Yesterday marked the 10 year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. At the time, the Bush administration believed that American troops would be "greeted with sweets and flowers," as one advocate put it, due to their effort to oust Saddam Hussein from power. But a decade after the war began, it is perhaps the costs—not the victories—that are most prominent: 4,488 American lives lost, more than 32,000 Americans wounded, and untold pain to those who came back traumatized by their experience.
According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans believe that the Iraq War was not worth fighting. "Our war in Iraq, I think was the most fundamentally bad, dangerous decision since Vietnam," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during his confirmation hearing. (Hagel voted for the war when he was a U.S. senator.) And Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., told the Arizona Republic, "I think the legacy of this is always going to be that it was a mistake, that it was pre-emptive, that it wasn't based on real information, and that the whole struggle could have been handled differently."
But its most staunch supporters maintain that the war was worth it. Tony Blair, then the prime minister of the United Kingdom and a key U.S. ally at the time of the invasion, recently told the BBC, "If we hadn't removed Saddam from power just think, for example, what would be happening if these Arab revolutions were continuing now and Saddam, who's probably 20 times as bad as Assad in Syria, was trying to suppress an uprising in Iraq? Think of the consequences of leaving that regime in power." Hawkish senators such as Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., say that the invasion was necessary, and have questioned the Obama administration's timetable for ending the war.
So was the Iraq War worth it? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Peter Juul Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress
Jessica Stern Fellow at the FXB Center for Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health
Evan Moore Senior Policy Analyst for the Foreign Policy Initiative
Michael O'Hanlon Senior Fellow and Director of Research for the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution