COMMENTARY | The last American soldiers are departing Iraq, leaving the Iraqi people a republic that has been won with considerable blood and treasure. Whether they can keep that republic on their own is still a question unanswered.
There is another question, perhaps inevitable, being asked. Was it worth it?
The New York Times, of course, naturally says not. One would expect the left leaning Times to come to that conclusion. But one has to consider that in the nine years of campaigning in Iraq, from the moment the first armored formation crossed the border with Kuwait to the moment the last soldiers returned, 4802 coalition troops, including 4484 Americans, were killed, according to Icasualties. The monetary cost was $800 billion, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
In determining whether the Iraq War was worth it, one needs to make an exercise into the counter factual. The question to be asked is, what if we had not invaded Iraq and attempted to continue the policy post Gulf War of containing Saddam Hussein?
WikiLeaks revealed, according to the New York Post, that Iraq possessed chemical weapons when the coalition troops entered that country in 2003. Weapons caches have been found for years since the invasion. That Iraq moved large amounts of WMDs to Syria in advance of the invasion remain a matter of dispute, according to the Washington Times. Barack Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, believes this took place. Satellite imagery of truck convoys suggests that something was moved into Syria just before the invasion.
It is not unreasonable to assume that had the Saddam Hussein regime survived, it would have been armed with chemical weapons. One could also imagine such a regime reconstituting its nuclear bomb program after the U.N. inspection regime collapsed. How soon afterwards Iraq could have obtained nuclear weapons would depend on how soon it could have obtained fissile materials.
Could a failure to put an end to Hussein’s regime in 2003 have resulted in a worst outcome than the eight and a half year long insurgency that followed? A case can be made that a Saddam Hussein regime that survived into the second decade of this century would have been armed with chemical and nuclear weapons and would have been willing to use them to advance Hussein’s dream of hegemony in the Middle East. The Iraq War may well have prevented this nightmare.