The Invasion of Iraq: A Change in My Position

In a series of posts, I hope to explain why I made a mistake by supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.  While I initially favored the invasion and continued to support it for many years, recently I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong. My reason is not among those that people usually give for opposing the war.  Instead, I believe that, had our government and political system been competent, the venture could have provided enormous net benefits. Unfortunately, our government is not competent. My mistake was placing too much faith in government – a serious mistake for a libertarian.

To set the stage, I should explain a little about the evolution of my views about foreign policy. After I became a libertarian, I soon became convinced of the noninterventionist views of Murry Rothbard, which coincided in many ways with the New Left. But I did support the Strategic Defense Initiative (or “Star Wars”), which after all involved defense, not intervention.

After a time, my views developed a bit, so that I came to accept aspects of Ronald Reagan’s view that the United States could support other groups, such as the Contras, who were fighting tyrannical governments.  Such support would not involve U.S. intervention except in very limited ways.

I held those views for many years and therefore opposed the U.S. intervention in the former Yugoslavia. I did support the U.S. intervention in the first Gulf War. My justification was that it involved assisting a country that had been invaded, concerned significant U.S. interests, and had limited objectives. I especially agreed with George H. W. Bush’s decision not to pursue the war into Iraq on the ground that the American people would not support the type of engagement that would be necessary to sustain a restructuring of the government.

Thus, at the time of 9/11, I had moderate classical liberal views on foreign policy. I generally favored nonintervention, except where there was an exceedingly strong case for involvement and where it could be accomplished without excessive difficulty.

The attack by Al Qaeda on 9/11 presented a new challenge. I supported the initial war in Afghanistan as a direct response to the attack. But I never believed we could establish any type of democracy there – the Afghan society was not ready for it. I just favored keeping the Taliban and Al Qaeda out of power.

Then in 2003, George W. Bush (with congressional authorization) invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – an invasion I supported. In my next posts, I explain why and why I have changed my mind.