Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was the Right Move for the US and Its Allies

February 27, 2013 2:02 am 1 comment

Former Iraq President, Saddam Hussein. Photo: wiki commons.

Overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 achieved important American strategic objectives. Our broad international coalition accomplished its military mission with low casualties and great speed, sending an unmistakable signal of power and determination throughout the Middle East and around the world. Despite all the criticism of what happened after Saddam’s defeat, these facts are indisputable.

Nonetheless, relentless hostility by the war’s opponents now threaten to overwhelm, in the public mind, the clear merits of eliminating Iraq’s Ba’athist dictatorship. Leaving the critics unanswered, combined with the utterly erroneous policy conclusions they have derived, will only lead to more serious problems down the road. Let us consider a few of the prevailing myths:

1. Iraq is worse off now than under Saddam. This charge could come only from people with a propensity to admire totalitarianism. Iraq has certainly gone through a hard decade, and its future is far from secure, but that uncertainty derives from long-standing historical tensions and animosities among its major confessional and ethnic groups which were suppressed under Saddam. One might as well pine for Stalin or Tito. Iraq’s inherent defects as an artificial nation may yet bring it to grief, but not because of the US-led invasion. To the contrary, Iraqis now have a chance, denied them under Saddam, to forge a new society, as Germany and Japan did after World War II. But we didn’t wage war after Pearl Harbor to do nation-building for our enemies. And, in any event, the issue was never about making life better for Iraqis, but about ensuring a safer world for America and its allies.

2. Wars to impose democracy invariably fail. This generalization, whether true or not, is fundamentally irrelevant to Iraq. While President George W Bush and others sought to justify military action after Saddam’s downfall as helping to spread democracy, such arguments played no measurable role in the decision to end Saddam’s regime. Obviously, most administration officials expected the Ba’ath party would be replaced by representative government, but that was not the motive, should not have been, and will not be in future interventions.

3. Bush lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Ridiculous. Anyone who has ever served in the US government knows how hard it is to keep anything secret, including our most vital national-security information. The idea that a conspiracy to lie about Saddam’s WMD capabilities could, to this day, have kept its machinations secret, in whole or in part, smacks of paranoia.

America and its allies, especially the UK, believed, for example, that Iraq had stocks of chemical weapons not because of espionage, but because of Saddam’s own 1991 declarations concerning such weapons pursuant to the Security Council’s cease-fire resolution. Iraq claimed it had eliminated its weapons of mass destruction, but refused to provide UN weapons inspectors any information to corroborate those claims. Virtually every objective observer concluded that Iraq was lying about destroying its chemical weapons, and therefore still had large and threatening capabilities. You can search the record in vain for major voices claiming, before the 2003 war, that Iraq didn’t have chemical weapons.

The fact is that Saddam Hussein, with or without actual WMD, was a strategic threat to peace and security in the Middle East and globally. Once free of UN economic sanctions and weapons inspectors, which 10 years ago he was very close to achieving, he would have immediately returned to ambitious WMD programs.

4. US military intervention was far more aggressive than was necessary. Not at all. The most cogent criticism of the 2003 action against Saddam is that it was required because we failed in 1991 to pursue our interests to their appropriate conclusion. Had we liberated Kuwait and then marched to Baghdad to overthrow Saddam, the world might have been spared considerable agony, and Iraq would actually have had a greater chance to build a peaceful, democratic society before the rise of al-Qaida and Islamic radicalism took their toll. We can obviously never know the truth, but the lesson for Washington is not to stop short just because of criticism from the international chattering classes.

Ironically, the more accurate criticism of US policy is essentially the opposite of the left’s conventional wisdom: our inconstancy has too often caused us to stop short before achieving objectives that were both desirable and obtainable. In Iraq, for example, twice in just 10 years, we had to mobilize international coalitions and powerful military forces to deal with the same basic threat, namely Saddam’s unrestrained aggressiveness toward his neighbors. Similarly in Afghanistan, after helping the mujahedeen force a humiliating Soviet withdrawal and contribute to the USSR’s collapse, we turned away in the 1990′s and Taliban took power. After overthrowing the Taliban-al Qaida clique ruling Afghanistan, we are poised to turn away again, with every prospect of Taliban returning to power. And in Iran, we have watched the nuclear threat grow for twenty years while missing repeated opportunities to do something about it.

5. Iran is more powerful today than if Saddam been left in power. This variation on the previous myth ignores the reality America confronted in 2003. Had Saddam been removed in 1991, the threat of Iran’s influence might have been mooted before Tehran’s nuclear threat grew to its present level of menace. After Saddam’s overthrow, the United States should have turned its attention to the regimes in Iran and Syria. Had we encouraged internal opposition to topple both Assad and the ayatollahs ten years ago, much as if we had removed Saddam in 1991, the Middle East environment today would indeed be very different.

If Obama has his way in Washington’s ongoing policy and budgetary debates, America will be withdrawing around the world and reducing its military capacity. This is what opponents of the 2003 Iraq war have long professed to want. If they actually get their wishes, it won’t be long before they start complaining about it. You heard it here first.

This article was originally published by the Guardian.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →
  • Commentary Featured Features Jewish 100 The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014

    The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2014 ACADEMIA Alain Finkielkraut Moshe Halbertal Deborah Lipstadt Jacob Metzer Steven Pinker Tammi Rossman-Benjamin ARTS AND CULTURE Yaacov Agam David Blatt Leonard Cohen Gal Gadot Scarlett Johansson Ryan Kavanaugh Steven Spielberg Harry Styles INNOVATION AND ACTIVISM Meira Aboulafia Adina Bar-Shalom Nitsana Darshan-Leitner Daniel Gold Anett Haskia Ephrat Levy-Lahad Gabriel Nadaf Dumisani Washington GOVERNMENT Tony Abbott José María Aznar Ron Dermer Yuli Edelstein Abdul Fatah el-Sisi Stephen Harper Goodluck Jonathan Mitch McConnell Narendra Modi [...]

    Read more →
  • Features Jewish 100 Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Jewish 100, 2014: Bassam Eid – Voices

    Bassam Eid Palestinian human rights activist While Palestinians who demonize Israel as the sole reason for their woes receive no shortage of media invitations, those among them who spotlight their own leaders’ iniquities are far less in demand. Even so, the profile of Bassam Eid, the Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, is thankfully continuing to grow. Eid’s latest campaign is for the overhaul of UNRWA, the UN refugee agency dedicated solely to the Palestinians, which he says [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.