So the invasion of Iraq, which happened ten years ago, accomplished…what, exactly? We spent well over a trillion dollars, lost about 4,400 of our own people, caused, directly or indirectly, the deaths of probably north of a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians and what did we get in return? We blew away all the goodwill built up after 9/11 (remember the candlelight vigil in the middle of Terhan?), and took our eye off Afghanistan. All this, and we got nothing substantive in return.
I’ll give the war this much. We did, indeed, get rid of a particularly unpleasant individual in the form of Saddam Hussein. I’ll never argue that the world was a better place with him in it. But surely there were ways other than the route we took to get to the same place? If we really wanted him dead, we could have made that happen without an invasion. We could have made it happen without thousands of our own people dead or wounded. We could have done it without spending money we didn’t have on a war we didn’t need.
And that’s the other part. This was such an unnecessary war. Saddam was bad, and a threat to his own people, but he was very contained and wasn’t going to go anywhere. We didn’t need to go in and invade. We could have kept up what we did for the ten years prior which, while not sexy and at times very frustrating, did at least work. Saddam, as we have since learned, didn’t have nuclear weapons. He didn’t have massive stockpiles of chemical weapons. He didn’t have bioweapons. He had a crappy, failing country and had he been alive when the Arab Spring happened, he’d probably have been toppled during it. Either that, or we would have ended up with a big civil war in Iraq that led to pretty much the same outcome.
Five years ago, when this blog was new and the war was five years old, I reposted something I’d written on my first blog back in the day. In it, I supported the Iraq war, however reluctantly. I look back on that now, and realize that I was in great error. I had the right end of the stick in realizing that Saddam was really no threat to us, but I then took the wrong tack from that point onward. I though the lives of the average Iraqi on the street would be better, but I seem to have been wrong. I was also, sadly, quite right that we’d win the war and lose the peace.
I’m glad we’re basically out of Iraq, and I stand by my hope that 40 years hence, they’ll be in a position of being fat, and happy, and telling us to fuck off when we want them to do something. But while I’m sure that, in the long run, that will happen, I remain convinced that there was a better way to get to that place.