The Iraq War’s Lessons Are Easier to See Than to Learn

The Iraq War’s Lessons Are Easier to See Than to Learn
Then-President George W. Bush makes a statement to reporters while then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld look on, at the White House, March 20, 2003 (AP photo by Rick Bowmer).

Next week marks 20 years since the United States invaded Iraq. In the wake of the Cold War’s end, Iraq was portrayed as the quintessential “rogue state” and its leader, Saddam Hussein, as the ultimate evil, drawing comparisons to Adolf Hitler. The United Nations Security Council had authorized the use of force against Iraq in 1991 following its invasion of Kuwait, and subsequently imposed devastating economic sanctions aimed at starving Iraq’s war machine and its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, in March 2003, the administration of then-U.S. President George W. Bush decided it had had enough of Hussein. Without Security Council approval, the Bush administration, along with the government of then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, invaded Iraq with the aim of “regime change.”

The leadup to the 20th anniversary of that decision is sparking much introspection. Some now see it as a grave error, despite supporting the invasion at the time. Others, while acknowledging that mistakes were made, still think it was the right decision. Others never supported the decision and now feel vindicated.

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