Was the Iraq War a Mistake?

It appears that the conventional wisdom is that the Iraq War was a mistake. One of the striking things about Michael Moore’s much publicized joust with Wolf Blitzer is that Blitzer seems to just concede the point that now everybody agrees that the Iraq War was a mistake. The conventional wisdom even prevails at CNN.

I for one don’t agree with that analysis, and neither does Peter Wallison over at the Wall Street Journal, who writes about what would have happened if Sadam Hussein had remained in power. He writes:

“If we imagine what the world would look like today if Saddam Hussein had not been deposed, it seems clear that almost no outcome in Iraq would be as adverse to the interests of the United States as today’s world with Saddam still in power. . . it would be difficult to construct a scenario in which the ultimate outcome of events in Iraq today would be as negative for the United States as a world in which Saddam remained in control of Iraq. So, while we are justifiably dismayed about what is happening today in Iraq, we should not allow this to obscure the central point–that the world is a better and safer place because Saddam is out of power. Looked at this way, we have already achieved a lot; what remains now–as the president and John McCain have said–is to steady ourselves and see it through.”

Go read the rest of the article. It’s an important one.

“What We Pre-Empted: Today’s world would be far worse if Saddam were still in power” by Peter Wallison (OpinionJournal.com)


  • Andrea McNeil

    Yeah, it’s aggravating to see/hear in the media
    the assumption that everyone sees things the same except the president. I can’t help but wonder what Saddam thinks these days about the power he once had and where he is now. May the people of Iraq find continued freedom, and may we realize the blessings we have as US citizens.

  • Russ


    I speak as a conservative (politically and theologically) person who was once in favor of the “war” in Iraq. But after sitting back and thinking about this constitutionally and morally, I have come to the conclusion that the “war” in Iraq is not only unconstitutional, but does not fit the parameters of a just war.

    I put quotation marks around war because the president does not have the autority to declare war. He was given authority to hunt down Bin Laden and terrorists, but that is not what is happening in Iraq. The questions are thus:

    1. If our presence in Iraq is to estabablish a democracy, who gave us this authority, and where exactly does it stop?

    2. If we are there based on UN Sanctions, since when does UN Policy trump the US Constitution. This leaves the rule of law trampled upon.

    2. If our presence in Iraq is based on a desire to see oppression and injustice stamped out, when do you we start invading and overthowing the hundreds of other sovereign governments around the world? This is the job of citizens, not our government, and especially not a gunpoint.

    3. Assuming you answer question one with we do have the authority, and we should start immediately policing the world, who is going to pay for this?

    4. Is a “Does the end justify the means argument” really seem like the best way to defend this “war” in Iraq?

    The fact is it was a bad and unconsitutional idea to invade Iraq in the first place, and it is a bad idea to stay. The primary responsibility of the United States Government is to its soldiers and its citizens, and unfortunately, not to the Iraq civilians whom have been placed in this position by our unconstituional and unwise foreign policy.


  • Scott

    This is the trouble with arguments that are more interested in proving a point than with clear thinking. (I’m referring to Wallison, not necessarily Denny)

    This editorial attempts to answer the following question: Could there have been any possible negative outcome to us NOT invading Iraq? Wallison answers in the affirmative by pointing to Hussein.

    But as is often the case, a bad argument typically begins by asking the wrong question or asserting the wrong premise. The question of our invasion should not ask whether or not there could have been an adverse outcome to our non-invasion; the question must also take into account the problems that HAVE occurred as a result of our actual actions, and then compare the two. Isn’t this a reasonable way to think about the problem? Otherwise, we end up thinking only through hypotheticals. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of comparing fantasy with reality?

    The reality is that the situation we have created, it could be argued, is no better and very possibly worse that when Hussein was in power. For just one example, we have given the Shiites in Iraq more power than ever before, and thus created a new ally for Iran in the region.

    Furthermore, the editorial says that if Hussein had remained in power, then Iran would have had good reason to pursue its nuclear ambitions. Again, this argument only works if we fail to think about what has actually happened and compare the two. Isn’t Iran just as likely, and maybe even more likely, to be pursuing its nuclear weapons program all the more vigorously because the American military invaded its neighbor and sits poised on its doorstep?

    So it’s not really reasonable to argue as the editorial does. Particularly when you admit that our interests may have been hurt as a result of Hussein’s overthrow, and that we’ve hurt our interests at the same time that thousands of American troops have lost lives and limbs.


  • dennyrburk

    Dear Russ (in #2),

    Let me respond to each of your points in turn.

    -Your premise that the President only had authority to hunt down Bin Laden and terrorists is factually inaccurate. Not only does the Constitution empower the President as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Congress authorized the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 2002. The resolution passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate: “Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” The Congress has voted to fund the war numerous times since 2002.

    Here is some of the text from the 2002 resolution: “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order toÒ€”(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.”

    1. The primary reason for invading Iraq was to remove Saddam Hussein and the threat he posed (please read the 2002 resolution). The obligations of Just War theory require that a “just peace” be established once the war is over. Getting a new democratic government up and running in Iraq is our attempt to do that.

    2. See my response above challenging your premise. The 2002 resolution calls on the President to use force to enforce U.N. sanctions.

    2. The primary reason for going to Iraq was to remove Saddam Hussein, not “to see oppression and injustice stamped out” (as you claim). Once again, please read the 2002 resolution.

    3. As far as I know, no one is arguing that the U.S. should be policing the world.

    4. I have never heard anyone in the executive or legislative branch defend the war with an “end justifies the means” argument. Whoever makes that kind of argument is being irresponsible and is not reflecting the actual arguments that were made by our government for the Iraq War.


  • Russ


    Thanks for your response. I’ll comment briefly.

    – I never said the President is not the commander-in-chief. I said only the Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war, and yes they did abdicate their responsibility under Article I Section 8 of the constitution. Congress has either ignored its responsibility entirely over the last 50 years, or transferred the war power to the executive branch by a near majority vote of its Members, without consideration of it by the states as an amendment required by the Constitution. This is an abuse of the process set about in the Constitution and has the affect that I mentioned earlier of trampling the rule of law. As one who believes we should be leaving the UN not following their sanctions as if they were our rule of law, I cannot consistently favor this as a good reason to invade and declare war on a country that was not an immediate threat to our national security.

    Your point number 1 in favor of the just war attempt to establish just peace, is in my mind, another reason that we should have never invaded Iraq in the first place. Is this even possible given the circumstances in the Middle East? Does anyone even have a clue how long this may take? Shouldn’t these be answers we should have before the war even started to be consistent with the “just war” theory?

    Ok Denny, no one is arguing we should be policing the world. Just the entire Middle East then?

    I’m no Bush hater, though I believe he is no conservative. I’m all for searching down terrorists who are an emminent threat to our country’s national security. But we must do this lawfully and with respect for the sovereignty of individual nations and without the foreign interventions and entanglements that the founders of our country wanted us so desperately to avoid.


  • Don

    I do not think going in was a mistake. However as I have said on this site a number of times how the was has been conducted since the first phase has been a terrible mistake. Suspect rules of engagement have handcuffed our troops. We are in a so-called police war at this time. Our people are fighting and taking bad guys prisoner only to see them released in a day or two. We have Marines on trial for doing what they are trained to do because Time mag. and a weak congressmen {murtha} say they should be after getting info from insurgents. Aside from that we are still doing the job but; and the big but is and will be the Iraqi gov. must and will have to step up to the plate and Lead…. Up till now they have not and I don’t think they ever will.. That is the big mistake of Iraq.. We let Iran send in weapons and manpower and we do nothing about it. Joe Lieberman calls out to bomb these sites and he is made to look and sound like a nut…. Not only is he right it should have been done about 3 years ago… We all know you pay a price when you do things half-assed.. You sure can’t run a war that way…Our peoplr will and want to do the job… LET THEM………..

  • Russ


    Thats right. The reason the “war” in Iraq is dragging on foreever is because of the U.S. media and the Iranians. Heck, let’s just bomb’em all. Forget taking responsibility for our own foreign policy. Thats the Christian response, isn’t it?


  • charles horne

    To suggest that “that the world is a better and safer place because Saddam is out of power” is absurd. All evidence is to the contrary. Alqieda is stronger and more powerful and more determined to hurt the USA than ever today. It has been four years, four billion dollars, two million Iraq citizens escaped the country and now homeless, close to half a million Iraq citizens dead, nearly four thousand American soldiers dead – and for what? the interests of the United States?? Is this sort of pre-emptive death, distruction, and havoc what it takes for us to feel secure? Do YOU feel better now?

    Are the millions of Muselims around the world who hate us just stupid? Or maybe they are all just evil to the bone – every single one of them. If you believe either, then it is a simple leap of logic to starting up the Crusades all over again – and oh how proud all us Christians must be of that – but this time Bush style. And as was said so well above “When do you we start invading and overthowing the hundreds of other sovereign governments around the world?”.

    Please understand – expecting Iraq to embrass American style democracy is like expecting a woodpecker to tap-dance. Deal with it!

    No, ladies and gentlemen, the point has been missed. They snuck it right by you. War is good for business. No two ways about it. So load up on stocks and bonds ’cause the Bush Crusades ain’t gonna end anytime soon.

    Amen, and may the strong desire for peace and harmony be with you and all the peoples of the world (and please, Lord, forgive all my misspelled words).


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