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September 27, 2004

The Iraq War: Iraq vs. Iran

Orin Kerr at VC asks whether the pro-war blogosphere is disheartened by events in Iraq. I'm not. In fact, though I used to be firmly in the camp of people who thought that the war was a good thing but that we should have departed after our victory and left Iraq to stew in its own juices, things are going better than I expected, and I'm now wondering whether maybe we will pull off this "First Arab Democracy" business. It's costing dollars and casualties, to be sure, but no more than I would have predicted, and perhaps less.

More generally, I hope the following questions will help sharpen thinking on the value of the Iraq War. We have something akin to a controlled experiment. In 2000, two adjacent countries worried us with their domestic tyrannies and aggressive foreign policies. We overthrew the government of Iraq, but not that of Iran....

...1a. Which country's possible weapons of mass destruction worried you more in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

1b. Which country's possible weapons of mass destruction worry you more in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

2a. Which country had a more oppressive government in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

2b. Which country has a more oppressive government in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

3a. Which country was more apt to aid terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

3b. Which country is more apt to aid terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

It seems to me that except for these last questions-- where one might have been more aprehensive about Iran in 2000 than about Iraq-- the answers would point to Iraq being far worse than Iran in 2000 and far better in 2004.

A final question, a bit different, is

4. In 2004, is Iran more apt to use weapons of mass destruction, more oppressive, and more likely to aid terrorist attacks on the U.S. than it was in 2000?

These questions do not address cost, of course, no more than does pointing out how bad and dangerous Hitler was address whether World War II was worth its cost. But they are a good starting point.


4b)In 2004, are Iran and North Korea more likely to accelerate their nuclear programs, given that the US has shown a willingness to invade pre-nuclear powers, but complete spinelessness in the face of powers that might have the bomb?

5a)Which country has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, and over a thousand military casualties- Iraq or Iran?

5b)Which country is in danger of destabilizing into a 'failed state' like Lebannon in the 80s (and thus, a haven for terrorists and criminals)- Iraq or Iran?

5c)In which country did US soldiers torture petty criminals, sullying our name and reputation across the globe- Iraq or Iran?

6a)Saddam didn't directly support anti-US terror like Pakistan does. But he did defy the US, which Pakistan did not do. Have we taught despotic regimes that they can do what they will and support who they choose below the table, as long as they pay us lip service?

I guess it all depends on the questions you ask...

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