Published on October 6th, 2014 |
by Lorna Carnegie
Could this Iraq War be Different?
The war in Iraq in 2003 was to all intents and purposes illegal and ‘undeclared’ by president and congress and this has now been widely acknowledged. After the attack on the twin tower on 9/11 there was a great deal of domestic support for removing Saddam Hussein from power and the extremist form of Islam which he represented as threat to the United States and Western world. It could be argued that George W Bush was aggravated by the survival of Saddam Hussein’s power after his father failed to remove him during his term in office. On top of this, many of the advisers to George W. Bush were the same as those who had advised his father and who might also begrudge Hussein his power.
The introduction of the Bush doctrine gave America the right to engage in a preventative war if she believed that she was threatened, especially if terrorism and WMDs were involved. The threat inflation of 9/11 provided an excuse to launch an attack against Iraq and the Jihadi Islam extremists. There were of course no WMDs found and whether Iraq and Hussein were a true threat to America was never truly proven.
The Powell doctrine, prior to the Iraq war in 2003, was fundamental in establishing a rapid war. General Colin Powell lost credit after the failure of the war in 2003, the General himself believed in the cause for war and encouraged it, and therefore on its failure his credibility was damaged. The Powell doctrine states that to engage in a rapid war one must have clear objectives, use overwhelming force, build strong public support and have an exit strategy. The 2003 Iraq war however had very unclear incoherent objectives. Was it because of WMDs, was it to remove Hussein from power or was it because America saw Iraq as a threat post 9/11? While the shock and awe tactic was deployed and strong public support for the cause was established due to the fear and angst generated from the 9/11 attacks there was no exit strategy and therefore the war became messy and complicated and people very quickly began to lose faith in the campaign.
This war however would not be clouded by the presence of Saddam Hussein, nor the distress and grief caused by the 9/11 disaster. A war on Islamic State (IS), one would therefore hope, would not be as disastrous as that of 2003 because our leaders’ vision and judgement need not be clouded by individual, nor domestic factors; there should be only the issue of international peace as the driving cause.
People’s fears and concerns over Britain and the United States’ involvement are, however, justified. Clearly without a well-established military strategy we could easily be sucked into the disaster zone as in 2003 – as Simon Jenkins wrote in the Guardian, this could be dangerous and “reinforce the politics of fear that is the grimmest legacy of the Bush era.” Britain must tread carefully. The only plan so far is to bomb Islamic State, this however will not solve the political turmoil in the Middle East and may only lead to worsen the situation for those left to pick up the pieces. For example the Syrian militant group al-Nusra Front has already denounced US-led air strikes as “a war against Islam” showing the extent of the ethnic and political web which has been interwoven in the Middle East.
Clearly trying to establish support for the intervention in his speech to the United Nations on Wednesday the Prime Minister claimed that the IS rebellion is “an evil against which the whole world must unite” and he maintained that “We must not be so frozen with fear [from past mistakes] that we do not do anything at all.” However, other than eliminating the IS movement there is no more of a clear political objective to a war this time than there was in 2003.
It has been acknowledged that air strikes alone are not enough to settle things in the Iraq and Syria, yet everyone seems to agree that following them with ground attacks is out of the question – taking some note from 2003. Cameron therefore believes that it must be local forces that deliver victory, yet the principle of shock and awe would not be possible and could draw out a war in a painful way for the civilians living in the midst of the conflict.
Public support for a third Iraq war is therefore divided and unclear. On the one side people believe that there cannot be inaction from Britain as to do nothing would only allow the situation in the Middle East to escalate. On the other side many people are fearful of another war in Iraq after the disaster that was in 2003. With the 2015 election looming, Ed Milliband is in no position to object to Mr Cameron’s proposal for action against IS for fear of appearing weak. With air strikes given the go ahead supported by the belief that we can’t do nothing, one can only hope that we can use the mistakes made in the Iraq war in 2003 to ensure that we do not find ourselves in a similar situation once again.
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