Today is the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Now seems like an appropriate time to take a break from my typical LDS theme and make this very important political statement:

I'm sorry.

Don't get me wrong. I don't feel personally responsible for what has happened there. I didn't vote for Bush the first time (I was out of the country and my mind was far from politics), but I did mostly support his decision. Still, my personal responsibility is minimal when compared to those in charge of our intelligence, President Bush, and many others. But when I think of all the people who have died and the political mess that we have there, I wish we had not done it. I came to this realization gradually. Here's my conversion story:

In the beginning, it was all about WMDs (weapons of mass destruction, if you've been living in a cave). Our intelligence, as well as other countries said they had them, and Hussein's history made us think he might use them. If this were true, that would be good enough reason to invade, I believe. However, it turned out it wasn't true. In the beginning of the war, as each month went by with no evidence turned up, the administration's rhetoric gradually shifted away from WMDs and started focusing on the question, "Well, isn't it a good thing that we've ousted Saddam?" Well yes, but of course we must ask, "At what cost?" We have not historically, nor should we now, start using unilateral military action to get rid of leaders who do things we don't like, even criminal things.

Some still argue that Iraq might have had WMDs but moved them before the war to another country. That's possible, but speculation. If there were any credible evidence for that, the administration would still be using it and not talking about Saddam's crimes against his people.

The second argument, and the one I've held until recently, is that the war was justified, but we haven't handled it well. The execution was flawed, but the initial invasion was the right decision. I recently have come to the conclusion that we can't separate the two. If I bet a million dollars that I can kick a 30 yard field goal in a football game, and then I miss, can I then say, "Well, it was a good idea but the execution was bad." My point is that there is risk in anything that we do. The US did not judge the risk well, did not have a good plan for minimizing the risk, and did not have a good back-up plan for what to do if the worst-case scenario happened. Whether the motive was good going in or not, we should not have gone in if we could not manage the risk.

All of this, combined with the great human suffering caused by the invasion, has finally (some would say far too late), led me to the conclusion that we should not have done it. I say this knowing that for those who have served or lost family members and friends, such a statement is a hard thing. I don't wish to minimize their service and sacrifices, but I have to say what I believe is true. Now that we are there, what they are doing is very important.

With that said, I also don't support immediate withdrawal, nor do I think we have "lost". Words like "lose" and "win" don't make sense in modern warfare, in my opinion. We're there now, and we can't dwell on the mistakes of the past other than learning from them. Instead, we need to figure out what's the best thing to do now that we're there. The surge has brought some stability to Iraq and pulling out now would undermine that. In fact, my recent conversion changes very little on what I think should be done from here. We still have a chance to leave Iraq better than we found it, but again the question is: Will it be worth the cost?
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