King Buzz here (baldilocks guest blogger). Thanks to all for the warm welcome into the wonderful world of blogging.
I can tell already that the hardest part of blogging is deciding what "not" to say. For me, even in relative anonymity, I do not feel it's appropriate to comment negatively directly about the President nor other senior government officials. But, I do take exception to some policies and I'll voice my concern about those. The other difficult part of deciding what "not" to say is keeping focus on particular points.
My intended points for this entry are to give a brief (at least, brief as possible) description of how my viewpoint on the invasion of Iraq, as a matter of national policy, was changed by my opportunity to put boots on the ground. Without going back too far, I'll start by saying that I was against the way in which the US invaded Iraq. This is not to say that I was opposed to the tactics or strategy employed, but that I was against the rationale given, the policy implemented, and the manner in which it was implemented. Obviously, these are contentious opinions and will require follow-up, but I'll make an attempt to quickly explain this point of view.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, my opposition to the course of action that was clearly being implemented was based on principles; the principles of international law and the principles of the U.S. Constitution. First, I believe in and support the concept of international law. International law is a bit like frontier law; it is not evenly understood, agreed upon nor enforced. However, frontier law is important to avoid complete lawlessness and international law is important, especially when our nation is the lone superpower, for the same reason. War between nations under international law is like inter-personal violence between individuals under frontier law. An unprovoked attack under international law is equivalent to murder under frontier law and a pre-emptive invasion is equivalent to a justifiable homicide for self-defense. To be acquitted in court for justifiable homicide for self-defense requires evidence that the other person clearly posed an imminent danger to the attacker or another innocent party. Prior to the invasion, I did not believe that the imminent danger requiring immediate military action was evident. After the invasion, I was almost certain the evidence was lacking. More on that another day.
Secondly, I did not believe that the authorization to use military force given to the President by the Congress in October of 2002 was adequate approval for war under our Constitution. It is clear to me that the Founding Fathers did not intend for one person to make the crucial decision of whether or not our country would go to war. The power to declare war is a power clearly given to Congress so that their vote to declare war is an unambiguous expression of the national will that no other course of action other than expending our "blood and treasure" in extreme violence is available in order to resolve an international dispute. That did not happen. I believe that Congress ducked their responsibilities and passed the vigorously requested buck to the Executive Branch. I did not, and do not, believe that was right. If the course of action was correct, Congress was obligated to declare war. If they could not, the President was obligated to not attack unless there was a "clear and present" danger to the U.S. or our Allies under existing treaty obligations.
Once the shoe dropped and we crossed the line into Iraq, some things changed for me. It was no longer a proposed course of action I didn't agree with, it was a war that we were engaged in and there is only one acceptable outcome in war - victory. During the initial part of the war, my duties involved working on my agency's crisis action team and providing support to our deployed site assessment teams. After the collapse of the Iraqi government, my agency moved into supporting the Iraq Survey Group as WMD hunters and when the opportunity for me to deploy there presented itself - I took it. I wanted to help my agency do what it was tasked to accomplish and I wanted to get a view of the ground truth from the inside.
Now, the things I experienced and other interesting anecdotes are fodder for other posts, but what I wanted to relay was how being there changed my view of the invasion. I saw that there were some good things happening in Iraq and I saw that there were some awful things happening in Iraq. I won't argue with those who say that the average Iraqi on the street is better off today than before we ousted Saddam. It's probably true, but the real "final" truth still remains to be seen. However, I'm sure that the American public did not agree to deaths and severe injury of thousands of American soldiers and the spending of hundreds of billions of U.S. tax dollars in order to "probably" make the life of the average Iraqi better.
My opposition to the course of action on Iraq has changed from being one based on principle to being one based on judiciousness. It became clear to me that a combination of inadequate planning and poorly utilized intelligence assets had resulted in either a misunderstanding or lack of concern over what would happen once the Iraqi government fell. I worked with personnel in the Coalition Provisional Authority and with Iraqis, up to the Minister level, in the appointed Provisional Government and there is a lack of vision of where things are going and how we're going to get there. It's a rudderless hodgepodge, however well-intentioned and hardworking the involved personnel. Also, in my estimation, the June 30th hand-over is either a tremendous gamble or a tremendous farce. If we really hand control over the Iraqis, there will be even greater chaos than there is now and no one will be safer. If, on the other hand, we only pretend to hand over control to the Iraqis, we're perpetrating a crime against them, the rest of the world and ourselves.
We've created a power vacuum, with very long-term consequences and costs. We will be spending huge amounts of tax dollars and dying in Iraq for years to come. It is well-known axiom that war is inherently unpredictable. Our inability to control the chaos unleashed by war was evident to me when I was there and is really evident to everyone, today more than ever. Basically, my opposition based on judiciousness comes down to my belief that wisdom and truth has not been, and is not being, employed in our occupation strategy.
That's as small as I can make today's bite-sized piece of blogging. I hope somebody finds some value in it as food for thought. Until next time, and as always, please keep all of those Americans still in harm's way in your thoughts and prayers.