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Was Iraq War a Mistake?

Tony Blair, former British prime minister and President George W. Bush’s best foreign ally in the war in Iraq, has candidly admitted the conflict was, in some ways, ill-conceived and executed.

Is he right?

The best way to judge a war is by the results. There’s really no way around it.

  • Is Iraq better off today within the orbit of Iran, a radical Shiite regime? No.
  • Is the world better off with that re-alignment? No.
  • Is the region better off? No.
  • Did the Iraq war ultimately lead to the rise of ISIS as part of a Sunni backlash against the Shiite-dominated, Iran-aligned regime? Yes.
  • Does Iran have a stronger hand to play in the Middle East today as a result of the Iraq war? Yes.
  • Is there more death, violence, upheaval and conflict in Iraq today than there was with Saddam Hussein in charge? Yes.

Unfortunately the kind of instability we see in the region today is what you can expect when the goals of an invasion are ill-defined, initially limited to “regime change,” but then morphing into the more nebulous objective of “nation-building.”

The Iraq war was costly — in lives, blood and money.

It’s pretty difficult to look back and say it was properly conceived, well planned and expertly executed.

It’s better not to embark on foreign military adventures without clear-cut, achievable goals and a definition to victory.

One of the problems from the start with the Iraq war was American unwillingness to define the enemy. The Iraq war was an extension of the “war on terrorism,” which had the same problem. Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy.

The reluctance to recognize and articulate the dangers of radical Islam was always the biggest barrier to victory.

How do you win a war when you can’t even say whom you are fighting?

Saddam Hussein was a monster — a terrible tyrant. Yet, in the neighborhood he lived in, he was hardly the worst offender. He was an easy target, but replacing him with a government that would respect human rights, and especially the rights of minorities, would prove thornier than most people imagined.

We have the same problem in Syria today. Barack Obama has made regime change the principle goal in Syria. Bashar Assad is a tyrant, too. But, by the standards of the Middle East, he looks like one of the good guys, at least in terms of the protection of Christians and other religious minorities.

Obama made his highest objective overthrowing Assad, who is aligned with Iran, while making it easier for Iran to procure nuclear weapons.

It was a strategy that was completely backward from the start.

It is Iran’s nuclear ambitions that represent a crisis to the whole word, not just the Middle East. Obama’s policy was even more misguided and wrongheaded than Bush’s. And it will haunt us for decades to come.

Both in Iraq and Syria, as well as Afghanistan, we can see that simple regime change doesn’t really change a thing. In fact, it more often than not has unintended consequences.

You might think America would have learned this lesson after Vietnam — an even more costly war that was fought without defining victory.

But we didn’t — at least the politicians never figured it out.

It’s time for the U.S. to stop trying to be the policeman of the world. While policemen can be effective at arresting bad guys, they can’t be expected to change people’s hearts and minds. And in the Middle East — in fact worldwide — conflicts and human rights abuses are problems caused by warped hearts and minds.

Military force should only be used to kill bad people and break things with overwhelming power. Historically, when America has applied this simple principle in foreign wars, the outcome is usually more successful.

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Joseph Farah
  • Macman

    The problem is that Obama got US military out of Iraq prematurely.

    • Clark Coleman

      Killing of Christians and Jews in Iraq, to take just one example, started under the regime of beloved Dubya. We need to face facts before the liberal/neocon element of our party leads us down the same path again in the future. The attempt to blame everything on Obama is ignorant.

  • Hans Blix, after an intensive and intrusive inspection of Iraq, warned the world that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. The US just chose not to believe him. Neither US political party wanted the facts to get in their way.

    • kma699

      Hans Blix was a liberal fool.

    • Robin

      Hadn’t politicians for years, believed Iraq had WMD? Didn’t Iraq have warning we were coming? Were there not videos of trucks leaving Iraq and going into Syria? Could they not have been loaded with WMD?

      • Hans Blix was in charge of the UN Atomic Energy Commission. I remember watching him on the nightly news night after night inspecting Iraq military bases, industrial facilities, and temples and he couldn’t find anything.

        • Robin

          But was this not AFTER we had told them we were COMING??!! I am VERY sure it was.

          • Yes that is true. I would love to know where the WMDs went if there were some. Iran doesn’t have them or they probably would have used them by now instead of creating their own nuclear weapons program. Pakistan and India each have a nuclear weapons program and they have been fighting each other for centuries. They didn’t show up in Israel (the Israelis aren’t saying.) I don’t consider WMDs conventional armory or a little chlorine gas (I have some for my pool).

          • Robin

            Do you think maybe they could have been in the trucks leaving Iraq, headed for Syria, as I originally wrote?

          • Possibly, but it doesn’t seem like anybody is worried about nuclear weapons in Syria or the Israelis would have taken Bashar Assad out by now. Remember the Israelis did blow up a nuclear power plant being built in Syria in 2007. Interesting. If ISIS or the Taliban had WMDs, I suspect we would have known about it by now. Assad is accused of dropping barrel bombs and chlorine gas on his own people but this is not a first or in the same class as nuclear weapons. I think the biggest international worry today is nuclear material escaping from Pakistan or Russia.

          • Robin

            I believe Iran already has nuclear weaponry and Netanyahu knows that. You think Israel would take Syria out, but not Iran? He is a very smart man. He isn’t going to take anybody “out” until someone attacks Israel (more than is being done now). Israel has been one of our ONLY allies in the Middle East. Don’t know if the man in the White House believes that. I tend to think he doesn’t. Who do you think would back Israel?

      • I remember that issue but no WMDs ever turned up. Saddam believed he had WMDs because his generals told him so. Can you image what would happen to any individual general if he told Saddam that there were no WMDs. He wouldn’t have left the room with is head still attached to his body. (humor but true)

        • Robin

          I believe that since obama left Iraq, WMD have been found. You are wrong.

    • ICorps

      National leaders must act on the information provided by their nations’ intelligence services, not on some individual’s opinion.

      If a leader’s action is wrong because of incorrect intelligence, the blame lies with the service providing the incorrect intelligence, not with the leader.

  • jdbixii

    When you consider the problems inherent in “diversity,” fundamental differences based in religion, and then, lesser factors such as language, ethnicity, race and economic status, the history of countries where all of these factors are causal in the domestic violence and unstable, political situations of them and how those differences were dealt with by successful governments indicates that strong-man dictatorships were necessary with state-security, police forces to maintain order and discipline in those societies. The history of Yugoslavia is a classic example of this. The lesson is that there needs to be independent countries where homogeneity is the practice. Otherwise, prejudice and injustice prevail due to legal systems which are not based in the belief systems of the diversities of the population. Islam has to solve its own sectarian-differences problems. While it was certainly wrong to attack the U.S. on 9/11/01, the cost or retaliation for those attacks has been unacceptably high and open-ended. In the West, where freedom has a long history, it is, fundamentally, the teachings of Christianity which have created and maintained environments where moral and ethical standards fostered freedom. The notion
    that such a freedom could be “exported” to Islamic countries having no history of freedom was idealistic, at best, pure folly, at worst. The lesson of history with respect to Afghanistan is that it is best left to its natives. No ones needs the lessons of Islam, nor are they survivable.

    • ICorps

      I concur on everything you say, but I should point out that the cost or retaliation for 9/11 has been “unacceptably high and open-ended” not because retaliation is wrong but because it has not been carried out efficiently.

      Perhaps the most fundamental point promulgated by the ancient military strategist Sun Tzu is “know thy enemy.” As long as America refuses to “know” its enemy, retaliation will not, and never can be, efficient.

      • Moki

        Both you and jdbixii are brilliant. And I have very little knowledge of anything approaching military strategy, just, I hope, common sense. 🙂

  • ICorps

    The author is confusing war with the management of post-war peace. Mismanaging the peace in no way reflects on the rectitude of the war, especially since wars are guided by professional military and post-war peace by professional politicians.

    Nevertheless, one can legitimately regret a war, as Tony Blair apparently has done, not because the war was wrong, but because the post-war peace was badly mismanaged.

    • Moki

      That’s how I see it, too. It is Obama’s policies that have led to the chaos in the Middle East.

      I don’t know whether we should have invaded Iraq, but we definitely should have maintained a strong presence there until Iraq was wholly secure and able to govern itself without falling to jihadists. And that would have taken decades.

  • justinwachin

    The military did their job effectively. They were the only competent ones.

    Our problems go back to the Persian Gulf War in 1991. This was another war where America easily defeated the Iraq army. Papa Bush was more interested in winning the war in 100 hours, which he mentioned in his address announcing the cease fire, than in dealing with the problems surrounding Iraq. The 100 hour war effectively ended the Iraq-Iran war, which previously seemed to have no end in sight and which was doing a great job reducing the population of both countries.

    While our troops drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, the lopsided battle gave rise to al Qaeda. This organization would attempt to level the World Trade Centers in 1993. Clinton continued the Bush legacy of an incompetent Middle East Policy. George Jr. to a certain extent set out to finish the business which was left undone by his dad. Jr.’s administration thought the Iraqis would be so happy to be free of Saddam Hussein that they would embrace freedom and become a democracy.

    I would say the 1991 Persian Gulf War (aka 100 hour war) was a mistake because the Bush administration had no coherent plan beyond driving Iraq out of Kuwait. The Clinton administration bungled its foreign policy. Clinton attacked Iraq every time a scandal came up. The attacks helped divert attention of the scandal du jour and strengthened al Qaeda. Bush 2 went to war with faulty intelligence and it soon became apparent that we were unlikely to see a free and democratic Iraq. Obama has continued bungling foreign policy in the Middle East by watching regimes in Egypt and other countries be replaced by ones which were less friendly to the U.S.

    After seeing what two Bush presidencies have given our country, I’m not eager to have another Bush brother try to clean up the family’s mistakes. We need a new president, preferably one whose last name isn’t Bush or Clinton.

  • Brian_R_Allen

    …. The Iraq War was costly — in lives, blood and money ….

    World War Two was also costly — in lives, blood and money.

    The Korean War was also costly — in lives, blood and money.

    The Vietnam War was also costly — in lives, blood and money.

    (And the Limeys had little to do with the winning of any of those, too)

    But worse — and in addition to their being costly in lives and blood and money — every one of those wars has in common that not long after it had been very well won by brave and determined Americans at the cost of their blood and their lives — and our money — it was lost by a treacherous “Democratic” party a treasonous “president” and/or by his “administration” and/or by an evil by any other name “congress” and/or as-evil and as traitorous state department brahmanas.

    ICorps has it spot on!

    Brian Richard Allen