We Should Have Left Iraq After Saddam Hussein Died
Mission to promote "democracy" in Iraq was an unobtainable objective
January 23, 2012
If anything, we stayed way too long...
To begin with, the Bush administration should not be faulted for the initial decision to invade Iraq. We should remember that most of the world's intelligence services had determined that there were substantial weapons of mass destruction programs underway there. And, the removal from power of Saddam, his sons, and their dangerous regime was a necessary step to make objective determinations about the WMDs. However, the subsequent change of mission--to promote "democracy" in Iraq--was not at all realistic and extended the war for an unobtainable objective.
At its best, post–Saddam Iraq is an uncomfortable association of three semi-autonomous regions, deeply divided along religious, tribal, and ethnic lines--with massive corruption at all levels of government and public administration. Accordingly, our "democracy" mission was simply not achievable without fundamental social, economic, and educational reforms that never happened. Furthermore, this degree of internal reform is probably unrealistic without wide-scale popular uprisings such as have occurred and are occurring in other countries of the region.
In a word, I have long argued that we should have left Iraq after Saddam and his thugs were dead--and after we were satisfied beyond all doubts that there were no WMDs. While our motives to stay after that may have been pure, our logic was deeply flawed and reflective of our political naïveté. "Democracy" in Iraq--and in many nearby places--will continue to be impossible absent radical internal change.