Every bad thing in America in the last 21 years can be traced to March 19, 2003.

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I am a big reader of alternative history. All alternative history stories and speculations start with a “point of departure” where the accurate timeline runs up to and then is deviated from to examine the alternate results.

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For the United States, our point of departure, where the country left the timeline for a productive future and descended into the current dreary time, is March 19, 2003. That’s the day we invaded Iraq.

I firmly believe that most of the current problems of the world and the United States can be directly traced to March 19, 2003. And March 19, 2003, can be directly traced to September 11, 2001. I am of the rock-solid belief that had there been no Iraq War, there would have been no Donald J. Trump threatening to tear up the Constitution, threatening a “bloodbath” if he loses, and threatening to end American Democracy as we know it.

Economically, our economy would have been in better shape because we would not have run up a massive deficit by fighting a war for which we refused to raise revenue. There is probably an argument to be made ( although it’s perhaps a stretch given the Bush administration’s love of tax cuts and feeding the wealthy) that we would have continued to maintain a balanced budget. We would have had more money to devote to our needs, and perhaps reforming health care might not have been so controversial.

Militarily, we would not have driven the armed forces into the ground with a crushing operations Tempo that kept Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen away from home for so many months. And we might have been able to focus on recapitalizing the services so that they could confront China and Russia, which did not have to fight a war on terror. And, of course, a lot of US personnel would still be alive today instead of buried in our military cemeteries.

Indeed, our politics would have been better. Without the extra push from the anti-war feeling in the US, Barack Obama might not have been elected President. That, in turn, would have meant no tea party and their level of stupidity, which in turn might not have led to the worthless people we now have in the US Congress. And no teabaggers certainly would have meant no Trump. He would have remained a failed real estate mogul who was also a rapist. Whether he would have had to face his various legal trials is a big question mark. But I am sure he would never have become President.

It also begs the question of whether the effort in Afghanistan would have been more successful. I doubt it because that would have presumed the Afghanis would have reformed themselves and their government. Maybe not.

And would there have been an Arab Spring? I’m not sure there would have been. Perhaps it would have still happened because of disgust with the dictatorial governments of the Middle East; then again, no Iraq War may have meant no spark to light that particular flame.

One thing is certain: many more Americans and others would be alive today. “The Watson Institute at Brown University calculated that 184,382 to 207,156 Iraqi civilians were directly killed in war-related violence between the start of the American invasion in March 2003 through October 2019. But the researchers suggest the real figure may be several times higher.”

There would have been no Islamic State, of that I am certain. It was a direct outgrowth of the insurgency in Iraq. No invasion, no insurgency.

And so on. The second, third, and fourth-order effects of the invasion of Iraq are many. I agree with Richard Haass when he wrote: “The Iraq War was a classic war of choice: the US did not have to fight it.”

Unfortunately, we did go to war in Iraq, and the consequences are still being felt in America and around the world. Now, 21 years later, we see the very nation of the United States facing the end of its democratic Republic as a result.

Our country deserved a better future than it got.

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