The Iraq War was a Success (Simon Maass, June 13, 2024, Providence)

In terms of its objectives, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a clear success. Saddam Hussein was deposed, tried and executed with ease. “We achieved our goals,” as John Bolton put it. Even so, the Iraq War is usually characterized as the poster child for American failure in foreign affairs, a perception based on questionable assumptions. […]

Eli Lake lists several indicators of Iraq’s progress since the invasion. In the two intervening decades, the country’s GDP ballooned approximately tenfold, while life expectancy, literacy rates, and the prevalence of cell phone plans also increased. According to the World Bank, Iraq’s GDP per capita declined from 2000 to 2003, but rose quite swiftly thereafter – that is, it actually started to grow following the invasion. Currently, it is nearly at an all-time high. The suicide rate remained roughly unchanged by the war, while infant mortality continued to diminish.[…]

As Alan Dowd writes, “it pays to recall that Saddam murdered 600,000 Iraqis.”If one includes deaths incurred during his war of aggression against Iran, that figure is reasonable. Human Rights Watch famously estimated the number of people “disappeared,” then killed, by the Ba’athist regime at “between 250,000 and 290,000 people.” This number was based on just the government’s major sprees of detentions and killings.

David French compares Iraq to neighboring Syria, which also had a Ba’athist dictatorship. That tyranny was not overthrown. When the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East, Syria was plunged into a civil war which has made the country “a charnel house.” We can supplement this point with some numbers. According to the UN, the decade from 2011 to 2021 saw over 350,000 deaths in the Syrian Civil War. Combined with Iraq Body Count’s figure, this implies that, despite having a smaller population, Syria experienced more deaths from falling into civil war than Iraq experienced from an American invasion. This illustrates that the lack of American intervention does not mean many people will not suffer. Furthermore, the Syrian Network for Human Rights currently estimates that “Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias” are responsible for 87% of the war’s civilian casualties. Note also that Syria’s population plummeted after its civil war began, whereas Iraq’s kept rising fairly smoothly after the invasion.

The critics generally prefer dictators keeping their Third World populations quiet to messy democracies.