Prof. Andrew Bacevich / Global Public Square, CNN – 2011-12-21 16:25:14
NOTE: This post is one of four from the Council on Foreign Relations in response to the question: Was the Iraq War worth it?
(December 21, 2011) — As framed, the question invites a sober comparison of benefits and costs — gain vs. pain. The principal benefit derived from the Iraq War is easily identified: as the war’s defenders insist with monotonous regularity, the world is indeed a better place without Saddam Hussein. Point taken.
Yet few of those defenders have demonstrated the moral courage — or is it simple decency — to consider who paid and what was lost in securing Saddam’s removal.
That tally includes well over four thousand U.S. dead along with several tens of thousands wounded and otherwise bearing the scars of war; vastly larger numbers of Iraqi civilians killed, maimed, and displaced; and at least a trillion dollars expended — probably several times that by the time the last bill comes due decades from now.
Recalling that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda both turned out to be all but non-existent, a Churchillian verdict on the war might read thusly: Seldom in the course of human history have so many sacrificed so dearly to achieve so little.
Yet in inviting a narrow cost-benefit analysis, the question-as-posed serves to understate the scope of the debacle engineered by the war’s architects. The disastrous legacy of the Iraq War extends beyond treasure squandered and lives lost or shattered. Central to that legacy has been Washington’s decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft.
With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is U.S.
Central to [the war’s] legacy has been Washington’s decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft.
One senses that this was what the likes of [Vice President Dick] Cheney, [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, and [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz (urged on by militarists cheering from the sidelines and with George W. Bush serving as their enabler) intended all along. By leaving intact and even enlarging the policies that his predecessor had inaugurated, President Barack Obama has handed these militarists an unearned victory. As they drag themselves from one “overseas contingency operation” to the next, American soldiers must reckon with the consequences. So too will the somnolent American people be obliged to do, perhaps sooner than they think.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Andrew Bacevich. For more, visit CFR.org.
Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University.
One Angry Vet
How Dare you Andrew Bacevich — you ignorant man. How dare you call the sacrifices of my fellow soldiers and friends pointless?
HOW DARE YOU belittle the achievements of my friends who gave their lives for the mission that Americans sent us on.
HOW DARE you talk as if we did nothing over there. You think we sat around with our a**es in the sand doing NOTHING but killing!?!?!?
We removed a dictator that held the Middle East hostage, A dictator that Gassed people in his own country.. JUST because they were from a different tribe than himself… A man that launched SCUD missles on Israel during Desert Storm and one that if left to develop or obtain WMD’s would have used them to inflict mass casualties on US allies.
Then, we stayed and we reubuilt that country establishing schools, infrastructure and completed many other humanitarian projects. We held back the tide of sectarian violence to allow the country to establish a more peaceful society under a Democratic Government.
We accomplished more than you will ever understand and your ignorance of what you say and how you say it is apalling. you should be fired from CNN. You’re not a journalist, you’re an opinionated hippy that writes articles and masquerades as if you understand complex situations like this one.
I am writing a letter to CNN to request they remove you from their staff. You are not only a bad writer but a terrible human being for what you have written here. Disprespecting the Men and Women that gave their lives for a cause the AMERICAN PEOPLE sent us for. You should be ashamed of yourself and hopefully you will not be allowed to write something like this again for CNN.
Show Some Respect
Dear ‘One Angry Vet’,
Andrew Bacevich is a retired Army colonel and he lost his son, an Army lieutenant, in the Iraq War.
You have every right to disagree with his conclusions, but show some respect.
Actually One Angry Vet, this is one war that should never have taken place at anytime. The only way to redeem this is to now divide Iraq into three different states by giving the north to the Kurds, the south to the Shiites and the west to the Sunnis. Unfortunately, the right-wing thugs in Washington won’t stand for that!