January 4th, 2003

Me 2012

If you're going to fight, fight to win

I'm not really sure where I stand on the prospect of going to war against Iraq.

On the one hand, there's no denying that Saddam Hussein is an enemy of America. He is, in point of fact, the only honest enemy America has in the world. After 9/11, when the Taliban was the first to rush in to express sympathy for the plight of America, when Arafat issued a statment to say 'Oh, those poor Americans', Saddam Hussein stood up and said: 'They deserved it.'

And America might gain just a little credibility in the world if we carried through on all of our threats. If, having postured and screamed and declared that we were going to teach Hussein a lesson, we actually went and kicked his butt. It's got to be hard to take America's threats seriously if you're an opposing power, knowing that America will back down before it comes to blows.

On the other hand, the Bush administration keeps saying "We have all this evidence linking al Queda and Iraq," but they won't tell anyone what it is. And we said that we'd abide by the UN's rule on this, and the UN inspectors aren't going to turn anything up, whether or not there is anything to be found. (Back in June or July, I bet a friend $10.00 that we wouldn't go to war with Iraq before mid-January. He conceded on the bet as soon as the UN got involved. 'We may yet go to war, but now that the UN's involved it's clearly going to take a whole lot longer.')

But there is one thing I feel certain about: If we are going to war, we should do it to WIN.

Machiavelli wrote, "Do no man insufficient injury." This is almost a tautology: what is 'insufficient injury'? It's whenever you attack someone and they -- or their friends/relatives/country -- are able to come after you later for it.

But I interpret it this way: Don't injure anyone unless you really, really have to, because it's hard to know how much force you have to use to do sufficient injury.

And if you really, really have to, then DO SUFFICIENT INJURY. Do massive overkill. Don't drop ten billion dollars' worth of bombs on Iraq and then walk away from what's left. To use a more colorful phrase, "Kick his ass, don't piss on him!"

If you're going to war, INVADE. Take over the damn country when you've won. Impose military rule. Erect a puppet government. Brainwash the citzenry. Build roads and infrastructure and schools and whatever the heck else it takes. Be prepared for the war to take decades to end. Be prepared for it to cost trillions of dollars to succeed. Be prepared to STAY until it's OVER. Until you are sure that country isn't going to bother you again. Ever.

Otherwise, you're just going to be back again, ten years later, having the same debate, fighting the same battle, spilling the same invective.

Do it right, or don't do it at all.