Worth it or not

Now that some on the right have concluded the obvious–the Iraq was a mistake in its inception and in its execution–a new argument has appeared on the scene. It’s not a new argument, of course, it’s an old one dressed up to fit current circumstances. It goes something like this. For those, like John Kerry, who say the Iraq was not worth it, we have to ask what the costs of leaving Saddam in power would have been. We see a variation on this argument in Sunday’s *Washington Post.* Short of saying that the invasion was worth it, Robert Kagan revives the rhetorically effective 2004 Republican campaign strategy of citing the opinions of Clinton-era policy types as evidence that Saddam would have gotten worse if left unchecked. And that’s just the thing. For serious and responsible world leaders–some of them perhaps French–the question was never the one that was thrust on them by bifurcating American hawks:

>go to war against Saddam and remove him from power


>trust that he will no longer be an evil person and do nothing (or some variation of the status quo).

Perhaps it’s overly pedantic to point out that between these two false alternatives lies a range of possibilities. Even if the status quo was not keeping weapons out of Saddam’s hands (and it was–by the way–he didn’t have any WMDS; and he barely had an army with any will to fight, least of all invade a neighbor), there were still many options short of an Anglo-American invasion. The depressing thing about Kagan’s piece is that Bush’s silly dichotomy–something for which he has a marked tendency (cf., “you are either with us or with the terrorists”)–resurfaces in the calm light of what otherwise might seem to be careful historical analysis. But it’s not careful or historical–it’s simply regurgitated pro-invasion talking points that were no more cogent the day they were uttered than they are today.