The main reason that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program dwindled away after 1996 was that Saddam had run short of money with oil prices falling to $20 a barrel and less. (In 1998, the inflation-adjusted price of oil dropped to the lowest level since the Great Depression.) Iran decelerated its nuclear program at the same time, likely for the same reason. But the economic surge in China and India after 2004 pushed the price of oil back toward $100 a barrel. That surge would have happened, Iraq War or no Iraq War. What kind of force would Saddam have been in the region if his income had tripled or quadrupled?
The glib conclusion that Iran emerged the true winner of the war does not stand scrutiny. As Iraq has stabilized since 2006, Iraqi oil production has accelerated. In 2012, Iraq produced more oil than in any year since before the first Gulf War. Iraq now numbers among the top five oil exporters. The extra oil capacity provided by Iraq has made it easier for European consumers to agree to stiffer sanctions on Iran. Once the world’s No. 3 oil exporter, Iran has now dropped out of the top 10.
The U.S.-led war unleashed a horrible civil war inside Iraq. But as the example of Syria shows, it’s just wrong to assume that Iraq would have been spared a civil war if Saddam had been left in place. The deluge was coming in Iraq, whatever outside powers did. And while the war planners deserve blame for the failure to keep order, the vast majority of the post-2003 casualties inside Iraq were inflicted by other Iraqis, not the coalition forces. […]
If the war achieved some positive gains, its unnecessary costs—in human life, in money, to the prestige and credibility of the U.S. government—are daunting and dismaying. If we’d found the WMD, it would have been different. If we’d kept better order in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam, it would have been different. If more Iraqis had welcomed the invasion as we expected, it would have been different. If the case for the war had been argued in a less contrived and predetermined way, it would have been different. [bron]
David Frum, Canadees/Amerikaans journalist, editor voor Newsweek en The Daily Beast en voormalig speechwriter van GW Bush