Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Butler's Column

Lots of conservatives are recommending this column by an officer in Iraq. Mr. Butler sounds like a good, thoughtful, heroic patriot, and I suspect we'd probably get along in real life. Furthermore, his voice is important - unlike the vast majority of people who comment on this stuff, he's actually risking his life for the cause at hand.

At the same time, however, I don't see how he has any special qualifications for the overall strategic situation, and in fact he admits he doesn't. And that, to me, is where the problem with the Iraq war currently lies. He invokes the line about "no attacks on American soil since 9-11," which ignores the fact there were no attacks on American soil before 9-11 either, and that threats requiring terror alerts continue just as before. Meanwhile, our enemies are striking from Madrid to Bali, regardless of what's happening in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I do not dispute that removing Saddam from power was a good thing, nor do I dispute what Butler says about the danger of losing the fight against the forces which have risen in Saddam's wake. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that these issues are more complicated than just "finishing the job." War, however profoundly terrible, is a tool to achieve policy options. It was the proper tool for eliminating Saddam. Whether it is the best tool for dealing with all these militias is a question I don't think has been seriously debated. And until that debate happens, while I may support the missions of soldiers like Butler, I also worry that many of them may not be the best tool to serve the cause for which they fight. And that is why we have the right to criticize the President during wartime.


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