Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The War We Can't Afford?

David Frum, at his excellent blog, offers this from a recently-released research paper by the American Enterprise Institute:

"...while the war in Iraq has proven very expensive - generating present value costs on the order of between $410 and $630 billion - the old containment policy was costly too. Maintaining an army in Saudi Arabia, striking regularly at Iraq, blockading the country, sustaining sanctions, all added up to as much as $300 billion Davis, Murphy, and Topel calculate. As Americans weigh the difficulties of war, they have to weigh the alternatives accurately too."

My constant complaint about the debate over the Iraq War is that opponents of the war simply refuse to concede that there are any benefits from taking the GWOT (Global War On Terror) to Iraq. Acknowledging this indisputable fact doesn't mean agreeing that the war was the right thing to do. Smoking helps millions of Americans stay skinny, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

I happen to believe toppling Saddam and dragging Iraq toward the 21st Century was the best of the available bad options. By doing so, we ended the unfixable Saddam problem; were able to remove our troops from Saudi Arabia; proved to the Islamist-friendly regimes in the Middle East that we are prepared to fight; scared the crap out of Iran, Libya and others who had active anti-American terror activity taking place in their borders three years ago; began the ugly but necessary process of learning to fight the wars of the future, which are far more likely to be insurgent wars than traditional "big army" battles; have secured bases in Iraq to use to influence the bad guys in the region; oh, and while modern American liberals aren't impressed by it, we did liberate 20 million people from the tyranny of the other 5 million by shutting down rape rooms, torture chambers, prison camps and chemical weapons programs in the hands of a brutal, murderous dictator who killed 5% of the population of his own country.

You might read this list and say "None of these things are worth going to war." You might concede that there hasn't been a successful terrorist attack on America since the war began and STILL might think the war is a mistake. Fine. But pretending the war has accomplished nothing is just as dishonest as arguing that there are no problems in Iraq and all is well.