Iraq and the Undiscovered Country

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a policy planner in the White House in the winter of 2002 and you're
examining the possibility of invading Iraq. All the best brains
from academia and government are gathered. Fevered days and nights
turn into weeks as the possibilities and policy prescriptions are
bandied about with abandon.

do we have sufficient combat strength to deliver a bodyblow to Saddam
that will deliver the Iraqi people from his grasp?"

if we divert forces from the Balkans mission and deploy Marine ground
forces in concert, we can."

are all the Arab nations onboard with an invasion when we militarily
occupy the country after our sure victory?

course, Sharon tells me the door is wide open."

are the intelligence assessments onboard and congruent with our
policy prescriptions?"

well, I would venture to say, well, uh . . . "

George, I'm glad our intelligence organizations are on top of things.
I'll have Bolton brief me later on the real deal."

These are imaginary extrapolations but probably capture the tenor
of the White House during the crucial planning phase for the "Operation
Iraqi Freedom" debacle. Read the Seymour
article in the New Yorker to get an idea of what the Administration
did to get its way despite the lack of evidence for Iraqi Weapons
of Mass Destruction (WMD). This, of course, was the initial pretense
to be followed by the clear and present danger pretext and the "Robert
Mugabe Citizen Hospitality Award"
nomination proffered
on Saddam by the Bush administration.

As fantastical as all this is, you have to wonder why a politically
savvy player like Bush would plunge his administration and its legacy
into what appears to be a suicidal foreign adventure in the Middle
East. Not simply a one-country conflict but a play at becoming the
regional hegemon in the Middle East as a prelude to the cementing
of an Imperial
as the dominating force on the globe. The Left rationalizes
this behavior as it always does by adopting paternal noises and
cranking up the propaganda box to sponsor government intervention
in every human transaction whether large or small. You'll note that
not even Dean,
the ghost of Henry
, wants to bring the troops home. The mainstream Right
(read neoconservative) accepted by the media, has pressed for a
Pax Americana as long as it has existed as a movement (which one
can date back to Leon
influence in the Communist Party). The prescient America
First movement in the 1930's was merely a blip on the American political
scene as the hideous colossus midwifed by Lincoln continued apace
through the next century and a half of American history. You cannot
point to a single Republican or Democrat Presidential candidate
who disagrees with this notion of empire in principle. You may point
to the rest (Libertarians, Greens, et al.) but America is and will
remain a one-party system for the foreseeable future.

Yet during what were most likely long and grueling planning sessions
did any inquiring minds speculate on the second and third order
effects of the invasion and subsequent occupation? Were alternative
readings of the Iraqi tealeaves permitted or was an orthodoxy of
accepted opinion already formed? Is there a formal methodology the
government employs to forecast worst-case scenarios and possible
futures that may lead to the opposite of what a foreign policy seeks?
The US Army employs a Military
Decisionmaking Process
that provides a fairly good template
but it is geared toward short-term mission accomplishment and rarely
examines post-conflict scenarios. The question remains: did the
best and the brightest not see any of this coming?

Few Possibilities

For instance, did the Turkish refusal to allow US forces egress
to Iraq give anyone a clue of Turkish intentions to potentially
annex Kurdish territory in the north once we stop paying attention?
Washington and Ankara reportedly clinched a deal in January 2001
to establish a Turkmen Republic in northern Iraq if the US decided
to force Saddam out. According to the Kurdish newspaper, Ozgur Politika,
the republic would kill two birds with one stone by blocking an
incipient Kurdish state and securing US-Turkish control over the
Kirkuk and Mosul oilfields. Will we now permit this to transpire?

The Shiite majority in Iraq may very well manage to create a new
Fundamentalist Muslim rump state in portions or all of Iraq. Will
the destruction of their households and indignities visited upon
them during the occupation ensure they will be warm and cordial
toward the United States once we're forced to leave?

Can the United States centrally plan and engineer the creation of
a new and peaceful Iraqi society from the ashes the US created in
the first place? History is not kind to the notion and failure is
more likely than success. Like the UN in the Balkans, the US will
tolerate the outcome of democratic institutions only if they are
in concert with American wishes and edicts. God help the Iraqis
with us in charge of writing their constitution.
If the Balkans is any measure of American efficacy, we are in for
a long and bloody journey.

Was the bombing campaign prior to the ground campaign really designed
to cripple the power grid and oil extraction/delivery system? Yet
another stunning example of Henry
wisdom and his parable about the "Broken Window
Fallacy" that so many neoconservative blowhards have ignored
at their peril to support the export of war. According to news reports,
we are now having to import dollars and know-how to rebuild the
oil infrastructure that was 90% of Iraq's GDP prior to our campaign.


These are just a few possibilities of unintended consequences and
second order effects. Many more both large and small will emerge
as the occupation matures. I certainly don't think all decisions
should be postponed or paralyzed at every level to ensure we have
all the answers. Those of us who embrace peaceful freedom know it's
a risky enterprise and we can never have all the knowledge. Of course,
the scales of complexity are much more vast at the level of the
Federal government and the knowledge
is that much worse. Government decisions, by their very
nature, especially in foreign policy, will always have unintended
consequences but the stakes are very different. As individuals,
we take decisions in which we have an interest for both failure
and success; politicians, by the nature of the structure they exist
in, are usually insulated from personal risk and many innocents
are put in the hazard by the politician's hubris. Politicians will
rarely allow common sense and logic to get in the way of progress.
With the exception of the ballot box, political actors rarely pay
for acts of stupidity or ignorance no matter how grave the offense.
Apart from assassination, they may simply find themselves out of
office and quickly moving into a lucrative position with a law or
lobby firm.

I haven't even touched on why we have embarked on the Iraq adventure.
The distance of time may be the only way to divine the true reason.
Rest assured, nothing will go as the Bush Administration planned.

29, 2003

Buppert [send him mail],
a retired Army officer, lives on a ranch in the Inland Northwest
with his wife and their three homeschooled children.


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