The 3-Step Guide for Tricking America into a War
Moreover, it was often added that democracy was supposedly concomitant with an affinity for Americans. “In two countries, Iraq and Iran, where the regimes are strongly anti-American, there are democratic oppositions capable of taking over and forming governments,” Lewis explained in 2003. “We, in what we like to call the free world, could do much to help them, and have done little.” After President Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary Pompeo was keen to explain that the United States will “advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people.” Recent protests, he added, should be understood not as calls for reform but rather as cries for revolution, for “liberty,” he said. Commentators, too, are already cajoling the president to “fight for Iranian freedom.”
Third, the White House and its regime-change advocates emphasized that the Iraq war would be, well, a lark. It would be an easy and achievable adventure at minimal cost. It would be "a cakewalk." After all, it was said, America avoided quagmires and fiascos in the Middle East and could still do so while forcing regime change. As Lewis again explained 2003, “if one compares the record of American policy in the Middle East with that of other regions, one is struck not by its failure but by its success. There is, after all, no Vietnam in the Middle East, no Cuba or Nicaragua or El Salvador, not even an Angola.” It’s hard to make that argument now, of course, but has the lesson been learned? Unfortunately, today, despite all evidence since to the contrary, there remains no shortage of voices ready to speak to the ease with which a nation might be invaded and occupied by the United States.
What we should learn from Iraq is that there’s a tried-and-true recipe for beguiling the United States into war; link every irritation directly to the adversary, assert robust local support for the invasion and claim the whole conflict will be a lark. In short, link, local, lark. While the reasons why America went to war in 2003 are many and varied, the main three are encapsulated in this trio and serve as both a formula for those who want war and a warning to those who wish to avoid it.
John Richard Cookson is a non-resident fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.