action. The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT [Global War on Terror] but rather a detour from it.

The author, Jeffrey Record, seems to know what he’s talking about, and has some reasonably hawkish-sounding credentials. That doesn’t mean he’s right. (I was, tentatively, on the other side of the question, and despite the fumbling and bumbling of the reconstruction and the absence of any actual weapons of mass destruction or facilities for making them, I’m still inclined to think that going in was the better course.)

But it does mean that having been against the war in Iraq isn’t necessarily a sign of a generalized unwillingness to use military power to protect the United States. Lots of people who are every bit as committed to fighting terrorism as any warblogger, and know a hell of a lot more about the guts of the problem than most, thought and think that going into Iraq was a mistake, from the perspective of American national security.

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:

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