Fareed Zakaria, in The New Republic
, on Iraq.
On why he supported the war:
I did not believe Saddam had a lethal arsenal of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and I wrote as much in the months before the war (though, like everyone who is being honest, I am utterly astonished by what appears to be the lack of any weapons). But Saddam was an erratic, unpredictable leader who had been actively working against the United States and its interests--and peace in the region--for two decades. That meant he was a looming threat. Given the collapsing sanctions regime, at some point the United States would have to decide to move in one direction or the other. It could either welcome Saddam back into the community of nations and let him do what he would as a free agent. Or it could gather an international coalition to replace him. I wish that this latter policy had been pursued slowly and deliberately, with a genuine effort to forge a broad coalition and get the United Nations behind it. But, in the end, you have to decide whether to support the policy the president is pursuing--not the variation of it you wish he were pursuing. And I decided that, while timing and circumstances were not perfect, getting rid of one of the most ghastly regimes in the world, one that was a continued threat to U.S. interests, was worth supporting. Morality and realpolitik came together in the case against Saddam.
On failed planning, but what's not talked about much, the Bush Administration's ability to change policies with regard to Iraq:
The real lesson of the last year is that the Bush administration's inept version of nation-building failed. The administration's strategists used Iraq as a laboratory to prove various deeply held prejudices: for example, that the Clinton administration's nation-building was fat and slow, that the United Nations was irrelevant, that the United States faced no problem of legitimacy in Iraq, that Ahmed Chalabi would become a Mesopotamian Charles de Gaulle. In almost every case, facts on the ground quickly disconfirmed these theories. But, so committed were these government officials to their ideology--and so powerful within the administration--that it took 14 months for policy to adjust to these failures. In the last month, the United States has finally reversed course, sending more troops, scaling back de-Baathification, dumping Chalabi, bringing in the United Nations, and listening to Iraqis on the ground. This shift in policy is already making a difference, easing the anti-Americanism and the sense of international isolation that has plagued the Iraq mission. If they keep up the reversals, Iraq still has a chance.
And finally, on the link between terrorism and Iraq:
But, since we are listing mistakes, the biggest one many opponents of the war are making is to claim that Iraq is a total distraction from the war on terrorism. In fact, Iraq is central to that conflict. I don't mean this in the deceptive and dishonest sense that many in the Bush administration have claimed. There is no connection between Saddam's regime and the terrorists of September 11. But there is a deep connection between his regime and the terrorism of September 11. The root causes of Islamic terrorism lie in the dysfunctional politics of the Middle East, where failure and repression have produced fundamentalism and violence.
This is where I think the real divide in ideology between supporters and detractors of the Iraq War is. Most people either argue that terrorism is a function of repression and fundamentalism in the Middle East, or they seem to argue some blend of poverty, U.S. policy, and the Israel/Palestine situation.
I tend to agree with Zakaria, that terrorism is an outgrowth of political oppression coupled with religious fundamentalism. And we've kept rubbing elbows with oil-rich despots, while arming who we thought were the least bad, as failed policy for the past 50 years. 9/11 demonstrated that we can no longer deal with the Middle East the way we have in the past. We have a vested interest in seeing that part of the world become more democratic, more interested in human rights, less autocratic, and less fundamentalist.
As Zakaria notes:
Political Islam grew in stature as a mystical alternative to the wretched reality--secular dictatorships--that have dominated the Arab world. A new Iraq provides an opportunity to break this perverse cycle. The country is unlikely to become a liberal democracy any time soon. But it might turn out to be a pluralistic state that gives minorities limited protections, allows for some political participation, and has a reasonably open society. That would be a revolution in the Arab world.