The Iraq War Revisited

The 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war has brought out renewed questions on the legitimacy, effectiveness and outcomes of the Iraq War.  It has also brought out renewed claims from some critics who believe that we went to war with Iraq for oil or that the administration lied about WMD to make the case for war .  If you believe those claims you may be surprised that those ideas do not hold up very well to logic.  You can say a lot about the intelligence leading up to Iraq, whether Iraq distracted us from Afghanistan, how well we fought the insurgency and a host of other issues but let’s examine the idea of a war in Iraq from a logical perspective.

On Oil:

1.  Iraq was never a major supplier of oil to the US, and despite having large oil reserves, is only the 12th leading exporter of oil.   In 2012 Iraq only exported half as much oil as Iran.

2.We did not take Iraq’s oil during or after the Iraq war.  Iraq never was a major supplier of US oil and we import less of it now  than we did before the war.  Also, Britain only imports a very small percentage of its oil from the entire Middle East so it is unlikely that Britain and the US colluded to steal Iraqi oil.

3.  We have not benefited from Iraq’s oil in any significant way.  Most of the oil contracts after the Iraq war have gone to Russia and Asia.  Any benefits we may have achieved were from reconstruction contracts on the oil fields after the war.

4.  Gas was a little over $1.70 a gallon in early 2003, hardly a cause for major concern about global gas prices.  Iraq only contributes about 3% of global oil exports so could not significantly impact supply and cost.

On the Claims that the Administration simply fabricated the case for WMD:

1.  We know Saddam Hussein had WMD before the 1991 Gulf War and used them against Iran and the Kurds.

2.  From 1991-1998 much of Iraq’s WMD program was destroyed but Hussein never fully cooperated with UN weapons inspectors.  In 1998 those inspectors left the country before fully resolving the WMD issue.

3.  In 2002, Hussein was cooperating to some degree with Hans Blix, the lead UN inspector.  But, there were problems with documentation provided by the Iraqis and Blix was not able to make a conclusive determination on the state of Iraq’s WMD program.

4.  The UN passed Resolution 1441  in November 2002 unanimously, including Yes votes from countries like Russia and even Syria.  This resolution said that Iraq would face ‘serious consequences’ if found in violation of the resolution.  Resolution 1441 was passed because Iraq was found to be in violation of Resolution 687 or the terms that ended the 1991 Gulf War, which included WMD and conventional weapons as well as reparations to Kuwait for the 1990 invasion of that country.

5.  Even with the threat of war, Hussein refused to fully cooperate.  Now if you try to think logically through the possibilities in 2003 you have to believe that either a) Iraq still has WMD or b) Saddam willingly and unilaterally disarmed.  It appears in hindsight that either option b was reality or that the weapons were moved before the US-led invasion.  In 2003, would you have honestly come to the conclusion that Saddam completely disarmed, given the history of the dictator?

6.  The administration did not find WMD in Iraq and almost lost a second term because of that.  Surely an administration that could fake 9/11 and make up a phony war for oil could ‘plant’ a few barrels of WMD somewhere in the vast deserts of the country to cover their clumsy grab for oil.  (That is sarcasm, folks)

7.  Even if you look at this from a purely selfish perspective on the part of the President, if he made up the intelligence leading to the war, he had to know that no one would find WMD which would threaten his Presidency.  Why would you intentionally mislead people to start a war with dubious benefits to you and a lot of potential pitfalls?

So what is most likely from a logical perspective:

1.  The nation and the administration just went through 9/11 and were understandably shocked.  Imagine if you have been mugged on the street.  The next time you go out in the street in that area, you will probably be a lot more wary and think that anyone who looks remotely shady could be another potential mugger.

2.  Intelligence, which is never completely conclusive, indicated that there was a possibility that Iraq had WMD.  Keep in mind that intelligence is not black and white, yes or no.  It is a matter of interpreting information and coming to the best conclusion based on the facts you have.

3.  You have a dictator with a known history of possessing and using WMD who refuses to fully cooperate with inspectors and does not have a favorable opinion of the US, to say the least.

4.  You make the conclusion that Iraq has WMD and is a threat.  I think this can be a case of confirmation bias where you tend to see evidence to confirm what you already think.  This can also be a case of group-think as a result of an administration and a nation horrified by 9/11 with a desire to do something about it.  Both of these are mistakes and in hindsight led to a clearly bad decision, but was it predicated on outright lies and a grab for oil?

I am not absolving the administration at the time for faulty intelligence, committing some of the mental errors described above and failing to plan adequately for the post-invasion period.  There were definitely mistakes made.  But to say that this was a war for oil or a war caused by lies just does not pass the logic test.

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