Skip to comments.On Balance, Was the Iraq War Worth It?
Posted on 03/21/2013 6:42:15 AM PDT by Kaslin
Ten years ago this week, the United States led an invasion of Iraq with the explicit purpose of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The preceding months had been filled with vehement protests against the impending war, expressed in editorials, in advertisements, and in rallies so vast that some of them made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. With so many people against the invasion, who supported it?
Well, if you were like the great majority of Americans you did. In February and March 2003, Newsweek's polls showed 70 percent of the public in favor of military action against Iraq; Gallup and Pew Research Center surveys showed the same thing. Congress had authorized the invasion a few months earlier with strong bipartisan majorities; among the many Democrats voting for the war were Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden.
Though the Iraq War later became a favorite Democratic club for bashing George W. Bush, Republicans and Democrats alike had long understood that Saddam was a deadly menace who had to be forcibly eradicated. In 1998 President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making Saddam's removal from power a matter of US policy. "If the history of the last six years has taught us anything," Kerry had said two years earlier, "it is that Saddam Hussein does not understand diplomacy, he only understands power."
But bipartisan harmony was an early casualty of the war. Once it became clear that Saddam didn't have the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were a major justification for the invasion, unity gave way to recrimination. It didn't matter that virtually everyone Republicans and Democrats, CIA analysts and the UN Security Council, even Saddam's own military officers had been sure the WMD would be found. Nor did it matter that Saddam had previously used WMD to exterminate thousands of men, women, and children. The temptation to spin an intelligence failure as a deliberate "lie" was politically irresistible.
When the relatively quick toppling of Saddam was followed by a long and bloody insurgency, opposition to the war intensified. For many it became an intractable article of faith that victory was not an option. The war to remove Saddam was not merely "Bush's folly," but as Senate majority leader Harry Reid called it in 2007 -- "the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country."
But then came Bush's "surge," and the course of the war shifted dramatically for the better.
By the time Bush left office, the insurgency was crippled, violence was down 90 percent, and Iraqis were being governed by politicians they had voted for. It was far from perfect, but "something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq," reported Newsweek in early 2010. On its cover the magazine proclaimed: "Victory at Last."
And so it might have been, if America's new commander-in-chief hadn't been so insistent on pulling the plug.
In October 2011, President Obama overriding his military commanders, who had recommended keeping 18,000 troops on the ground announced that all remaining US servicemen would be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Politically, it was a popular decision; most Americans were understandably weary of Iraq. But abandoning Iraqis and their frail, fledgling democracy was reckless.
"It freed Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to be more of a Shiite sectarian than he could have been with the US looking over his shoulder," military historian Max Boot observed this week. And with Maliki moving against his Sunni opponents, some of them "are making common cause once again with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, [which] has recovered from its near-death experience" during the surge. It is cold comfort that so many urgently warned of just such an outcome in 2011.
So was the Iraq war worth it? On that, Americans are a long way from a consensus. It is never clear in the immediate aftermath of any war what history's judgment will be. Two decades ago, the 1991 Gulf War was regarded as a triumph. In retrospect, the decision to leave Saddam in power and to let him murderously crush an uprising we had encouraged looks like a tragic blunder.
But this much we do know: The invasion of Iraq 10 years ago ended the reign of a genocidal tyrant, and ensured that his monstrous sons could never succeed him. It struck a shaft of fear into other dictators, leading Libya's Moammar Qaddafi, for example, to relinquish his WMD. It let Iraqis find out how much better their lives could be under democratic self-government. Like all wars, even wars of liberation, it took an awful toll. The status quo ante was worse.
Easy to work from hindsight, but too many major mistakes were made.
Too many Washington rules tied the hands of our military.
For Iran, the US invasion was a big bonus.
We took out their biggest enemy, Saddam Hussein, and turned the country over to Iran’s Shiite allies.
I also have come to believe that Arab/Muslim civilization can not be reformed or transformed by anyone, certainly not the United States.
We fought Iraq for our Saudi masters, you know, the ones who pretend to be our “friends” while spreading Wahabbism around the globe.
For the U.S. — An emphatic NO!!
For Iran ——— Oh, hell YES!!!
I gotta agree. The greatest threat to Western Civilization is not the Baath party. It's radical islam. And who were the two greatest enemies of radical islam in the region? The Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein.
Jimmy Carter got rid of the first one. Bush II got rid of the second one. Bid Laden could not have asked for more.
If it were so vitally necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power (which I don’t think was the case), we should’ve cut side deals with disgruntled members of the Ba’ath Party to take him out from the inside.
If Bush had parked a B-52 over Mecca and gave the Muslim World two months to produce Osama our islamonazi problem would have been solved. And this is EXACTLY what he should have did.
Not the way Bush played it out.
Taking out Saddam - good move.
Prolonged occupation trying to induce these savages to become democratic thinking modern people without washing away their Islamic fanaticism - BAD move.
Hey Bush, REALITY CHECK. Islam is NOT a peaceful religion.
Ditto to his even more inept successor.
Well, “radical” Islam is really a cop-out. Islam has been sprouting one form of “radical” Islam or another since its inception.
The fact is Islam is the problem - ALL of it.
A “religion” of hate, brutality, intolerance and violence, created by a slave-trading desert bandit for slave-trading desert bandits.
Afghanistan was the total waste of blood and treasure. It is simply impossible to preclude a safe haven for the likes of Al-Quaeda, worldwide. Hence, the better option was to rid America of its Islamic vermin allowing other civilized countries to defend their own turf.
Probably not. At least, when it transitioned from overthrowing Hussein into nation-building. My biggest problem actually has more to do with how it kept everyone’s eyes off the ball here in America, which has so massively (and more rapidly) degraded in the past ten years. Total economic, cultural, and moral decay. America is quickly reaching a point in which it no longer even seems worth fighting for.
Iraq should have been nuked into radioactive dust on day one. It would heva taken a few mirvs from a sub and taken 15 minutes.
Not doing so will turn out to be a crime against humanity that will make Stalin look like a choirboy.
The Iraqi war stopped the oil for food program and smuggling of Iraqi oil which was being used to manipulate the price of oil and thus the world economy.
The recession Bush inherited from Clinton was a direct result of the OFF program and the smuggling of Iraqi oil being used to drive the price of oil so low the oil producing countries around the world were running out of money and oil companies weren’t spending.
Millions of stripper wells in this country were also shut in because it cost more to produce the oil then you got paid for it.
In the US, hundreds of thousands of oilfield related jobs were lost and millions in royalty payments to land owners dried up.
The 9/11 attack was an attack against the US economy.
There was an orchestrated recession then the 9/11 attack, so it was intended as a 1-2 punch against the US economy.
Several month prior to the 9/11 attack SH made a comment to the effect America would soon be hit in it’s sore arm.
He was making a reference to the US economy.
SH played a very significant role in the preparations for the 9/11 attack.
Absolutely right. It was 19 Saudi citizens who did 9/11.They were motivated and financed by the Wahabbi Islam cult which in turn is financed and tolerated by the Saudi royal family/government. They continue to finance and motivate worldwide anti-American terror. Instead of invading Iraq, the Saudis should have been presented with a $1 trillion dollar bill for damages and the force that invaded Iraq off their shore to collect. Bush hit the wrong guy.
Was Obama’s undeclared war against Libya worth it?
He proclaimed “mission accomplished” before the United Nations.
His Secretary of State celebrate the war crime torture, abuse, and murder of a POW named Momar Gaddafi (”WE came, WE saw, HE DIED!”).
Obama proclaimed that no American lives were lost (at least on record until 9-11-2012).
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