Monday, November 22, 2010

Iraq was not Inevitable

In this post, I am going to talk further on the theme of today's class; was the invasion of Iraq inevitable. Though I have been trying to stay unbiased in my posts for a while, some of my bias may come out here, so I apologize. So was the Iraq war inevitable? Of course it wasn't.

In class today we talked about the National Security Report of 2002. The report outlines that the goal of the U.S. is to protect against terrorists and tyrants, preserve peace with our allies, and extend peace through democratization. In addition, the report outlines the use of preventative and pre-emptive strikes, and the necessity to keep WMDs out of terrorist hands.

Now I agree with almost all of this, especially in the age of non-state actors. However, how does Iraq tie into this? Its something called broad misunderstanding and poor decision making.

The Bush administration successfully toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan. The people were supportive and a new, democratic (on paper) government was installed. The administration thought the same would apply to Iraq. Similar features of an autocratic regime  further augmented this idea. Iraq was a threat to our allies in the region, in addition to being a thorn in our side since 1991. This could'nt have been more of a misunderstanding. Administration officials didn't see Iraqi politics was fragile, and they grossly miscalculated.

I think the individuals in charge, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and others are more responsible for the invasion. Almost all were involved in the Gulf war of 1991; Cheney was Secretary of Defense. I think there was an psychological component, a vendetta, agaisnt Iraq. When you are in charge of the most powerful nation in the world, you don't let psycological vendettas or biases get in the way of your decision making. This factor, I think was the most important.

Iraq wasn't inevitable, it was a choice. The NRS of 2002 just provided the pretext to do it. It cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Was it worth it?

(pretty cool picture, isn't it?)


  1. interesting. a.I'm a bit confused by the contradiction between "So was the war in Iraq inevitable? Of course it was," at the beginning and "Iraq wasn't inevitable; it was a choice" at the end...? b.While I agree that Hussein was quite demonized, I feel as though there's been an undue amount of emphasis placed on Bush's statement re. Bush sr., as seen in the article you linked there - risks boiling down something very complicated to little more than "vendetta." Regardless, we are also only human - I think it's inevitable that psychological factors play some role, though I find it unfair to simplify matters in saying that they play the deciding factor without noting the multitude of other factors involved.
    I'd also be curious to what you think, then, of the apparent message of the National Security Strategy (NSS). It seems fairly obvious that you disagree with the ultimate decision re. Iraq; because you consider the NSS to be the pretext for that, do you also disagree with the strategy presented in that, or just the implementation?

  2. thanks for pointing the beginning statement out... made a typo, but I fixed it. I wasn't trying to just boil the situation down to that exact quote, I just linked it to give an example of what I meant by the psychological factor. Not to belittle other actions which prompted the invasion, but I think that factor is important because it was one of the main deciding factors to choose Iraq. If the war had happened with Syria or Saudi Arabia, who's to say that president Bush wouldn't have invaded them instead?

    In regards to the NSS, the concepts are correct in my view. As you pointed out, the way the Bush administration went about implementing those concepts is my point of contention. There are other ways the administration could have handled it, and I think they decided to take a neo-con approach to the invasion, rather than a potential multilateral approach as his father did.

  3. One could argue that they attempted to take a multilateral approach - going to the UNSC etc - which is in line with what Gaddis saw in the Strategy. But unlike 1990-1 or the case of Afghanistan, there was no broad consensus on the need for action, no common agreement that Iraq presented an urgent threat.

  4. Oddly enough this was one of many topics that came up during Thanksgiving Dinner at my house this year.

    The main idea that was expressed in the conversation was that President Bush and his cabinet had an agenda or "vendetta" against Iraq.

    However, I believe another strong motive from President Bush and his team was not only to use the war in Iraq as revenge but as an example to push democracy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan were also important factors leading towards the war in Iraq. In response to fighting terrorism and tyranny like in Afghanistan, the American platform pushed for democracy in the Middle East in order to resolve terrorism.

    One can argue if going to Iraq did/did not spread democratic values to the Middle East. War (hard power) provided the catalyst for spreading democracy through soft power tools, but I think the effects of the actual war have not been resolved and it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of democracy in Iraq today.

    Going back to the initial idea of invading Iraq for revenge, I think it was defiantly a combination of factors that made Iraq the perfect state to invade after Afghanistan – suspicion of nuclear weapons, supporting terrorism, unstable government, location, sentiments of American politicians about Iraq, and a push for democracy in the Middle East.