23 Reasons for the War

William Raspberry reports that Devon Largio, a new graduate of the University of Illinois who will attend Vanderbilt Law School in the fall, had an interesting senior honors thesis: “Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress and the Media from September 12, 2001, to October 11, 2002.” After an exhaustive search through “official documents, speeches and transcripts of Sunday talk shows,” she uncovered 23 distinct arguments for the war, some of which receded over time as others emerged. Rasberry quips,

It’s tempting to take liberties with the famous “Dr. Fell” verse of English satirist Tom Brown:

I must blast Saddam to Hell.

The reason why, I cannot tell.

But this I know, and know full well,

I must blast Saddam to Hell.

Heh. I would note that, had blasting Saddam to Hell been our sole war aim, we’d have been out of Iraq over a year ago and George W. Bush would be en route to winning re-election by virtual acclamation.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bill K says:

    I don’t know, perhaps that would make the American public focus more on the domestic problems. Or, the left would just pound him for abandoning the Iraqi people. Regardless of what he did, I don’t think the left would allow him to coast to re-election

  2. Actually, the number is 27:

    “Bush administration has used 27 rationales for war in Iraq, study says”

  3. McGehee says:

    To hear the way his detractors tell it, he only ever had one rationale: WMDs.