In hindsight: was the US' Iraq invasion a positive thing?

Now that the US is leaving Iraq, there are no doubt many people looking back and pondering this same question. I haven’t seen a thread, so I thought I would start one.

When I say a positive thing, I mean that in lives lost, general suffering, and the greater message sent to dictators everywhere. When comparing the current situation to a hypothetical one where Saddam would still be in power.

At the time, I was not sure if the US invading Iraq was a good thing, but I was in favour of it. Not because of the alledged weapons of mass destruction, but, to be honest about my Polly Anna motives, because I thought Saddam was a sadistic bully, and the world police should *police *bullies like Saddam. I was proud of the US when the statue of Saddam was pulled down and Iraqis danced in the street.

It was to be expected that there would be much unrest after the firm dictator was gone. I must say I haven’t followed the political situation good enough to get a feel for who was responsible for the bombing afterwards and whom it was directed to.

But I have wondered if, in hindsight, in general, the intervention was a good thing. Was it, net speaking, a Vietnam, or was it a liberation of Western Europe from a Hitler?

Some fun information on toppling of the Firdos Square statueyou might find interesting.

Moved from General Questions to Great Debates.

samclem, Moderator

The Wikipage on Saddam lists

So if Saddam was, directly or indirectly, during his regime responsible for around 2 million people, and the war so far has cost upwards from .3 million lives on all sides, then I’d say removing Saddam is still a clearly net good thing. But it all depends on if the leader to replace Saddam will have a lower death toll then Saddam and his sons and clique would have had, had they stayed in power.

Not a good comparison, given how much longer Saddam was in power and given how much damage the war and occupation did to the country beyond killing people. Nor do I see that the Iraqi people have benefited from the removal of Saddam; most are worse off.

And given that the NYT lied for Bush to help the war start, I wouldn’t trust their word on the matter.

i just posted a great deal touching on the reality of the iraq war here. I would encourage you to read through it.

also, watch No End in Sight.

short answe: no. We went and screwed up an extremely screwed up place, which I can’t imagine is easy to do.

the war was built on what has been proven beyond debate falsified intelligence by a group of people that can either be considered conspirators or simply criminally negligent.

most of the pre-war fudged data was provided by Chalabi, who had his own political agenda and who has since been indicted for criminal wrongdoing on a massive scale. He was an exiled iraqi national who was poised to take over as PM of Iraq as soon as we deposed Saddam. A lot of the falsified intelligence came from his sources, and a lot of this data was considered extremely dubious by high ranking officials (most of whom were ignored or, in many cases, fired).

So basically from the start we embarked on a bogus journey with a lot of clandestine ulterior motives–motives we’re left to speculate on…
Granted, there is a positive humanitarian aspect, but even arm-chair level researching will immediately provid you with prove we didn’t care about the people or their well-being as a first-tier priority. We did not institute an interim government nor did we provide enough intitial ground troops to propperly secure Baghdad. Many of these failings were not just foreseeable but were actually addressed by various members of the administration. Again, these people were ignored or in some cases fired.

The people who were initially put in charge of the transitional occupation of Iraq (ORHA) had policies that would have made the nation stable and could have potentially prevented the entire insurgency. However, before they could do anything effective, Bremmer took over, dismantled ORHA and started the CPA. Most of these decisions involve Condi, Bremmer, Rumsfeld, Powell and Cheney. Even Bush was out of the loop on many matters.

Under Bremmer’s immediate control, several sweeping decisions were instituted that shoved Iraq into a quickly spiraling hell.
We did nothing to secure cultural heritages (such as the national library or national museum) nor did we do anything to stop the widespread and severe looting.
Pleas for US intervention went unheeded. Martial law was not instituted until things were an absurd mess way, way too late.
Bremmer’s edict to deBa’athicate Iraq virtually dismantled the entire infastructure of the nation. Teachers, Doctors, officials, municipal employees–all were rendered immediately unemployed.

And finally, we not only allowed Moqtada Al Sadr to seize power after we ousted Saddam, but have allowed him and his army to become a viable (and now legitimate) political entity who openly hates America as much as Saddam–if not more. He already is, and will continue to grow to be a bigger problem than Saddam ever was.

It is important to note that the immediate result of Saddam being removed from power was the sectarian war that broke out between the Shi’a and Sunni. Saddam was hated by the Shi’a as they were persecuted under his dictatorship. The second they were free of it, they turned violent against all the Sunni (who no longer had political protection).

My point is–it’s a civil conflict, a relious, ideological battle that America cannot win. Especially through force.

When you add up the entire cost of all that has happened–the loss of american troop lives, the lost of american contractors, the fact more Iraqi civilians were killed than military or paramilitary (something along the lines of 2/3rds all iraqi deaths were civilians. not civilian insurgents, but honest-to-goodness innocent bystanders), the loss of infastructure, the loss of cultural heritage (7000 years of artifacts were looted or destroyed), the financial cost here and abroad, the geopolitical strife, and the loss of America’s integrity on the world-scale—no.
not at all worth it.

Look how differently things could have been handled. Saddam was hated by the Shi’a majority. There’s basically no different polical climate in pre-war Iraq than in Egypt during their revolution last year, or Libya, or elsewhere.
Strategic strikes could have destroyed Saddam much the same as stricks on Gadaffi all without a quagmire of a groundwar.

If we wanted to honestly support the people of Iraq by helping them dispose of a horrible dictator, we could have done so in the same manner as Libya or Egypt or Somalia or Yemen.

It sounds like you’re trying to set up a calculus of badness, perhaps approximated by number of deaths or amount of suffering. But be aware that many of the deaths attributed to Saddam are from the 1980’s (when he was allied with Cheney-Rumsfeld) and the early 1990’s. By 2000, much of the actual suffering in Iraq can instead be attributed to U.S./U.N. sanctions.

You may also be under-estimating suffering caused by the 2002-2011 War, when cultural losses, dislocations, and ongoing instabilities are considered.

This is not to dispute that Saddam and his sons were despicable. One cannot condone Uday Hussein, who raped anything moving in Baghdad that looked good; but if badness is given a simple numeric basis, the rape victims of Uday are few in number.

Meh. I think it’s safe to say that the those Iraqis were glad SH was gone, and that their anger at him was real. That’s all that really matters.

As for the OP… I don’t think so. SH, the dictator, was being managed. We had him in a box, and he wasn’t even capable of operating effectively in most of his country (ie, the No Fly Zone). And I don’t think you can tie the events of the Arab Spring to the invasion of Iraq. Too far removed in time and space.

I hate to sound so ethno-centric, but I don’t think it was worth even one American life to get rid of SH. Only the citizens of a country can make the decision whether or not to revolt.

*strike (not ‘strick’)

At the risk of sounding a bit cold, the people already killed by Saddam were a sunk cost. To me, he relevant question was whether he was a continuing danger for future such massacres, and as John Mace points out, he had been effectively prevented from doing so. He wouldn’t have been able to go after the Kurds again.

And I agree with dontbesojumpy about the postwar disasters. Even if one were able to justify the initial decision to go to war, the failure to plan for and ensure postwar security destroyed the legitimacy of the whole endeavor.

Nazi Germany represented a grave threat to the United States, that conflict would have be worthwhile if we had suffered 20 times the casualties we did. Vietnam and Iraq did not, therefore, it’s difficult to justify even one American life lost in those conflicts.

Also, keep in mind that the US did not enter WWII to help liberate Europe. We entered the war because we were bombed by Japan and Germany declared war on us. Had we wanted to liberate Europe, we would have entered freely a lot earlier.

Not sure that is central to the argument, but let’s keep the facts straight.

Thanks **dontbesojumpy **for that excellent summary.

Also, a good point by septimus that a lot of Saddams earlier crimes against his people was done while the US stood by, or was a contributing factor. I can only hope that the lesson learned here and from similar cases (Afghanistan) is for the UN or US not to encourage, meddle or prolong internal conflict in another country, even if it seemed a good idea at the time.

Correct, but the containment of Saddam hurt the common Iraqi much more then it hurt Saddams’ inner circle. But at that point the regime had terrorized people enough to get by on less weapons and less hi-tech ones. The only good thing the containment did was restrict the regime’s access to weapons, and so restrict the incidence of larger scale fights.

We entered the war because Japan attacked us and German declared war on us, but we were already in a covert war with Germany before this, we were already supplying huge amounts of materials to the allies, and once we did enter the war we were persuaded by those allies to make Europe and the liberation of Europe and the destruction of Germany our primary focus, despite the fact that it was Japan who had attacked us and done us the most harm. The fact we didn’t enter earlier (why should we have? It wasn’t our war) doesn’t discount the fact that when we did the goal was certainly to liberate Europe and destroy Germany, and that we did this despite the fact that from our own perspective Japan was the one who had attacked us and done us the most harm.

Just to keep the facts straight.
As to the OP, I’m just going to agree with the majority on this one…overall I don’t think that the US invasion of Iraq was a positive thing. It had positive aspects, and the US was able to get out of there with some sort of Iraq still standing, but as others have said we had SH contained, just like we have the various mad men in North Korea contained. Eventually they will wither on the vine, IMHO, and when that happens they will have to pay the piper…much like the Libyans finally had to pay when the Kaddaffi Duck finally went tits up. But that should come from within, not be imposed from outside. We can HELP, as we did in Libya, but it needs to come from the people of the nation in question.


On a long term time scale, say 50+ years, I think the changes to Iraq’s government will eventually be a net positive, although it is harder to judge on now or for the next 10 years or so given the new government’s instability

True. But the comparison still fails since Iraq did not attack us or declare war on us. We could supply the Kurds and Shi’a with all sorts of “lend lease” equipment, and it would have been a whole different story.

Saddam wasn’t going to live 50+ years anyways though. Even if Iraq is a stable democracy in that timeframe, I think it will be pretty hard to say that an invasion fifty years in the past was responsible.

He had temporarily been prevented from such future massacres. If we had not invaded and instead held to the status quo we would have had to enforce the no fly zone and sanctions. It was bandied about by those who opposed sanctions that they were causing the death of fifty thousand Iraqis per month before the war. So the price to factor in is not just the potential for future wars and massacres but the cost of keeping an entire nation impoverished in order to keep Saddam from rearming. He could have reigned another ten years and then turned power over to one of his sons. The toll from sanctions could have run into the millions of casualties. That assumes you have the international will to keep the sanctions going. If you do not then Saddam has won a great victory over the west and is free to massacre as much as he wants. War, victorious Saddam, or sanctions were all bad options, there is no way to know which was the least bad option. Things seem to be going pretty well in Iraq at the moment but that could change at any time.

Oh, I don’t disagree with you there…I see no comparison between WWII and Iraq.


Emphasis mine. Very easy to support a war that you won’t have to fight and which will not take place in your backyard.