Teaching the wrong lesson

Jonah Goldberg ends his “hiatus” on the subject of Iraq to offer an insightful piece on the case for war in light of post-war developments. Goldberg says he never understood why there had to be only one reason to go to war. “There were lots of good reasons to topple Saddam. And while it makes sense to emphasize some over others, they all added up to a list of benefits to making the right decision. . . .Things that are right are right for a zillion reasons and things that are wrong are wrong for a zillion reasons.”
That said, Goldberg confesses that “the kicker for me was simple: We needed to kick someone’s butt (other than Afghanistan) and Iraq was by far the best candidate.” Goldberg speculates that, in a sense, this was the kicker for many opponents of the war as well — they didn’t think that Saddam deserved to be spared so much as they didn’t want to see America have its way.
Goldberg’s thinking on this issue is close to mine. One of the main reasons I advocated going to war was to send a message to other Middle Eastern regimes. The message was something like this: “if you even dabble in terrorism or weapons of mass destruction, we will come after you, and we will do so regardless of what the EU and the U.N. have to say.”
But how does this rationale look now? While perhaps sound in theory, it doesn’t seem to have worked out in practice. The unexpected failure to find WMD, coupled with exaggerated but real post-war difficulties, have caused enough erosion of public domestic support for our efforts to “unteach” the lessons of our victory. That is, Middle Eastern regimes now have little reason to believe that we will be coming after them any time soon, at least in the absence of the approval and participation of the EU and the U.N.

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