From the grave, Jeane Kirkpatrick, the godmother of the neoconservative movement, speaks: the Iraq war was something of a mistake.
Kirkpatrick, best known as the combative UN ambassador during the Reagan administration who argued that the United States should be kind to authoritarian regimes that were partners in the crusade against communism, died last December. She had just completed a book entitled Making War To Keep Peace, which is being published next month. In the book, she reports–apparently for the first time–that she had “grave reservations” about George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. She notes that at the time, “I was privately critical of the Bush administration’s argument for the use of military force for preemptive self-defense.” She does not say where and to whom she voiced her misgivings–if she did. Most strikingly, she argues that the war–with respect to bringing democracy to Iraqis–did more harm than good.
It’s stunning criticism from a hawk who for over two decades has been a guiding light for the neocons who cheerleaded the nation to war in Iraq. In her book, she contends that the invasion has so far been counterproductive:
On a personal note, I have dedicated much of my professional life to reconciling what I consider the twin goals of American foreign policy, and that is why President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war has troubled me deeply.
These twin goals of our foreign policy are, first, ensuring our security and, second, promoting democracy and human rights. An appropriate balance between the two must exist, and that balance must be determined within the unique circumstances of any situation. Yet, for democracy to take hold in a given region, it must be preceded by institutions that are receptive and willing to support democracy–because democracy requires security as a prerequisite. That is why, throughout history, if the single force of political stability in a region is removed without critical institutions in place to fill the resulting vacuum of power, the security of societies and their budding institutions will be precarious at best.
Unfortunately, what we face in Iraq today is a vacuum of power, a lack of stable institutions needed to govern, and the problem that the promise of democracy for which our nation stands may be lost in the essential scramble for safety and stability in the streets. This is one of the reasons I am uneasy about the war we have made here–for we have helped to create the chaos that has overtaken the country, and we may have reduced rather than promoted the pace of democratic reform.
Kirkpatrick suggests the Bush administration and her neocon colleagues rushed into the war irresponsibly:
Iraq presented a very different set of circumstances from Afghanistan, however. These are things we ought to have known and taken into account when weighing our decision to invade in 2003.