Good discussion in the comment thread for a recent post at Max Sawicky’s weblog (MaxSpeak, You Listen!):
That Hussein and the Ba’athist government of Iraq no longer seek a nuclear weapon is good, but if one had given me $200 billion and authorization to get up to 1400 Americans killed and ten thousand wounded to insure that Saddam doesn’t get a nuclear weapon for the foreseeable future, with the agreement that I get to keep the change and revel in the transcendant joy of sending each of the surviving, able-bodied Americans home to his grateful family, I suspect I could have done an awful lot better than George W. Bush has.
And that’s not mentioning the number of Iraqi dead and hurt from military or [Iraqi] criminal activity, malnutrition, and the like.
And that’s what we’re talking about: efficiency in a world of relative value and limited resources. Not absolutes. Having been beguiled by absolutes and been made servant to our fears, we’ve bogged down half of America’s ground forces in a vast undermanned nation-building mission, a task far more daunting than merely keeping Saddam and The Bomb in separate rooms.
Why not admit that critics of the Bush Administration might find its [stated] aims – a safe, free world – admirable, but believe that Bush deliberately avoids counting the costs to us and to the world? And that a real, transparent discussion and popular acceptance of the costs is essential to the success of the enterprise?
Indeed, acknowledgement of costs are missing from critiques like [Instapundit Glenn] Reynolds’, and absent from policy statements from the White House in all but the vaguest terms. We are effectively assured, then, that a total committment to world freedom doesn’t really mean a total dedication of this nation’s future, its economy, its youth, to reaching it….
I realize, now, that considering costs was never part of this “Bush Doctrine”, because costs are, intrinsically, questions, and questions are obviously, doubts, which faith, true belief, can’t admit. To mention costs is to imply choice, to impugn destiny, to face the possibility of failure. And, well, to do that is treasonable, even if history’s dustbin is full of leaders and ruling elites who launched grand schemes on misplaced faith.