Much appreciated readers of this space brought valid questions to the table subsequent to “Out of the Box History”. Persistent questions focused on the cost of the war as a potential precipitant for Ferguson’s theory. The problem is that since the wars did not overload the system; the point of catastrophic crisis had not been reached. It may have pushed the potential toward the red line but the catastrophe did not happen therefore war costs were not, cannot be a tipping point.
The answer to the “was it worth it question?” was, at the time, “too soon to tell” but the question, fairly raised, demands a better answer. The answer cannot be phrased as an empirical. To simply say; “we would not have spent”, however many billions can not answer the empirical either. The answer can only be another set of questions for serious people to consider. History, well told, will be a history not only of the eventual outcomes but of the initial motivating circumstance.
What if a reasonably stable representative government evolves in Iraq? What if the impact of a functional democratic system succeeding in the middle of cadre of raging dictators and totalitarian regimes? What if the balance of power in the region returns Iraq to a position as a counterweight against Iran? What if the balance of power is impacted a democracy instead of being dominated by dictatorships?
What of the Islamist’s view that Islam and democracies are contradictory systems and as such Sharia must prevail. What if it works in Iraq and that argument is shown to be a realistic fallacy on the ground? What might that save us?
How important to have motivated a reason for a movement in support of a moderated view of Islam? What might that save us in the long run? What if Middle Eastern populations look to Iraq and say “why not us?” Small movements exist in support of democratic reform throughout the Middle East; small, fledgling but also courageous and growing. (See Robin Wright’s “Dreams and Shadows”)
What if Saddam remained in power? While WMD was not discovered inspectors were, at the least, confident of his ability to reconstitute his programs based on what was discovered. What might that have cost? Would we have been replacing today’s cost for tomorrows’? Where would we have looked for a moderating influence on Saddam’s Iraq; involved in two recent regional wars and a proven threat to its neighbors?
What of Oil? There is some credence to the “we fought the war for oil” point of view. That view, however, should be expanded to its one dimensional limits; because vast portions of the international economy are supported by oil. It might be more accurate to say we “fought the war for short term economic stability”. While a one dimensional view is non-applicable it would at least be a bit more accurate of one.
We face a logical disconnect. One the one hand we have limited domestic production of energy for years. We have done so for a variety of reasons some valid some mere ideological crusades. But the fact is we have limited domestic production, by doing so we increase the value of oversees oil. When we increase the value of oil reserves outside of our control and yet continue to rely on those reserves we are forced to protect the viability of those reserves in our own self interest. Conflict over oil is a potentially self perpetuating cycle; we and others have made it so.
If you accept history’s lesson that repression is eventually overthrown what manner of catastrophic tumult might be in store for the Middle East and when?
A large number of “what if” questions can be posed from a variety of points of view but the real “what if”, related to Iraq is; “What if it works”?