Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Why WMD was never a key issue in the decision to invade Iraq
Published on August 29, 2003 By Draginol In Politics
Right now there's a lot of people who seem to think that because we haven't found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is a major problem for the US. In fact, it's not. In the bigger picture, WMD was just a low hanging fruit excuse to do what needed to be done in Iraq.

Those same people seem to forget that there were a lot of other low hanging fruit reasons to invade Iraq. One of the most obvious is, if he didn't have WMD, then Saddam was a fool to flout the UN resolutions and mess with the inspectors (let alone throwing them out of the country). And regularly shooting at our planes flying the no-fly zone sure didn't help either.

Ultimately though Iraq is just one battle in the war on terror.  It's not about the oil. It's not about imperialism. It's about defeating the Islamo-fascists. 

In World War II, the United States and Britain had to invade French North Africa in order to get at Rommel. Geographic location was the key.

Let's look at the Middle East from a fresh perspective:

There's Iraq. Right in the middle. It has a port right on the Persian Gulf.  The 3 of the 4 most significant sources of Islamo fascist terrorism have borders with Iraq: Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Only Egypt is not on the border.

There are two basic ways to defeat Islamo Fascism: Try to conquer it and re-educate the people (the World War II method) or try to have a country of similar culture take a different path and become so successful that the native populations of the target countries begin to demand their governments change (The Cold War Method).

Now, before I get emails, Islamo Fascism should not be confused with the religion of Islam. Islamo Fascism is specifically an authoritarian movement by Islamic extremists that want to turn Islam into a form of government and views all those who do not conform with their views not just "infidels" but true enemies who must be exterminated. It is in their culture's failure that we have become their target. Our obvious success despite being infidels represents a threat to them, a threat they hope to wipe out through increasingly deadly attacks (September 11th was merely the culmination of nearly 10 years of attacks of increasing intensity on US interests).

Iraq was simply the best choice where to start. We live in a politically complex world and the US couldn't just invade Saudi Arabia or Iran. And Afghanistan (just east of Iran) is land locked which has made operations there a pain. But Iraq...well Iraq was a different story. First, I believe that the administration, just like previous administrations, truly believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  Secondly, Iraq was flagrantly supporting terrorists (mostly Palestinian terrorists).  And lastly, there were a whole series of UN resolutions against Iraq that Iraq had flouted thus giving the United States the legal justification to commence military operations.

Now the hard part comes in. What do we do next? Do we build up troops in Iraq and use force (overt or covert) to topple the regimes of Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran? Or do we work to build up Iraq as an example for the rest of the region.  Just as West Germany served as a stark reminder to Eastern Europe that there was another way, a better way, Iraq could serve as a beacon to those countries whose clerics and militants currently have a disproportional influence on the population.

Either way, the invasion of Iraq was not about oil. If Iraq had no oil and all the other conditions existed, I believe we would have gone in anyway. Just as we went in to save South Korea in the Korean War (but that was because of the fear of communism right? Sure, and this was because of the fear of Islamo fascism, this project in Iraq is far too expensive to justify if oil was the goal -- oil sometimes costs less per gallon pre tax than water in some places).

As for weapons of mass destruction, I suspect we'll find them eventually. But their existence is largely irrelevant to whether we should have invaded Iraq or not. At most, it's a minor political pain for the administration. But since both parties believed Iraq had WMD for years, it's not a significant issue. What is a significant issue is rebuilding Iraq and making it a base for our operations. Better to fight the war of hearts, minds, and bodies over there than in New York.

on Aug 29, 2003
Certainly a thought-provoking article. But I'm struggling a bit trying to reach the same conclusion you do.

If I follow you right, the war in Iraq wasn't about oil or imperialism, it was about defeating "Islamo fascists." You point out that there are a lot of states surrounding Iraq that sponsor terrorism and seem to be saying Iraq was a good place to start, not only because of it's own behavior, but as a stepping-stone to -- or example for -- surrounding countries. Finally, you point out that the road to success is through either conquering and re-educating the population or by helping them into a new social/political direction that makes them a regional example of success.

It's an interesting argument, but all you have to do is read the newspaper to see some pretty glaring holes in the logic:

1) It's IS all about oil. You mention that we live in a complex political world that makes it impossible to invade, say, Saudi Arabia. Why not? Aren't they well known for sponsoring terrorism? Weren't most of the 9/11 hijackers Saudi? Could it be we have a preferred oil trading partnership with Saudi Arabia? Not only does the US come off as terribly hypocritcal, but it leaves us in a "no win" Vietnam-like position where we commit to holding Iraq but can't control to flow of terrorist/guerilla fighters, arms and money coming in from neighboring countries because we don't want to pay the political/economic costs of dealing with those countries directly. This has been happening since the war in Iraq started and will undoubtedly increase.

2) The problem with your two paths to defeating "Islamo Fascists" is that they have to start off the same -- conquering by force (ie, before we could ever set up Iraq as a shining example of democracy, we had to first conquer it, remove the current leadership, and re-educate the people). One of the fundamental questions of morality is does anyone have the right to impose by force their vision of the "best society"? "Islamo fascists" do and that's what we're supposed to be against.

3) The idea that Western-style secular democracy will bloom if just given a chance sounds nice but isn't very likely. First, there isn't much of a historical precent for it, so we have to also import many social and legal underpinnings of democracy. Second, most Iraqi political leaders are very upfront about saying that a new government will be Islamic, not secular. Third, the countries surrounding (which are mostly shaky oil-dependent monarchies) have every interest in not seeing the spread of democracy in the region. Fourth, we can't point to many past successes. It's hard to say Afghanistan has gotten a lot better since we kicked the Taliban out (I think the Taliban was terrible, but we left a vacuum). Since we took over, two major Islamic clerics have been assassinated (today with a bomb killing 75) in what looks more and more like in-fighting among the new Islamic leaders.

I agree that whether or not we find weapons of mass destruction is really beside the point. They were certainly there at one point, and there are probably still some there now. The question is were we successful and what do we do now? In removing the old regime, I think we were (and they sure deserved to go). But we're kidding ourselves if we think we eliminated the terrorist threat to the US. Our actions have made ourselves more of a target for those that hate and envy us. Since we can't effectively control the Iraqi borders and are politically/economically motivated to ignore some of the worst terrorist states, I expect we'll continue to see our troops ambushed and car-bombed every day by Iraqi and non-Iraqi terrorists until we figure out a face-saving exit strategy. Most importantly, I think there are those who will see our failure to really impact terrorism significantly as an incentive to bleed us dry via increased terrorist acts in other parts of the world and the US.

on Aug 30, 2003
You're almost 100% right as far as I'm concerned. Had you mentioned using rural regions of Iraq to set up the first camps to exterminate the civilian population of the Middle East then you'd have the whole picture.

Death to the barbarian hordes, HAIL VICTORY!
on Sep 01, 2003
You bring up some very interesting ideas. Never thought of it they way you have.
on Sep 01, 2003
Brad: You may find my commentary here:

I'm giving you the blog pointer, because I'm considering your offer, and you should have the opportunity to consider whether you want to host me.

And please, you need permalinks.
on Oct 14, 2003
Draginol: The fact remains that the question of WMD was THE official argument for going in. Whatever arguments you want to use in retrospect is irrelevant as to justify the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Anyway, I have a question for you: In your opinion how many foreign lives equals 1 american life?