6 Ways Syria 2013 Isn’t Iraq 2003

A ‘Coalition of the Willing’ to deal with WMDs may sound familiar, but these two plots are vastly different

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From left: former President George W. Bush and U.S. President Barack Obama attend a memorial for the victims of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on July 2, 2013.
Jason Reed / Reuters

From left: former President George W. Bush and U.S. President Barack Obama attend a memorial for the victims of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on July 2, 2013.

An American president says a Middle Eastern country has weapons of mass destruction. He builds a “coalition of the willing” for a military strike against said country.

Sound familiar?

It could be President Barack Obama in 2013 or President George W. Bush in 2003, or so fear liberal Democrats leery of getting involved in yet another war in the Middle East.

“While the use of chemical weapons is deeply troubling and unacceptable, I believe there is no military solution to the complex Syrian crisis,” Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who famously was the only member to vote against authorizing the war in Afghanistan, said Tuesday in a statement on her Facebook page. “Congress needs to have a full debate before the United States commits to any military force in Syria — or elsewhere.”

But Obama, who ran on a platform in 2008 of ending Bush’s wars in the Middle East, isn’t Bush, and there are important distinctions between the two scenarios. Here are six ways Syria 2013 isn’t Iraq 2003:

Regime change

Bush made no secret that his plan was to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. This time around, the Obama administration is taking pains to say that ousting Syrian strongman Bashar Assad is the last thing they want as it would only create a power vacuum the disorganized Syrian opposition isn’t ready to fill. “I want to make clear that the options that we are considering are not about regime change,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday. “They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”

A limited engagement

U.S. officials are looking at a two-day, limited strike on Syria, which would not involve any American boots on the ground — compared to the 130,000 U.S. troops Bush had already mustered on Iraq’s borders by the time he declared his intentions to the public. The purpose in Syria is to punish Assad so that he knows he cannot use chemical weapons against his own people with impunity. Striking the weapons themselves could potentially create too much collateral damage, so Syrian military sites are being selected. Whereas Bush envisioned five months in Iraq — which turned into 10 years — Obama hopes his engagement will be counted in days, not weeks.

Arab support

Most of the Arab world opposed Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The entire Arab League except Kuwait condemned the war. And Turkey denied the U.S. use of its military bases. This time around, most of the Arab world, with the exceptions of Iraq and Lebanon, supports strikes against Assad, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey are in talks to potentially participate in the military operation.

European support

Remember Freedom Fries? France and much of Europe weren’t wild about going to war in Iraq. France is now spearheading the effort to oust Assad, although Germany and southern Europe remain skeptical of military involvement. Britain, of course, was as much on board with Iraq in 2003 as it is with Syria in 2013.

WMDs

This time, there’s next to no doubt they actually exist. The pretense for the war in Iraq was disproven: Hussein’s alleged WMD stockpiles were never found. In this case, the international community has, with the exception of Russia and Iran, accepted and condemned the use of chemical gas in Syria last week that killed as many as 1,300 people.

Congress

Bush asked for and received overwhelming permission and support from Congress to invade Iraq. When asked, Carney  on Tuesday said Syria poses a “significant challenge to or threat to the United States’ national security interests.” The language is important, as the president must seek permission from Congress to go to war unless the U.S. is imminently threatened. So, Carney’s careful categorization would seem to indicate that no matter what Lee wants — she sent a letter with 20 of her colleagues asking Obama seek permission from Congress to engage in Syria— he likely will go this alone as he did Libya.

Maybe Obama should allow the debate in Congress. It’d be a headache, for sure, and the posturing could last longer than the intervention itself, but it might also reassure nervous members like Lee who worry Obama is getting the U.S. into another decade-long war in the Middle East. And given U.S. polls showing huge opposition to engagement in Syria, it might help assuage the American public as well.

455 comments
JakKovacik
JakKovacik

the War Profiteers that are pushing this war on President Obama and the People cite bet365 bonus negative evidence to reach the desired result, i.e., just because the "opposition" is determined to be "incapable" of using chemical weapons in Syria hardly "proves" that it was. http://bonusz-online.com

dwb
dwb

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

dwb
dwb

"We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S.Constitution and Laws, to take necessary actions, (including, if appropriate,
air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction
programs."
Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998

LiberalActionNY
LiberalActionNY

@syllaraps You are trying to change the subject. The fact is that this war will kill hundreds of thousands of Syrians

GarfieldGordon
GarfieldGordon

Most of the Arab world is in favor of the US' striking of Syria, what planet is this author from?? Jordan said clearly they are not participating and is against the strike, Lebanon is against it, Iran - we know already, they actually threatened to strike Israel in retaliation, Iraq - against, Yemen not weighing in, Egypt probably not weighing in, not with the huge problems of their own that they currently experience there, due greatly to the inept Obama administration policy in the region, Saudi Arabia is obviously looking to negotiate a deal with Putin and won't participate. Then on the side of the traditional allies, Britain is a no, Germany a no, Italy a no, Canada a no, he's got absolutey nobody of import on his side, bragging that he has the French on his side is a joke of monumental proportions :), seriously, is that what we are left with, the French support???:)...This president is really the laughing stock of the world. Most importantly this giant clusterfark in the making that the Syria attack is, wouldn't pass our own Congress in a million of years, had he the respect for our Constitution that requires to actually go to Congress to ask for permission to wage a new war. But thank God the Pentagon doesn't have the money, so sooner or later he will have to go to Congress to ask for money for this missguided 'kinetic military operation' or whatever else his minions will call it, and then hopefully he'll get a resounding no and no funding for this utter idiocy that intervening in Syria is. Gawd, Sometimes Time reads like Pravda, really.

YouDaManTiger
YouDaManTiger

The most important difference for the author of this piece is the one he didn't mention. The President in 2003 had an 'R' after his name.

Marcus_Porcius
Marcus_Porcius

"Britain, of course, was as much on board with Iraq in 2003 as it is with Syria in 2013."  

Except that the British just voted NOT to attack Syria, but sent 45,000 troops to help invade Iraq.

"The pretense for the war in Iraq was disproven: Hussein’s alleged WMD stockpiles were never found. In this case, the international community has, with the exception of Russia and Iran, accepted and condemned the use of chemical gas in Syria last week that killed as many as 1,300 people."  

Except that the Syrian weapons CAME from Iraq, and Saddam used his to wipe out an entire village with them.

"So, Carney’s careful categorization would seem to indicate that no matter what Lee wants — she sent a letter with 20 of her colleagues asking Obama seek permission from Congress to engage in Syria— he likely will go this alone as he did Libya."

In other words, for all of the Bush "go it alone" criticism, Bush never actually did go it alone.  But Obama does, and you libs are turning yourselves into pretzels to justify it.

I've said it once and I'll say it again...liberals have no morality, no intellectual honesty, and all history to a liberal is revisionist.

PiusOP
PiusOP

@freddoso Oops: "Britain, of course, was as much on board with Iraq in 2003 as it is with Syria in 2013."

outspoken
outspoken

The  problem  is that  this  WAR  will not  be  limited.  Now   a people want unlimited. Like unlimited  talking   and  texting  and  data.

kiwigixxer
kiwigixxer

This article is garbage. Here are two of your 'differences' shot down for a start:

1. There is no 'Arab support' for an attack. The 22-member Arab League has expressly opposed any military action.

2. As several commenters have touched on, Iraq HAD chemical weapons. Saddam's regime killed hundreds of Iraqi nationals in Halabja. When the war started there was every reason to believe they still had them, and use on their own people - Kurds, Shia or others - was part of the case for action. 

BrettGiblin
BrettGiblin

The problem is that these Chemical weapons came from Iraq.

drudown
drudown

From the US taxpayers' standpoint, Iraq and Syria are IDENTICAL.

We have elected officials that have a FIDUCIARY DUTY to serve the best interests of the People at HOME purporting to "justify" military action that essentially is enforcing a Police Power ABROAD.

Notably, the War Profiteers that are pushing this war on President Obama and the People cite negative evidence to reach the desired result, i.e., just because the "opposition" is determined to be "incapable" of using chemical weapons in Syria hardly "proves" that it was, in fact, the Syrian regime. It could have been perpetrated by a neighboring State that wants instability in Syria out of pure self-interest or simply a party with billions and billions of no-bid contracts that provide adequate incentive.

Greed is greed is greed.

This "precedent" that, what, if chemical weapons are used in any sovereign the US "has to invade" creates a self-evident incentive for market players in the Defense Industry to simply provide such chemical weapons to one or more persons.

Presto!

It's Iraq redux and- lo and behold!- now the GOP can move to (what else) "impeach Obama" for not taking the requisite steps to "declare war" on a sovereign that is, in the end, utterly harmless to the People of the United States. Similar to the GOP "let's 'out and criticize' our OWN drone policy", here the GOP just wants to create problems for the US so it can try to win in November. Sad, really.

And, in doing so, the GOP thinks the People are, what, going to "forgive" Bush for WASTING $4 trillion in Iraq because- lo and behold- there are WMDs in Syria?

Fiscal waste is fiscal waste is fiscal waste.

Notably, the "unrest" in Syria magically keeps the Defense Contractors in Iraq even longer because (the argument goes) the "WMD theory" has supplanted our nation's precedent over military conflict.

What a farce. Stop handing over OUR tax revenue to Arabs under the aegis of "defeating imaginary evildoers", i.e., there are NO just sides in a civil war.

"You are telling me..." -Syrian soldier with heart eaten by Syrian opposition fighter

MelADavis
MelADavis

But, in every other way it is just like Iraq 2003.  Either way, it's not our job to police the world.  That is the business of the UN.  We need to stay out of it, unless as part of a UN force. 

EastarielNoneofyo-bizniss
EastarielNoneofyo-bizniss

yes we did find the wmd in Iraq! it was saddam hussein. that dementor saddam spent too much time gazing at the dust bunnies in his belly button -- the only critters who wanted to mate with him.

not only was that soul-sucking saddam the worst wmd this world has ever had to endure, but that terrorist saddam also had his trigger finger on his own belly button, ready to detonate us all to dust-bunny doomsville. 

duh1967
duh1967

Yes Saddam used chemical weapons originally supplied to him by the US when Bush elder was head of the CIA. He was supposed to use it "only" on the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war (which he did). When Saddam used it on his own countrymen later on he was condemned and UN inspectors found and destroyed the weapons and facilities to make them. But remember who gave Saddam his WMDs in the first place.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

WMDs

This time, there’s next to no doubt they actually exist



SADDAM USED WMD'S ON HIS OWN PEOPLE IN 1988.  QUIT ACTING LIKE HE DIDN"T

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Why 2013 isnt 2003 is because in 2013 we have an indecisive ditherer posing as Commander in Chief instead of the more respected one we had in 2003. Nobody even mentioned it but Obama never did had a press conference or any sort of message to the American people when he is about to embark on another war. Instead he hides behind other people trousers. He avoids responsibility like a plague. Bush would face the challenge head on not this Fraud posing as President.


destor23
destor23

"Maybe Obama should allow the debate in Congress. It’d be a headache, for sure, and the posturing could last longer than the intervention itself, but it might also reassure nervous members like Lee who worry Obama is getting the U.S. into another decade-long war in the Middle East. And given U.S. polls showing huge opposition to engagement in Syria, it might help assuage the American public as well."

You write about this as if going to Congress is nothing but marketing for something that will be done in any event, whether the public likes it or not.  How about he goes to Congress, we have a real debate and the White House acts or doesn't based on the conclusion of the debate and a up or down vote from both houses?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@kiwigixxer Except for the fact that the inspectors on the ground clearly stated that Iraq no longer had those weapons. Which were given to them by Reagan in the first place

EricStoner
EricStoner

@duh1967 For all we know, that's what Benghazi is all about but we can't get answers there can we? In the future I think I'll just state it a fact like you do.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@duh1967 DUH. Do you honestly believe the Iraqis are not capable of producing chemical weapons on their own ? If some can make anthrax in their own homes, how hard is it for Iraq with its billions of petrodollars to hire some rogue scientist to teach them ? Are you so dense that you could not see it ? DUH. Just like Obama you keep blaming others for his incompetence.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ReneDemonteverde Responsible? How responsible was it to avoid dozens of CIA warnings of an impending attack on the US and then proceed to invade a country that never attacked us?

jilli.brown
jilli.brown

@destor23  "How about he goes to Congress, we have a real debate and the White House acts or doesn't based on the conclusion of the debate and a up or down vote from both houses?"

 Have you taken a look at our Congress lately? They can barely name post offices!  I agree with PaulDirks - the republicans don't want this to go before congress - it will further illustrate the chaos reigning in the republican congress.  I believe they also want Obama to make the decision so they can continue to fleece their rubes with their impeachment hooey.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@destor23 Of course the truth of the matte is that Boehner doesn't WANT Obama to go to Congress, because it will widen the 'Tea Party vs Neocon" rift that's already making his job impossible.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@Jon_in_AZ @Realworldnonfantasyland Kid under the age of 18 shoots someone with a gun and kills them, goes to jail until he's 21, says he gets rid of his gun, you get intel that he's up to no good.  Your response " well he said he got rid of his gun, everything is alright"

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mantisdragon91 @ReneDemonteverde As usual you get your history wrong Mantis. But just like waking a person who wants to sleep by pretending, you are in that situation. George Tenet, Bill Clinton CIA director was the one who brought up the WMDs meme in Iraq. Under Bill Clinton administration was when the terrorists started their flight schooling, when Al Qaeda started their camp in Afghanistan, Sudan offered bin Laden to Clinton which he refused, Clinton also aborted the assassination of bin Laden among many things.

destor23
destor23

@PaulDirks I suspect that both parties in Congress are happy to have long ago given up their Constitutional responsibility for America's war-making.  

jmac
jmac

@Realworldnonfantasyland @Jon_in_AZ  Realword -not.   Using an excuse that's fourteen years old is not an reason to invade a country.  Cheney was sucking up to Saddam (shaking the man's hand) long after Saddam used chemical weapons, but Cheney and Bush were willing to use that as an excuse to invade because they had no reason to invade except regime change, which both Bush and his wife admitted in their bio's - it wasn't about chemical weapons OR the ability to make a nuclear bomb (joked about by Bush) - it was about getting rid of a petty tyrant who had nothing to do with 9/ll.   

arhendricks
arhendricks

@Realworldnonfantasyland @mantisdragon91 

There was no public support for the U.S. getting involved in another war in Europe.  It wasn't until Pearl Harbor and Germany siding with Japan, that American public opinion changed.  

There's *NO* compelling reason for us to get in the middle of the mess in Syria...

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@mantisdragon91 @Realworldnonfantasyland   Yea,  FDR let Hilter take over France and Britain despite their BEGGING for US to help them, even just with help from our Warships not even soldiers and FDR sat there and let him take over half the continent.  And once he was in too deep then he had to step in and flex the US muscle and end a war but instead of a smaller area they had to go through more space, causing more civilian death throughout all of Europe. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Realworldnonfantasyland @mantisdragon91  

GWB is no FDR. And many Iraqis would have preferred Saddam over what we gave them. Hundreds of thousands dead, destruction of their electrical grid, looting of their museums and a country on the verge of collapse.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@mantisdragon91 @Realworldnonfantasyland Gotchya, Alright well I guess the Iraqi people were better off with him in office since he wasn't dangerous to them or anything.  Dubbleya would've been better acting like FDR and letting somebody who killed his own people because of their ethnicity, killed leaders who opposed him,  said he wanted to take over the middle east.  That worked for FDR and becoming a hero with monuments of him in D.C.  Even though it was a must and told that Hitler need to be wiped out for doing the same thing, we sat on our butts and did nothing and how many more people had to die from that