March marks the third anniversary of what was initially branded “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” but has increasingly become “Operation Iraqi Civil War.” As more Americans have come to realize, the Iraq invasion presents Exhibit A of American foreign policy at its worst.
From war planning to democratization strategies, the Iraq war has fulminated into a succession of egregious mistakes. Instead of being welcomed with “sweets and flowers,” as one expatriate of Iraq and friend to the Bush administration claimed, American troops are being treated to roadside bombs and a growing resentment that has spilled over into a livid counter insurgency.
The real irony of Iraq is that all the distorted facts and exaggerated threats used as justifications for launching the war have become realities only as a result of the war. With cherry-picked intelligence and the 9/11 card close at hand, the Bush administration presented the case for preemptive war in Iraq as necessary in deterring the rogue state’s use of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) on the United States.
After three years, not one WMD has been found. Although 2,300 American lives have been lost for the cause of protecting the American homeland from such stated threats, the invalidity of this justification has not seemed to ruffle President Bush’s feathers. In fact, in a fundraising luncheon during his reelection campaign, President Bush had his elitist base beside themselves with laughter as he pretended to search for WMDs around his podium.
Fortunately, the war has not produced any WMDs; however, stockpiles of conventional Iraqi weapons and radiological materials were lost during the invasion as troops were ordered to secure oil fields before weapons facilities. In turn, many of these weapons have fallen into the hands of counter-insurgents.
Next, it was argued that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Again, this claim turned out to be false – especially in light of a taped message broadcast by al-Jazeera in which Osama bin Laden labels Saddam Hussein an infidel.
In the context of Iraq today, though, a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq has been well established. Due to the fact that U.S. troops are overstretched, Iraq’s porous borders have been infiltrated by al-Qaeda operatives fueling the counter-insurgency. In addition, al-Qaeda has been successful in using the Iraq war as propaganda for recruiting new members.
It was also argued that a regime change in Iraq would be conducive to the fostering of world security by spreading freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. Three years later, this claim could not be further from the truth.
One of the consequences of the war has been the revivalism of Salafi movements within the Middle East, which have spurred a shift away from moderately democratic regimes and unearthed a recruitment pool for radical Islamists and future terrorists. Moreover, Iran’s position in the region has been strengthened with the emergence of a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. A Baghdad-Tehran alliance raises grave concern over the stability of the region – in particular, if a civil war were to break out in Iraq.
In addition, the war has exacerbated tensions between Shiites and Sunnis within Iraq, producing fears of a looming civil war and further regional sectarianism. If a civil war were to befall Iraq, the most likely consequence would be regional involvement. In other words, a civil war could pit Sunni Saudi Arabia and Jordan against Shiite – dominated Iraq and Iran.
The war has also abated any signs of goodwill that were shown towards the post-9/11 U.S. Anti-American sentiments have risen substantially, particularly, in densely populated Islamic countries. A Zogby poll taken in Indonesia, for example, found that between the years of 2002 and 2003 the number of Indonesians that viewed the United States favorably plunged from 61 percent to 15 percent.
While the pretenses for America’s unilateral engagement in Iraq were arguably well-intentioned, the consequences have polarized and brought instability to the Middle East, all the while sowing seeds of terrorism and anti-American sentiments worldwide. On this third anniversary of Iraq, it would do policymakers good to remember that famous 16th century proverbial saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Luci Storelli – Castro is a junior double major in political science and philosophy. Her columns run every Wednesday in the Collegian.