Thursday, December 15, 2005

Prof. Bainbridge Flunks

Stephen Bainbridge, a self-styled conservative whose conservatism seems to consist of adopting certain attitudes, is especially irritating about the war in Iraq. Instead of figuring it out for himself, he asks:
But why single out Iraq? Pakistan had the bomb, a government with suspicious ties to the Taliban, a security service reportedly riddled with Islamofascist sympathizers, a chief of the nuclear program peddling secrets and technology to rogue regimes worldwide, and uncontrolled tribal areas that probably still are harboring Osama.

Or what of the mad mullahs of Tehran? Iran was pursuing WMDs. And a missile program. Iran had known links to terrorist groups, especially Hezbollah. Why not choose them instead of Iraq? . . .

Out of all the totalitarian regimes in the Middle East, why pick Iraq? A democratic Saudi Arabia might stop using its vast wealth to finance Wahhabist Islam. (Anybody remember that most of the 9/11 bombers were Saudis?) A democratic Iran might stop funding terrorist groups attacking Israel.
In sum, you could make Bush's case for war as against any number of rogue regimes. Why single out Iraq?
Iraq was the easiest target. The invasion of Iraq gave the U.S. a strategic toe-hold in the Middle East, from which Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and (yes) Syria are within easy reach. The invasion of Iraq sent a message to those regimes, a message that has been heeded to some extent by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The invasion of Iraq, I have always believed, was mainly an excuse for gaining that strategic toe-hold in a region of vital national interest. But that sort of candor is politically incorrect -- imagine the outrage if Bush simply admitted the truth of the matter. And so Bush has had to pussy-foot around the truth by talking about Saddam's inhumanity, the potential threat from Iraq, and its persistent violation of UN resolutions. Bainbridge could see all of that if he were willing to, but he'd rather play neo-isolationist word games and indulge in wine snobbery.