Answering a true liberal's question about Iraq
Recently an elderly aunt (oh, I don't think she'd like that "elderly" bit at all!) who lives in San Francisco asked me the following question during a phone conversation we were having, "So, do you still think it was good for us to go into Iraq?"
She's a lifelong liberal Democrat, but one of those people in my life who, since my "change," has always been patient and respectful towards me in all of our discussions. We actually don't talk too much any more about politics--it's mostly become one of those "agree to disagree" things--but at first we certainly did, and (unlike many) she made efforts to listen and never flew off the handle.
So, when she asked that question, her tone was only ever-so-slightly dubious, with the subtext, "How could you possibly believe such a thing?" only vaguely hinted at.
My answer amounted to the following:
Yes, in a way, although I never phrased it that way to begin with and wouldn't describe it that way today. It's not a question of "good for us," although the results could end up being good for us in the long run. But the way I saw it at the time, and still see it, is that it was a difficult and risky decision that represented something we needed to do, faced with a bad situation that had been building for decades in that area.
The risks were always huge, but we had to take a stand on Saddam's defiance of the terms of the ceasefire and of the UN's authority, and we had to try to see whether we could get something decent going in the region. That country seemed, for a whole host of reasons (including, most prominently, humanitarian ones), a good place to try to start.
I take the long view, and the jury is still out on what will happen in Iraq. You may not realize it, because of the news sources you read, but the government there is still moving ahead, and the country is not actually in a civil war, despite the bitter and bloody conflict. And it may also seem strange to you when I say this, but I was actually expecting worse. I expected far more bloodshed to occur, and more unrest and street fighting, not less. In this perhaps I'm different than most, but I seem to recall those were the prewar predictions even from the Left--which they seem to have forgotten, since moving the goalposts is always good sport.
I never thought a good outcome was a foregone conclusion. And the idea that the Bush administration uniformly thought so is a distortion (and here I referenced my posts on that theme, and on the famous "cakewalk" remark).
Her response was to thank me for a thoughtful and complex answer--which gives you a good idea of what sort of a person she is, and why we can talk together. I doubt she agreed with me, but not only is she willing to talk and to listen, but I know I represent one of the few opposing views she ever encounters, and she values hearing a different perspective. That makes her a true liberal indeed, in the first sense of the word as it's defined here:
broad: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions"