Q&A Friday #6: What Changed In Iraq?
Questions: “And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many.” – Dick Cheney (1992)” What changed in Iraq?” — faithfull
Answer: Two things.
Back when we originally hit Saddam, the thinking was that he would be overthrown after the war by his own people and quite understandably rolling into a foreign country, smashing their army, and taking responsibility for helping them get back on their feet is a last resort type of option that didn’t seem to be merited by what we knew back in 1991. Of course, it goes without saying that things didn’t work out as the first Bush administration hoped.
However, we probably would have been largely content to proceed with the status quo — trying to cause regime change by any method short of an invasion — until 9/11 changed the equation.
Here we had a country — Afghanistan — that we knew was supporting terrorists. However, they were contained, we had sanctions in effect, and they were not an “imminent threat”. Knowing all of that, we chose not to act. Then on 9/11, terrorists who were based in Afghanistan flew our own airplanes into the Pentagon and WTC.
Since that day, what’s considered an “acceptable threat” has changed.
To allow nation-states to continue to fund, train, and protect terrorist groups, especially in an age when WMD are becoming easier to acquire, is to invite a horror that’s an order of magnitude worse than 9/11.
So once you make the decision that rogue nations must be forced to get out of the terrorism business, you use strategy. Some nations you can reach with diplomacy like Pakistan and Libya (and likely Syria and North Korea in a 2nd Bush term), others require force to make a regime change — like Iraq and Afghanistan. In other nations, you hope that with a little encouragement, the people will make a change themselves (Iran).
But to continue to allow Saddam Hussein, an avowed enemy of the US and supporter of terrorists — who as we now know didn’t have stockpiles of WMDS, but did have access to sarin, mustard gas, and nuclear material that could be used in a dirty bomb — to continue ruling Iraq was an unacceptable danger after 9/11.