The horrific reports coming out of Iraq have drawn our attention back to the lead up to and the implementation of the military action in Iraq in 2003. Tony Blair is once again in the media defending the decisions that he took and many parliamentarians are reconciling the positions they took at the time with their feelings now, informed by hindsight.
The big question being asked is whether the 2003 conflict and the removal of Saddam Hussain from power led to the current situation. Those who were opposed to the war at the time are tending to believe that there is a golden thread running from those events to the current ones. Blair is adamant that there is no link.
Both positions are wrong. The events of 2003 and the years that followed have had a significant impact on Iraq, the post Saddam power vacuum has been filled by a number of players, and the sectarian violence that has now erupted has its roots in their competition for power. But it is far too simple to say that had the USA and Britain not intervened it would not be just as bad.
Across the Middle East dictators have been either overthrown or civil wars have erupted with the intention of overthrowing them. I find it impossible to believe that Saddam Hussain, or one of his sons, would still be in power now in the same way that he was in early 2003. Iraq would have had a period of conflict and there is little to suggest it would not have been as bloody and horrific as the conflict in Syria is now.
For me the big questions are about the West’s appetite for military intervention in the region. If we hadn’t committed troops to Iraq in 2003 would we be more willing to get involved militarily now? Would 2014 be a better or worse time to intervene? How has the economic downturn impacted our ability to deploy troops in significant numbers?
Clearly it is impossible to know the answers to these questions but I am sure that Iraq would be a violent and bloody place today irrespective of the actions in 2003.