Wrong how?

It seems that Tony Blair and I were wrong about Iraq — at least, according to Tony, who made a less than complete confession to some other talking head on the weekend. Jeb, the brother of Dubya Boosh, says something similar from time to time, by way of securing his reputation as a wimp in his own run for the U.S. presidency. In the clear light of retrospection, maybe they wouldn’t have thrown that particular rock into that particular hornet’s nest from that particular angle. All the same, they’re glad we got Saddam.

They may speak for themselves. (I permit it.) But speaking only for myself, given better information from the intelligence agencies (and so forth), I’d do it all over again — the way I wanted it done in the first place.

Gentle reader knows my opinion of “democracy,” and might trust I would not have spent thousands in blood and billions in treasure trying to install “democracy” in Iraq. Let the politicians apologize for that mistake. No: I would have picked a plausible Arab Strongman, who understood the regional facts of life, in just the way we had remodelled them: “You’re with us, or you’re with them, and we have the missiles.”

In other words, proceed from the “invasion” phase to the “surge” phase, without the long intermission.

Call me a bloodthirsty warmonger, but I thought the operation was military in nature, and the quicker it were over, the better. This, moreover, because, as I was aware then, and am even more aware now, the Western television audience has a short attention span; and voters, though enthusiastic at first, tire of foreign wars quickly. Focus, therefore, on wiping out anything that looks like an enemy in short order; then leave a few discreet bases scattered about to repeat the operation when and where required. Do what you can to avoid “collateral damage,” but don’t fuss it: more lives are saved by a drama that, so far as humanly possible, observes the Aristotelian unities.

This is hard nasty geopolitical stuff in a fallen world. One does not waste punches, nor bluff. I admired President Bush because, while supposedly inarticulate, he was able to communicate the notion, “You do this, and we do that.” By showing that he meant it, to Kabul and Baghdad, he had, by May of 2003, everyone’s complete attention. America was the hyperpower, and everyone understood. (Twelve years later, that hyperpower has folded.)

More lives are saved by clarity and simplicity. The Daesh were able to flourish because so much wiggle room was supplied to them. Tony is right that the movement technically originated on the Syrian side of the border; but that was so largely because it had been driven there. The Daesh began to amount to something with Saddam’s surviving assets, mostly in capable personnel. For, whether or not sporting “ABC” weapons, Saddam did have international terrorist connexions, and considerable experience in manipulating them. He did have a plan for what to do if the Americans invaded; and though he may be posthumous, himself, it is still working.

I would go so far as to say that he outsmarted people like our Tony. For the Americans and British and all their other allies have gone home. And his Sunni-faction Daesh are still very much in business.

Put this another way: Why did we stop at the Syrian border? There were several unanswerable reasons to cross it in hot pursuit, of which only the first was to hunt down and kill escaping enemy forces.

Another was to win the Assad family over to “cooperation” with the USA, or failing that, to let them join their old Ba’athist allies in extinction.

To which end, many logistic problems could have been resolved by coming at them from two sides: from the Mediterranean as well as from the Persian Gulf. For Assad’s Hezbollah confederates — the Shia Iranian proxy — were also in need of inartistic pruning.

This last would in turn not only have improved everyday life in Beirut and Damascus; it would have clinched the “you’re next” message to Tehran. It would have mightily impressed our old NATO friends in Turkey; and have left Israel with one fewer front line to lose sleep over. And all for a fraction of the cost of the four lost years before General Petraeus and company “surged.”

Gaddafi never needed replacing. After all, when he’d had a good look at what Boosh had done about Saddam, he became quite reasonable, happily surrendering his own nuclear programme. Mubarak might still be in power, too, as the conditions for the Arab Spring (power vacuums) would not have coalesced. And I daresay the ayatollahs of Iran would be welcoming our nuclear inspectors, by a treaty less negotiated than dictated. There would certainly be no ever-mounting tide of refugees on European shores; and several million Christians would still be living in comparative peace in the locations where they were born.

“Peace through strength” is an old adage; or by way of preparation, “Peace through war.” Instead, we have been working on the idea of peace through shuttle diplomacy which — have you noticed? — always ends in failure. It is a failure by which vastly more lives are lost, or ruined, than by the success of prompt and decisive military action.

This, anyway, is where I disagree with Tony; yet still agree, in principle, with the proposed solution to the terrorist problem of that Dubya Boosh. It was, if gentle reader will recall, that each and every sovereign state will “deal with” (in the sense of, extinguish) the threats originating within its borders. Or, failing that, get a visit from the USMC.