A few weeks ago Henry Srebrnik looked back at the arguments advanced by many public figures in favor of going to war with Iraq and concluded his piece by asking “how did so many get it so wrong?” Well, I would argue that they didn’t get it wrong. The case for the war was justified for many reasons, some of which were cited in Henry’s column, and poor post-war planning and execution does not refute or negate any of those reasons.
While the intelligence on Saddam’s WMD’s turned out to largely be false, many people don’t realize what Saddam did possess and how close he was to getting his hands on WMD’s. We should know this; it was Canada that disposed of 550 metric tons of Iraqi yellow cake uranium. Not only did Saddam have yellow cake uranium, but he also retained his WMD’s program and his aspirations to develop and produce WMD’s. Does anyone really think that Saddam would have sat and done nothing while Iran aggressively pursues a nuclear bomb? Because of the American intervention in Iraq, we only have to deal with one repressive dictatorship seeking nuclear arms in the region instead of two. Not only that, but the Iraq War resulted in Libya giving up its desire for WMD’s; surely a good thing given the terrorism and chaos enveloping that country.
Another thing that must be addressed is what would have happened if the US did not invade Iraq; this is something many Iraq War critics are hesitant to do. While this is purely a speculative exercise, there are a few things that can be reasonably be concluded. The withering sanctions against Iraq would have continued to crumble, allowing Saddam more freedom and flexibility to pursue whatever nefarious plans he may have had, such as developing and re-building his WMD stockpiles. If Saddam was still in power when the Arab Spring swept through the region, it’s not hard to imagine the type of crackdowns and atrocities he would have committed to maintain his hold on power.
Saddam Hussein was perceived as a threat to the United States and in a post 9/11 world, the US took every threats seriously. He was a brutal and dangerous tyrant who, had he not been removed from power, would’ve been even more dangerous today – those who argued for his removal did not get it wrong.