Administration officials were not hoping for Carmel, but for something akin to post-Milosevic Serbia or post-Noriega Panama, as opposed to Somalia or post-Soviet Afghanistan. Note well: Had George Bush simply announced in advance that he would be leaving Iraq as soon as he deposed Saddam, or that he planned to install a less violent relative of Saddam’s to keep order as we departed, Congress probably would not have authorized an invasion of Iraq in the first place. The Iraq War was sold partly on the liberal idealism of at last doing the right thing — after not having done so previously against Saddam or following the Soviets in Afghanistan.
6. Oil! Sixth and last was the issue of oil. Had Iraq been Rwanda, the Bush administration would not have invaded. The key here, however, is to remember the war was not a matter of “blood for oil,” given that the Bush administration had no intention of taking Iraqi oil — a fact proven by the transparent and non-U.S. postwar development of the Iraqi oil and gas fields.
Instead, oil was an issue because Iraq’s oil revenues meant that Saddam would always have the resources to foment trouble in the region, would always be difficult to remove through internal opposition, and would always use petrodollar influence to undermine U.N. resolutions, seek to spike world oil prices, or distort Western solidarity, as the French collusion with Saddam attested. Imagine North Korea with Iraq’s gas and oil reserves: The problem it poses for its neighbors would be greatly amplified and far more likely addressed. Had Iraq simply been a resource-poor Yemen or Jordan, or landlocked without key access to the Persian Gulf, the U.S. probably would not have invaded.
TEN YEARS LATER
The invasion of Iraq was a perfect storm predicated on all these suppositions — the absence of any one of which might well have postponed or precluded the invasion.
That we have forgotten or ignored most of these causes stems not just from the subsequent terrible cost of the war. Instead, our amnesia is self-induced, and derives from the fact that 70 percent of the American people and most of the liberal media commentators supported the invasion, came to reverse that support, and remain hurt or furious at someone other than themselves for their own change of heart — one predicated not on the original conditions of going to war, but on the later unexpected costs in blood and treasure that might have been avoided.
Given that less than a third of the American people initially opposed the war, the subsequent acrimony centered on whether it was better for the nation to give up and depart after 2004, or to stay and stabilize the country. Ultimately the president decided that the only thing worse than fighting a bad war was losing one.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear in the spring from Bloomsbury Books.