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Count Me Out on Syria

Consistency Should Matter

I have another confession about why, as a supporter of removing Saddam Hussein, I did not favor either the Libyan bombing or the proposed Syria intervention. In short, I have no confidence in those now calling for intervention to be there should things not go as planned. More have been killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s 52 months than during Bush’s nearly seven years. Announcing simultaneous surges and withdrawal dates is not wise. After all the blood and treasure spent in Iraq, not leaving a tiny monitoring force was shortsighted. An administration that not only lied about Benghazi but knew it was lying does not inspire confidence, especially in its amoral calculus in promoting a pre-election narrative of a weakened al-Qaeda after the killing of bin Laden and a reforming Libya after the removal of Gaddafi over the interest of truth and the safety of our own in Benghazi.

Consistency of any sort should matter also. I admire those like a Max Boot who wanted to go into Iraq and supported the cause to the bitter end. I even sort of admire a Pat Buchanan who thought Iraq a folly, and as a useful idiot on MSNBC damned those like me who supported the occupation. And I even admire Dennis Kucinich-types who thought intervention was wrong and staying on worse, and were ridiculed when the statue fell and the "Mission Accomplished" euphoria persisted. But I have no admiration for the zealots who called for the attack, basked in the spectacular removal of the Hussein regime, and then peeled off as the violence spiked and the soldiers were more or less on their own.

Like most of you, I did not write a letter in 1998 calling for the preemptive removal of Saddam Hussein. Most of us were indifferent to Bill Clinton’s regime change act. And I think most of us did not even know about those who wrote another letter to George W. Bush after 9/11 calling for preemption in Iraq again. But most of us agreed with 70% of the people that the Congress had logic and morality in their 2002 23-writ resolution calling to oust Hussein. Colin Powell made a sincere, but flawed, presentation. (It was not just the faulty intelligence, but the failure to mention all of the congressional resolutions for war.)

Once we did go in -- along with the widespread support of the American people -- I vowed to support the American effort to rebuild the country to the bitter end. And the end was certainly bitter. But by 2009 the American role in the war was all but over, a plan for a residual force to ensure the peace was in place, and what happened after that was now up to a new administration. I think leaving in toto was a bitter mistake, but leave we did and as a nation we live with the consequences.