I think one of the worst arguments I’ve heard used to help support the Iraq War is that this situation would’ve happened anyway. By “this situation,” I mean civil war/chaos. I only heard it once, and I can’t remember the exact context, so I’m essentially reconstructing an argument, but I’m using this as a tool for understanding, not as a strawman to knock down.
One may argue that Americans unleashed the sectarian violence with the invasion of Iraq (and insufficient troop levels to secure the country). A reply is that “this would’ve happened anyway,” meaning that if we hadn’t invaded, everyone would still be at each other’s throats. This reply, however, depends on the fact that Saddam’s regime was on the brink of collapse before the invasion.
To me, this reply kills itself because it supports the containment strategy. Same results, but less American lives lost. Containment 1, Preemption 0.
But that’s not my main point. I had an interesting little thought. Couldn’t the “it would’ve happened anyway” argument actually support withdrawal? Think about it, if the bloody chaos would’ve occurred without American intervention, that means that the American intervention was not the cause. Typically, what I hear about Iraq is that “we can’t leave now.” But if the sectarian violence was unavoidable doesn’t that remove part of our responsibility to stay? Also, if civil war seems so unavoidable, it also seems less likely that we could’ve stopped it or that we could stop it now. Another point for withdrawal.
I’m not saying the argument is right or wrong, but it is a possible storyline that seems much more pleasant than alternative interpretations of the war that will be given by the right-wing: “The American people didn’t have the will,” and “The Iraqi people are not capable of having a democracy.” Now, you may say that civil war being unavoidable blames the Iraqi people, but it doesn’t. I can easily shift blame to the so-called insurgents.
Assume that Americans hadn’t intervened in Iraq. If Saddam’s regime had collapsed, we’d still see the same jockeying for power among groups within Iraq and foreign powers and insurgents. Perhaps the fanatics would have fueled further chaos in Iraq even without the American presence. Would the Golden Mosque still have been bombed?
I cannot give a definitive answer. I’m making the argument as a thought experiment, not out of personal conviction. In fact, I’m viewing it more from a propaganda angle than anything else — specifically, making withdrawal more palatable to the American people. Mostly, it reduces the guilt for what we did. So in the end, I guess it’s nothing more than rationalization.