Simplistic Thinking


The New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert weighs in today with an argument that we should all admit that we went into Iraq essentially for oil. He mentions several forms of proof of this. The latest is the role of State Department employees in the awarding of subcontracts for improving all production in Iraq. He supplements this with many other indications that this is what we were about all along, going back to the protecting of the oil ministry in Baghdad rather than any other ministries or institutions in the days immediately after our victory

The problem with all this is that Herbert imagines that he can find an explanation for our invasion. In fact, the invasion of Iraq, like many other actions made by leaders or even ordinary people was a complex result of many factors. Some in the administration did want to democratize Iraq. They have been influenced by or work partners in a long-term effort to have the United States play a more active role in democratizing the world. Some in the administration saw all the Middle Eastern affairs in terms of Israel. If we could defuse Iraq as a center of opposition to our policies we would have the same time be strengthening our ability to preserve the independence of Israel. Many in Washington saw the continued human rights violations by Saddam Hussein is a blot that had to be removed. Since the United Nations would not act we would have too. Others were concerned with the independence of Kurdistan, an independence that could not be guaranteed as long as Hussein was there. Many believe that George W. Bush wanted to show that he could do what his father failed to do after the first Gulf war. As is often the case, many of the military services saw this war, as any war, could be an opportunity to show what could be done with new weapons and strategies. And, in spite of all the discussion that has gone on since the war started, it was believed by many people, and not only in Washington, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. This again was a danger to Israel

There is an overwhelming tendency of people to try to simplify complex issues. Yes, oil played a part. For some people it was probably the major reason. For others it was an important reason. But for many, it did not figure in the calculation — as ir might today. From this we should take a lesson.

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