What if the US Hadn’t Invaded Iraq – a Counterfactual

If Bush hadn’t decided to invade Iraq, what would things look like now?

1. Would the situation in Afghanistan be stable? Perhaps. More US troops might have made a difference. But NATO troops clearly are not enough to turn the tide, and their equipment is the same as ours. Their leadership is essentially the same – the US in the end calls the shots.

One big problem in Afghanistan today is that there still don’t seem to be any real disincentives to elements in Pakistan that want to help the Taliban or Al Qaeda, or to Saudis that want to send them money. Why would things be any different if there had been no invasion of Iraq?

2. Spending. The cost of the war in Iraq would go away, or at least drop to the containment levels from before the invasion. What about the rest of the Federal spending? Probably no change. Outlays increased from 18.4% of GDP in 2000 to 18.5% of GDP in 2001 and 19.4% of GDP in 2002. Thereafter, they’ve been at about 20% or higher. Tax cuts… no change. Thus, Iraq probably hasn’t had a huge effect on the short term health of the economy.

3. Islamic fundamentalism. There weren’t many in Iraq before this mess. Maybe some Iraqis have allied themselves with fundamentalists (the enemy of my enemy), and perhaps the US invasion has created a few. Its hard to see how invading Iraq weakened the Islamofascists or whatever the term of art is these days on the right wing blogs.

4. Other big enemies. Remember how China used to be a strategic competitor or some such according to GW? And remember what happened when GW tangled with them? Basically, the Chinese military got a US spy plane for a month to take apart and rebuild, and GW got to apologize to them. Imagine if GW had continued to focus on China all this time. Imagine what the PLA could do to the military under that man’s leadership given what’s happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. So perhaps its a good thing

5. Corruption. Would there be any fewer Karl Roves or Alberto Gonzalez or Claude Allens? I don’t think so.