The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

More of the same

June 10, 2006

Victor Davis Hanson reviews Cobra II. Some of the highlights:

  • Gordon and Trainor do not even inquire whether the ties between al Qaeda and Saddam’s intelligence agencies, which had prompted formal condemnation from both the Clinton administration and the Senate, might not have been a worthy casus belli in a post-September 11 world.
  • Put “after the fold” in here

  • Nor do Gordon and Trainor credit the still more telling fact that, following the Afghanistan campaign in the fall of 2001, some fifteen months of national and worldwide discussion ensued concerning Iraq, including the excruciatingly drawn-out U.N. debate. Rarely, in truth, has the U.S. conducted so prolonged and so public a discussion about its intentions in the run-up to any war.
  • Why did a deployment strategy that had worked in Afghanistan fail — if it did fail — in Iraq? After all, there had been even less planning in the case of the former campaign, and American planners had good reason to believe that Iraq’s restive Shi’ites and Kurds were just as anxious for regime change as embattled warlords in Afghanistan.
  • Given the rapid American victory and the directive to avoid killing not merely civilians but enemy soldiers as well, was there, perhaps, an inescapable Catch-22 in Iraq — as if an enemy humiliated and fleeing, but never really conquered, could ever make an easy subject for radical reconstruction? Iraq, after all, was supposed to be less like World War II Germany than like World War II Italy — liberated from an unpopular dictator, rather than punished and made to suffer the wages of its aggression.
  • I’ll play along. Here are my answers:

  • I bet they don’t talk about whether Hussein’s mustache was a cause for war either. If discussions between Al-Qaeda and a country’s intelligence services were a cause for war, Iraq would’ve hardly been the first in line after Afghanistan.
  • Right. That would be when the US sought to justify a preventive war against a sovereign state to the world community, and claimed that it wanted to avoid conflict when, in fact, its chief policy makers didn’t. I don’t seem to recall a similar set of circumstances in American history.
  • Because Iraq isn’t Afghanistan, and we didn’t use the same deployment strategy? What kind of military historian asserts commonality between a mountainous Central Asian semi-state filled with “embattled warlords” — the kind who sell their allegiance to the highest bidder — and a largely flat Mesopotamian authoritarian state, anyway? Well, let’s check in on the Afghanistan situation. Nope, haven’t won there yet either.
  • Well, as I’ve mentioned before, if you start from implausible assumptions you can make any set of bizarre policy choices look rational.
  • Cross posted on LGM.

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    Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.