The Duck of Minerva

Should progressives be happy about Iraq’s successes?

25 September 2006

In comments to my last post on “Iraq and 9/11,” someone named “a” was critical of my apparently flippant “Yadda Yadda Yadda” in response to the fact that Saddam is gone and millions of brave people voted in Iraqi elections:

But “Yadda x 3” about the removal of Saddam and Iraqis’ voting???

Given the sort of regime Saddam’s was, I just don’t see what’s progressive about an attitude like that. Progressives _aren’t_ supposed to be concerned only (and perhaps not even primarily) with security or stability. Why not leave the Yaddaing to the Kissinger and Scowcroft types?

Given that the administration said repeatedly that it was going to war to increase US security by decreasing traditional threats, “a” acknowledges that it is entirely reasonable to point out the failure of that part of the enterprise. Most of my post focused on those issues.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was never fought as a “progressive war” and there is little reason for progressives to cheer. While great, perhaps even unprecedented, efforts were originally taken by US forces to minimize civilian casualties, we must remember that the US defended the oil ministry and virtually ignored the looting and anarchy that followed the toppling of Saddam. For example, virtually all the hospitals in Baghdad were closed immediately after the city fell to the US.

However, despite these facts, I was “yaddaing” the empty repetition of the claimed successes in response now to every criticism of the obvious insecurity created by the Iraq war.

Of course, these claims are just about all that war supporters have left to say.

And I think they reflect entirely empty rhetoric. The oft-repeated “successes” are dubious.

The UN just said that torture levels in Iraq are now worse than they were under Saddam.

Shall we simply count the bodies? The chance of violent death in Iraq has skyrocketed since March 2003.

And I think Iraq looks an awful lot like a dangerous “illiberal democracy.” As Fareed Zakaria wrote in 1997,

“Democracy without constitutional liberalism is not simply inadequate, but dangerous, bringing with it the erosion of liberty, the abuse of power, ethnic divisions, and even war.”

People vote in elections all over the world; unfortunately, that fact alone does not assure that they live in functioning democracies. Iraq is yet more proof of that truism.

So, again, why should progressives be pleased?

I struggle to find even one decision about Iraq that the administration has made since August 2002 that progressives should support without hesitation — or caveat.

And I have no difficulty doubting their dubious claims about the outcome.

Note: I had to post this because Haloscan said I had too many links for comments.

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