I expect that very soon (perhaps as early as this morning), some of us will be confronted with this question “Was the war in Iraq a mistake?” We’ll be talking with family, or debating politics in general, or advocating for Candidate X or against Candidate Y. After last night’s debate, when a GOP presidential candidate basically accused a previous GOP president of lying his people into war and soldiers into their graves, I’m pretty sure the question will come up.
Or, for those of us who know the war in Iraq was justified, we might want to bring up the question ourselves. Donald Trump has thrown the idea out there that Bush 43 lied, so that he could take us into war. You don’t leave an idea that monstrous, that devastating, out there on its own to fester. That’s a boil that needs to be lanced. As Alan Simpson once said, an allegation unchallenged is an allegation believed.
Perhaps Donald Trump HAS done us a favor. The “Bush lied, people died” notion IS lying out there. MSM types such as Ron Fournier are repeating it. However, it’s often mentioned in passing, and then the conversation quickly moves on to other things. The slur seldom gets enough sunlight to get disinfected. So, it festers.
I want to do my part to lance the boil, so it drains. Here, then, are some reasons why the war in Iraq was justified. I know that most of us know these things already. But, soon we’ll have to verbalize them, in political conversations with our friends or coworkers or in a primary campaign, where often you only have a chance to inject a soundbite here or there in an impassioned give-or-take conversation. In cases like that, you have to make your points quickly and succinctly.
In those cases, I hope that you’ll find some of these reasons useful.
One of the many jobs a president has, when it comes to safeguarding the people who elected him, is identifying and removing risks to his country. Iraq, under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and his sons, was a huge source of risk to regional and world peace. Here are some specific reasons why; I’ve boldfaced the “bullet quotes” that you can throw into an argument:
- Hussein was a nut. So were his sons. You can’t reason with a nutcase. The Soviets were evil but rational. Hussein was too nutty to be reasoned with.
- Hussein was willing to set the whole Middle East on fire, if it suited his purposes. In the First Gulf War, when the Allied coalition bombed him, Hussein retaliated by rocketing—Israel, a country that wasn’t in the coalition at all.
- In the years leading up to the Second Gulf War, the international will to restrain Hussein was collapsing. UN sanctions were eroding. Fewer and fewer countries were willing to hold Hussein’s feet to the fire. Soon, only the US (and perhaps the UK), would be carrying the burden of keeping Iraq in check. We were going to be in Iraq’s crosshairs sooner or later—it was inevitable.
- Hussein had plenty of ways to challenge, or even imperil, the US or its allies. He could rocket Israel. His armies could maneuver menacingly on the Saudi and Kuwaiti borders. (Remember, the Second Gulf War occurred before the fracking boom, when the Middle East was still invaluable as a source of oil). He could fund terrorists. His scientists could give WMD (nuke, chem or bio) to rogue regimes or terrorists.
- Hussein was not going to leave Israel alone. He saw it as the West’s new testicle, just as Khruschev saw and used Berlin as the West’s testicle during the Cold War. As long as Hussein was in power, we’d always have to be holding our breath, waiting for the next time Hussein squeezed on Israel. (If you’re talking with someone who doesn’t give a hoot about Israel, I doubt this point will help you much.)
- In 2002-3, the Middle East was still a vital, irreplaceable source of oil for the world economy. This is worth its own bullet point. The world wasn’t fracking yet. Many of our trading partners depended on ready access to Middle Eastern oil to run their economies. If they suffered economically, so would we. You may dislike, or even hate, the Saudi monarchy. But you can’t put hate or dislike in your gas tank. The free flow of oil was another testicle that Hussein could squeeze. (Okay…enough of that metaphor)
As for the decision to invade Iraq, because he posed a WMD threat:
- In 2002-3, did ANY respectable US politician or world leader really think that Hussein DIDN’T pose a WMD threat? Here is a link to an Instapundit post, where Glenn Reynolds has collected a LONG list of Democrat pols talking about how threatening Saddam Hussein was.
- Could we really afford to wait for 100% proof that Hussein had WMD? We didn’t have 100% proof that 9/11 was a terrorist attack until the second plane hit the WTC. By then, once we actually were 100% sure that we were under a no-fooling terrorist attack…three World Trade Center towers and 3000+ Americans were dead or doomed. Here is one place where I fault the Bush 43 administration: Many of its critics fault the Bush 43 administration for not making sure that Iraq had WMD before we invaded. But, that sets the decision bar unfairly high. NO president can ever count on having undeniable, irrefutable proof of a threat before acting to counter it. Bush 43 should have made that more clear to the American people. The question shouldn’t have been “Are we sure that Hussein has WMD.” The question should have been “Are we sure he DOESN’T have it, and can’t get it?” The only way that Bush 43 could have responsibly run the risk of not neutralizing Hussein, is if he could be 100% sure that Hussein didn’t have WMD and couldn’t get them. Otherwise, Hussein was too nutty and too dangerous to simply try to contain with sanctions and monitoring. He was too much of a risk.
- Once your enemy knows you’re coming to get him, you don’t give him time to dig in and get ready. In the weeks immediately preceding the Iraq invasion in early 2003, I remember news reports about calls for a few more months of negotiation, to see if there was even the slightest chance that Hussein would bow to world pressure and allow the creation of some mechanism that would really ensure that he didn’t have WMD and wouldn’t get them. Hussein would never have allowed that. But, he could have strung out the diplomats and the press by hinting that he might. In the meantime, his troops could dig in. He could lay boobytraps that would have made Pelilieu look like a walk in the park. Then, our troops would have been forced to attack later in the year, when it was much hotter and Hussein was much better prepared. Maybe it’s just me, but I want a president who makes things as easy as possible for OUR troops, instead of the enemy’s.
- Here’s another good source of evidence for why the decision to invade is justifiable
It was too risky to try and coexist with Hussein. And, we had the ability to take him out. So, it was the right thing to do.
I hope some of this proves useful. Please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments. Especially if you have other reasons/justifications to propose, or have a better way to express the reasons/justifications I’ve listed here.