Can you lose a war you don’t fight?

Can you lose a war you don’t fight?
: The NY Times has rich and creamy understatement this morning about the defeated anti-war movement trying to figure out what to do next:

Leaders in the movement do not like to focus on the notion that they lost. Yes, they failed to stop the war. Yes, the public has overwhelmingly supported President Bush’s actions. With a swift United States victory over a brutal dictator and fewer casualties than most experts predicted, it is particularly hard for antiwar organizers to argue that their dire forecasts were right.

  • I’ve been resisting the temptation to gloat, in part because I could well be on the anti-war side the next time around, with all the moral compromises that entails.
    There’s still a chance that Bush is (especially if reelected) is just going to keep on doing this, invasion after invasion until all the tyrants are gone. Many people who agreed with me about Afghanistan and Iraq are actively urging the US to do this. On to Damascus and Pyongyang and Tehran and lots of other places.
    But the US can’t afford to free all the tyrannized people of the world by invading their countries; the outcome of such an overextended campaign is unlikely to be good. Afghanistan was complicit in a direct attack on the United States; retaliatory war is the only thing for such a case. Iraq was a more or less unique case in which there were several other circumstances tipping the balance toward war, at least in my own moral calculations. Syria strikes me as an almost perfect control for the thought experiment, really: its regime is like that of Iraq in many ways, but just enough of the case for war is missing there that I don’t think I’d support it unless Syria provides further provocation. (But by the same token, I’ll be as morally uncomfortable opposing war on Syria as I was supporting war on Iraq.)
    In particular, while showing the celebrating Iraqis can be part of a post facto justification for the war, it can’t be the whole story. To take an extreme hypothetical (but maybe not so hypothetical in the case of North Korea): some of them might be celebrating even if liberation had happened at the end of a decade-long war that killed a million people and twenty thousand Americans, but that wouldn’t have made the war a wise decision.

  • Pyecraft

    The Korean situation provokes a sober view of an alternative middle east future.
    I’m guessing some, yet it seems the idea of creating one solid, thrivingly free democracy in a region is supposed to warm its neighbours enough that they desire the same benefits and soon follow the political example.
    Plainly, N Korea chose not to read the script, which suggests that periodic military reading lessons will be taught until everyone’s on the same page.
    Success in Iraq will only encouraged this.

  • I still think that as long as we’re not actively fighting North Korea, we can probably cajole and threaten China into putting the necessary pressure on Kim Jong Il to keep him from causing external damage. It might take more effort than Bush is expending now, but it can be done, because this is basically in China’s interest; we just have to keep reminding them of that.
    Once we go in to depose Kim Jong Il, though, China’s our enemy, and that’s very, very bad, multi-year-war-of-attrition bad. Saddam didn’t have anyone giving him major logistic support, just a possible trickle from Syria.
    Unfortunately, I don’t see any solution that does right by the people in North Korea; they die by the millions whether we fight or not.

  • DoryO

    What I hope everyone will eventually learn is that once you have identified your “enemy” of the past, it isn’t wise to assume that everything the “enemy” does is necessarily wrong.
    Following this logic, the anti-Bush, anti-conservative movement could only be anti-war. And according to the NYT article, they now want to be anti-occupation, anti-Jay Garner, etc… Anti-Garner? Honestly! Is this the best they can do?
    Many Arabs have similar anti-imperialist, anti-US, anti-Israel reactions that made it possible for them to actually support and respect Saddam. The “enemy of my enemy” logic is powerful and dangerous.
    I hope that one of the consequences of this war will be to challenge these knee-jerk judgments.