Friday, November 10, 2006

Democracies and War

Ann Althouse is depressed by the election. Not because Democrats won but because Americans no longer support the Iraq War. This is how democracies function.
Everybody's for democracy in principle. It's only in practice that the thing gives rise to stiff objections. ~ Meg Greenfield
Unlike Afganistan, the Iraq Adventure was always a war of choice with no significant, or even insignificant, national interests at stake. Winning gains us nothing, losing deprives us of nothing except the spent lives of loyal servicemembers.

From the beginning I've denigrated the Iraq War by describing it as a "recreational war." It was engaged in because the President wanted to, not because the country had to. I knew it would be popular only as long as it was fun. As "Shock and Awe" devolved into a slow, bloody slog people rightfully asked "what are we fighting for?"

What are we fighting for? Even for the Bush Administration that answer has been a moving target. I've heard all of the arguments, all of the reasons that have been given over the years. They all amount to nonsense. We entered the war because we thought it would be easy; we are stuck because it wasn't. (Yes, I know the real reason was an obtuse neocon theory that conquering the Baathist Party in Iraq would create a cascade of democracy throughout the Middle East. That was always nonsense, and they thought it would be easy.)

It is one of the collective wisdoms of democracies that they do a cold cost-benefit calculation when it comes to war. We will fight as long as the benefit of victory outweighs the cost of achieving it. When the costs exceeds any potential benefit, democracies conclude it is best to just cut our loses. This is a calculation that any competent CEO would understand.

When wars are thrust upon democracies (as in WWII) they will fight with a fury dictatorships can't match. When democracies stumble into wars, either through ignorance or arrogance, they had better be successful because democracies do not suffer foolish wars for long.

This is a strength of democracy, not a weakness. The weakness is staying in a war through inertia long past the time it made even a feeble sense.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who is Ann Althouse?

Your words make sense to me. Your analysis, sound. Bush's war of choice. Closing in on 3000 US dead, many thousand maimed. And, the headline of 150,000 Iraqi dead, or is that 60,000 or 600,000. And, for what? Mighty fine legacy.

KnightErrant said...

Ann Althouse is a law school professor and popular moderate Republican blogger. Her blog is at the other end of the link at the top of my original post.

Robster said...

Ann can cry a river and tell us she hates both parties or a closet liberal (ha!), but if you read her posts long enough her conservatism and contempt for anything liberal will come through.

Not a pleasant read unless you're a NeoCon Bot.

KnightErrant said...

I like seeking out those I disagree with, I guess I like a good fight. I certainly want to know what the other half (well, 43%) are thinking. I don't read Althouse often (she's not on my Ignorant but Interesting listing) because of the signal-to-noise ratio, I have to wade through a lot of empty prattle to get to something interesting.