Some think we went to war over weapons of mass destruction, which materialized in numbers insufficient to justify the invasion. This intelligence error could be forgiven, since more than 150,000 Persian Gulf veterans were exposed to an Iraqi nerve agent at Kamiseyeh. Still, ending Saddam Hussein's regime was no more about WMD than our declaration of war on Imperial Germany was about the sinking of the Lusitania. Like it or not, we invaded Iraq solely to plant the seeds of democracy.
Reasonable men and women debate whether or not it is right for the United States to fight for the fundamental freedom of others. Indeed, both the extreme left and right offer the most vigorous criticism of this war. As I have argued, when libertarians and socialists agree, we ought to listen.
However, reasonable men and women must agree that Saddam Hussein and the regime he led offered one of the most despotic, murderous and criminal adventures of modern times. Hell welcomed his arrival, and Iraq is far better off without him.
It is also true that the war was unevenly prosecuted. The success of the initial attack was undone by an epic failure to plan for the post-war transition. For this the civilian and military leadership at the Department of Defense bear a heavy weight of failure. The success of the counterinsurgency redeemed an Army in the field, but not the leadership failure of 2003. All wars disappoint and fall short of plans.
Ten years after the invasion, it is too early to call it a success or failure. If, in a generation, Iraq remains even a weak democracy in a part of the world that is trapped between new-age fascists and medieval despots, it should be judged a worthy victory. If not, the weight of marble at Arlington will judge it a loss. And so it is left to the freedom-loving people of Iraq to make it a success.