By Tom Quiner
We should not have gone to war in Iraq on March 18, 2003.
Knowing what we know today, few Americans would disagree with that statement.
The Congress at the time disagreed. In bi-partisan votes, both the House and Senate supported the resolution put before them to go to war.
At the time, honorable people did disagree, such as Pope John Paul II:
“War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations … War cannot be decided upon . . . except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions … There is still time to negotiate; there is still room for peace, it is never too late to come to an understanding and to continue discussions.”
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, also disagreed, stating that …
“reasons sufficient for unleashing a war against Iraq did not exist [because] proportion between the possible positive consequences and the sure negative effect of the conflict was not guaranteed. On the contrary, it seems clear that the negative consequences will be greater than anything positive that might be obtained.”
In hindsight, both Popes were correct.
Ultimately, the Iraq War was President George W. Bush’s war. History will most likely judge the war as a colossal mistake, especially in light of President Barack Obama’s failure to keep troops stationed in Iraq to maintain the peace.
John McCain famously said America would be in Iraq for another hundred years. He based that on the model we’ve successfully used in Germany, Korea, and Japan.
In the case of Japan, the occupation continued for seven years after the end of the war, and we still have 31,000 troops stationed there. Japan today is a vibrant nation and staunch ally of the United States. Why was the occupation so successful? John Dower explains in his book, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq:
“Discipline, moral legitimacy, well-defined and well-articulated objectives, a clear chain of command, tolerance and flexibility in policy formulation and implementation, confidence in the ability of the state to act constructively, the ability to operate abroad free of partisan politics back home, and the existence of a stable, resilient, sophisticated civil society on the receiving end of occupation policies – these political and civic virtues helped make it possible to move decisively during the brief window of a few years when defeated Japan itself was in flux and most receptive to radical change.”
Honorable people can say that Iraq isn’t Japan or German or Korea. They are correct. Perhaps democracy would never have worked there considering their historic ethnic rivalries. Let’s face it, Iraq is an artificial nation of sorts, created by outsiders who forced rival ethnic groups to live under the same national tent, so to speak.
Here’s the question: could it have worked if President Obama had followed the Japan occupation model?
We’ll never know.