Four years ago, on March 20, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom began. On March 20, 2007, I still support it. Many are the reasons the Bush Administration and its supporters gave for the liberation of Iraq, and many are the arguments with which opponents tried to rebuke them. This is a discussion which has taken place a billion times on as many fora, and I do not intend to restart it here. Personally, I refuse to call explaining the reasons for my stance a "defence", since this might give the impression I need some self-assurance, feel an urge to apologize, or simply stick to my POV because admitting I was wrong would mean shamefully losing face. Nothing of that at all. My belief in the righteousness of the US's cause - yeah, I know, there was a coalition of 40 countries in 2003, but let's cut the crap, OIF was 80% a US operation - remains rock solid.
I do not know how many people knew of Saddam Husseins existence in 1990, the year he made the fatal mistake to invade Kuwait. I bet there weren't many. As for me, I knew about Saddam in 1980, when I was fifteen years old. And I knew the Sultan of Oman was a fella named Qaboos bin Said. And I knew where the Strait of Hormuz was, or what was going on between the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government. Or that Libya's tank force was 3,000 vehicles strong (even though Khadafi had less men able to drive them, but whatever). I may know zilch or very little about baseball, soaps or the hottest bar in town, but these are the things I know, or knew, and since then I've been a relatively keen observer of the Middle East, among other things. After more than twenty years of observation I'd say that this generally cursed region outperforms every other place on earth in just one field: the export of oil and terrorists.
Back in 2003, Charles Krauthammer had an excellent column in TIME in which he admitted the US had in the past tried to "police" the Middle East and its inherent problems through propping up seemingly pro-western dictatorships and trying to befriend the theocratic nutters, read KSA - even though we knew they'd urinate on us or worse, if they could. That was the time a female US Air Force pilot serving in the godforsaken hellhole could be forced to wear a veil or accept the company of a male chaperone when off-duty. And wo, in the back of my mind the thought crystallized that the Middle East, with its backward medieval and mysogynic culture and "religion", could never become a decent place of its own, what with 270 million arabs not being able to live in peace with a couple of million jewish pioneers and Holocaust survivors, living on 0.5% of the region's surface.
Then came 9/11, and I had this mental click just confirming what I had suspected all along. SOMETHING had to be done there, and it certainly wasn't trying, for another twenty years, to make tactics work which had proven their uselesness the previous decades. Therefore Operation Iraqi Freedom was a bold change of course, and one worth trying.
Four years later, what seems like a stalemate does not undo the corectness of the 2003 approach. On the one hand, it does not mean that if something does not go as smoothly as one would wish, it's better to change course. That might be so if the adversary is clearly too strong or smart to allow for stubbornly trying to beat him "the old way". But the US, and its allies, are not dealing with such an enemy. They are dealing with a ragtag collection of barbarians, who found their match in marketgoers, blindfolded and tied up prisoners or toddlers. But whenever faced with the West's military, they bite the dust. On the other hand, in March 2007, one can argue about OIF, about the tactics, about the strategy, or if it wouldn't have been better to strike here or there after 9/11. But if you are a sane person, you can't argue about the fact that you are still at war. Far too many think that if only we'd roll our mats, call it quits, say sorry and go home, it would be 1995 again, when our kids watched Toy Story and all we had to worry about was American astronauts in a leaky Mir Space Station. I'm sorry, but those days are gone forever. The War On Terror goes on, in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in London, Brussels or Washington, whether you like it or not.
I still have a TIME Europe subscription, though I am getting increasingly annoyed with their outragous leftist bias. Anyway, towards the end of 2003 there was an article in it, which dealt with the sad fate of Lt. Ben Colgan, 30, of Kent, Washington. Colgan, who was with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, was serving in Iraq and responding to an RPG attack when he was killed by an IED. He left behind his wife Jill and two infant daughters, Grace and Paige... and I feel immensely humbled by this exemplary hero.
In the years since, I have earned well and generally had a good time. I will readily admit that, when cheering for the war, I have often asked myself whether it was morally right to do so, when the lives of young, promising men like Lt. Colgan were dramatically cut short while I sat in an as yet safe and comfy environment. And, I have come to the conclusion that I just may not have that moral right. But I am convinced I can come up with an intellectual justification, and it is that the sacrifices of men like Lt. Colgan, apart from making us all safer, also avoid future casualties which would be far greater. In 1936 Hitler invaded the Rhineland, counting on the passivity of the western allies to let him have his way, altough he was not allowed to cross the Rhine because of the Treaty of Versailles. Militarily opposing this invasion, of which the German dicator admitted that a forceful reaction would have totally quashed the Nazi plans, might have cost the British and French 500 KIA. But it might have saved humanity the horrors of World War II with its 55 million dead. Suppose now that America had done nothing after 9/11 - would it be safer today? Would not the islamist barbarians have reasoned like Hitler, calculating that every other violent act without response would weaken America's will to stand up to the next, worse provocation? As we all now, in 1939 even the most stubborn pacifists finally came to the conclusion that Hitler needed to be reined in militarily - but by then the monster had grown too strong... and the price to undo it got so high, that the world still reels today. Now, at the core of the Islamic world is the arab world, and they have a saying: "a falling camel attracts a thousand knives". By going to war, America has shown its enemies that it still has teeth. By going on the offensive, its enemies were forced to defend.
America, and the free world, cannot let go.
And Operation Iraqi Freedom was an important, and entirely defendable, major operation in this War.