I supported the Iraq war. Still do. But the thing about a war is that you have to win it. The consequences of defeat, even if you temporarily call it something else, are terrible (as we learned in Vietnam, and as we may learn more terribly in Iraq). We went into Iraq with the opponents of the war already calling for an “exit strategy.” Because of this (I think) we were never brutal enough to win a war we could have won. We did not want to be occupiers, even if that was the only way to pacify the country.
The best statement of where we fell short comes today from Richard Brookhiser writing in the New York Observer (he wittily starts off wondering how the Roman poet Horace got an advance copy of the Baker report, a reference to the poet’s famous line: “Mountains will be in labor, the birth will be a single laughable mouse.”)
“Livy was another old writer – a historian, not a poet. He said that when the ancient Romans were digging the foundations of a Temple of Jupiter, they uncovered a bleeding head (commemorated in the word capitol, which comes from caput, the Latin for ‘head’). The state begins in violence. Free states give way to order and peace, but they too begin there.
“This is not international social work, or finishing a job. Since the violent in Iraq include Al Qaeda, and terrorist wannabes, killing them is a twofer. Let the end begin.”
Read the whole piece. It’s not too late — but it’s very late.