The decision of the United States to wage war against Iraq in 2003 was one of the worst mistakes our country has ever made. Was Saddam Hussein a brutal dictator? Yes, but he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, and toppling his regime had profound consequences—bringing the deaths of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, promoting deep instability in the region, inflicting lasting damage on American credibility, and imposing enormous costs on American taxpayers.
Joining the Senate in 2013 as a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, I vowed to learn something from that mistake. My top priority is keeping Americans safe, which includes reducing the risk of unnecessary war and raising the likelihood of decisively winning any war we must fight. I owe that to the American public, and I owe it to our servicemembers.
I fear the United States is on the verge of blundering into another unnecessary war with Iraq’s next-door neighbor Iran. The same warning signs are on the horizon, and I hope we will turn back from the foolish path we seem to be taking.
The first warning sign is the Trump administration’s rejection of the prospect of diplomacy to reduce tensions. The U.S. led many nations in developing the 2015 comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, which contained in its first paragraph the affirmation that Iran would never “seek, develop or acquire” nuclear weapons. The agreement contained specific commitments, including an inspection protocol designed to make sure that Iran complied and clear consequences if it didn’t. Donald Trump’s administration has backed out of the deal, even though our allies and the chief international nuclear inspection agency have verified that Iran is in full compliance with it. With the U.S. out, Iran might back away from its commitments and restart its nuclear-weapons program. As the present struggle to curb a nuclear North Korea demonstrates, giving Iran an excuse to resume its program is foolishly dangerous.