• Iraq and the Undiscovered Country

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    You're
    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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Great,
    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
    Hersh
    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
    America
    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
    Wallace
    , 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
    Trotsky's
    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?

    A
    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
    Hazlitt's
    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.

    Conclusion

    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
    problem
    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.

    October
    29, 2003

    William
    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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