What makes me really mad about Iraq

Heaven knows that there are plenty of good reasons to get mad about the War in Iraq.  The incredible incompetence shown by this administration, the way that we surrendered the moral high ground at Abu Ghraib, the stovepiping of intel to find excuses for war – all of those come easily to mind.

But there is one thing that, whenever I think on it, makes me just incredibly angry about our little misadventure in Iraq.

Osama bin Laden is still out there.

I vividly remember September 11, 2001.  I remember how angry I felt about what had been done about this country.  I remember how resolved I was that the people who had launched the greatest attack on this country in my lifetime must be brought to justice.

I still feel that way.

But by going into Iraq, we created a massive diversion.  The only problem was, we diverted only ourselves.  We set up a situation where we had to devote our best and brightest, our most able military forces, our best strategic thinkers, the bulk of our military capability, to a war that had nothing to do with 9/11.  And in the course of doing so, to piss away the diplomatic capital that we needed in dealing with the difficult foreign relations issues that would arise in any concerted effort to go after bin Laden.

Clearly, there’s no way of knowing for certain that, had we made bin Laden our primary focus, we would have him today.  Maybe he’d still be sitting out there somewhere, taunting us with the occasional video, showing the world that you can kill thousands of Americans and get away with it.  We can’t really know how things might have shaped up differently – counter-factual history is never reliable.

But by taking the actions we took, we damn-well increased the chance that he would escape our clutches.  And escape our clutches he has done.

And that makes me profoundly angry.

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