When George W. Bush became President in January 2001, American policy towards Iraq was in free fall and the United Nations sanctions against Saddam’s regime, in place since the first Gulf War, were in tatters. By early 2003, Bush had achieved something most analysts had thought impossible: sanctions on Iraq were tighter than ever and inspectors were back in the country. Most surprising, Saddam Hussein had reportedly offered to go into exile, as long as he could take $1 billion with him.
And then Bush threw that diplomatic progress aside and committed the U.S. to a war that would cost thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi ones, and more than $700 billion in American treasure. If you factor in veterans care and other costs, the price runs to the trillions. As President Obama heads down his own path to war over Iran’s nuclear program, it’s worth reviewing not only what Bush did wrong as he confronted Iraq ten years ago–but what he did right.