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Iraq – Agony, Ordeal, and Recovery


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The Bush administration built a broad domestic coalition and an adequate foreign alliance (more inclusive than the UN-sanctioned effort against North Korea in 1950). It made compelling arguments that in a post 9/11 climate, Saddam Hussein, who otherwise had no connection with 9/11, could no longer be adequately contained with no-fly zones or trusted not to repeat his various genocides and attacks on his neighbors.

At least initially, the professed case for invasion was not just predicated on worries about WMD. It also hinged on moral concerns over the horrific toll that Saddam had taken on his own people. These were crimes, for example, that made the present spectacle in Syria or the recent strife in Libya seem minor in comparison.

The administration won overwhelming bipartisan support in obtaining House and Senate resolutions in October 2002 (unlike Clinton for the Balkan war or Obama for the Libyan bombing). It spent a year trying to persuade the UN (unlike Clinton in 1999, who just bombed without even going to the UN).

While oil made Saddam a threat, the war was not aimed to steal Iraq’s oil, as postwar events proved. Oil was important (e.g., we did not intervene in Rwanda), but largely because it ensured Saddam the revenues to pose a continual threat in the region. Instead, the March 2003 invasion was supposed to correct the failure to remove Saddam in 1991 (cf. the 1998 congressional resolution to liberate Iraq), and would offer a moral improvement over just leaving as we had done in Somalia and after the Soviet expulsion in Afghanistan. We forget now the liberal critique of the 1990s that we were culpable for the rise of the Taliban and Saddam’s survival by soulless “realpolitik” and neglecting human rights.Scissors-32x32.png

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