President George W. Bush believed that Iraq’s nuclear threat was real. The war was launched. Although Hussein had dabbled in a nuclear program in the past, the weaponry was not there.
The families of those who sacrificed or were wounded should take heart from this achievement: The US eliminated arguably one of the worst dictators since Adolf Hitler. Hussein put to death hundreds of thousands of his own people for political reasons. He eliminated many thousands more Muslims in a war with Iran and an invasion of Kuwait.
Freedom is the very foundation on which the American ethos is built.
The US has a long history of support for oppressed people around the globe, even when its own national security is not immediately threatened. Americans gave their lives in World War II although there was no real German threat to the American homeland. They fought again on behalf of South Koreans, although no North Korean legions were landing on US shores.
In the midst of war weariness, and a concern for the state of the American economy, there is understandably current discussion in the US about if, and when, and how, to undertake new military ventures abroad. This is wise.
But there is a legitimate national interest in the growth of freedom around the globe. Dictatorships are usually more dangerous than democratic nations that are stable and prospering.
Iraq’s postwar story is still in the making. It is a quasi-democracy, presided over by an autocratically inclined Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. There are three principal communities in the country – Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, as well as diverse tribes and factions. Harmony and cooperation among them will be essential.