Thomas Friedman, one of the few opponents of the Iraq war who maintained a cogent argument on the issue, now thinks the war was worth fighting–even if we don’t find weapons of mass destruction:

As far as I’m concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war. That skull, and the thousands more that will be unearthed, are enough for me. Mr. Bush doesn’t owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons (even if it turns out that the White House hyped this issue). It is clear that in ending Saddam’s tyranny, a huge human engine for mass destruction has been broken. The thing about Saddam’s reign is that when you look at that skull, you don’t even know what period it came from–his suppression of the Kurds or the Shiites, his insane wars with Iran and Kuwait, or just his daily brutality.

Whether you were for or against this war, whether you preferred that the war be done with the U.N.’s approval or without it, you have to feel good that right has triumphed over wrong. America did the right thing here. It toppled one of the most evil regimes on the face of the earth, and I don’t think we know even a fraction of how deep that evil went. Fair-minded people have to acknowledge that. Who cares if we now find some buried barrels of poison? Do they carry more moral weight than those buried skulls? No way.

An amazing concession. He remains skeptical of the chances of a democratic aftermath and continues to oppose Bush’s domestic policy. But his ability to divorce his politics from his analysis, at least on foreign policy, makes his columns a must-read regardless of one’s ideology.

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. joy says:

    I’m not impressed with this column because I see it as yet another indication that the goalposts have moved and Bush *must* meet this new goal or his opponents *won’t* be pleased with him. Tsk, Tsk. In other words, the opponents of the war can’t argue that Bush has done wrong in the light of the overwhelming evidence that evil (WMD or not) was finally eradicated. So now, they are going to choose another issue to criticize.

    It just seems that for some people, no matter what Bush does, they have this incorrigible mandate to oppose him. Bush does X, we must advocate Z.

  2. PoliBlogger says:

    Actually, to be fair to Friedman, he was in favor of the war, just highly cirtical of the President’s diplomacy going into it.

  3. James Joyner says:

    The Friedman archives are all pay-per-view. Searching for him on OTB, though, gives me the impression that he supported the goals of the war but was reticent on the war itself until it actually got underway. He was a big “give sanctions more time” and “we need the UN” guy. I thought those were reasonable stances to take but, de facto, anti-war since following that advice would mean both Hans Blix and Saddam would still be in Baghdad.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Joy, I guess I’m reading Friedman’s piece differently. Clearly, the announced goals were 1) to rid Iraq of WMD, 2) regime change and 3) democraticizing Iraq–a corally to 2, but not the same. So far, we’ve only achieved regime change which, to me, was the most important goal. But I think we’ll look mighty stupid if we don’t find WMD–although I’m still pretty sure that’s just a matter of time.

    Like his dad, GWB has himself moved the goalposts. We won the first Gulf War but, because we kept talking about how evil Saddam was, simply getting him out of Kuwait ceased to be adequate; leaving him in power made that war a perceived failure. Likewise, I think GWB should have soft peddled democracy in Iraq. Now, that pretty much has to be achieved or else the war won’t be a full success, as impressive as the military campaign was.

  5. PoliBlogger says:

    I did the same thing at PoliBlog. I couldn’t find a definitive quote, but distinctly recall that he was in favor of the basic idea (and indeed, the basic policy), though he considered it a “roll of the dice”–indeed, I distinctly recall a portion of one column where he said that he and his wife differed on the war–she was firmaly oppossed.

  6. James Joyner says:

    The best I could gather without re-reading all the columns in depth was that he was willing to give inspections/diplomacy more time but supported the goals and thought most of the anti-war crowd were being disengenous. And it does seem like he became more pro-war as time went on.