SPECIAL EDITION: IRAQ AT 10 [part two: choice]

SPECIAL EDITION:IRAQ AT 10 [part one: witness]

SPECIAL EDITION:IRAQ AT 10[part three: reckoning]


Bill Moyers | PBS | 2007


David Frum | Daily Beast | 19 March 2013

You might imagine that an administration preparing for a war of choice would be gripped by self-questioning and hot debate. There was certainly plenty to discuss: unlike the 1991 Gulf War, there was no immediate crisis demanding a rapid response; unlike Vietnam, the U.S. entered the war fully aware that it was commencing a major commitment.

Yet that discussion never really happened, not the way that most people would have imagined anyway. For a long time, war with Iraq was discussed inside the Bush administration as something that would be decided at some point in the future; then, somewhere along the way, war with Iraq was discussed as something that had already been decided long ago in the past.

The order to begin work on the Iraq sections of the 2002 State of the Union address—what became known as the “axis of evil” speech—was delivered to me in the form of a conditional: what might the president say if he decided … etc. That speech provoked a furor with its claim that state sponsors of terror cooperated with terrorist groups, and its warning that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were arming to threaten the peace of the world. Critics insisted that it was impossible that Shiite Iran would support Sunni Hamas or that Islamic Iran could share technology with Stalinist North Korea. We now know all those things to be true, and many more besides. The founder of the Pakistani nuclear program did attempt to sell bomb-making technology to al Qaeda. The North Koreans did sell Syria materials for a nuclear facility destroyed by the Israelis in 2007.

Some critics claim that the speech blew up a promising U.S. diplomatic overture to Iran. That’s pretty hard to believe, especially after seeing what has happened to U.S. overtures to Iran since 2009. As a description of the strategic challenge facing the United States, the speech has been corroborated by events. No apologies on any of those points.

The speech did mark a point of no return on the road to war with Iraq, although debate continued inside the administration for many more months. The famous Downing Street memo makes clear that as late as July 2002, Tony Blair’s government remained uncertain of U.S. intentions.

. . . Blair, who had previously led his country into humanitarian military campaigns in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, laid more stress on the liberation of the Iraqi people and less on WMDs. Perhaps Blair’s version of the argument should have been heard as a warning that the WMD case was not as strong as the Bush administration made it out to be. At the time, though, Blair’s human-rights case for war reinforced the Bush administration’s national-security case.

Brits sometimes question how crucial Blair was in the run-up to war. My own sense, for what it’s worth, is that it was Blair, not Bush, who swayed Democrats in Congress and liberal hawks in the media. Without Blair, the Iraq War would have been authorized with only the smallest handful of non-Republican votes.


Corey Robin | Crooked Timber | 17 March 2013

In his 2003 state of the union address, one of his most important statements in the run-up to the war, Bush declared: “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late.” Bush does not affirm the imminence of the threat; he implicitly disavows it, ducking behind the past, darting to the hypothetical, and arriving at a nightmarish, though entirely conjectured, future. He does not speak of “is” but of “if” and “could be.” These words are conditional (which is why Bush’s critics, insisting that he take his stand in the realm of fact or fiction, never could get a fix on him). He speaks in the tense of fear, where evidence and intuition, reason and speculation, combine to make the worst-case scenario seem as real as fact.

After the war had begun, the television journalist Diane Sawyer pressed Bush on the difference between the assumption, “stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction,” and the hypothetical possibility that Saddam “could move to acquire those weapons.” Bush replied: “So what’s the difference?” No offhand comment, this was Bush’s most articulate statement of the entire war, an artful parsing of a distinction that has little meaning in the context of national security.


James Fallows | The Atlantic | 26 March 2013

By late December [2002] some 200,000 members of the U.S. armed forces were en route to staging areas surrounding Iraq…. Declaring that it was impossible to make predictions about a war that might not occur, the Administration refused to discuss plans for the war’s aftermath–or its potential cost. In December the President fired Lawrence Lindsey, his chief economic adviser, after Lindsey offered a guess that the total cost might be $100 billion to $200 billion.

. . . On March 27 [2003], eight days into combat, members of the House Appropriations Committee asked Paul Wolfowitz for a figure. He told them that whatever it was, Iraq’s oil supplies would keep it low. “There’s a lot of money to pay for this,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

On April 23 Andrew Natsios, [director] of USAID, told an incredulous Ted Koppel, on Nightline, that the total cost to America of reconstructing Iraq would be $1.7 billion. Koppel shot back, “I mean, when you talk about one-point-seven, you’re not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for one-point-seven billion dollars?”

Natsios was clear: “Well, in terms of the American taxpayers’ contribution, I do; this is it for the U.S. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges … But the American part of this will be one-point-seven billion dollars. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.”

In the end, what did it really cost? Matthew Duss and Peter Juul of CAP have a summary. Among the elements: the direct cost of the war was about $800 billion, compared with the “shocking” estimate by Lawrence Lindsay of $100 billion to $200 billion. The cost of veterans’ care and disabilities would be another $400 billion to $700 billion. And Iraqi reconstruction, which Natsios and Wolfowitz had said would be essentially self-financing? This is how it compared not simply with Natsios’s “one-point-seven billion dollars” but also, in inflation-adjusted dollars, with outlays for the Marshall Plan and other recovery efforts after World War II.


Paid Advertisment | The New York Times Editorial Page | 26 September 2002

As scholars of international security affairs, we recognize that war is sometimes necessary to ensure our national security or other vital interests. We also recognize that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and that Iraq has defied a number of U.N. resolutions. But military force should be used only when it advances U.S. national interests. War with Iraq does not meet this standard.

  • Saddam Hussein is a murderous despot, but no one has provided credible evidence that Iraq is cooperating with al Qaeda.
  • Even if Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear weapons, he could not use them without suffering massive U.S. or Israeli retaliation.
  • The first Bush administration did not try to conquer Iraq in 1991 because it understood that doing so could spread instability in the Middle East, threatening U.S. interests. This remains a valid concern today.
  • The United States would win a war against Iraq, but Iraq has military options—chemical and biological weapons, urban combat—that might impose significant costs on the invading forces and neighboring states.
  • Even if we win easily, we have no plausible exit strategy. Iraq is a deeply divided society that the United States would have to occupy and police
  • Al Qaeda poses a greater threat to the U.S. than does Iraq. War with Iraq will jeopardize the campaign against al Qaeda by diverting resources and attention from that campaign and by increasing anti-Americanism around the globe.

The United States should maintain vigilant containment of Iraq—using its own assets and the resources of the United Nations—and be prepared to invade Iraq if it threatens to attack America or its allies. That is not the case today. We should concentrate instead on defeating al Qaeda.

Robert Art – Brandeis, Richard Betts – Columbia, Dale Copeland – Univ. of Virginia, Michael Desch – Univ. of Kentucky, Sumit Ganguly – Univ. of Texas, Alexander L. George – Stanford, Charles Glaser – University of Chicago, Richard K. Hermann – Ohio State, George C. Herring- Univ. of Kentucky, Robert Jervis – Columbia, Chaim Kaufmann – Lehigh, Carl Kaysen – MIT, Elizabeth Kier – Univ. of Washington, Deborah Larson – UCLA, Jack S. Levy – Rutgers, Peter Liberman – Queen’s College, John J. Mearsheimer – University of Chicago, Steven E. Miller – Harvard University, Charles C. Moskos – Northwestern, Robert A. Pape – University of Chicago, Barry R. Posen – MIT, Robert Powell – Berkeley, George H. Quester Univ. of Maryland, Richard Rosecrance – UCLA, Thomas C. Schelling – Univ. of Maryland, Randall L. Schweller – Ohio State, Glenn H. Snyder – Univ. of North Carolina, Jack L. Snyder – Columbia, Shibley Telhami – Univ. of Maryland, Stephen Van Evera – MIT, Kenneth N. Waltz – Columbia, Cindy Williams – MIT

SPECIAL EDITION:IRAQ AT 10 [part one: witness]


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