War is over (if you want it)

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First: so far, so good. Most of my fears about the war in Iraq have not only not come true, but no longer have a chance of coming true. The US military (and the coalition forces) were very very good at what they did; considering that it was, after all, a war, there were surprisingly few casualties, and the damage done to the infrastructure appears to be ... not as bad as I had feared. It was all done quickly, and it was all done well. The military leaders, followers, and strategists all deserve our thanks (at least my thanks) for a dirty job well done.

In particular, I was very impressed with the way they handled changes on the ground. The war, predictably, was unpredictable; the armed forces appear to have handled that fact with outstanding flexibility, ingenuity, and persistence, both on the ground and in the Pentagon. Again, well done.

This does not mean that the decision to go to war was correct, or at least it does not mean that it was any more correct than it appeared at the time. There is a natural human tendency to look at decisions after the fact, and if it worked out well, consider it to have been a good decision. If you and I each buy a lottery ticket, and I win, that doesn't mean I'm smarter than you, or that buying the ticket was a good decision for me, and a dumb one for you. That's not how logic works. The decision to invade was, in part, based on the small possibility of very bad things happening; they didn't happen, and I'm glad of that, but the possibility was still there, and the decision needs to be analyzed in light of it.

Similarly, if we estimated before the war that there was a 75% chance that the Baathists had chemical or biological weapons, and it turns out they didn't, that does not mean the decision or even the estimate was wrong (if, however, it turns out that the estimate was a bad one, and that we could have made a better one, that's different). Some who were against the invasion (as I, ultimately, was) are taking the lack of a smoking gun (ecch, that's a bad metaphor to use under the circumstances) to show that Iraq was not dangerous, which is bad logic; it may well show that our intelligence was insufficient, but it doesn't yet even show that.

Finally, now that we're wearing the mantle, for crying out loud, let's live up to it. Let's give Iraq a damned good infrastructure � all of it � roads, schools, water, libraries, broadband, pony carts and mag-lev. Let the UN (or somebody) keep the books, and let's show that we're not draining their resources. In fact, let's show that we're draining our resources and handing 'em over. Let's have a damn Marshall Plan. We're that rich, and that smart, and that resourceful, and it wouldn't do us any harm, either. It's opportunity time, everybody.

Thank you,

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