Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Debating the war -- Orin Kerr with The Volokh Conspiracy

Reading about this discussion, I had to put in my two cents worth. This is what happened...

Three Questions for the Pro-War Blogosphere: A year and a half have now passed since the invasion of Iraq. If you read the papers these days, the news coming from Iraq seems awfully depressing. The country is suffering about 70 hostile attacks a day, and 900 U.S. soldiers have died since the declared end of the hostilities ? a rate of about 2 U.S. soldiers every day. Over 90% of Iraqis see the U.S. as an occupying force. Meanwhile, classified U.S. intelligence reports are pretty gloomy about what will happen in Iraq in the coming years. While U.S. public opinion on the war in Iraq seems evenly divided, right now the picture looks grim. I'm no expert in foreign policy, and wasn't sure whether the invasion was a good idea in the first place, but my sense is that attitudes towards the war in Iraq are becoming increasingly sour.

So here's a little experiment in blogospheric dialogue. I would like members of the hawkish side of the blogosphere to post responses on their blogs to three questions I have about the situation in Iraq. In exchange, I'll post links to the answers on the Volokh Conspiracy. Here are my questions:
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?

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?

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?

If you are a blogger who is generally hawkish on Iraq and you choose to participate, please answer these three questions in a single post and e-mail the URL of your post to orinkerr at (Please don't use my account for this one-- instead, use orinkerr at My plan is to gather the links to the responses and post the links here on the Volokh Conspiracy so others can read, debate, and analyze the posts. I plan to be pretty indiscriminate with the links, too: so long as a blogger is (or was) pro-war and answers all three questions in English without excessive profanity, I'll provide the link to it. I realize that this is a bit exclusionary � I want blogged responses, not e-mailed responses � but it's easy to start a blog and I want to provide lots of links rather than a few excerpts. Also, I'll put a time cap on this experiment: to get a link, the URL must be recieved at orinkerr at by 5pm EDT on Friday, October 1. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your blogs.

Shannon Love picked up the link and posted an inciteful response. I added my own ideas in the Comments section.

Excellent, thoughtful responses. The old saw about hindsight's being twenty-twenty comes to mind, though. And few commentators seems troubled by the endless shoulda-woulda-coulda debate that simmers as people are dying and money is hemorrhaging.

I haven't run across any comparisons with Iraq and India, both of which are historically geo-political constructs that exist as the result of colonial domination. References to "Iraq" strikes me as inaccurate in a historical sense . The Babylonian Empire may have been an identifiable entity in biblical times, but not in modern history. Saddam was able to maintain power partly by playing off one segment of the population against another. We have seen the same dynamic in the Balkans and parts of Africa as tyrants prey on the fears and past hatreds of groups under their control, feeding both sides of an internal conflict in order to divert attention from overall tyranny.

I read somewhere that the Kurds were successful in building infrastructure during the so called "oil for food" program because they were able to extract a toll from Baghdad for the use of the pipelines that flowed through their territory into Turkey. They succeeded, thanks to outside protection following a savage attempt at genocide, because it was more feasible for Saddam to pay them off than face the alternative.

Similarly, he seems to have succeeded in playing off Sunnis against Shiites, keeping both factions distracted, feeding the historic enmity (which still seems to prevail), blinding both segments to any kind of enlightened self-interest in getting along.

The whole scenario reads like a replay of what happened to the Raj, Britain's colonial holding in South Asia, later to become India and the Pakistans. In both cases political, religious and linguistic divisions worked against what we have come to call "nation states". What the US is attempting in Iraq is no less daunting than the creation of a single state where at least two or three should exist. I have a hard time thinking that we are not witnessing a civil war in which we are entangled.

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