In words attributed to Omar Kayyam, Persian mathematician and philosopher, “The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on; nor all thy piety and wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.”
In simpler words, “What’s done is done.”
But we still like to play the game over and over, and we love to say, “What if?” Over time, these terrible “ifs” accumulate.
Critics of President George W. Bosh love to second guess his decision to invade Iraq in 2003. They attribute many of our nation’s present ills to that fateful decision. What if? But let us consider the facts for a moment and try to evaluate his action in the context of that time.
In 2003, American intelligence agencies and those of our allies believed that Sadam Hussein had large stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and was working to develop nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them. Our ally Israel was in Sadam’s crosshairs, and the entire Middle East was in danger. Hussein was constantly issuing belligerent threats, and American surveillance aircraft were being shot at.
What was President Bush to do? What would you have done?
In March 2003 Bush issued the order to attack. A number of nations joined with us in the fight. It was a brilliantly conceived campaign, and the Iraq military was thoroughly defeated within a periods of days.
Then came the problems. Hussein took cover, no significant stocks of special weapons could be found, and Iraqis began waging a guerilla war. Years went by, and casualties gradually mounted. The American public turned against the war, and George W. Bush was immolated on the pyre of public opinion.
I do think that the follow-up to the initial invasion was handled poorly. I believe we should have hit Hussein and his associates hard, turned the government over to the opposition, and gotten out quickly. Nation building is not our forte. But that is a subject for future discussion.
In 2003 most political leaders, Democrat and Republican, backed the President’s decision to go to war. Once things began going south, they changed their tunes.
I would like to ask the Bush critics one simple question. Based on the information available at that time, what course of action would you have recommended?