I would argue that Operation Iraqi Freedom was inevitable. The Saddam Regime had it coming for over a decade. In 1991 George H. W. Bush protected Kuwait, one of our allies in the Middle East, from Saddam Hussein’s irrational and preemptive invasion. The war lasted 100 hours and was unequivocal in its success. Critics however questioned why the President did not go into the heart of Iraq and overthrow the megalomaniacal and brutal dictator. Many inside and outside of the United States government believed the opportunity had slipped away and the world was a more dangerous place with him in power.
Since 1991, a host of UN resolutions were passed in an attempt to protect Kuwait from another Iraqi invasion and to prevent Saddam Hussein and the Baathist regime from acquiring nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Saddam’s defiance of Resolution 687 was one of the justifications utilized by George W. Bush for another US invasion. In a post 9/11 world and without the benefit of hindsight, who could disagree with this position?
Before the invasion in 2003, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton used humanitarian assistance and no fly zones without a full blown war against Saddam. Saddam routinely obstructed, harassed, and even trespassed the inspectors from doing their jobs. In 1994 the Iraqi Army began mobilizing units near the Kuwait border, causing the deployment of 54,000 US troops to Kuwait to repel a potential attack. Both in 1994 and 1998 Iraqi antiaircraft batteries fired at US warplanes policing the no fly-zones. Firing at American aircraft enforcing UN resolutions with regard to no fly-zones in and of itself is an act of war.
In addition Saddam Hussein invaded two sovereign countries in eleven years (1980 Iran and 1991 Kuwait), thus losing its own legitimacy as a sovereign nation. Not to mention Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against his own people, killing over 5,000 Kurdish people in a single day. Moreover, the United States passed the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 under President Clinton. The resolution passed directed the President of the United States as commander in chief to overthrow Saddam Hussein and nurture a free and democratic Iraq.
As a side note, I do not believe fighting the Jihadists in Iraq created Jihadists themselves. This logic is known as “blowback,” but is inherently flawed.