Today, I received a letter from The White House by email thanking me for writing about the Iraq war. It had caught me by surprise because the response came more than 9 years after the war had begun and close to the possible re-election of a Democrat president who had inherited that war.
When I had written that letter in 2003, as a new citizen, naturalized in 2002, I was urging the George W Bush White House, in an email about a one-page-and-a-half, to reconsider the Bush administration’s approach to war well before any Washington policy wonk could make a coherent case against it after 9/11.
I thought a case for war could be made if The White House wanted, but urged patience akin to Jim Baker’s diplomacy during Gulf War I in several preceding pieces I had written in Georgetown University as a graduate public policy student in 2002. Former president Bill Clinton later appeared once on Larry King Live on CNN and had concurred with my position. Given the ways of Washington, in a visit to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) with my Federal Reserve colleagues, I knew that Gene Sperling, former Chair of Clinton’s National Economic Council (NEC), had gotten wind of my Iraq war email to the Bush White House.
I had never put a dollar number on the war estimates in 2002 (economists Joseph Stiglitz and William Nordhaus later did in a paper). I was proven to be correct in 2006 after the Baker-Hamilton report’s 79 recommendations (79 happens to be September 07 in the European date convention – Queen Elizabeth I’s birthday as is also my former spouse’s).
Afghanistan was an expected and necessary geopolitical response to 9/11 against those whom I saw as transnational stateless criminals, independent of any causes of their behaviors rooted in American incompetence after 1991 (plenty of evidence of our government’s incompetence is now public). Al Qaeda had attacked and America had to retaliate swiftly with a plan. I was in Moscow, Russia a few weeks after 9/11 baptizing my daughter into the Russian Orthodox faith of my former spouse.
The second Iraq war – whose rumblings had begun in 1993, upon the reelection loss of George H W Bush to Bill Clinton, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld who would later on become Bush 43′s Secretary of Defense - was, in my view, unnecessary. My ‘new citizen’ memo to The White House in 2003 on the eve of the second Iraq war, after many unpublished letters to newspaper editors, was the culmination.
Saddam Hussein would have eventually whittled away similar to Osama bin Laden, as I opined to several of my colleagues at the Federal Reserve. I preferred on-the-ground special operations focused on distancing US and British interests from Iraqi oil instead of a full scale ‘coalition of the willing’ invasion to save Churchill’s legacy about which many were skeptical because of US-UK oil motives. Iraqi oil and resources were Iraq’s, not America’s or Europe’s if the trust of the Iraqi people was to be won. The key policy issue at home was the economic forecast and structural change 10 years from 2002, not Iraq, while Afghanistan was being worked on.
Current US president, Barack Obama, in 2003 before a small group of his supporters in Illinois had called it a dumb war. Indeed it was a dumb war, while legitimately acknowledging and recognizing the sacrifices of our armed forces because their civilian leaders had made the mistakes, not the Pentagon.
From the experience of the last decade with America’s second Peloponnesian War (the first was won by Athens), two important insights ought to appeal to this president and Mitt Romney, after 9/11 and on the eve of Syria and Iran even as Afghanistan is being responsibly wound down by 2014:
First, neither Iraq would have been necessary nor the Kyoto Protocol had Clinton-Gore truly put people first. It is time to do so now.
Second, it is not yet too late to uninvite a second decade of energy shocks, in the 4th decade after the 1970s, if Washington gets its act together on a war footing inside America’s borders. Nixon-Kissinger’s China, otherwise, will be a pyrrhic victory.
The wayward government and its cronies on Wall Street since 1993 need to be trammeled into responsible behaviors by the people if the United States is to maintain its way of life using its own resources going forward.