In one sense, Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were also weapons of mass distraction. Without doubt, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair believed that Saddam Hussein either had, or had the wherewithal to produce, such weapons when they decided for pre-emptive war. In the case of Iraq, there was particular fear of chemical and biological weapons.
But WMD were not the only motive for war. Both leaders were outraged about a murderous dictator and hoped that toppling him would open the door for democracy in Iraq. This (they hoped) would automatically bring about a degree of stability that would help resolve other conflicts in the region, and also guarantee the uninterrupted flow of oil.
Mixed motives are not necessarily bad motives. In fact, most human motives are mixed. The real question is whether democracy could really have done the trick, and then, whether missiles and tanks are the right method to bring democracy to a country that has suffered dictatorial rule for a long period of time.
Historical precedents played a part in the Iraq decision, not least because President Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, cited them often. One example is Nazi Germany. To be sure, the Allies did not enter that war to bring democracy to Germany. In any case, Germany started the war. The Allies defended those to whom they were bound by treaty, and then the integrity of their own countries.