Debate Club

Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was Worth the Price


The war in Iraq has been costly, though most of the cost was avoidable. Taking sovereign power in Iraq to convert it into the first genuine Arab democracy was unnecessary and unwise. We must avoid making the cost of securing our future against potentially ruinous dangers unaffordable.

But the war was worth the cost, for one reason above all: It freed the world of a dangerous, determined, and irrational leader who had the means and inclination to continue inflicting massive destruction and suffering on the Iraqi people, neighboring states, and the international community.

[Is the United States Safer 10 Years After 9/11?]

Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz supported the invasion after reciting the litany of Saddam's many crimes, in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and elsewhere. He wrote: "No other dictator matches his record of war, oppression, use of weapons of mass destruction, and continuing contemptuous violation of international law, as set out by unanimous actions of the UN Security Council."

The United States and others were wrong in concluding that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in 2002. Saddam wanted to give the impression that he had WMD, and he succeeded. But we were also wrong after the Gulf War in concluding that Saddam's WMD programs had been identified and closed down. His son-in-law's revelations led to the discovery of an advanced biological weapons program. Had Saddam not been overthrown, he would likely have attempted again to become a nuclear power, so as he could expand his control and influence among the Gulf States with impunity.

[Condoleezza Rice Should Have Quit Over Iraq War]

One can never know with certainty that a depraved leader will continue to do depraved things. But Henry Kissinger explained why it is necessary sometimes to act when the record is strong, despite the uncertainties:

"In retrospect, it is easy to ridicule the fatuousness of the assessment of Hitler's motives by his contemporaries. But his ambitions, not to mention his criminality, were not all that apparent at the outset. ...Statesmen always face the dilemma that, when their scope for action is greatest, they have a minimum of knowledge. By the time they have garnered sufficient knowledge, the scope for decisive action is likely to have vanished."

Abraham Sofaer

About Abraham Sofaer George P. Shultz Distinguished Scholar and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution

Iraq war (2003-2011)
Hussein, Saddam

Other Arguments

78 Pts
Iraq War a Failure on All Fronts

No – Iraq War a Failure on All Fronts

Phyllis Bennis Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies

30 Pts
The Iraq War Unnecessarily Prolonged the Conflict in Afghanistan

No – The Iraq War Unnecessarily Prolonged the Conflict in Afghanistan

Lawrence J. Korb Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress

9 Pts
'Biden Plan' Is the Most Realistic Solution in Iraq

No – 'Biden Plan' Is the Most Realistic Solution in Iraq

Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute

-26 Pts
This Was No War of Choice

Yes – This Was No War of Choice

Michael Rubin Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

-54 Pts
Iraq May Become a Reliable U.S. Ally

Yes – Iraq May Become a Reliable U.S. Ally

James Phillips Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation

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