By Mark Green |
On balance, the answer is "no," but not for the mostly political arguments that continue to be made. Instead, here are the specific reasons affecting our national security directly:
9/11 response? The "right" response to 9/11 was strategic--an immediate, massive, and sustained attack against Afghanistan and the "ungoverned regions" of Pakistan. Paid for, literally, by the Saudi Arabian government, because of its historical relationship and financial support of the radical factions giving rise to Osama bin Laden, his followers, and the 9/11 attacks. Iraq, assuming it had a WMD program, was a legitimate "concern" at the time, but not the primary one.
Decision to invade? Nevertheless, we should defer to the Bush administration's determinations made on the then-available intelligence; this because it was a consensus determination of intelligence services around the world, not just a "slam dunk" finding on our part. So, despite the internal politics, finger-pointing and "20/20 hindsight" of the decision to invade, it was probably the "right" thing to do at the time; i.e., George Bush and the senators who voted to "authorize" the war were "right," and those who opposed it, including then Senator Obama, were "wrong."
After Saddam, and no WMD? Leave Iraq (except for some key strategic bases/functions) and support it's division into three, "semi-autonomous" regions: Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd. This was later called the "Biden Plan," after then Sen. Joe Biden.
Remaining for "democracy"? The "democracy" mission in Iraq served primarily as a justification for U.S. forces to remain after Saddam was dead and the WMD issue was settled. Rather than invest politically in this "new mission," we should have acknowledged that we were going to stay until we determined that the region was less, or no longer, dangerous for our national security.
Paying for it? The war was paid with borrowed money because we would have not supported a 10-year war if we had been required to pay the "current" taxes necessary to sustain it. The "human" costs are immeasurable, and particularly painful to the regular, reserve, and National Guard units supporting multiple combat deployments over the past 10 years.
After we leave? Iraq will revert quickly to its traditional tribal and religious based "system" of pervasive corruption. Iraq is not a "country," never has been and never will be--this despite the billions we spent there on "democracy"--the "Biden Plan" is still the most realistic political "solution" there.
About Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute
Lawrence J. Korb Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress