Was the Iraq War worth fighting?

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, festering hostility from the war’s opponents threatens to overwhelm the clear merits of dislodging Saddam Hussein from power. AEI senior fellow and former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton debunks a few of the prevailing myths. ►MYTH 1: Iraq is worse off now than under Saddam.
This charge could only come from people with a propensity to admire totalitarianism. Iraq has certainly gone through a hard decade, but its citizens now have a chance, denied them under Saddam, to forge a new society. Iraq’s inherent defects as an artificial nation may yet bring it to grief, but not because of the US-led invasion.

►MYTH 4: US military intervention was far more aggressive than necessary.
The more accurate criticism of US policy is that our inconstancy has too often caused us to stop short of achieving desirable objectives. Had we liberated Kuwait and then marched to Baghdad to overthrow Saddam during the Gulf War, Iraq would have had a greater chance to build a peaceful, democratic society before the rise of al Qaeda and Islamic radicalism took a toll.

►MYTH 2: Wars to impose democracy invariably fail.
This generalization, whether true or not, is fundamentally irrelevant in the case of 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.

►MYTH 5: Iran is stronger today than if Saddam had been left in power.
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. 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 Bashar alAssad and the ayatollahs 10 years ago, the Middle East environment today would indeed be very different.

►MYTH 3: Bush lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
America and its allies believed that Iraq had stocks of chemical weapons not because of espionage, but because of Saddam’s own 1991 declarations. Before the invasion, nearly every objective observer concluded that Iraq still had significant and threatening capabilities. The fact is that Saddam Hussein, with or without WMDs, was a strategic threat to peace and security in the Middle East and globally.

To learn more, please read Ambassador Bolton’s op-ed, “Overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the right move for the US and its allies.”

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