My name is J. Edward Tremlett... and I am a useful idiot.
For those of you who haven't been privy to my history as an op-ed writer, it may come as some shock to hear that a somewhat left-leaning centrist such as I was a vocal supporter of the Iraq War. But I was. I wrote a number of pieces on The American Partisan calling for us to get into that war, and one celebrating its "end."
It's weird that The American Partisan's absence from regular publishing has been a sideways mirror of my own disappearance from regular commentary. I tried to put it down to a move back to America, working full time again and trying to explore other writing venues... but the more I think about it the more I realize my political silence has been self-imposed.
I went from being against a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq to being enthusiastically in favor of one in less than a year. It wasn't a turn on a dime, either: I slipped down a slope over the course of a few months that had me saying no, then maybe, and then yes with reservations. And once I hit bottom I was impatiently calling for hostilities to commence so we could get it over with.
At the time, I argued this potential war was about "preventing another disaster from striking America, or her allies, somewhere down the road. This means that we are going to have to engage in preemptive conflicts in the time to come. While I can see that power being misused, and remain wary of its becoming a legitimate option, I can't completely rule it out. And I think that in the case of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, it is justified."
Knowing what I know now, I reject entirely the notion that the world is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power, and now dead. Better? Maybe. But safer? No.
If anything, we've given our enemies a handy target, and increased their numbers. We've destabilized the region and given the fence-sitters of the Muslim world reason to think that the radicals were right all along.
Far from putting the fear of the Gods into Iran, Syria and Al-Qaeda, we've empowered them.
So yes, I was wrong. I screwed up. I acted as a cheerleader for a war that was unnecessary and counterproductive. I shrugged off the notion of civilian casualties, friendly fire, and incoming opportunists as "things that happen." I got on my knees and thanked higher powers that it was "over," and we'd "won," when in fact the troubles were just beginning.
I wasn't the only one who did these things, but I far expect better out of myself.
How does that make me any better than some Al-Qaeda planner in a cave? Really?
You see, we all came to an important, harsh realization on 9/11. We realized that terrorism wasn't something that just happened overseas in countries we couldn't find on a map, but something that could happen anywhere - even to us. We realized we had to change the way we thought about it, because we now realized that we weren't safe. And we realized that we had to do something about it.