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April 3, 2006 [LINK]

Why don't we invade Country X?

In Saturday's Washington Post, Francis Fukuyama responded to Charles Krauthammer's criticism (see Mar. 28) by pointing out episodes when he did express opposition to war against Iraq, as early as 2002. Low-key dissent, but dissent nonetheless. Fukuyama's credibility suffers by evading the central charge that he wrongly claimed that Krauthammer called the war in Iraq an "unqualified success." His contorted effort to construe Krauthammer's speech at AEI is not very convincing. Fukuyama is an intellectual who lacks either a core set of beliefs about the world, or the courage to stake his reputation on a clear plan of action to fight global terrorism.

There was a second letter after Fukuyama's, by some guy named Arthur Buono who sarcastically cited Krauthammer's point about terrorism arising from political oppression, necessitating forcible regime change. "If so, in addition to Afghanistan we should have attacked Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan -- not Iraq." It's just another version of the standard lame rhetorical question, rooted in the insinuation that war in Iraq was "all about oil." Those red herrings are typically based on the naive premise that wars are launched on the basis of certain set criteria, ignoring calculations of potential strategic advantage and risk, or that just because military action is appropriate in one situation, it must be appropriate in all. Well, just to reach out to the other side and accept their approach to things, let's go through the checklist:

Country: Acquired WMDs, or tried to Haven for terrorists U.S. national interests at stake Militarily defeatable Oppressive regime Government is hostile to U.S.
Pakistan ?
Egypt ?
Saudi Arabia ?
LIBYA * * *
Explanations: Nuclear, biological, chemical weapons Deliberate harboring by govt., not nec. Al Qaeda. Economic or strategic interests, apart from terror threat. With existing U.S./allied military forces. Dictatorial or authoritarian. Strong, avowed hostility toward U.S.

NOTE: Countries whose names are in capital letters were identified as "rogue regimes" by Raymond Tanter, in Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation (1999). [UPDATE: North Korea, also.]
*The checked criteria for each country are based on the post 9/11 period; some countries (notably Libya) are less hostile to U.S. interests than they used to be.

Based on this (relatively) comprehensive set of war criteria, Iraq ranks ahead of Afghanistan, contrary to the much broader global support for military intervention in the latter compared to the former. Interestingly, Syria ranks on par with Iraq as "most eligible" to be attacked on the basis of these criteria. Go ahead and check or uncheck the boxes as you think appropriate, and let me know what you come up with. This ought to be an interesting exercise in collecting survey responses; stay tuned.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 04 Apr 2006, 9: 53 AM

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