With the unmitigated disaster currently unfolding in Iraq, we are naturally re-litigating the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and force Saddam Hussein from power. But if we’re going to have this debate again, the people arguing against the 2003 war need to be honest and take their argument to its logical conclusion. Specifically, people who argue that the 2003 invasion and regime change was a mistake should admit the following premise:
It would be better if Saddam Hussein was still in power.
I include myself in this group. I supported the war in 2003, and I wrote a number of articles defending the invasion and explaining why this was a good idea. I changed my position in 2008, because I realized I was wrong. But am I willing to do what I am asking of war opponents, from Barack Obama on down? Yes. As evil and antagonistic as he was, it would be better if Saddam Hussein was still in power.
This, of course, does not mean that Hussein was a good person. He richly deserved to be executed at the end of 2006, and he was a threat to U.S. national security. He brutally oppressed and murdered his own people. He committed war crimes against the Kurds, against Kuwait, and against the Iranians.
But by throwing Hussein out of power, we took a dictator who was mostly contained by our sanctions and military supervision and threw Iraq into chaos. We fought a years-long insurgency at the cost of thousands of lives. We knew that whenever we left Iraq, there was a risk that the country could degenerate into civil war. Now, we’re seeing a dangerous scenario where the terrorist “army” ISIS has been blocked in its march to Baghdad but is mercilessly slaughtering people, including Christians.
The civil war in Iraq threatens to spread to other parts of the region, and ISIS is so brutal that we actually have a pseudo-ally in Iran also opposing them. Thankfully, this nation did not follow the advice of foolish warmongers like John McCain to help ISIS remove Bashir Assad from power and take over Syria. The thought of ISIS getting their hands on Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile is truly frightening, and one shudders to think how much worse the current humanitarian crisis would be if that had happened.
But yes… it would have been better if Saddam Hussein was still in power. ISIS would not have been able to carve out a portion of Iraq for a caliphate, and we would be able to contain Hussein as we contained him for the dozen years before the invasion. It would not be an ideal situation by any means, but it would be better than what we have today.