At the risk of being called a neocon I maintain a rather flexible interventionalist strategy. I think the use of military force is appropriate sometimes, but not generally. I don’t have a clear list of doctrines governing when military intervention is appropriate. But I do think intervention in Iraq was the right thing to do both now and in the past, though for different reasons.
At the time we were sure that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He had used them before often; there was every reason he would again. Even the most war adverse thought he had them, they just thought the matter should be resolved diplomatically or economically. In hindsite, the information was bad, and we dismissed any evidence for a counter narrative. That was unfortunate, but that doesn’t eliminate the necessity of ridding the world of the Saddam regime. He was a brutal sadistic dictator that slaughtered his people on a whim. That tolerated no descent. No freedom and threatened his neighbors on a daily basis. Before Iraq annexed Kuwait, (war was justified then, I suppose?) they had attacked Iran three times. Thank goodness their military was slightly more inept than Iran’s. We put in place economic sanctions, we established a no-fly zone, and still Saddam committed atrocities and plundered the wealth of the Iraqi people. When Milosevic began a campaign of genocide we stepped in, was that wrong too? We’re the calls to get involved in Rwanda and Darfur similarly misguided. Saddam’s crimes are as long and unquestionable as any dictator we know. Killing him and establishing a new government was in my opinion completely justified and warranted. We can not and should not excise every evil in the world, but we were in a position to do something about it at the time.
Of course, it didn’t work out like we’d hoped. Through incompetence on our part, and gross negligence, incompetence, corruption, childishness, and infighting in the Iraqi government doomed the Iraqi government and people to suffer subsequent events. There was always that possibility, but there was reason to hope that the Iraqi government could stabalized and prosper. Sadly religious and regional loyalties won out. At the beginning that outcome was by no means assured. Still isn’t actually. The current civil war may lead to a stronger more cohesive central state. Such things are not unheard of. Though, like the US, Reconstruction is surely going to be difficult.
So after everything that’s happened… the Liberation turned into an occupation turned into a quagmire turned into civil war, the cost in lives and treasure, the damage done to our economy and national reputation why do I not recant? First because my initial reasons for intervention were valid. Even if it didn’t turn out well I still believe the decision to go was the right one. But having the benefit of hindsight also allows for additional reasons to go to war. At some point Saddam’s regime would have fallen. There would have been a popular uprising, a coup, an assassination, an economic collapse or something. If nothing else Assad’s regime in Syria, and Quadaffi’s regime in Libya would has destabilized Saddam’s regime. One way or another your going to get an ISIS or something similar. With Saddam at the helm that fight gets tremendously bloody. If you think it’s bad now, think about Saddam fighting that war instead of the incompetent Maliki. The only chance to have prevented that destabilization would have been to put an inclusive democratic government into office. It’s only a chance, but one worth taking. Unfortunately our partners are largely to blame for this. By persecuting, marginalizing, and seeking ever greater power over minorities, along with casual corruption and endemic incompetence they largely squandered that chance. But not having Saddam lead Iraq through this time of transition is a blessing that is vastly under appreciated.
As for the Blood for Oil thing I don’t believe it. Oil is too plentiful and already too cheap to fight a big expensive war over. Your not going to get MORE oil for cheaper by destabilizing the worlds oil regions. That’s absurd. Anyone savvy enough to engineer a war would have found far more efficient solutions. Do I think Haliburton and other corporations tried to profit from it? Sure. Of course they did. But that’s different that starting the war in order to profit. Like I said, easier wars to do things. Dont get carried away by liberal conspiracies, just like you shouldn’t get carried away by conservative conspiracies.
In short I think getting rid of Saddam Hussein’s regime was the least violent way to resolve to resolve long standing issues. I wish it could have been different, but I don’t see any other way to avoid mass casualties.