Why Iraq 1.

            Why did the United States invade Iraq in March 2003? 

Taking a historical view, the roots of the invasion might be found in the first decade after Western victory over the Soviet Union.[1]  Debating the question of what to do with victory in that struggle, most people wanted a “peace dividend.”[2]  Reduce defense spending and focus on domestic issues.  However, a small coterie of “neo-conservatives”[3] wanted to use America’s position as the sole super-power to push reforms abroad.  Poverty and tyranny held a tight grip in many parts of the world.[4]  It need not remain so. 

For example, the neo-cons seem to have made a correct diagnosis of the problems of the Middle East.  Those problems stemmed not from the existence of Israel, nor from being caught up in post-World War II international rivalries, but from 500 years of Turkish misrule.  Great landowners, rich merchants, and ambitious soldiers—all of them as crooked as a dog’s hind-leg—were deeply entrenched in Middle Eastern countries.  The “neo-cons” moved from a correct diagnosis to a spectacularly wrong cure.  Essentially, “people everywhere just want to be free.”[5]  Knock over a dictator, declare democracy, put up some big box stores, and stand back. 

They had a particular concern with Iraq.  President George H. W. Bush had led the United States and an international coalition in the First Gulf War.  Much of Iraq’s military forces were destroyed in this war, but the President had stopped the allied advance stopped close to the Kuwait-Iraq border.  He had not pursued regime change.  The President’s modesty and self-restraint left a savage dictator in power.[6]  In retrospect, the “neo-cons” wanted to correct this error.  They had lobbied President Bill Clinton “to aim above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.”  In 1998, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the “Iraq Liberation Act.”[7]  Still, he didn’t pay them no never-mind.[8]  Hussein remained in power.  Then came President George W. Bush; then came 9/11. 

[1] The Soviet Union abandoned Communism, abandoned its empire in Eastern Europe, disintegrated into many states, and ceased to oppose the United States around the globe.  If that isn’t victory, I don’t know what is.  At the same time, it may have given then Senator and now President Joe Biden the wrong template for understanding “victory” in the Ukraine War.  He’s affable as all get-out, but not an original or independent thinker. 

[2] They got what they wanted.  U.S. military spending | National Priorities Project (archive.org)  However, the “black budget” of the American intelligence community is linked to that of the Defense Department.  Cutting defense spending cut intelligence spending at the same time that expensive information technology systems were becoming vital.  This compounded the cuts in human intelligence expertise during the rise of Osama bin Laden.  Alas. 

[3] See: Neoconservatism – Wikipedia 

[4] Indeed, the United States had supported and co-operated with many such regimes.  As Franklin D. Roosevelt reflected on the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, “He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”  It isn’t beyond imagining that the philosophically-inclined “neo-cons” concluded that we had got our hands dirty winning the Cold War, but now we should seek to undo that harm as best possible.  Of course, something “not beyond imagining” isn’t necessarily what happened. 

[5] See: The Rascals – People Got To Be Free – YouTube  To be fair, every decade has a lot to answer for. 

[6] The UN had authorized using force to evict the Iraqis from Kuwait, not to change the regime.  Other major powers, like Russia and China, would take umbrage if the United States changed the rules of the game unilaterally.  Iraqi society was a sectarian landmine whose explosion would lead to violence, suffering, and—in all likelihood–increased influence for Iran.  So, yes, modesty and self-restraint.  Where can we get some? 

[7] On which, see: Iraq Liberation Act – Wikipedia 

[8] He also didn’t pay any attention to the Rwanda genocide.  Americans, he thought, didn’t want another war. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s