If you haven’t yet read University of Chicago Law Professor Eric Posner’s blog post on the pros and cons (mostly pros) of the Iraq war, you definitely should. Presumably playing the devil’s advocate, Posner looks at a number of indicators like mortality, political freedom and cell phone subscriptions (!) and concludes that there may be reason to believe Iraqis are now better off than before the U.S. invasion in 2003.
I realise it may all be in jest, as someone on the blog suggested, but for the sake of argument I think it’s useful to suppose Posner is serious. For thoughtful and reasoned counter-arguments, I encourage you to browse through the post’s comments and read this.
For what it’s worth, I think Posner’s framing of the question is flawed. The real issue is not whether the war was worth it — whether the end (toppling of a dictator / achieving democracy) justified the means (military invasion) — but whether it was worth doing the way Bush and his people did it.
Just for the hell of it, Posner should consider how much better off Iraqis would be if nation-building had been part of the U.S. plan from the beginning, if Bremer had never been appointed and none of his blunders thus made, if instead of Sanchez we’d had Petraeus, if diplomacy instead of saber-rattling had been employed and Iraq’s neighbours engaged, and if America had propped up a home-grown democrat instead of an Iranian-backed Shia fundamentalist bent on becoming the next Saddam.
To continue the analogy someone made on the blog, it’s similarly worth considering how much better off the world would be if instead of just packing up and leaving, Britain would’ve had the patience to see to it that its Raj on the Subcontinent came to an honourable end — if instead of letting Jinnah and Nehru bicker the idea of a unified India to death, Mountbatten would’ve called a time-out, and if instead of a disastrous Partition, which not only claimed millions of lives but also created two belligerent nuclear powers, we’d had sectarian reconciliation.