Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Iraq war leaves a fog of ambiguity

Washington Post
August 31, 2010

Now that the Iraq war is over -- for U.S. combat troops, at least -- only one thing is clear about the outcome: We didn't win.

We didn't lose, either, in the sense of being defeated. But wars no longer end with surrender ceremonies and ticker-tape parades. They end in a fog of ambiguity, and it's easier to discern what's been sacrificed than what's been gained. So it is after seven years of fighting in Iraq, and so it will be after at least 10 years -- probably more, before we're done -- in Afghanistan.

George W. Bush elected to send U.S. forces to invade and occupy Iraq, even though there was no urgent reason to do so. I won't rehash all the arguments about what was suspected, reported or "confirmed" about the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that provided the Bush administration's justification for war. But even if Bush and his aides believed in their hearts that Saddam Hussein was actively seeking to develop nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, they had no reason to believe that the United States or its allies faced an imminent or even proximate threat.

They saw the opportunity not just to depose a heinous despot but to reshape the Middle East by implanting a pro-Western democracy at its heart. They succeeded at the former but not the latter.