The Invasion of Iraq: A Balance Sheet

The Invasion of Iraq: A Balance Sheet by Brian Michael Jenkins, Rand Corporation.

Historically, wars were fought primarily for material gain: livestock, treasure, tribute, or territory. More recently, however, the profit motive for war has declined as life has become more precious and conquest and plunder have become less acceptable, although conflicts waged for control of diamonds and other precious commodities continue in parts of the world. International law generally prohibits military action by one state against another except for reasons of self-defense. In modern warfare, “gains” must be measured in less-tangible forms, such as preserving national security, liberating threatened populations from tyranny, protecting human rights. Military action to achieve such ends is considered unavoidable and is rarely assessed as an investment...

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precipitated withdrawal from iraq,at a time where that country was facing a dramatical terrorist surge,enabled Al Qaeda to increase her harmful capacities and requires quick come-back,before terrorism definitely destabilise that coountry and turn it into a new sanctuary,threat definitely critical and requires rapid answer,sooner better,definitely,definitely,

precipitated withdrawal from iraq,at a time where that country was facing a dramatical terrorist surge,enabled Al Qaeda to increase her harmful capacities and requires quick come-back,before terrorism definitely destabilise that coountry and turn it into a new sanctuary,threat definitely critical and requires rapid answer,before a new taliban Afghanistan,definitely,

EricsLC, et al.

Regarding OIF, Paul Wolfowitz's influence is present both before and after -- but not during -- the Clinton years.

Thus, should we discuss the "balance sheet" re: the invasion of Iraq from the perspective of his (Wolfowitz's) concepts (the ideas of supremecy and preventive war, I believe)?

Here is Andrew Bacevich's take:

http://harpers.org/archive/2013/03/a-letter-to-paul-wolfowitz/

Bill,

I recommend this academic paper (not by me), The Myth of George W. Bush’s Foreign Policy Revolution, that describes the strong continuity between the Clinton and Bush administrations' counter-terror policies, including the preventive/preemptive doctrines. The paper touches on the continuity of the 2 Presidents' Iraq policies, too, though doesn't focus on it.

World events don't only begin and end within US presidencies. Bush critics tend to overlook that the Iraq and al Qaeda problems matured during the Clinton presidency, which compelled policy responses by the Clinton administration. Bush's response to 9/11, including with Iraq, involved repackaging and clarifying Clinton administration policies more than developing novel policies.

EricsLC:

It is likely that I am just mistaken, but I do seem to see the word "terrorism" mentioned in either:

a. The letter from members of the Project for the New American Century http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm nor

b. The Iraq Liberation Act http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-105publ338/html/PLAW-105publ338.htm

If our actions re: OIF are to be viewed from the position of terrorism and/or counter-terrorism, instead of through some other prism (for example: action to halt the destabilization of the ME due to Iraqi WMD and/or democracy promotion), why then would references to/justification via the words "terrorism" or "counter-terrorism" not be present in these important documents?

Bill,

The correct answer for 'Why Iraq?' is 'All of the above', or all of those prisms applied to the Iraq problem.

However, the essential prism you did not mention is that President Clinton established that Iraq's chief destabilizing factor was not Iraqi possession of WMD, but rather the nature and behavior of noncompliant Saddam's regime. President Bush (the father) expressed a similar view when he encouraged the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam in the wake of the Gulf War - Saddam was the source of the disease for which the proscribed weapons were symptoms.

As I said to Madhu, there is more to the ILA than appears on the surface and the ILA was just one - key - component of Clinton's Iraq policy.

Some variation of "terror" appears 19 times in the most important document: Public Law 107-243 (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002).

Saddam's guilt regarding terrorism was included in the bundle from the outset (for example, see UNSC resolution 687) and factored in Clinton's Iraq policy. For example, when we bombed the Sudanese al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Operation Infinite Reach, whose object was al Qaeda, ties to Iraq was a reason given for the seemingly odd choice of target.

The reorientation caused by 9/11 added urgency to the terrorism part of the case against Saddam. al Qaeda does not own a monopoly on terrorism nor are our counter-terror measures limited to al Qaeda.

I can't reply to commenter EricsLC for some reason, so I'll just write a new comment instead of a reply:

There was a case to be made to remove Saddam, but the case was constantly shifting and changing, changing and shifting.

The first item is a memo from the State Department's Near East bureau, provided to incoming Secretary of State Colin Powell at the very outset of the new George W. Bush administration in 2001, outlining the Clinton administration's policy supporting regime change in Iraq, but through financial and weapons support for internal opposition groups, propaganda efforts, and regional actors rather than direct action by the U.S. military. (The Iraq Liberation Act signed by Bill Clinton on October 31, 1998, codified this policy and committed the U.S. to continuing support for Iraqi opposition groups.)

A bullet-pointed set of notes discussed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, in late 2001 shows the Pentagon already diverting focus and energy from the Afghan campaign less than three months after the U.S. and its allies entered that country. An "Eyes Only" British government memo succinctly summarizes the climate leading to war by the summer of 2002: the U.S. saw military action as inevitable; George Bush wanted military action to be justified by linking Iraq to terrorism and WMD; to that end "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," while as to discussion in Washington of the aftermath of invasion, "There was little…"

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB279/

By not focusing in the initial phases of the war on Afghanistan in ways that mattered, we inadvertently gave every enemy of the United States a blue print on how to potentially weaken, distract, hobble, and neuter the US and her power. A very powerful blueprint. Great strategic precedent to set.

The law isn't the same thing as wisdom, if breaking or finessing the law or treaties on nonproliferation were the sole triggering reason to invade a country, we would have invaded many more by now, including ourselves in the 1980's.

Other factors must come into play. Shifting endstates and ideas were an issue and related to the way in which the Washington consensus (bipartisan) dealt with the post Cold War unipolar moment. Global oil supplies from the gulf, regional hegemony based on post war building of bases, humanitarian reasons, demonstrating military dominance, all of these can be found as reasoning in primary documents, a constantly shifting and expanding endstate that then shrunk down as it all hit reality.

If your war plans are in the following mode:

If a works, then b will work then c will work, then presto, desired endstate!, you are likely misunderstanding the basic principles of war and force.

Add to this the proximity of 9-11, and we missed looking into other areas of trouble because we were so focused on one and only one problem. Not that we didn't have to deal with it, but first things first.

All administrations inherit many problems and nonproliferation has been a problem since the technologies were developed. This is nothing special or new, really, it's just a thorny issue that requires some humility because the best laid plans can always go wrong.

Madhu,

The Bush administration's case against Saddam was not original - the case against Saddam was complete by the close of the Clinton administration with a bundle of reasons. What you viewed as "changing and shifting" reasons was likely just the media light shining on different parts of that bundle.

As far as OIF detracting from OEF, first, why should the reinforcements in Afghanistan have been the OIF-deployed American troops? The debate whether the US military that deployed to Iraq should have been used to garrison in Afghanistan ignores our NATO allies or assumes that NATO militaries have had no more troops and resources to share in Afghanistan.

Assuming NATO has been maxed out for OEF, it makes the simplest sense that the US military that was used in Iraq could have been used in Afghanistan. You can't argue with that direct logic. However, the logic applies only to the improvement of our defensive posture (ie, security and stabilization mission) and peace operations within the borders of Afghanistan. The logic fails to apply to the hunt for Osama bin Laden or fighting an enemy that crosses the same border that binds us.

In terms of the hunt for Osama bin Laden or fighting the Taliban, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is like the borders that defeated us in the Vietnam War. As long as we honor the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that the enemy crosses freely, a million extra NATO and US troops rotating through Afghanistan - but not Pakistan - wouldn't have made a difference.

The only realistic way to have made a difference in Afghanistan was to invade Pakistan and occupy the Taliban staging areas. But then what? How would Pakistan react? What happens to our land supply lines into Afghanistan? Even assuming the Pakistani government accepts our invasion, how do we garrison and nation-build Waziristan and Afghanistan?

Osama bin Laden presumably escaped from Afghanistan to his fall-back position in Pakistan in late 2001, possibly early 2002, ie, before we mustered for Iraq. bin laden escaped at a time when our military forces on the ground in Afghanistan were at their fastest, most agile, and least restrained. As opposed to post-war peace operations in Afghanistan, the hunt for bin Laden relied more on speedy mobility than size. Presumably, as well, when the 9/11 attack succeeded and the world watched us mobilize for the War on Terror, Osama bin Laden was on alert, packed, and ready to leave Afghanistan for Pakistan on a moment's notice.

The right argument for redirecting the investment of resources from Iraq to Afghanistan is based on boosting the peace operations in OEF. However, that argument, one, assumes we've succeeded in Iraq (or else, why expect success to grow out of failure?), two, presumes that success in Iraq could be achieved in Afghanistan using the same model, and three, presumes Afghanistan is as important to us as Iraq.

While the 1st assumption has a solid footing, the 2nd and 3rd presumptions are on shaky ground.

In the big picture, Afghanistan is not equal to Iraq. The cold geopolitical calculus is that our big-picture goals in the War on Terror - ie, building the peace beyond the killing war - were better served with influential big-picture success in Iraq rather than the limited potential for influential big-picture success in Afghanistan. Unlike liberalizing Iraq, liberalizing Aghanistan is highly unlikely and yields low geopolitical reward even if successful.

With the far worse conditions in Afghanistan for nation-building compared to Iraq plus the fatal weakness of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, I find it unlikely that more US troops and resources would have made a difference in Afghanistan. The third element that may have made a difference in Afghanistan from the outset is method.

I recall when GEN McChrystal first took over in Afghanistan, he blamed our mistakes in Afghanistan on a failure of method in order to explain the radical ROE et al changes he implemented when he took over as OEF commander. By method, I do not mean the piecemeal efforts like the admirable PRTs, military Civil Affairs and Engineering units, Army Human Terrain project, USAID, UN et al orgs, deployed in Afghanistan since the war. I mean a comprehensive, integrated theater-wide post-war strategy.

COIN.

Consider the premise that OEF was undermined due to US resources diverted from post-war Afghanistan to post-war Iraq. From there, consider post-war Iraq. Despite the tremendous amount that was invested in post-war Iraq and despite that Iraq offered much superior conditions for nation-building than Afghanistan, our Iraq intervention still nearly came to disaster. Only when the right method - COIN - was employed in Iraq did our Iraq intervention turn around. In fact, OIF was turned around despite that the "Surge", even at its height, did not come close to employing the number of US troops as recommended by GEN Shinseki et al.

Under the right conditions, the right method can make a really big difference. Given the surprising speed with which OIF turned around with the "Surge", it's plausible that the initial optimistic projections for post-war Iraq would have proven realistic had we employed the COIN method in Iraq from the immediate post-war transition.

If COIN wasn't developed and proven in OIF, there would have been no COIN option for OEF.

Would OEF be an OIF-level success today if we hadn't diverted resources to OIF? It's tempting to think so, but I don't believe it made a difference. Because of the intrinsic difficulty of reforming Afghanistan, the Af-Pak border, and the lack of the right method for post-war Afghanistan, I am not convinced more US resources and troops would have made a difference in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden would still have escaped into Pakistan and the Taliban would still stage out of Pakistan at their own pace.

After 9/11, we needed to solve our toxic Iraq problem ASAP. Ousting Saddam and nation-building Iraq also served as the lynchpin for Bush's liberal strategy to seize the initiative and win the War on Terror in a bold stroke.

Once upon a time, the US could walk and chew gum at the same time. In WW2, we fought 2 large wars in the Pacific and Europe simultaneously, then simultaneously conducted multiple post-war nation-building missions, while interjecting hot wars into the Cold War.

Even when I served in the 90s, Army doctrine said we could fight 2 wars simultaneously while conducting operations other than war. Who knew that American capability and capacity had shrunk so much since then?

@ EricsLC:

I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree on various points. I do like attempting to put yourself in the position of leaders or decision-maker, however. It is a good intellectual effort and the more decent thing to do.

I'll just add a quick quote and leave it at that because I really have to break my comment habit around here, I don't have the time and yet, I sort of can't stop. I think I have borderline internet addictive or ADD qualities....

Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.)
Text of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 18 January 2007:

1. Confusion about war aims and US interests. The president stated three war aims clearly and repeatedly:

* the destruction of Iraqi WMD;
* the overthrow of Saddam Hussein; and
* the creation of a liberal democratic Iraq.

So, moving from containment to invasion, and that too on a speeded up time-line, not only did the basic premise of what we should do change (preemption via regime change (war) versus attempted containment), the endstate shifted, I argue. Planning documents from 2003 show that many, many bases were envisioned in this liberal democratic Iraq and that there were high hopes for second and third order effects in the region.

This is a shifting, soft-focus, wished for endstate in my opinion, but I may be wrong about that.

How would we know when we got there, that we had an end-state?

This is the basis of our post WWII difficulties, in my opinion and it's not an original thought at all. A healthy nation as an endstate in terms of war is next to impossible. Even the colonialists had to leave eventually.

(To be honest here, I should state that at the time I supported the war because of 9-11. I worried too about not moving quickly enough, and I am furious with myself for losing my usual skepticism about, well, everything.)

At any rate, best to you.

Madhu,

The timeline only seems sped up to you because you don't view Bush's course with Iraq as a continuation of Clinton's course with Iraq. OIF resulted from a 12 year course, not a 1 year course.

The end state for Iraq established by President Clinton and carried forward by President Bush was an Iraq in compliance, internally liberally reformed, and at peace with its neighbors, with or without Saddam. All three prongs have been achieved, though the 2nd prong is less to our standard than the other 2 prongs.

Under the 1st President Bush, the premise that Saddam would remain in power was based on the assumption that Saddam would rapidly comply with the ceasefire terms - in other words, meet his terms of probation. The 1st President Bush did not intend to contain Iraq indefinitely.

Except Saddam didn't comply. Instead, he made the situation worse and increased the standard of compliance.

When the disarmament failed and turned into de facto containment, Clinton threw out the accompanying premise that Saddam would remain in power. Instead, Clinton set the policy that Saddam would remain in power only if Saddam complied and instituted radical reforms to his regime.

By the close of the Clinton administration, we only had 3 choices with Iraq: Maintain indefinitely the toxic status quo ("containment"), free a noncompliant Saddam, or give Saddam a final chance to comply.

The containment was de facto; it was neither our policy with Iraq nor an end state. After Clinton exhausted all enforcement measures short of ground invasion, the containment was what we were forced to do in the absence of a viable alternative.

Freeing a noncompliant Saddam was out of the question.

Op Desert Fox set the bar at a "final chance" for Saddam to comply. The case and precedent for OIF were already in place. Giving Saddam a 2nd and final 'final chance' to comply only needed sufficient political will.

The status quo was toxic, costly, and unstable before 9/11. One way or another, with or without 9/11, we were going to crash land with Saddam. We could either try to control the landing by resolving the Iraq problem on our terms or maintain the status quo while waiting for Saddam to determine our fate. 9/11, by adding the risk of an unconventional front that Saddam could use by his own means or supplying the NBC black market, provided the political will for giving Saddam a final chance to comply.

President Bush moved to resolve the intractable Iraq problem that he inherited. The alternative choices weren't better.

Bush didn't actually take us to war with Iraq. He took us to the compliance test for Saddam with a credible threat of ground invasion. Saddam could have precluded OIF by complying with the weapons, humanitarian, and other standards, and thereby meeting the terms of Clinton's end state for Iraq.

End state ≠ exit strategy.

We achieved our war objectives in Iraq. While the controversy of OIF is fueled mostly by the costlier post-war, our desired end state in Iraq required that we stay to win the post-war in Iraq, too.

Madhu,

Thanks. That's odd about the apparent teflon coat on my comments, although others have replied okay. I'll respond to your other points when I have more time.

For now, here's a different take on the Iraq Liberation Act than the one you quoted.

The fun with laws is they often say more than it appears on the surface. The decisive development of the ILA is it clearly set into official US policy that regime change was the solution for the problem of Iraq's noncompliance. OIF critics are quick to point out that the ILA doesn't explicitly call for "direct action by the U.S. military". However - and this is the key - neither does the ILA explicitly exclude "direct action by the U.S. military" as the means to bring Iraq into compliance.

In fact, laws contemporary with the ILA already provided the sanction for military action together with the executive precedent set by Clinton's deployment of the military to bring Iraq into compliance. While different in other ways, presidential orders for a ground invasion and extensive bombing are legally the same. The ILA also contains a neat daisy chain.

From Regime Change in Iraq from Clinton to Bush:

On October 31, 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-338, known as the Iraq Liberation Act. The purpose of the Iraq Liberation Act was to “establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq.” The law also stated that the “sense of the Congress regarding United States policy toward Iraq” is “[i]t should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”

On the same day President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law, he issued a statement expanding upon the new legal mandate for regime change in Iraq:

"Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are:
The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and lawabiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region.
The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's history or its ethnic or sectarian makeup. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else.
The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.
My Administration has pursued, and will continue to pursue, these objectives through active application of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The evidence is overwhelming that such changes will not happen under the current Iraq leadership."

Furthermore, although the Iraq Liberation Act stated, “[n]othing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces,” also embedded in the law was the finding that “[o]n August 14, 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-235, which declared that `the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President `to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.'.”

P.L. 105-235, called Iraqi Breach of International Obligations, detailed the long history of Iraq’s resistance to the UNSC resolutions and reinforced the Congressional mandate for the President to bring Iraq into compliance. Where the UNSC had stopped formally declaring Iraq in material breach in 1993 despite continued provocations by Iraq, Congress set the judgment condition necessary for the President to deploy the military against Iraq. While the law did not explicitly define “appropriate action” as military action, “relevant laws” included P.L. 102-1, which authorized use of the military to bring about Iraq’s compliance with international obligations.

The Clinton administration set the form and the means to resolve the intractable Iraq problem, and exhausted lower enforcement measures on Iraq. There isn't more a President can do than Clinton did to set the stage for the ultimate enforcement step with Iraq - by a future President. In other words, President Clinton made the can that was to be OIF, and then he kicked it.

Don't blame Clinton, though - if Clinton had had an FDR-length tenure as President that extended him past 9/11, he may well have ordered OIF himself. As is, Bush concluded Clinton's course on Iraq. From day one, our preferred way out of the mess with Iraq was for Saddam to comply, and Clinton and Bush each gave Saddam a "final chance" to comply. Blame Saddam for refusing to allow the US the preferred way out of our toxic entanglement with Iraq.

I give up. I keep posting comments, keep losing them, keep posting them, keep losing them....

I'll try later.

How much study has been given to the idea that most or even all the trouble and outsized costs we experienced in our post-war occupation in Iraq were merely compounding downstream effects originating from the one point of failure to establish security and stability after Saddam?

And, if the *one* variable, SASO, had been flipped - if we had been able to establish and guarantee security from the outset of the immediate post-war - everything else about our peace operations in Iraq would have been different?

By curing which early 'viral vectors' could we have headed off the whole epidemic?

My understanding of the Iraq insurgency is that it was rooted on the Sunni side by Saddam loyalists, renowned for their own viciousness, welcoming in al Qaeda. And on the Shia side, the insurgency was rooted in Iran-sponsored Sadrists.

The Kurds were on board with us.

I can't think off the top of my head what could have been done to prevent the Saddam loyalists from mobilizing, but in hindsight, the Shia insurgency strikes me as having been preventable.

We didn't account for Muqtada al-Sadr because he was a minor figure in the Shia community before the war, while the major Shia leaders were on board with us. The coalition believed, with reason, the Shia, like the Kurds, supported our intentions for post-war Iraq. And most Shia did. It seems that if we had been able to identify Muqtada as a threat and neutralize the Sadrist threat early on, we would have stabilized the Shia.

Then that would have left us with only the Sunni problem. The Sunni problem may have been manageable if, like the Sadrists, we have been able to identify and cure the 'viral vectors' early enough.

It's barely remembered now that the international community was prepared to invest and pour peace-building assets into Iraq in the post-war, but only if we guaranteed security in Iraq.

In order to build a higher order social-political society, the universal needs of security and stability first, then law and order, services, and economy - the basics of governance - need to be in place. The insurgency basically beat us to 1st base on security and stability, and the rest of it couldn't work without the foundation. I believe most Iraqis were on board with our promise to build a better Iraq after Saddam. But a minority willing and able to force their politics by extreme violence will have an outsized effect.

The inefficient "adhocracy" in the management of the Iraq reconstruction was in large part due to hostile politics within the US, politically driven unreasonable expectations of immediate returns on investment, and adverse conditions on the ground that sabotaged reconstruction efforts.

If the domestic political frame can be fixed, a reasonable long-term planning approach applied, and initial security and stability mastered, then combined with general improvements, the cost of peace operations should be further driven down.

Of those 'ifs', the most important is establishing and maintaining security and stability from the outset of the post-war.

I believe most or all the inefficiencies in post-war Iraq followed from the initial failure to establish and maintain security and stability. Flip that one switch, and I believe the rest would have fallen into place for us in Iraq, including many fewer casualties for all parties, reasonable expectations and cost management on a long-term planning frame, a conducive political frame, and enough international funding and peace-building assets to reasonably offset our costs.

The following -- at the preface to the paperback edition of Niall Ferguson's COLOSSUS: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE -- is offered re: EricsLC and Major.Rod's discussion, found much further below, regarding "realism:"

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

RON SUSKIND, quoting a "senior advisor" to President Bush. (From "Without a Doubt," by Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004.)

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C05EFD8113BF934A25753C1A...

Addendum:

For quicker reference, the statement by the "senior advisor" to President Bush can be found on Page 6 of the linked "Without a Doubt" article by Mr. Suskind.

Moving on. Should we consider a different balance sheet, one that looks at the war in Iraq through the lense of the larger conflict paradigm mentioned in the first paragraph of this linked article, to wit:

The "battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion."

Thus, should we look at the war in Iraq -- and render a "balance sheet" -- which addresses costs/benefits, gains/losses, wins/defeats, war of choice/war of necessity, etc., from this unique perspective?

Bill,

major.rod and I were referring to IR realism, not the way the term is used in the article.

The Suskind article reads like a caricatured hit piece intended to sway voter opinions 1 month before the Nov 2004 election. I would dismiss Suskind's equating Bush's mindset with the terrorists and the War on Terror as a jihad, excuse me, crusade, as parody, except I know the damage Suskind caused. I have Muslim friends who took Suskind at his word and warned their friends in the Middle East about Bush as Suskind described him. A lot of the anti-American propaganda in the Middle East originated from anti-OIF conspiracies and anti-Bush characterizations, like Suskind's, in the West.

Other accounts of Bush's deliberations, most notably by the NY Times' Michael Gordon, probably the top reporter on OIF, paint a different picture.

The use of Biden "a close friend of Kerry" was over the top. The account of Biden's meeting with Bush implies that Bush was micromanaging on the ground in Iraq. Bush had layers in place from the ground up already fully engaged on the issues that Biden raised. Was Biden suggesting a CinC-ordered overhaul of the whole apparatus? At that point of a "few months", the CPA would still have been recently on the job, too soon for an overhaul. The CPA with the military in a subordinate role was a conventional formula out of the gate and Rumsfeld was a leading proponent of the 'light footprint'. The CPA fell behind the insurgency, but it wasn't from being unaware or ignoring the problems. Besides commenting on Bush's instincts, I wonder what constructive suggestions Biden made to Bush at that time in light of Biden's failure as Obama's representative to Iraq.

In hindsight, I wish heavy-footprint military-led COIN had been the 1st option out of the gate in the immediate post-war in Iraq, but I also recall that COIN was an unconventional, controversial option. I remember the strong opposition to implementing COIN even in 2006, when the conventional alternatives had failed, and the need to try COIN was obvious and urgent. Bush's "confidence" came in handy then.

If OIF is based on fundamentalist/true believer/religion, blame it on Clinton. The Iraq problem matured and the laws, policies, and precedents for OIF were formed during the Clinton administration. Except don't blame Clinton, because Suskind's thesis is silly. Bush is far from the only president to talk about God and prayer. If anything, Suskind's caricature of Bush better suits Bush's successor in the White House.

OIF was IR realist in the war (at least before IR realist Saddam nostalgics reimagined Saddam in death) and liberal in the post-war, not evangelical. For a better understanding of the liberal ideas that animated the post-war, see my thoughts on the 10th anniversary of OIF post.

Here's the kicker most folks overlook about the Iraq mission: Operation Desert Fox in 1998 was the penultimate military enforcement that set the stage for OIF, yet it doesn't appear that when Clinton ordered ODF in 1998, his intelligence was better than Bush's intelligence in 2002-03.

My take on the Duelfer report - admittedly skimmed in places - is that there was no massive spike of disassembly of WMD in Iraq after ODF. Which means Iraq's noncompliance when Clinton ordered ODF was already more deception by Iraq and less, though still substantive, hiding of actual proscribed weapons and programs. It's very frustrating and sad to think now that OIF happened because Saddam decided to out-game the sanctions while preserving as much capacity as possible rather than simply meet the standard for compliance. Even in defeat with the highest stakes at risk, Saddam just wouldn't submit. He had to do it his way.

Bush's conviction and public case, while controversial, didn't cause the war. It only caused UNMOVIC to be sent to Iraq to test Iraq's compliance. Iraq's noncompliance triggered OIF, just as Iraq's noncompliance triggered Operation Desert Fox in 1998. Affirmative knowledge of Iraqi WMD wasn't necessary for military action in Iraq. With Saddam, we had to be sure. Due to Saddam's presumed guilt, not knowing the state of Iraq's WMD due to Saddam failing to meet his burden of proof was sufficient.

Here are my thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Feedback would be welcome and appreciated.

Excerpt:

The question that is being asked the most about the Iraq mission is the leading question, Was it worth it? Due to the popular misconceptions about the Iraq mission, however, I believe the most important question on this anniversary still is the contextual, Why Iraq?

. . .

The cornerstone of my perspective on Operation Iraqi Freedom is that President Bush had, like President Clinton before him, only 3 choices on Iraq: the toxic status quo, free Saddam, or give Saddam a final chance. (The Blix alternative, used by Clinton to retreat from his support for Bush and endorsement of OIF, was not realistic.)

Whenever I debate OIF with anyone, I challenge that person to step into President Bush's shoes in the wake of 9/11 and defend their preferred alternative for resolving the Iraq problem. Most will refuse and, instead, double-down on criticizing Bush and OIF in hindsight. For those who have the integrity to try defending an alternative in context, it becomes apparent that Bush's decisions regarding Iraq were at least justified.

Eric,

I see a lot of political rhetoric, but little justification for the way we approached Iraq. You ask what would the Middle East look like if we didn't invade Iraq? As you know no one can factually respond to that question, they can only offer conjecture. Perhaps Iran would have been held in check? Perhaps we would have maintained the momentum in Afghanistan? Look at it beyond the Middle East and perhaps we would have maintained our influence in Latin Americ and the Asia-Pacific? Who knows?

I agree there was ample justification for removing Saddam, but we hinged our bets on questionable intelligence to create the narrative that we were going in to disrupt the WMD production, and when that assumption proved false it undermined our credibility globally, which does have an impact on our ability to wield power in the future. It goes back to the Steven Covey quote, we can move at the speed at trust, and we undermined people's trust in us and that is important.

Let's assume we justified for other reasons (regional instability, humanitarian, failure to abide, etc.). Note not support support to AQ, the only AQ affiliates in Iraq enjoyed protection from Saddam in parts of Kurdistan. Saddam did provide support to terrorists who attacked Israel, but not AQ.

The biggest issue, one we must learn from, is that we executed the war at like amateurs at the strategic level. It would have been tough even if we had realistic plans for stabilizing Iraq before we invaded instead of assuming a proxy in England would be received as a legitimate ruler in Iraq. We'll probably just have to agree to disagree on the demobilization of the Iraqi Army. I'm in the camp that was one of most significant strategic errors we made in our history. We over did the De-Bathication, if anyone wanted to go school they had to pretend to be a Bathist. In some respects little different than people pretending to be Christian, Muslim, or whatever to survive/fit in. I talked to a lot of Iraqis at length about this, and being a Bathist didn't much to them other than providing some safety and opportunity for their family. Those that were true Bathist extremists (not the right term, but it works for now) needed to be purged, but when we purged all we removed the people who knew how to run the country. The only Iraqis that had significant education that weren't Bathists were some of the Kurds who enjoyed a degree of freedom provided by our no fly zone. However, having the Kurds rule Iraq was a non-starter for a lot of reasons.

Remove Saddam? Yes Do it the way we did it? No

I sometimes wonder if we pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory in 2003/04, and wonder if what would have happened if we didn't demobilize the Iraqi Army?

Bill,

As I said up front, my approach to understanding OIF is based mainly on the contemporary "Bush's shoes" context of the question, 'Why Iraq', rather than the hindsight question of 'Was it worth it'. I believe answering the 2nd question requires knowing the answer to the 1st question, and most people don't really know the answer to the 1st question.

As such, my discussion points emphasize the "political rhetoric" of conditions, laws, policies, and precedents at the decision point rather than a post-mortem technocratic accounting.

"Who knows?"

We knew the standing US relationship with Iraq was toxic, indefinite, deteriorating, and stalemated.

We knew the official US determination - established under Clinton - that the noncompliant Saddam was a "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere."

We knew the direct and second-order harms caused by the US status quo with Iraq.

We knew the laws and policies - established during the Clinton administration - that set the resolution for the Iraq problem.

We knew 9/11 had opened an unconventional front that Saddam could utilize with or without al Qaeda - al Qaeda did not own a monopoly on terrorism.

By the close of the Clinton administration, we knew our only way out of the toxic mess with Iraq, other than regime change (internally or externally generated), was Saddam complying with the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions.

Either/Or.

Both Clinton and Bush gave Saddam a "last chance" to comply. He declined. That left the US with one option for solving the toxic status quo with Iraq.

At the decision point of OIF, did you believe that Saddam would come around on his own accord on both the weapons and humanitarian fronts if we unilaterally ended the pre-OIF mission? Or, the US's Iraq problem would solve itself if we continued maintaining the pre-OIF status quo?

Before and after 9/11, did you believe the pre-OIF status quo with Iraq was stable, stabilizing, and sustainable?

When you place yourself in Bush's shoes at the decision point of OIF, keep in mind the humanitarian standards, too. They were not an after-thought to WMD. In fact, the most costly, invasive, provocative, and (arguably) controversial part of our pre-OIF status quo with Iraq - the no-fly zones with counter-fire - were enforcing humanitarian resolutions, not weapons-related resolutions.

So, even if Saddam had completely and unconditionally met his burden of proof on the weapons-related resolutions, the humanitarian issues still needed to be resolved in order to lift the pre-OIF mission and call off OIF.

There is no evidence, even after the fact, to argue that Saddam was in position to comply with the humanitarian resolutions.

I agree that the faulty intelligence "undermined our credibility globally". Again, however, context matters, and the context has been distorted in the public discussion.

The trigger for OIF was not based on an "assumption" by Bush officials. The trigger for OIF was based on the controlling *presumption* of Iraq's guilt on WMD. Plus, Saddam's violation of the concurrently mandated humanitarian standards is not disputed.

Iraq was on probation after the Gulf War, which meant the CIA was not responsible for proving the state of Iraqi WMD. Iraq's guilt on WMD was established. For the legal purpose of enforcing the ceasefire and UNSC resolutions, Iraq's guilt was presumed. Iraq was responsible to prove it was cured of WMD weapons, related technology and systems, development, and intent. Only Iraq - not the CIA - could cure Iraq's presumption of guilt.

In fact, the CIA Duelfer Report shows Saddam was holding back and Iraq was in violation. We only know (or believe we know) after the fact what Saddam was holding back.

"Assumption" isn't compelling from the legal standpoint on Iraq. As long as Iraq's presumption of guilt was controlling, US officials were *obligated* to interpret intelligence on Iraq in the unfavorable light cast by the presumption of guilt. That was true for Clinton officials as well as their successors.

In any case, we didn't go to war based on the intelligence. The trigger for OIF was Iraq's failure to comply, ie, meet its burden of proof on a mandated standard of compliance.

I explain this further in Regime Change in Iraq From Clinton to Bush, which I wrote for my National Security Law class, and its companion piece A problem of definition in the Iraq controversy: Was the issue Saddam's regime or Iraq's demonstrable WMD?, which explains the divergences in the public controversy.

They're easy reads, but here's the executive summary: Legally, Bush relied on Clinton's laws, policies, and precedents on Iraq, ie, the legal case, to resolve the Iraq problem. Publicly, Bush should have stuck closer to Clinton's public case because Clinton's public case against Iraq hewed close to the legal case against Iraq. That's the difference between a Harvard MBA and a Yale JD, I guess.

As you point out, the decision-point justification for OIF is a separate issue from analysis of the post-war in OIF (ie, occupation and peace operations after Saddam). However, the two issues are often conflated in the public discourse, which is where my decision-point contextual approach to the issue comes in.

On the issue of the post-war in Iraq ...

My understanding of de-Baathification is it did not apply a lifetime bar on soldiers and bureaucrats from government service. Rather re-hiring required a vetting process.

Bremer's plan made sense and the international community was initially willing to pour non-military assets into rebuilding Iraq. But the base requirement for everything else to build on was security and stability, and the enemy blew that up.

What if the military hadn't fallen behind the insurgency? What would be different in Iraq today if the COIN "Surge" has been employed in the 'golden hour' of the immediate post-war, rather than at the end of 2006, and precluded the damage to the peace process wrought by the insurgency?

So yes, I wish our military performance in post-war Iraq had been perfect from the outset, too. But I tend to be sympathetic because I realize the insufficient preparation by the Army for the post-war was caused by a deep-seated institutional flaw - the Vietnam War-traumatized, Powell Doctrine mindset. Our problem in the immediate post-war wasn't primarily insufficient troop numbers; it was insufficient method. Bush could control the numbers, but no Commander in Chief was going to overcome the Powell Doctrine mindset of the military before the fact.

I talk about my pre-9/11 brush with the Army's post-war doctrinal flaws in this post. Pre-mission planning and training wouldn't have solved the Powell Doctrine problem. The only realistic way the US was going to learn how to occupy Iraq properly was to occupy Iraq first, and then be driven to the correct method by necessity, assuming we didn't cut and run before we learned.

I'm also sympathetic because the standard applied by OIF critics to OIF is ahistorical. Getting it dramatically wrong at the start of a war, absorbing catastrophes, and then learning how to do it right along the way, is a consistent theme in US military history. It just happens that in OIF, our learning curve was steeper in the post-war than it was in the war.

For the Army, the road to right has always been paved with a lot of wrong, and a lot of our blood. The key has always been whether the US would stay the course long enough to turn wrong into right. The post-war in Iraq is far from our worst post-war. The Korean War happened 5 years into the post-war of WW2. Truman sent Task Force Smith into Korea on a suicide mission. Eisenhower used public discontent over the Korean War to break the Democratic stranglehold on the White House. Ike campaigned on the promise he'd get us out of Korea ASAP.

The US got a hell of a lot wrong - catastrophically wrong - in our post-war in Korea, but our military stayed long enough to get it right because Eisenhower, despite his campaign promise, established a long-term military presence in Korea to secure our gains that continues today.

If we had been able to control the security from the outset of the post-war, I think events in Iraq would have turned out very differently, even without the COIN "Surge". Still, our learning curve in Iraq, while costly, is consistent with US military history, and the post-war in Iraq looked like it had turned the corner at the point we left. It may still work out, but I just don't know at this point whether we stayed in Iraq long enough to secure our gains and foster a reliable (domestic) peace in Iraq, like we did with South Korea.

Eric,

You make several strong and valid arguments on why Bush decided to invade Iraq. Interestingly enough I had a good friend argue that if any other President made the decision to invade Iraq it wouldn't have been seen as controversial, but with the Bush legacy (his father) a bit of a conspiracy theory developed about alternative motives. I also think you address an important topic about Clinton's policies regarding Iraq. The sanctions that Albright pushed were a bit a humanitarian issue in themselves and helped gut Iraq's infrastructure. In my view, admittedly in hindsight, that seems like cowardly course of action that had a more negative impact on the Iraqi people than Saddam.

Where our opinion appears to diverge is post invasion decisions, which as you correctly pointed out skewed the context of pre-invasion decisions. Admittedly it has skewed mine, but like many who participate in SWJ who participated in OIF we have strong emotional connections that have resulted in varied opinions. I think the Bush Administration was almost criminally haphazard with their post invasion decisions. Some will think that opinion was formed in hindsight, but that isn't true. We addressed many of the concerns during the initial planning and it was seen as needless worry. When Wolfawitz tells Congress there is no ethnic tension in Iraq because he saw Sunnis and Shi'a married in Baghdad, that in my opinion captures the nature of the assumptions planning was based on.

I'm generally a fan of the Powell Doctrine (if not taken to the extreme). There is nothing wrong with having clear and achievable military objectives, but developing them in complicated operations takes considerable intellectual effort (it is hard to get to simple), and it didn't happen, so we floundered. Where I disagree with the doctrine is that all military operations can be achieved with quickly with overwhelming force.

All this is a different issue than the pre-invasion decision making you're focused on, and I think in that realm you made a strong case. Appreciate your well thought out arguments on this.

Bill,

Thanks. You're more than welcome to share them.

I hope you do, because it pisses me off that the popular image communicated to OIF veterans is that they were sent to Iraq in service of a lie or conspiracy.

It's true OIF was a war of choice. But the alternate choices were not better.

It angers me that politicians who know the truth - especially the Clinton officials who shaped the laws, policies, and precedents for OIF, then kicked the can on Iraq to the Bush administration - legitimized the false narrative to the world. Clinton's naked flip from endorsing OIF based on his presidential experience with Iraq to claiming he was against OIF from the start was especially egregious.

From what I gather, the official optimism was based on the belief that the nationalism of a relatively urbane, literate populace would trump sectarian differences. Clinton was thusly optimistic when he signed the Iraq Liberation Act. When Bremer spoke at Columbia in Feb 2003, he accurately described Iraq's sectarian fault lines but also expressed the optimism that Iraqi nationalism would overcome them.

I believe if security and stability had been brought under control from the start and maintained, with basic governance/services and economy following on line, and the political climate over here had been healthier, the rest of the puzzle - sectarian differences and all - would have fallen into place for us in Iraq. Easier said than done, I know.

I disagree with any military doctrine that deprioritizes the post-war, and the Powell Doctrine deprioritizes the post-war. There's no "end ex" in the real world like there is in training exercises. Whenever GEN Powell said anything critical about OIF, all I could think was that he was part of the problem for his effect on the military's fundamental approach to war.

I didn't serve in Iraq, but - as you can probably guess from my last comment - my perspective on OIF is colored by my service in Korea, which was 50 years after the Korean War. I suspect a lot of the folks who oppose OIF on principle aren't fans of the Korea mission either.

I don't know whether decades down the line, Iraq will turn out okay like South Korea (aside from the continuing threat of north Korea). The ROK-Iraq analogy runs out where we stayed to protect, guarantee, and shepherd South Korea. Nonetheless, I believe OIF at heart, like Korea, is a noble mission that honored America's role as 'leader of the free world'.

"For those who have the integrity to try defending an alternative in context, it becomes apparent that Bush's decisions regarding Iraq were at least justified."

Sad but true.

For those that double down in their Bush derangement syndrome I ask them what the middle east would have lookedlike now with Saddam still in power. Would Saddam have maintained his distance with AQ considering his support of Abu Nidal and terrorism in general? What would Saddam have done with his sworn enemy Iran pursuing nukes? It all gets a lot fuzzier...

major.rod,

My 10th anniversary post, and the linked content within it, is my attempt to restore context to the discussion. In the Abu Ghraib section of my post, I provide an example of the difference that context makes:

As President Obama quickly learned as Commander in Chief, the "choice between our safety and our ideals" that he had over-simplified in order to slander President Bush was more difficult when Obama assumed Bush's responsibility in the life-or-death competition against zealous, unethical enemies.

The context has been marginalized or disregarded altogether in most discussions of the Iraq mission. Yet understanding the context of OIF is the key to properly evaluating it, just as context is necessary when evaluating any of our wars. I'm impressed by the creative efforts of OIF critics to compensate for the comparitively low casualty figures of OIF - relative to the high human cost of the "good" US wars - by emphasizing ancillary, 2nd order, and post-war costs.

Most of the OIF cost that's criticized occurred during the post-war stage. Yet opposing our post-war role overlooks that reconstruction and occupation is the normal American post-war mode when we win a war. We still have troops in Asia and Europe from wars where most of the survivors have since died of old age.

It just happens that in Iraq, the enemy intelligently followed the Lebanon USMC barracks / Vietnam War playbook and ruthlessly attacked weaknesses in our post-Vietnam politics and mindset. It's to the benefit of future American generations that we precluded an updated Iraq insurgency playbook for use against our children.

Secretary Kerry's just-finished visit to Iraq and his toothless entreaties to al-Maliki strikes me that the Obama administration is only now - belatedly - appreciating the influential status and regionally strategic position we surrendered unnecessarily in Iraq.

I agree with you that gameplanning if-Saddam should have a larger role in the evaluation of OIF. OIF critics talk about it like Bush threw a dart at a map of the Middle East rather than inherited an intractable Iraq problem from Clinton.

When Saddam is raised in the debate - usually by IR realists nostalgic for the 80s - dead-and-gone Saddam is transformed retroactively into a rational actor, controllable useful puppet, benevolent patriarch, Iran antidote, or whatever else that helps argue that Bush = disaster and Saddam = peace in our time.

In the late 90s, when I served in the Army, our common belief was that the Army returning to Iraq was a question of when, not if. Not because we were eager to kick Saddam's ass "down by the river", but because we recognized the post-Gulf War disarmament had failed and the US was diplomatically and militarily entangled in a no-win situation with Saddam.

Contrary to the revisionist delusions of IR realists, freeing a noncompliant Saddam was not an option. Meanwhile, the status quo of bombing, sanctions, and 'containment' - the same status quo that compelled Secretary Albright to be quoted saying 500K dead Iraqi kids was "worth it" - was unsustainable. Our situation with Iraq was going to crash land one way or another.

President Bush's choice was try to control our inevitable crash landing with Iraq or - as Clinton had kicked the can to Bush after Operation Desert Fox - Bush could try to delay for 4 or 8 years and kick the can to the next president. Now, I believe Bush meant to kick the can on Iraq when he was first elected, but 9/11 changed the calculus on Iraq.

My point being: Any what-if alternative-to-OIF scenario must include a noncompliant Saddam in power *and* factor the reactions that Saddam would have compelled from us due to the US's deep and toxic entanglement with Iraq.

It's amazing to think now that, after the Gulf War ceasefire, we allowed the American relationship with the Middle East to be determined by Saddam. It's even more amazing that OIF critics claim we should have passively allowed Saddam to control how we crash-landed with him, too.

Yeah, context needs to be restored to the OIF discussion.

You might want to visit the debate at FP http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/03/25/the_fp_transcript_ix_did...

Almost exactly what we're talking about.

major.rod,

Thanks. Context for OIF is missing from the FP roundtable discussion and the effect of that lack of context is playing out in the comments.

The comment thread started by 23rdInf69n70 is a case in point:

Pardon my naivete, but why is it ridiculous to ask if we shouldn't have left Saddam Hussein in power? We know that he had no nuclear weapons and no significant chemical weapons. We knew - even in 2002 - that his large army was just that - large, not capable of effective combat against our forces. Why was it necessary to impose regime change on Iraq, and not Iran, North Korea or Syria?

Right away, he goes off track with "We know ...". No - we did not know. At best, some people may have suspected and conjectured, but a mandated bar was set for "knowing" Iraq had rehabilitated. Iraq could and should have met the bar in 1991, let alone 2002-03. Saddam's deceptions raised the bar. Short of meeting the bar, Saddam's guilt was presumed.

The realistic alternative to OIF - ie, the pre-OIF bombing/sanctions/'containment' mission - was based on the presumption of Iraq's guilt.

As far as his second question, our relationship with Saddam was special and our entanglement with Iraq was different than our relations with the other 'axis of evil' candidates.

The best source for the US case against Saddam, including regime change, is Clinton rather than Bush. Not much can be added to Clinton's speech announcing Op Desert Fox in Dec 1998. Clinton's endorsements of OIF (before Clinton tried to pretend he was always against OIF), which Clinton based on his own presidential experience with Saddam, are good, too.

Well said. Context is disregarded and I agree that without 911 Bush would have kicked the can down the road also.

I do disagree in clumping Bush detractors as IR "realists". There's no realism going on in their analysis. I see this on foreign policy.com where many categorize themselves as realist and anyone who suggests intervention in any case is a "neocon". There's a bit more to a "real politik" or "neoconservative" perspective than just labeling it so. Many (not you) consciously confuse terms in order to control the conversation. It all gets in the way of understanding and learning.

major.rod,

I didn't use it in the common-use descriptive sense of being realistic, but rather referring to the defined realist school in political science international relations that's set across from the IR liberal school, IR constructivist school, etc..

That's how I understood it Eric. My point is that many (on FP.com) who attack OIF stating they are realists (in the IR sense) are disingenuos. They are not. They mislabel themselves because admitting they are liberals (in the IR sense) is untenable when discussing Iraq.

These same individuals very typically mislabel others as "neocons". It's an intellectually dishonest technique and debate.

I'd like to see you eneter the fray at FP.com. Your well explained and thought out positions would make the glaring holes in their logic obvious to the casual observer and in a small way counter the narrative that has taken hold ref OIF.

major.rod,

Neoconservative = IR liberal.

Operation Iraqi Freedom is a definitively liberal mission in the Wilson/FDR/Truman/JFK tradition. I know this because my poli sci IR professors were IR realists who made sure their students understood that OIF = liberal, liberal < realist.

Thanks for the invite to FP. I'm tempted.

Everything I have to say on OIF (unless I think of something new) is in my linked posts. Feel free to dive in and surf the links in them.

Highlights:
Why We Fight (mostly links list): Perspective on Operation Iraqi Freedom
National Security Law seminar paper: Regime Change in Iraq from Clinton to Bush
Companion piece explaining the public controversy: A problem of definition in the Iraq controversy: Was the issue Saddam's regime or Iraq's demonstrable WMD?
Most recent, aggregated thoughts from all my blog posts on OIF: 10 year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: Thoughts

We differ on definitions and what our IR professors told us they were. There is a difference between neocons and IR liberals. The biggest being neocons see a moral imperative for the US To spread democracy through American power (to include military).

IR realists and real politik fans have strong similarities in that self interest is the key motivator of nations.

Liberal IR is equal to Realist IR thought only if you corrupt the definition of realist. It's similar to what we have seen done to the word "liberal" where progressives have adopted and undermined it's meaning to mean something totally different than what is intended by the term. A "liberal" education means something totally different today in practice than what it means by definition.

I agree IR liberal is not equal to IR realist. My professors were very clear on that. They treated IR liberal as the polar (and contemptible) opposite of IR realist. When I wrote "liberal < realist", I meant that my professors taught us that liberalism is less/worse than realism.

"The biggest being neocons see a moral imperative for the US To spread democracy through American power (to include military)" = Wilsonian liberalism. JFK is a good source for context on Bush's strategy in the War on Terror.

I agree the term "liberal" has been corrupted in the modern popular political vernacular since the 'New Left' co-opted it.

"The Invasion of Iraq, A Balance Sheet"? Don't waste you time. I would like my five minutes back. It's a deceptive and purposely misleading title. Balance sheets have pros and cons. This is a lopsided treatment of the subject with a 20/20 hindsight perspective of how it was a war of choice, there was no threat etc. (man, it's so much easier to make decisions when you have perfect information after the fact).

Then the author descends to measure the war adding criteria we've never used to cost a conflict to reinforce his one sided argument. Anyone ever wonder what WWII, Korea, Vietnam etc. cost if you added all the medical care veterans incurred?

Boilerplate talking points camouflaged with a title that implies both sides would be presented.