Home/Daniel Larison/The World Isn’t Better Off Because of the Iraq War

The World Isn’t Better Off Because of the Iraq War

A.J. Delgado offers counseling to Iraq war dead-enders:

IDS sufferers’ second favorite argument is: “Well, the world is better off without a bad guy like Saddam, so it wasn’t a mistake.” OK, except this is completely inaccurate. The world is not better off without Saddam. Why? Because for all his faults, Saddam Hussein presided over a stable Iraq, served as a buffer to (a now more powerful) Iran and was no religious fanatic. When we invaded and removed him, we created a power vacuum in the country, a vacuum then filled by brutal ISIS.

The hawkish argument that “the world is better off” because of the Iraq war isn’t just obviously false, but it’s the sort of desperate ends-justify-the means claim that only ideologues and propagandists find compelling. If we take Iraq war dead-enders at their word that they think the world is better off, this just confirms that they have no understanding of the consequences of the war they supported. More than decade of conflict in Iraq has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, injured countless more, displaced millions, driven millions more into exile, and has brought about the complete ruination of an entire country. The war empowered sectarians and jihadists, and exposed the country’s religious minorities to an unending nightmare of persecution. Only a fanatic could look at the devastation wrought by the Iraq war and its aftermath and conclude that the world is better place because of it.

Hawks like to pose as clear-eyed moralists, but give little or no thought to the practical effects of the policies they support. They mouth phrases about rights and freedom, and help turn other countries into lawless killing fields. Hawks tend to assume that by smashing a bad regime that the U.S. is doing the targeted country and the world a favor, but by ushering in only more violence and destruction wars for regime change wreck the country and expose the world to dangers that would not otherwise exist.

Iraq war dead-enders are just the most extreme form of hawks that cannot imagine that there is something worse than the awful dictator currently in power somewhere. They point to the genuinely horrible crimes of this or that dictator and scoff at the idea that anything could be worse than what follows the current regime, and then time after time we see that the results of the regime change they desire is only even more suffering and mass killing. They can’t grant that military intervention is frequently a deeply wrong and unwise thing to do, and so they have to keep concocting excuses for why the disaster they supported was somehow beneficial.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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