An edited version of following article about the causes of the Iraq war appears in The National as “A parade of characters and causes led the US to war in Iraq“.
Ten years since ‘shock and awe’, the reasons behind the invasion of Iraq have yet to be satisfactorily explained. Journalists, scholars, statesmen, soldiers, spies, and ideologues have all toiled for answers. Oil, imperialism, militarism, democracy, Israel and free markets have each been offered as explanations. Mono-causal and mutually exclusive: they seem to enlighten less than they satisfy the innate human need for simplification. In the hands of academics, on the other hand, explanations inevitably turn ‘complex’ – a ubiquitous marker that separates man from mandarin.
To say that the causes of the Iraq war are easy to explain is not to say that they are simple. But the lack of simplicity also does not imply indeterminacy. The reality may be complex but is decidedly explicable.
One does not have to subscribe to the Tolstoyan notion of history — as an inscrutable force, without agents, pre-destined, and with infinite causes — to accept that a phenomenon as complicated as war can have multiple causes. Iraq had many. Each of the aforementioned played some part in the calculus of decision makers; but they are not equally significant. Key actors were not driven by the same motives, nor did they reach their decisions simultaneously. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld prosecuted the war; but the neoconservatives conceived it. September 11 was the catalyst; but the neoconservatives helped instrumentalize it.
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