Briefly reposting a piece of mine from 2005, which was itself a repost from 2003.
At the end of the 1991 Gulf war there was an argument. Some people wanted to remove Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. Others opposed this either because they felt it would have bad effects on the region as a whole, or more simply because it would cause unnecessary bloodshed. It was decided, in my view rightly, to end the war with the restoration of Kuwait.
Many who opposed an invasion of Iraq nevertheless hoped that Saddam Hussein would be overthrown. Part of the Iraqi population was already in revolt, and it seemed an easy and harmless thing to help things along a bit. The Iraqi security forces could be prevented from wiping out the rebellion by establishing safe areas and “No-fly zones”, which could be justified on humanitarian grounds in any event.
Unfortunately the idea, approved by the UN Security Council, was not thought through. Carried away by the prospect of getting Saddam Hussein overthrown “for free”, the long-term situation in the case that the rebellion was unsuccessful was ignored. The United Nations, a body whose purpose is peace, and empowered to sanction war only to prevent wider war, was in fact ordering a perpetual war. It is an act of war to send armed forces into another country to protect a rebel army. The U.S.A. and U.K. have, with U.N. backing, been waging war against Iraq every day for over a decade. This situation should never have been created. Once it was decided in 1991 to allow the Iraqi regime to stay in power, then for consistency’s sake Iraq should have been accorded the full sovereign rights of any other country, including the right to use force against “traitors” in its territory.
If I had made this argument at the time (which I didn’t), I am sure I would have found little agreement. I would have been told that I was putting inappropriate and outdated principles ahead of the lives of innocent people. It is only with hindsight that we can see what has come of the denial of the basic principle of Iraq’s sovereignty. The twelve year war against Iraq, with its blockades (“sanctions”), its bombings and its imminent bitter end has claimed more innocent lives than either of the two logical alternatives in 1991 would have done, even without taking into account that it was the immediate provocation for the worst terrorist massacre in history.
At its root is arrogance. GWB has been widely accused of arrogance in recent weeks, but nothing has matched the arrogance of his father and his UN supporters in believing that they could expect peace and cooperation from a foreign government while openly attempting to overthrow it in defiance of its traditional sovereign rights. GWB has the humility to recognise that to interfere in Iraq to the extent of inspecting its chemical factories and limiting the actions its security forces, he must fight a war, take the responsibility and take the consequences. The UN Security Council still has the arrogance to believe it can achieve the same ends without bloodshed.