“The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it.” -Ayn Rand
“Knowing what we know now” arguments are irrelevant to history, i.e. the Iraq War. We cannot study it through that prism, because decisions were based on what was believed at the time. Besides, what is it that we supposedly “know now”? That Saddam Hussein indeed had weapons of mass destruction, and impeded United Nations-mandated weapons inspections for over a decade? Check. That Iraq harbored terrorists throughout that time? Check. That we are still fighting terrorism, despite those who wish to ignore that fact? Check. That current instability in the region is a direct result of U.S. troop withdrawal and failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement? Check. And that ISIS grew from this failure? Check. So, what is this “new” information warranting yet another re-visiting and second-guessing the reasons for the war?
A decades-old argument - “Would a president drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima knowing what we know now?” - has morphed into the current discussion - “Would a president invade Iraq knowing what we know now?” Since hindsight has a perfect record, this always is a flawed debate. On both accounts, information at the time said yes; any present circumstances - which are due to many unrelated factors - is irrelevant to that decision. The best example of this in more recent memory is the equally divisive and oft-compared Vietnam War. A conflict that epitomizes the Cold War, it was supported early as a fight against legitimate communist aggression that potentially could cascade across Southeast Asia and beyond. When that “domino effect” failed to materialize, critics attacked the validity for the war in the first place. Remember too, at the onset of the Second World War, the U.S. was only fighting Japan until Germany declared war on us as well. The focus then shifted to a two-front war, but as part of a larger picture; in my opinion, and for many like-minded people, a similar situation existed with Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, we have pulled out and failed to maintain a military readiness in either country to counter the continuing cascading threat from the likes of al Qaeda and ISIS.
Concerning the lead-up to the Iraq War and its fallout, I still wholeheartedly support - as do many of those same like-minded people - the decision by the Bush Administration and our allies to act in 2003. Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical regime had to go, as a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region and in the grander scheme of fighting terrorists and those who harbor them. After a decade of disregard and obfuscation by Iraq over its WMDs, who finally was going to force them to comply? The ineffective U.N. that cowered and had been duped by Saddam over that time? How much more time would he be allowed? Another decade? The U.S. and its allies took the initiative lacking in the useless U.N. in order to enforce that compliance. Even more, the critical attacks on the intelligence for WMDs now have been shown, at the very least, to be without merit themselves given “what we know now”...which some of us knew all along concerning Iraq’s weapons program: they had them.
In comic books, it is becoming evermore a rarity to have purely good superheroes, because even they must exhibit a darker side to have value in an increasingly cynical world. That is the problem with the world today. Every decision is second-guessed in hindsight as a consequence of this attitude, forgetting the valid reasons for it at the time. In doing so, we perform a disservice by tearing down good while raising up evil. For his part, President Obama's “legacy” will be remembered as a failure, defined by ineffectiveness, weakness and retreat in the face of that evil born from that cynicism. Meanwhile, the legacy for those opposed to the Iraq War - both then and now - will be the still cynically misplaced blame on the “evil” President Bush for that current situation. All because of the ambiguous assertion over “what we know now.”
©2015 Steve Sagarra