With President Truman as your standard for American leadership of the free world, it’s worth noting that the Korean War is the usual analog for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). You’re right to emphasize hard-earned lessons from the 20th century. Past is prologue. However, although they’re important background, they’re not the relevant premise for current events.
Your present tack of reiterating WW2 and Cold War lessons isn’t sufficient by itself to make a difference in the politics because the piece of the past that’s prologue for current events is OIF, not WW2 and the Cold War. The 1990-2011 Iraq intervention was paradigmatic for post-Cold War American leadership of the free world. The stigmatization of OIF has been regressive for American leadership across the board.
The status quo ante to reach for is the American leadership of 2007-2008, not 1947-1948.
Re-normalizing American leadership of the free world requires discrediting Obama’s keystone premise - OIF stigma - and replacing it with the operative premise that Bush and the US were right on Iraq, with all that implies for re-orienting American leadership.
For your advocacy to penetrate, it requires re-laying the foundation of the current discourse by de-stigmatizing the Iraq intervention at the premise level. Apply the lessons of WW2 and the Cold War to setting the record straight on OIF’s justification, and then upon the reset foundation, methodically reassess the path-setting controversies of OIF. Then you’ll be able to tackle current issues in the re-framed political discourse.
The format for my response takes Iraq-related quotes from chapter one of A Perilous Path and interjects my comments and topical references.
It must be stipulated that America’s greatest successes came when its influence was used, but was not misused, overused, unwisely used._I assess whether “influence was used, but was not misused, overused, unwisely used” according to, ‘What’s the policy?’ and ‘Are means sufficiently matched to the policy’s ends?’.
Regarding Iraq, the 1st question is well answered in the HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush administration policy.
For the 2nd question, the answer is the cost for OIF was driven high because President Bush’s predecessors, especially his father, did not sufficiently match means (influence) to the policy ends with Iraq, including with Operation Desert Storm. Presidents HW Bush and Clinton kicked the can until the Iraq intervention reached its breaking point and coda with OIF.
Of the four US presidents who were tasked to enforce the UNSCR 660 series with Iraq, President Bush stands out as the most ethical.
These key UNSCRs, US laws, and US presidential policy statements are listed in chronological order:
United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Iraq, 1990-2002:
Public Law 102-1, Authorization for Use of United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, 14JAN91:
Section 1095 (Iraq and the Requirements of Security Council Resolution 687) and Section 1096 (Iraq and the Requirements of Security Council Resolution 688) of Public Law 102-190 are addenda to Public Law 102-1, 05DEC91:
President HW Bush letter to Congressional Leaders reporting on Iraq's compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions, 19JAN93:
Secretary of State Albright speech on President Clinton’s 2nd term policy on Iraq, 26MAR97:
Public Law 105-235, Iraqi Breach of International Obligations, 14AUG98:
President Clinton letter to Congress on the legal authority for Operation Desert Fox, 18DEC98:
President Bush remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, 12SEP02:
Public Law 107-243, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, 16OCT02:
President Bush letter to Congress on the determination and legal authority for Operation Iraqi Freedom, 18MAR03:
I am not arguing for or against the Iraq War, and it should be clear that I take the war's unforeseen consequences very seriously._If you won’t argue that the Iraq War was justified, then you can’t effectively advocate for revival of American leadership of the free world whose principles manifested with the Iraq intervention. OIF and its peace operations especially embodied the principles you advocate.
OIF FAQ: Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory:
Although many focused on the "preemptive"' character of the Iraq War ... Still, in the case of Iraq, we made war, which is very different from joining a war in progress._Saddam was a terrorist; thus, the preemptive character came from the counter-terrorism element of OIF’s casus belli.
That being said, the legal basis for OIF was enforcement responding to Iraq’s breach of ceasefire, not preemption. We didn’t 'make war' with Iraq in 2003 anymore than we made war with Iraq in 1998 and with every other invasive action that enforced Iraq’s compliance with the Gulf War ceasefire. Iraq’s “material breach” (UNSCR 1441) of the ceasefire resumed the Gulf War, which had only been suspended in 1991 contingent on Iraq’s mandated compliance.
E-International Relations: The Myth of George W. Bush’s Foreign Policy Revolution by Chin-Kuei Tsui, 02DEC12:
OIF FAQ: Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal:
The Iraqi president was considered to be exceptionally inhumane and aggressive - even by twentieth-century standards._The Bush administration’s “fearful assessment” was rooted in standing policy. The Gulf War ceasefire was purposed to satisfy "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions [and] ... to secure peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 687). According to UNSCR 688, Saddam's human-rights violations "threaten[ed] international peace and security in the region". UNSCR 1441 reiterated "the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security".
Rice notes his "established pattern of recklessness, particularly in failing to anticipate the international community's strong response to his 1990 invasion of Kuwait..."
... Despite the later critical take on the Bush administration's fearful assessment of Saddam Hussein…
In other words, there was no burden on the US and UN to prove Iraq was a threat. Iraq’s threat, established with the Gulf War, was the operative premise of the Gulf War ceasefire, whereupon the burden was on Saddam to prove Iraq’s “peaceful intentions”. Assessing Iraq’s threat wasn’t guesswork. It was objectively measured by Iraq’s compliance. Noncompliant Iraq was ipso facto a threat. A presidential dismissal of Saddam’s threat absent the mandated compliance and disarmament would have been an irresponsible contravention of the Gulf War ceasefire.
OIF FAQ: Did Iraq failing its compliance test justify the regime change:
As Professor Frank Harvey shows, Bill Clinton and Al Gore were among the most concerned about Hussein's excesses and potential to do harm._Bush carried forward Clinton’s case and enforcement procedure versus Saddam. The Clinton administration was responsible for enforcing the same Gulf War ceasefire that they handed off to the Bush administration and thus upheld the same policy on Saddam’s threat.
President Clinton announcement of Operation Desert Fox, 16DEC98:
As one example: The idea that "Bush lied" in order to force America to war is itself a distortion. The administration declassified pieces of intelligence in order to build the case for presenting Iraq with an ultimatum. Part of the evidence turned out to be exaggerated, while another part turned out to be based on the misleading testimony of a terrorist. The assumption that Iraq had an active WMD program turned out to be wrong..._ Your conception of the WMD issue is also distorted. Iraq’s WMD-related “material breach” (UNSCR 1441) of UNSCR 687 was established by UNSCOM, decided by UNSC, confirmed by UNMOVIC which triggered OIF, and corroborated by ISG. Saddam was far beyond the ‘red line’ on WMD-related matters – with a confirmed active program.
There was no burden on the US and UN “to build the case for presenting Iraq with an ultimatum”. There was no obligation to present pre-war intelligence or demonstrate Iraqi WMD, let alone prove Iraq was armed as estimated. Iraq’s guilt of proscribed armament was established. The burden was on Iraq to cure its guilt by proving it was compliant and disarmed as mandated. The decision for enforcement and threat assessment of Iraq’s “continued violations of its obligations” (UNSCR 1441) were keyed in on the prescribed measurement of Iraq’s compliance and disarmament.
The “ultimatum” for Iraq was self-induced: Iraq’s categorical failure to comply and disarm as mandated. The pre-war intelligence estimates did not and could not trigger OIF. By procedure, the 06MAR03 UNMOVIC report of “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues” triggered OIF, like the 15DEC98 UNSCOM report triggered Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
UNMOVIC Clusters document: Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes 6 March 2003:
OIF FAQ: Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq – note parts 5-7:
10th anniversary of OIF post: criticism and explanation of Bush officials’ error of presentation with the pre-war intelligence:
Although not in itself a reason for America's ultimate decision to go to war, there was wide concern regarding the regime's extreme cruelty to the Iraqi people and Saddam Hussein's expansionist thirst for power._Incorrect. Both reasons were triggers for OIF. Enforcing the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688 was always a priority for the US. UNSCRs 688 and 949 were specified with UNSCR 687 in PL 107-243, which mandated the President to enforce Iraq’s full compliance with all the UNSCR 660 series. Saddam was evidentially in breach across the board, including UNSCRs 687, 688, and 949.
While UNSCR 1441 was focused on paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687, the 2002 resolution didn’t switch off the rest of the UNSCR 660 series. The WMD-related disarmament was merely the 1st step for “full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations” (UNSCR 1441). In 2002-2003, Saddam again, and for the last time, failed to comply with even the 1st step – a total verified declaration of Iraq’s entire WMD program - of the 1st step required to switch off enforcement.
President HW Bush remarks on assistance for Iraqi refugees and a news conference, 16APR91:
10th anniversary of OIF post: a listing of UNSCR 688-related law and policy:
Explaining the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom to a human rights law professor:
After 9/11, the Bush administration tried to forge foreign policy that combined defense strategy with the advocacy of universal democratic principles._ Bush didn’t try to forge that kind of foreign policy with Iraq. He didn’t need to. Bush inherited the combination of “defense strategy with the advocacy of universal democratic principles” that characterized the Iraq intervention, especially OIF and its peace operations. By the time Bush took office, the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement was a decade old. The law, policy, and precedent that controlled the OIF decision and set the guideposts for the peace operations were well mature.
Joint statement by Vice President Gore and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress, 26JUN00:
OIF FAQ: The reasons seemed to change - was Operation Iraqi Freedom about WMD or democracy:
10th anniversary of OIF post: foundational legal documents for the OIF peace operations:
[Clinton] expressed particular outrage and disdain for Iraq's oppressive, WMD-producing regime, even going so far as to express the opinion that Saddam would eventually have to be "forced out."_That was more than an opinion. It was US law and policy. Within the scope of enforcing Iraq’s mandated compliance, regime change had been active US policy since May 1991 at the latest and implicit in the multifaceted UNSCR 688 enforcement since April 1991. The regime change policy begun under HW Bush progressed under Clinton. The statutory codification with PL 105-338 (Iraq Liberation Act of 1998) evolved from the maturation of the law and policy on Iraqi regime change.
National Security Advisor Scowcroft response to Congressman Murtha's letter on Iraq, 14NOV91:
Los Angeles Times: Hussein Torpedoed CIA Plot Against Him, Officials Say, 08SEP96:
President Clinton letter to Congress on Iraq's compliance, 08MAY97:
Although Iraq was not connected with the 9/11 terrorists, notorious terrorists had been harbored in the country._Paragraph 32 of UNSCR 687 didn't require an Iraqi connection to 9/11 or a link to al Qaeda. Saddam’s terrorism in its own right was at least on par with al Qaeda. That being said, Saddam's terrorism included a degree of “considerable operational overlap” (IPP) with the al Qaeda network that apparently was unknown to US officials.
Pre-OIF conception of Saddam’s terrorism was already sufficient to make it a principal element of the OIF casus belli, yet it appears pre-war intelligence analysis significantly under-estimated Saddam’s terrorism. Which helps to explain why the terrorist insurgency initially caught the US off guard. Contra the “Camp Bucca” narrative, the terrorist insurgency wasn’t based on a sectarian spontaneous uprising. Rather, it was based on the strategic conversion of Saddam’s terrorism to guerilla operations.
US Joint Forces Command Iraqi Perspectives Project: Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents, November 2007:
Kyle W. Orton: A Myth Revisited: “Saddam Hussein Had No Connection To Al-Qaeda”, 21JUN15:
10th anniversary of OIF post: clarification of the link between 9/11 and OIF:
The terrorist attacks brought about hypervigilance regarding potential threats, and exponentially increased the seriousness with which those threats were seen. It wasn't just WMD that concerned policymakers; it was WMD in the hands of fanatics and the fact that traditional strategies of deterrence didn't work with fanatics._You’re correct that the 9/11 attacks ”increased the seriousness with which those threats were seen”. However, the terrorism-WMD threat was already established as a priority by the Clinton administration with particular concern over the relationship between Saddam and the al Qaeda network.
President Clinton address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff, 17FEB98:
Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-39, 21JUN95:
9-11 Commission: Statement of William S. Cohen to The National Commission On Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States March 23, 2004:
But what was striking during the Bush years was the exclusive focus of numerous Democratic Party leaders on America's own faults and America's own setbacks combined with their whitewashing of the faults and setbacks of America's enemies._What was striking was that Democratic leaders, including several who had worked on the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement under Clinton, attacked Bush by adapting the disinformation that they had confronted when foreign rivals had used it against Clinton’s Iraq enforcement, despite that President Bush faithfully carried forward President Clinton’s case and enforcement procedure versus Saddam. The same disinfo coming from American leaders, amplified by media partisans, inflicted far more damage to the credibility of American leadership than the original Iraqi, Russian, and French propaganda.
… Bush's domestic critics portrayed the president as a cowboy extremist who was completely out of touch with the intelligent class in his assessment of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and in his decision to issue the ultimatum that led to war.
A problem of definition in Iraq: regarding the foreign opposition to the US-led Gulf War ceasefire enforcement:
OIF FAQ: Why did resolution of the Saddam problem require a threat of regime change:
OIF FAQ: Did Bush allow enough time for the inspections:
As we shall see, however, there was far too little calculation about the effect of the Iraq War upon Iran. ... The United States also failed to predict the reaction of Syria._Perhaps. US troops didn’t stay in Iraq following major combat operations because neighborly interference wasn’t anticipated.
The second-order problem of Iran and Syria invading post-Saddam Iraq doesn’t change that the proximate Saddam problem had come to a head by 2001 and compelled a solution.
The alternative to OIF was overtly or passively allowing an Obama-type course-setting failure of American leadership by which an unreconstructed, categorically noncompliant, ambitious Saddam who was evidently rearming, a terrorist, and a tyrant broke free of the US-enforced Gulf War ceasefire. The US law and policy enforcing the Gulf War ceasefire didn’t allow for that, and especially after 9/11, Bush was too dutiful as President to allow it to happen.
OIF FAQ: Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo):
OIF FAQ: Why not free a noncompliant Saddam:
US policy mistakes - foremost among them the very consequential failure to reach out to defeated Sunnis, or to prepare for an insurgency, or to give adequate attention to post-invasion stability operations - would contribute to a reversal of US gains._It’s not true the US didn’t reach out to Sunnis. The US constantly reached out to the Sunni community. The Sunnis miscalculated by not buying in earlier than they did, possibly because of US domestic OIF opponents who manufactured the perception that the US would irresponsibly disengage like Obama later did.
OIF wasn’t the first instance in military history that an enemy managed to blow up a Plan A and compel adjustment. The OIF Surge wasn’t the first instance where the US military made the adjustment needed to win following catastrophic setback. In the zealous competitions of war and peace, the US has usually won with adjustment rather than perfection.
The planning for the peace operations (PO) was extensive. The notion that the US did not plan for the PO seems based on a misinterpretation of the initial "light footprint" post-war plan which was intended to, one, avoid a WW2-type "heavy footprint" military-centered occupation and, two, feature the international community in the nation-building of post-Saddam Iraq. The initial post-war plan assigned the military a support role tasked to "secure access" and facilitate the collaboration of civilian GOs and IOs, and under their umbrella, NGOs, who would work with the Iraqis on the bulk of nation-building tasks.
However, the military failed to "secure access" versus the terrorist insurgency. With the necessary foundation of security and stability denied, the rest of the initial post-war plan was shattered. The civilian GOs, IOs, and NGOs were severely restricted or run out of Iraq altogether, and their Iraqi nation-building partners were terrorized. The military was forced to shift drastically from its initially assigned limited post-war support role to the lead PO role and take on the bulk of nation-building tasks dropped by terrorized civilians. As such, what's often characterized incorrectly as a lack of post-war planning by the US was really the terrorist insurgency successfully breaking the initial "light footprint" PO plan, which compelled a new "heavy footprint" military-centered PO plan to be developed on the fly.
Bush White House: Briefing on humanitarian reconstruction issues, 24FEB03 (framework of the initial post-war plan):
Feith (War and Decision): Selected documents on Post-War Planning for Iraq, 2008:
10th anniversary of OIF post: discussion of the failure of the initial post-war plan from a policy and military perspective:
There is a reason that President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil speech (which could rightly be criticized as inaccurate given that the three powers were not clearly aligned) drew ridicule._If I recall correctly, the Axis of Evil speech was about illicit armament in the context of their malfeasant positions in the world order rather than a formal trilateral alliance. The Iraq Survey Group confirmed that Iran and north Korea were illicitly cooperating with Iraq in violating sanctions. Add the AQ Khan network and Iran’s prolific arms relationship with north Korea. Unless I’ve forgotten that he claimed the three nations were in a formal trilateral alliance, Bush was essentially correct about their “axis” of illicit activities, including armament activity.
[Note: The reference for "President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil speech" is the 2002 State of the Union address, 29JAN02. While Bush used the phrase "axis of evil", he warned about north Korea, Iran, and Iraq separately and did not characterize an alliance between the three nations. In fact, the "axis" nations were (and in the case of Iran and north Korea are) cooperating in various illicit armament activities.]
Iraq Survey Group: Regime Finance and Procurement:
Naval Post-Graduate School: The A. Q. Khan Network: Causes and Implications by Christopher Clary, December 2005:
Congressional Research Service: Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation, 26FEB16:
They [Bush41 foreign policy team] saw the fact that the United States and the Soviet Union stood together in denouncing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait as symbolizing a "hopeful new spirit"..._That was one of the profoundly mistaken assumptions by President HW Bush in the original formulation of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement that are obvious in hindsight, apparent in 1991 transcripts, and whose consequences were full blown by the middle-late 1990s.
President HW Bush news conference on the Persian Gulf conflict, 01MAR91:
Los Angeles Times: Allies Sit on Sidelines for Desert Fox, 18DEC98:
10th anniversary of OIF post: why HW Bush is the US president most responsible for OIF:
This [Clinton February 1998 remarks] was considered by the press a "backing down" from his previous, more direct threat to take military action._The notion of Clinton “backing down” in February 1998 makes no sense. Military threat and action were integral in the UNSCR 660-series enforcement from the outset. Clinton had taken, not just threatened, significant military action with Iraq multiple times by February 1998. Clinton’s 1998 push to bring Iraq into the mandated compliance was based on the military threat of “severest consequences for Iraq”.
House Resolution 322, Sense of House Regarding Iraq, 13NOV97:
President Clinton statement regarding UNSCR 1154, 02MAR98:
Response to attempted assassination of President HW Bush, June 1993:
Operation Vigilant Warrior, October 1994:
Operation Desert Strike, August 1996:
Congressional Research Service: Iraq: Post-War Challenges and U.S. Responses, 1991-1998, 31MAR99:
Bush administration officials generally agree that foreign policy was not a top priority, and that they paid too little attention to emerging threats, including intelligence warnings that even America was vulnerable._That’s not false, but it is suggestively misleading. According to the 9-11 Commission, Bush officials paid heightened attention to intelligence warnings in a normal manner for the pre-9/11 context. The 9/11 attacks radically changed the operative context to provide the view of “too little attention to emerging threats”.
9-11 Commission report archive:
Nevertheless, who could have predicted that a few years later America would be caught in the crossfire in Iraq…_Anyone tracking the progression of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement could have predicted it. By 2000-2001, Saddam had broken the ‘containment’ and was “out of the box” and evidently rearming. With or without 9/11, the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement had come to a head. The final confrontation with Saddam was a question of when, not if; in the wake of 9/11, Saddam’s distinctive WMD-terrorism threat assured it.
After Operation Desert Fox cleared the penultimate enforcement step and completed the set of law, policy, and precedent for the ultimate enforcement step, there was only one more option left for the US president to compel Saddam’s compliance.
President Clinton letter to Congress on Iraq's compliance, 19MAY99:
New York Times: With Little Notice, U.S. Planes Have Been Striking Iraq All Year, 13AUG99:
Donald Rumsfeld working paper re: Iraq, 27JUL01:
I encourage you to review my explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of Operation Iraqi Freedom at http://operationiraqifreedomfaq.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html. It’s essentially a cheat sheet that synthesizes the situation, controlling law, policy, and precedent that defined the operative enforcement procedure for the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) and, in the operative context, the determinative facts that confirmed Iraq’s “material breach” (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire to trigger enforcement with OIF.
The OIF decision is a straightforward fact pattern. President Bush and the US demonstrably were right on Iraq. Setting the record straight on the Iraq issue is essential for your advocacy.
Critical responses to pundits:
Explaining the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom to a law professor (Chibli Mallat);
Correcting Politifact's fundamental distortion of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement;
Correcting the Iraq section of Miller Center's "George W. Bush: Foreign Affairs" (Gary Gregg);
Comments on Stephen Knott's "When Everyone Agreed About Iraq";
Augmenting William Inboden's critique of J.E. Smith's Bush biography regarding Iraq;
Objection to Paul Miller's characterization of OIF as an "outlier" in American Power and Liberal Order;
Critique of the Iraq portion of chapter one of Anne Pierce's A Perilous Path;
Critical response to John Rentoul's "Chilcot Report: Politicians".