Quote of the Day

The most sensible argument for the invasion was not that Hussein was about to strike the United States or anyone else with a nuclear bomb. It was that containment could not be preserved indefinitely, that Hussein was repeatedly defying the international community and that his defiance appeared to both the Clinton and Bush administrations to be gradually succeeding.

Robert Kagan

(Kagan’s argument is limited in scope, perhaps due to the size constraints of a newspaper column. I would add to his points this one: in the sewer of middle-eastern Islamist nationalism that produced terror attacks culminating in Sept. 11, the US needed to start reversing the process by making an example of one of our enemies. Afghanistan was the right place to start, since the Sept. 11 terrorists came from there, but having subdued Afghanistan we needed to make clear that we saw what we were doing as more than a police action against Al Qaeda. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq made perfect sense as our next objective, due to its combination of persistent belligerence toward us, a history of external aggression and extreme brutality, and WMD use and possession.)

(Kagan link via Martin Devon.)

8 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. I think Kagan’s position, along with your additions, represents the most succinct explanation for the war. Bush has not made this argument well enough or often enough. Kagan’s book certainly speaks of the need for this approach.

    Yet no matter how often or how clearly or how eloquently this position is set forth, there is a subset of America that is simply unreachable. It ends up being like arguing with your 8 year old brother (who just covers his ears and says, “no it’s not no it’s not” over and over and over).

    The nuns used to call it “invincibly ignorant”.

  2. Thanks, Jonathan for the clarity.

    The expense and uncertainty of that “containment” was real. For instance,how many sorties did our pilots fly patrolling Iraq between the end of the first Gulf War and the day we invaded?

  3. In Ritter’s case the plausibility of the analysis will always be colored by the history of the analyst. I am skeptical that he is doing more than speculating and recycling old rumors.

  4. It should be noted that the containment of Iraq also made vulnerable to terrorist attacks on forces deployed to the Persian Gulf region and was used as justification for attacks on the US. I think we faced a scenario where international support for containment was weakening due to Saddam’s bribery and corruption and where our will to continue containment would be weakened by terrorist attacks.

    I think the US political establishment implicitly understood the connection between containment and vulnerability to terrorism. Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey (D) said that we should get rid of Saddam in response to the Cole bombing. Senators including John Kerry were pontificating soon after 9/11 that we should do something about Saddam and Iraq.

  5. Oliver Kamm sums up the rationale for Operation Iraqi Freedom tersely, without resorting to the minutiae of Kagan’s far-reaching geopolitical analysis.

    “[T]he Iraq War was launched by Saddam with his annexation of Kuwait in 1990, who then failed to adhere to the ceasefire requirements embodied in UN Security Council Resolutions 678 and 687, and therefore was liable to the rightful and necessary exercise of force by the US-led Coalition.”

    It’s an unassailable analysis that leans on established U.N. process. That’s a trait that may bug us U.N.-skeptics at Chicagoboyz, but it’s also one that completely disarms OIF’s U.N.-centric detractors.

  6. To my mind, it was obvious that after 9/11, there was a substantial risk premium attached to credible hostile intentions toward the US. I don’t know how anyone could have missed this, but Saddam Hussein, the UN, and the Democratic Party seemed to do so. Saddam was simply a risk we could no longer afford. There was simply no point in reaching another agreement with someone who could not be trusted to carry it out.

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