Why Did the United States Go to War with Iraq?

Tank & Burning Oil Wells
Allan Tannenbaum / Getty Images

The Iraq War (America’s second war with Iraq, the first being the conflict that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait) continued to be a rancorous and controversial topic years after the US ceded control of the country to the Iraqi civilian government. The positions various commentators and politicians took prior to and shortly after the US invasion have political implications to this day, so it can be helpful to keep in mind what the context and understanding were at the time. Here is a look at the pros and cons of war against Iraq.

War With Iraq

The possibility of war with Iraq was and still is a very divisive issue around the world. Turn on any news show and you will see a daily debate on the pros and cons of having gone to war. The following is a list of the reasons that were given both for and against war at that time. This is not intended as an endorsement for or against the war but is meant as a quick reference. 

Reasons for War

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger."
–George W. Bush, President of the United States of America
  1. The United States and the world has a duty to disarm a rogue nation like Iraq.
  2. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant that has demonstrated a complete disregard for human life and should be brought to justice.
  3. The people of Iraq are an oppressed people, and the world has a duty to help these people.
  4. The oil reserves of the region are important to the world's economy. A rogue element like Saddam threatens the oil reserves of the entire region.
  5. The practice of appeasement only fosters even bigger tyrants.
  6. By removing Saddam, the world of the future is safer from terrorist attacks.
  7. The creation of another nation favorable to US interests in the Middle East.
  8. The removal of Saddam would uphold previous UN resolutions and give the body some credibility.
  9. If Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, he could share those with terrorist enemies of the United States.

 Reasons Against War

"The inspectors have been given a mission... If some country or other acts outside that framework, it would be a violation of international law."
–Jacques Chirac, President of France
  1. A pre-emptive invasion lacks moral authority and violates previous US policy and precedent.
  2. The war would create civilian casualties.
  3. The UN inspectors might be able to resolve this issue.
  4. The liberating army would lose troops.
  5. The Iraqi state could disintegrate, potentially empowering adversarial powers such as Iran.
  6. The US and allies would be responsible for rebuilding a new nation.
  7. There was questionable evidence of any connection to Al-Queda.
  8. A Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region of Iraq would further destabilize the region.
  9. A world consensus did not exist for war.
  10. Allied relationships would be damaged.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Why Did the United States Go to War with Iraq?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, thoughtco.com/reasons-for-the-iraq-war-105472. Kelly, Martin. (2021, July 29). Why Did the United States Go to War with Iraq? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/reasons-for-the-iraq-war-105472 Kelly, Martin. "Why Did the United States Go to War with Iraq?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/reasons-for-the-iraq-war-105472 (accessed March 27, 2023).

Watch Now: Overview of Gulf War