Skip to comments.Why Did We Invade Iraq? (A reminder: It wasn't just about WMD's)
Posted on 03/26/2013 8:48:49 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the back-and-forth recriminations continue, but in all the not me defenses, we have forgotten, over the ensuing decade, the climate of 2003 and why we invaded in the first place. The war was predicated on six suppositions.
1. 9/11 and the 1991 Gulf War. The Bush administration made the argument that in the post-9/11 climate there should be a belated reckoning with Saddam Hussein. He had continued to sponsor terrorism, had over the years invaded or attacked four of his neighbors, and had killed tens of thousands of his own people. He was surely more a threat to the region and to his own people than either Bashar Assad or Moammar Qaddafi was eight years later.
In this context, the end of the 1991 Gulf War loomed large: Its denouement had led not to the removal of a defeated Saddam, but to mass slaughter of Kurds and Shiites. Twelve years of no-fly zones had seen periods of conflict, and the enforcement of those zones no longer enjoyed much, if any, international support suggesting that Saddam would soon be able to reclaim his regional stature. Many of the architects or key players in the 1991 war were once again in power in Washington, and many of them had in the ensuing decade become remorseful about the ending of the prior conflict. The sense of the need to correct a mistake became all the more potent after 9/11. Most Americans have now forgotten that by 2003, most of the books published on the 1991 war were critical, faulting the unnecessary overkill deployment; the inclusion of too many allies, which hampered U.S. choices; the shakedown of allies to help defray the cost; the realist and inhumane ending to the conflict; the ongoing persecution of Shiites, Marsh Arabs, and Kurds; and the continuation of Saddam Hussein in power.
Since there was no direct connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, take away the security apprehensions following 9/11, and George Bush probably would not have taken the risk of invading Iraq. By the same token, had the 1991 Gulf War ended differently, or had the U.N. and the NATO allies continued to participate fully in the no-fly zones and the containment of Iraq, there likewise would not have been a 2003 invasion. The Iraq War was predicated, rightly or wrongly, on the notion that the past war with Saddam had failed and containment would fail, and that after 9/11 it was the proper time to end a sponsor of global terrorism that should have been ended in 1991 a decision that, incidentally, would save Kurdistan and allow it to turn into one of the most successful and pro-American regions in the Middle East.
2. Afghanistan. A second reason was the rapid victory in the war in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11. Scholars and pundits had warned of disaster on the eve of the October 2001 invasion. Even if it was successful in destroying the rule of the Taliban, any chance of postwar stability was declared impossible, given the graveyard of empires reputation of that part of the world. But the unforeseen eight-week war that with ease removed the Taliban, and the nonviolent manner in which the pro-Western Hamid Karzai later assumed power, misled the administration and the country into thinking Iraq would be a far less challenging prospect especially given Iraqs humiliating defeat in 1991, which had contrasted sharply with the Soviet failure in Afghanistan.
After all, in contrast to Afghanistan, Iraq had accessible ports, good weather, flat terrain, a far more literate populace, and oil facts that in the ensuing decade, ironically, would help to explain why David Petraeus finally achieved success there in a manner not true of his later efforts in Afghanistan.
Since the U.S. had seemingly succeeded in two months where the Soviets had abjectly failed in a decade, and given that we already had once trounced Saddam, it seemed likely that Iraq would follow the success of Afghanistan. History is replete with examples of such misreadings of the past: The French in 1940 believed that they could hold off the Germans as they had for four years in the First World War; the Germans believed the Russians would be as weak at home in 1941 as they had seemed sluggish abroad in Poland and Finland in 193940. Had Afghanistan proved as difficult at the very beginning of the war as it did at the end, the U.S. probably would not have invaded Iraq.
3. Everyone on board. A third reason was the overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, in the media, and among the public for reasons well beyond WMD. In October 2002, both houses of Congress passed 23 writs justifying the removal of Saddam, an update of Bill Clintons 1998 Iraq Liberation Act. Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Harry Reid were among those who not only enthusiastically called for Saddams removal, but also warned of intelligence estimates of Saddams WMD arsenals. Pundits on both sides, from Thomas Friedman to George Will, likewise supported the invasion, which on the eve of the war enjoyed over 70 percent approval from the American people. Bush, in that regard, had achieved what Clinton had not on the eve of the Serbian War he had obtained a joint resolution of support from Congress before attacking, and had taken nearly a year in concerted (though failed) attempts to win U.N. approval for Saddams removal. Had Bush not gone to Congress, had he made no attempt to go to the U.N., had he had no public support, or had he been opposed by the liberal press, he probably would not have invaded Iraq.
4. WMD. A fourth reason was the specter of WMD. While the Bush administration might easily have cited the persuasive writs of the bipartisan resolutions genocide against the Kurds, Shiites, and Marsh Arabs; bounties for suicide bombers; sanctuary for terrorists; attempts to kill a former U.S. president; violations of U.N. sanctions and resolutions; etc. it instead fixated on supposedly unimpeachable intelligence about WMD, a slam dunk, according to CIA director George Tenet, a judgment with which most Middle Eastern governments and European intelligence agencies agreed. This concentration on WMD would prove a critical political mistake. Note in passing that the eventual public furor over missing WMD stockpiles (although there is solid evidence that Saddam was perilously close to WMD deployment) did not fully develop with the initial knowledge of that intelligence failure, but only with the mounting violence after a seemingly brilliant victory over Saddam.
The missing vast stockpiles of WMD then became the source of the convenient slogan Bush lied, thousands died. Yet had the reconstruction gone well, we would surely not have heard something like Bush lied and so there was no need, after all, to depose Saddam and foster consensual government in Iraq.
The Bush administration apparently believed that, without the worry over WMD, the other writs would not generate enough public urgency for preemption, and thus it would not have invaded Iraq. Note that when Barack Obama talks of red lines and game changers in Syria that might justify U.S. preemptive action, he is not referring to 70,000 dead, the horrific human-rights record of Bashar Assad, Syrias past effort to become nuclear, or even the plight of millions of Syrian refugees, but the supposition that Syria is planning to use chemical or biological weapons a crime Saddam had often committed against his own people, and one that inflames public opinion in the West. As a footnote, we will probably not know the full story of WMD in the region until the Assad regime is gone from Syria although we are starting to hear the same worries about such Syrian weapons from the Obama administration as we did of Iraqi weapons during the Bush presidency.
5. Nation-building. A fifth reason was the notion of reformulating Iraq, so that instead of being the problem in the region it would become a solution. Since the 1991 war had not ended well, because of a failure to finish off the regime and stay on, and since the aid to the insurgents against the Soviets in Afghanistan had been followed by U.S. neglect and in time the rise of the Taliban, so, in reaction, this time the U.S. was determined to stay. We forget now the liberal consensus that the rise of the Taliban and the survival of Saddam were supposed reflections of past U.S. callousness something not to be repeated in Iraq.
Finally, America would do the right thing and create a consensual government that might ensure not only the end of Saddams atrocities, but also, by its very constitutional existence, pressure on the Gulf monarchies to liberalize and cease their support for terrorism of the sort that had killed 3,000 Americans. While there may well have been neo-cons who believed that the Iraqi democracy would be followed by a true Arab Spring of U.S.-fostered democracy sweeping the Middle East something akin to the original good blowback of Pakistans detaining Dr. Khan, Qaddafis surrendering his WMD arsenal, and Syrias leaving Lebanon, before all this dissipated with Fallujah most of the Bush administration policymakers believed that democracy was not their first choice, but their last choice, for postwar reconstruction, given that everything else had been tried after past conflicts and just as often failed.
Administration officials were not hoping for Carmel, but for something akin to post-Milosevic Serbia or post-Noriega Panama, as opposed to Somalia or post-Soviet Afghanistan. Note well: Had George Bush simply announced in advance that he would be leaving Iraq as soon as he deposed Saddam, or that he planned to install a less violent relative of Saddams to keep order as we departed, Congress probably would not have authorized an invasion of Iraq in the first place. The Iraq War was sold partly on the liberal idealism of at last doing the right thing after not having done so previously against Saddam or following the Soviets in Afghanistan.
6. Oil! Sixth and last was the issue of oil. Had Iraq been Rwanda, the Bush administration would not have invaded. The key here, however, is to remember the war was not a matter of blood for oil, given that the Bush administration had no intention of taking Iraqi oil a fact proven by the transparent and non-U.S. postwar development of the Iraqi oil and gas fields.
Instead, oil was an issue because Iraqs oil revenues meant that Saddam would always have the resources to foment trouble in the region, would always be difficult to remove through internal opposition, and would always use petrodollar influence to undermine U.N. resolutions, seek to spike world oil prices, or distort Western solidarity, as the French collusion with Saddam attested. Imagine North Korea with Iraqs gas and oil reserves: The problem it poses for its neighbors would be greatly amplified and far more likely addressed. Had Iraq simply been a resource-poor Yemen or Jordan, or landlocked without key access to the Persian Gulf, the U.S. probably would not have invaded.
TEN YEARS LATER The invasion of Iraq was a perfect storm predicated on all these suppositions the absence of any one of which might well have postponed or precluded the invasion.
That we have forgotten or ignored most of these causes stems not just from the subsequent terrible cost of the war. Instead, our amnesia is self-induced, and derives from the fact that 70 percent of the American people and most of the liberal media commentators supported the invasion, came to reverse that support, and remain hurt or furious at someone other than themselves for their own change of heart one predicated not on the original conditions of going to war, but on the later unexpected costs in blood and treasure that might have been avoided.
Given that less than a third of the American people initially opposed the war, the subsequent acrimony centered on whether it was better for the nation to give up and depart after 2004, or to stay and stabilize the country. Ultimately the president decided that the only thing worse than fighting a bad war was losing one.
NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
THe problem is that the enemy is over here, not over there.
To make daddy bush 41 proud of bush 43
What a load of BS.
I think flanking the Saudis economically was more critical. Now in a few years there will be a second producer with significant surplus capacity and the Saudis will lose their blackmail power over the global economy.
Is that why all the congress critters, senators and other countries did it too? Just asking.
NO mention of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait? WTF?
Because Hussein continually thumbed his nose at the Cease Fire Agreement from the Desert Storm War.
It’s because we did the right thing there. Everything that followed was basically bull chet.
No they didn't. Just looking at the vote tells that story.
But that also shows the usual water carrying by each party when they are in and out of power.
We did it to support Bush’s buddies, the saudis. They and Iran should have been the principal targets in the WOT with their societies and resources under American occupation even to the current date. We then would have seen who was willing to put up any more funny business.
Instead Bush was wandering around Camp David holding hands with that filthy saudi potentate.
‘Hey, we know you jacked us on 9/11. But we’ll go after sadam, and make it all look okay.’
It frankly makes me sick.
Always humanitarian to let your enemy go on killing, raping, torturing and re-arming so you will have to fight him again with a higher cost of life and resources.
And, of course Bush 41 was known for never finishing a fight or taking the fight to someone. Bush 43, same thing, just show compassion, be a pal to Ted Kennedy and get your ass handed to you.
And Jeb is just as guilty of shmoozing instead of fighting by virtue of yukking it up with his Dad and Obama while visiting the White Hut all the while Obama is bad-mouthing his brother.
And people think that Powell's opinion is meaningful and that Jeb would be a great presidential candidate?
Because GWB knew the real problem was Iran and they would be impossible to deal with if Saddam remained in place, playing games with the no fly zone and so forth. Iraq was the logical stepping stone to Iran but the RATs poisoned the strategy. Imagine the difference with a strong Iraq as a firm US ally.
Even Bill Maher is shocked things are going relatively well in Iraq. 0bama F’ed up Egypt more than Bush’s Iraq and that’s hard to do.
Usually enjoy VDH, but this article is lunacy. Regardless of the reasons for going to war, to sit back ten years later and claim that the war was not only justified but a good idea is to completely ignore reality. And to claim nation building as a valid justification is absolutely contrary to sound conservative thought. Fail VDH!
I thought it wasn’t all about WMD either. I went back and looked at the resolutions. It WAS about WMD.
But really it wasn’t.
I said it was a mistake then. It still is.
Bring them all home. Europe. Asia. Everywhere.
Let them all kill each other. I don’t care.
I work for a small print company, and I had the displeasure of being made to write up a letter for an aged liberal to print in the local newspaper. The basics of the letter were, “nanny-nanny-boo-boo, we were right, you were wrong.” I had to hold everything back to finish it without “adding” my own commentary to it.
But anyway, I am writing my own response it for the paper, and I needed some reference and material. Thanks for the article.
Why shouldn’T the reasons for going to war be considered 10 years later? I don’T follow your logic.
“.......is absolutely contrary to sound conservative thought. Fail VDH!”
VDH is an old style Zell Miller, George Putnam type Democrat. IOW a Conservative Democrat. He’s NOT a FRee Republic style Conservative at all, thus his perspective.
Has everyone forgotten about the attack on the USS STARK?
Because the neocons (yes, including *those* neocons) wanted us to.
VHS is generally known for his sound reasoning. His perspective here is much of the same... logical reasons for why we went to war. Why don’T you make points based on logic if you want to refute his reasons instead of just calling him a zell miller?
Why doesn’t the goofball who started these wars come out of the woodwork to defend his actions? Bush its the reason we have a second Obama administration. He was that big of a dumb ass.
“To make daddy bush 41 proud of bush 43”
Exactly, two turds in the Presidential Punchbowl. And to hand the WH over to the halfbreed. Good going Bushes! You succeeded where others failed in destroying our country. BTW, tell Brother Jeb to take his Mexican wife and move out of the country!
“Why donT you make points based on logic if you want to refute his reasons instead of just calling him a zell miller?”
Obviously you and I disagree on Mr. Miller. He’s one of the damned few Democrats I appreciate, thus considered my remark a compliment to VDH (NOT VHS, as you posted. That’s an obsolete video system.)
Take your crank elsewhere.
Oh sure...Everything is just peachy in Iraq...
We won...They love us now...Sure buddy...
Righto. He didn't mention the elephant in the room - that the road to peace in Jerusalem was through Baghdad. Which was the reason no one ever questioned mushroom clouds or anything else. Of course now we see, the road and the mushroom cloud has been moved to Tehran.
You seemed to be in sympathy with the poster who believed VDH to have views contrary to conservative thought. But you were correct on the acronym...my smartphone thought it was too brainy and could outguess me on what I was wanting to type...I didn’t catch it in time.
The left stream media has been writing quite a few articles about Bush and Iraq. I think they are trying to assuage their guilty conscience over Obama and the Middle East. If Bush and Iraq was so awful, then how can they keep quiet about Obama and Libya or Obama and Egypt or Obama and Syria or Obama and, well, the whole Middle East? Hanson falls into the liberal trap of writing about Bush and Iraq. The real story is Obama and the Middle East.
For an example of a country whose currency does not have reserve status and is denominated in something other(USD) than it's national currency and spends like a drunken sailor running up enormous debt till it can't be serviced look at Argentina. Once the IMF cut off credit Argentina defaulted and collapsed.
Right now we are some what similar with enormous debt but having the advantage of being the worlds reserve currency and having a very good ,albeit somewhat smaller than in previous times, military.
Once the USD looses reserve status we eventually go Argentina. So when Saddam posed a threat to the Petro dollar it was time for him to go. Saddam started to deal Oil for euros in the fall of 2000 and was being kicked out in 2003
I’m sorry, but this analysis by Mr Hanson completely misses the real reason for invading Iraq. It was oil, or course, but not in the way most people think. The problem was that UN sanctions were set to expire at the end of 2003 and the US had run out of ploys to extend them. Saddam, meanwhile, had begun granting oil concessions to foreign countries, including one that had already been signed with Chinese arms-maker Norinco in partnership with other Chinese firms. Upon the lifting of sanctions, the Chinese would have been able to effectively garrison the massive and undeveloped Al Hadab field and were in line to sign another concession for Halfaya. It was with these sales of in-ground reserves to potentially hostile outside players that Saddam crossed the line and triggered the “Carter Doctrine,” which commits the US to treat any outside attempt to gain control of Mid-East oil reserves as a direct threat to US interests that should be met if necessary by force. Bush was faced with the urgent need to preempt Chinese encroachment into Iraq and resorted to the “cavalry charge” approach with an outright invasion: horrendously expensive but dramatically effective. All the WMD, nation-building, Al Qaeda and 9/11 yammering was just window dressing to avoid talking about the real issue: China. For a detailed explanation of all this, see Ch 7 of “The Oil Card.” http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Card-Economic-Warfare-Century/dp/097779539X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199719101&sr=8-1
Was the Iraq war of 2003 worth the cost? Well consider the cost of a direct military confrontation between the US and China. In that context, Bush’s war was cheap at twice the price.
It is worth noting that, with Chinese investment funds, Saddam had planned to be producing nearly as much oil by now as the Saudis. That was another problem for the US, which has been trying since the late 1990s to jack up oil prices to bolster the crippled Russians and crimp the import-dependent Chinese on their input costs. And look where we are? Iraq production and exports are still bumping along at a fraction of what they could have been and pose no threat to world oil pricing. The Chinese have been allowed to participate in some service contracts there, alongside Western majors, but are not allowed to bring their own security forces, have to take minority stakes and only get a fairly small profit per barrel — no actual equity ownership of oil in the ground.
I would go further to say that fears over the potential invocation of this Carter Doctrine are what have given pause to the Chinese and others as far as implementing development of oil concessions in Iran.
"The Act found that between 1980 and 1998 Iraq had:
1.committed various and significant violations of International Law,
2.had failed to comply with the obligations to which it had agreed following the Gulf War and
3.further had ignored Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council."
The Act declared that it was the Policy of the United States to support "regime change."
President Clinton stated in February 1998:
"Iraq admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability, notably, 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs. And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production.... Over the past few months, as [the weapons inspectors] have come closer and closer to rooting out Iraq's remaining nuclear capacity,..."
After 911, and Saddam's continued intransigence, Pres. Bush constantly referred to the "Iraq liberation Act" as another justification of taking out Saddam. At that time, it was accepted as fact that Iraq was the most dangerous regime in the Middle East. BTW, he was offering a $25K payment to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers during the Intifada of the early 2000's.
Naturally, Clinton pretty much disappeared during this time, proving to be the disingenuous weasel that he truly is. Once he saw the polls start to turn, Clinton was not going to say anything supporting the actions of the next President, even though by his former actions and speech, he could and should have.
That will sigh your death warrant every time. Follow the dots.
WE HAVE WMD'S! SCREW WITH US OR ANY OF OUR INTERESTS AND WE WILL USE THEM!
A few well places tactical nukes would have ended the mid east wars before they began.
great article by VDH
more sad recriminations from FR
These are the things that made America the paper tiger that OBL mocked.
We will get back their in short order and there will be another attack.
Then the pendulum will swing back.
BTTT! for the history. The question is where do we go from here?
You get out much?
They spent trillions of dollars of the American treasure, thousands of American lives on this BS and you're worried about offending the United Nations?
This might be somewhat of a shock to you Mr. mule, but the UN is not your friend.
In fact, Bush was one of the worst presidents in the past 100 years, who nearly singled handily made American citizenship pointless and made the GOP as popular as public pay phones.
In fact, your hero allowed in more Muslims AFTER 911 than the previous two decades.
Wrong war? 2003, not 1991.
I suspect, though, one reason why we went in the second time was to finish the job we didn't do the first time.
Also, there was a lot of anger in the country after 911 and a lot of euphoria in Washington about being the only superpower.
It was almost like the government thought we had ... well ... superpowers ...
You're starting to sound like an obnoxious broken record bro..........