The Atlantic

Did Iraq Ever Become A Just War?

As its contours evolved, the morality of fighting it did too.
Source: Larry Downing / Reuters

The week of the 15th anniversary of the Iraq War is ending. If past anniversaries are any guide, as that period closes, so will end the brief moment of reflection on the causes and consequences of the war—the mistakes that led to it and the damage that followed. All these years later, we’re still grappling with how it began, but that shouldn’t overshadow questions about how the justice of the cause evolved over the years that followed.  

Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq in the first year of the war, of his dismay at its tortured beginning. He sympathized with the moral case for removing a bloodthirsty dictator. But, as he watched the war’s execution, he “developed what will probably be a lifelong suspicion of any moral justifications for initiating a conflict,” he wrote. And yet Exum came back to Iraq years later, as a senior government official working on

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