James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Competence Matters

I am pulled back and forth between the moral frustration of what the State does, and the annoyance at the rank incompetence of the State. And while imcompetence is inherent in government, not all governments are equally incompetent.

For instance, I believe that what Bill Clinton, Albright, Cohen, and Gen. Wesley Clark are war criminals for the unprovoked U.S. aggression against Yugoslavia. I also don't believe in was in our security interest, and that the situation in Kosovo is better now than before the war - the only difference is that a different group of people were ethnically cleansed. That said, that war wasn't a disaster either. There were no American deaths, the mission was "accomplished," and U.S. standing was arguably enhanced in Europe. And we ended up killing "only" a few thousand innocent human lives. The war was unjust and unnecessary, but it wasn't bungled.

Because the Kosovo War wasn't a disaster, it is difficult to convince people we should never have gone in the first place. It may seem that ideological dogmatism makes me refuse to even acknowledge successful American interventions abroad. I don't believe that's the case, but the argument is harder to make. The same is true of the original Persian Gulf War.

After watching the PBS Frontline program The Lost Year in Iraq, I do wonder what might have been. Yes, we should never have gone in in the first place. Yes, anyone in Congress and the Administration who supported the invasion should have been disgraced and fired by the American people in 2004. Professional pundits who supported the war lost all my respect. All that said, one wonders how bad Iraq would have turned out if:

a) We didn't bomb so much of the infrastructure, such as water and power supplies.
b) Persian Gulf veterean Jay Garner was never replaced by Paul Bremer, who knew nothing about Iraq;
c) Bremer didn't disband the Iraqi army, eliminating what could have been a key element in restoring stability.
d) There was no "deBaathification." Most members of the Ba'ath party were in it mainly to get ahead; dismissing Ba'ath members from government posts left the country with no experienced officials;
e) Abu Ghraib wasn't re-opened. Thousands of innocent Iraqis were swept up and "interrogated" in the Army's desparate attempts to gather intelligence on the fledgling insurgent movement. The result was to intensify the insurgency; if I were a patriotic Iraqi I certainly would have joined.

I can't imagine how there could be a good outcome from invading Iraq. It was foolish from the start. But it is also hard to imagine how another Administration could have bungled this badly.

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