Would President Al Gore have invaded Iraq?

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Almost all of my liberal Democratic friends think the United States would have avoided the Iraq War if Al Gore had been elected President in 2000.   I’m not certain that is so.

Gore voted in favor of the 1991 authorization to use military force in Iraq.   Bill Clinton chose him as vice president partly because he had a reputation as a war hawk and had served honorably in Vietnam.   Gore chose another war hawk, Joe Lieberman, to be his running mate.

He and John Kerry criticized George W. Bush not on the grounds that the war was wrong, but that the war effort was being bungled.   The timing was wrong, more effort should have been made to get UN support, more should have been done to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Later on there was an argument that the U.S. should have focused more on Afghanistan rather than Iraq, or Afghanistan first and Iraq later.

But the argument for invading so-called rogue states was not questioned.  I don’t criticize them so much for that because that is what I, too, thought at the time.   I think that I, unlike them, have learned better now.

Here’s what why a political scientist named Frank Harvey thinks Al Gore would have supported the Iraq invasion.

  • Gore expressed strong support for returning inspectors in Iraq and undertaking robust inspections.
  • Gore and his advisers were hawkish on Iraq and regime change.
  • Like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, Gore was a liberal internationalist, quite comfortable using force to achieve humanitarian policy aims.
  • Gore had argued aggressively in favor of force in Iraq in 1991 and 1998, Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1998.
  • Gore believed war was legal based on earlier UN resolutions.
  • There were significant intelligence failures under Clinton and Gore.
  • Public opinion was strongly in favor of robust inspections and military action to support UN resolutions.
  • Gore would have obtained coalition support from at least the same allies and possibly others.
  • The divisions at the UN would have been substantially the same (U.S. and U.K. vs France, Russia and China).

Source: The Globe and Mail

I don’t claim to know what Gore would have done.   I do know that Bill Clinton campaigned on a promise to focus on the economy like a laser beam, that George W. Bush campaigned on a promise to pursue a more “humble” foreign policy and that Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to avoid “dumb wars,” and that they all become more warlike when they took office.

In the last election, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigned as militarists.

Would Gore have been different?   Maybe.  Maybe not.


Why Al Gore would have invaded Iraq (and what it tells us about Syria) by Andrew Steele for the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Why President Gore might have done into Iraq, too by Steve Kornacki for Salon.

Liberal Myths: Would Al Gore Have Invaded Iraq? by David Barouh for Counterpunch.  [Added Later]

The case that President Gore would have gone to war with Iraq on Alternate History Discussion.

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2 Responses to “Would President Al Gore have invaded Iraq?”

  1. Alex Says:

    I fear that you’re right, but I sure wish I’d gotten to live in the alternative universe where we get to find out. Because we already know how this one worked outt.


    • philebersole Says:

      The following is from Ken MacLeod’s The Execution Channel (2007), a science-fiction action thriller set in a near future in which the war on terror has gone horribly wrong.

      One of the characters speculates as to whether things would have been different if the 2000 U.S. elections had gone differently, and we realize the action is taking place in an alternate history.

      Everybody agrees that the 2000 election — or the November Coup, if you like — made a huge difference in American and the world. What nobody knows is who decided it. It wasn’t Bush or Gore or even the Florida Electoral Commission. It was some guy or gal in Florida who said no to a bunch of commies trying to get on the ballot.

      I’ve checked this out, and it turns out that the Workers World Party — that’s the commies — fell short of their ballot access requirements by just one signature. Boo hoo. But think about it. In any state, there’s always a few hundred pissed-off losers who’ll vote commie if they can, and Democrat if they can’t. If the WWP had run in Florida, they’d have pulled hundreds of votes from Gore — just enough to swing it for Bush.

      OK, so imagine Bush wins. In August 2001 Bush is in the White House. On August 6, he gets a President’s Daily Brief across his desk headed “Bin Laden determined to strike in the US”. […] Would he have turned around and ordered a cruise missile strike on Afghanistan?

      Like hell he would. He’s like his daddy, an oil man and a spook man. He would’ve worked through the FBI, CIA and the mukhabarats — the Arab secret police forces, nasty pieces of work but basically on-side against radical Islamicists — to track down Al Qaeda. He would’ve gotten the oil majors to lean on the Taliban, say with the Unocal pipeline deal, to turn over Osama bin Laden.

      Whatever. There’s no fucking way he’d have followed in Clinton’s footsteps.

      But Gore did. His cruise-missile strike killed Bin Laden, dozens of other AQ sand nazis and hundreds of innocent Afghans. Whatever Bin Laden was planning, it couldn’t have been anything like as crazy and over the top as what was provided by the sheer fucking outrage Gore’s assault on Afghanistan aroused.

      It was a gift to the sand nazis — suddenly they’ve got a martyr, a Che Guevara figure and they got a huge base among ordinary Muslims. Can you imagine the 9/11 attacks happening without that? I can’t.Without 9/11, Gore couldn’t have attacked Afghanistan again, then invaded Iraq, then taken out the Iranian nuke program. Without the Iranian attack, no oil spike, no world slump, no Chinese export crisis, no worker-peasant upheaval, […] no Straits Incident, no PRC slo-mo break-up, […] and so it goes on, right on down to the totally fucked-up mess we’re in today.

      That’s just science fiction, of course. Not evidence of anything.


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