How Did the Iraq War Harm US Interests?

Juan Cole pieces together a top ten list of ways the Iraq war harmed the US at Informed Comment. I like numbers two and six the most.

Some will rightly point out that the vast majority of the damage done was to Iraq, where the war continues to rage after the US withdrawal. They’re right, and they’re promoting a valuable lesson: Those harmed most by our actions often do not have the political standing to promote their interests during our decisionmaking process.

However, it’s still important to point out that the strategic basis for the war was bankrupt. It’s an invaluable learning opportunity for Americans who, in all likelihood, will one day be approached by another con group seeking to start another such conflict.

2. The post-World War II generation wanted to erect an international order that would forever forestall Nazi-like aggression against neighbors on the part of world powers. The Greatest Generation therefore forged a UN charter that forbade aggressive war, allowing hostilities only if a country had been attacked or if the UN Security Council designated a country a danger to world order. Iraq did not attack the US in 2002 or early 2003. The UN Security Council declined to pass a resolution calling for war on Iraq, especially after the ridiculous circus act of then Secretary of State Colin Powell before the UN laying out a self-evidently false and propagandistic case (which provoked gales of laughter in the room). The United States has irrevocably undermined that structure of international law, and any aggressor can now appeal to Bush of 2003 as a precedent. Indian politicians of the right wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party instanced the Bush doctrine when they wanted to go to war with Pakistan. (Wiser heads prevailed, given that Pakistan has nuclear warheads). The US has loosed a demon into the world, of the war of choice.

6. The motives of the US in attacking Iraq were presumed by the rest of the world to be getting that country’s petroleum on the world market. That the most powerful country in the world might just fall upon any victim it chose alarmed other nations and provoked their suspicions. China all of a sudden wanted an aircraft carrier group. Those already inclined to see the US as imperialist, like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, were were given proof they were right. Iran’s insistence on maintaining a nuclear enrichment program, even a non-military one, certainly has to do with the deterrent effect of nuclear latency (knowing how to quickly throw together a warhead). The Brazilian nuclear submarine program is aimed in part at protecting its natural resources from being summarily looted by Washington.

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