In his speech on the fifth anniversary of the invasion, President Bush did not argue that the invasion proved necessary to remove a direct, imminent threat to the United States. Instead, he made humanitarian and ideological arguments.
"The men and women who crossed into Iraq five years ago removed a tyrant, liberated a country and rescued millions from unspeakable horrors," he said. This is a good thing and true. It is not, however, an argument that justifies launching a long, bloody and unpredictable war. If removing tyranny justifies committing the United States to war, President Bush should not be attending the Olympics in the People's Republic of China this summer, he should be sending an army there.
"A free Iraq will fight terrorists instead of harboring them," Bush argued. "A free Iraq will be an example for others of the power of liberty to change the societies and displace despair with hope. By spreading the hope of liberty in the Middle East, we will help free societies take root -- and when they do, freedom will yield the peace that we all desire."
But if lack of liberty -- rather than a radical Islamic ideology -- is what creates terrorists, why were most of the suspects arrested in England in the 2006 liquid bomb plot (which aimed to blow up numerous passenger planes) native-born English citizens? These terrorists were born in the cradle of Western democracy and enjoyed all the political rights Winston Churchill once enjoyed, and yet, they still waged jihad.
Wise men in our civilization have argued for centuries that four conditions must be met to justify war: It must counter a great and certain threat, it must be a last resort, it must have a reasonable chance of success, and it cannot be anticipated to cause more harm than it prevents.
Leaving Iraq now would cause more harm than it prevents. But had our leaders known before invading what we know now, it would have been difficult -- if not impossible -- to justify the invasion by the time-tested criteria of our own tradition.