Former Secretary of State James Baker III didn’t have to wag his finger and say “I told you so.”
But he implied it anyway when asked over the weekend about the decision in 1991 not to march into Baghdad and overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Baker was interviewed on Meet the Press and the question came from moderator Chuck Todd: Do you still stand by your decision not to take out Saddam Hussein?
Yes, Baker said without hesitation. Why? Because, he noted, we would have encountered the same problem we’re encountering this very moment: trying to build a nation from scratch.
The mission in 1991 was clear: toss Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, where they had invaded in August 1990. The world would not tolerate one nation overrunning another nation and putting a massive supply of oil in jeopardy. President Bush sought permission from Congress and got it. He then went to the United Nations and got permission from the world body to use force to oust Iraqi troops.
The U.N. resolution was clear: Remove the troops from Kuwait, period. Don’t go any further. The president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff understood what the resolution said and the president would honor it to the letter.
James Baker brought together a coalition of nations to aid in that effort.
What the former secretary of state also seemed to imply — at least to my ears — was that tossing Saddam Hussein out in March 2003 is the source of all the trouble that is occurring in Iraq today. We’re still trying to build a democratic government in a country that’s never known freedom and liberty the way we understand the meaning of the terms.
The crisis in Iraq in Syria has gotten complicated almost beyond comprehension. It’s now up to the current administration to seek a solution. Still, it’s fair to ask: Did we really consider fully the consequences of what would happen the moment we decided to overthrow a sovereign government?
Did anyone back in 2003 bother to ask James Baker what might happen?