Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What Sort of People Opposed the Invasion of Iraq?

It conceivably might have gone better in Iraq, and very well could have, if not for a series of disastrously arrogant and incompetent mistakes by members of the Bush team. But the premise of most people I interviewed before the war, who mostly had either a military background or extensive experience in the Middle East, was that this would be very hard, and would hold a myriad of bad surprises, and was almost certain to go worse than its proponents were saying. Therefore, they said, the United States should do everything possible to avoid invading unless it had absolutely no choice. Wars should be only of necessity. This would be folly, they said, and a war of choice.

The way I thought of the difference between those confidently urging on the war, and those carefully cautioning against it, was: cast of mind. The majority of people I spoke with expressed a bias against military actions that could never be undone, and whose consequences could last for generations. I also thought of it as a capacity for tragic imagination, of envisioning what could go wrong as vividly as one might dream of what could go right.

3 comments:

Thomas said...

After Abu Graib, I read that some people in the administration were calling the Americans there the "five people who lost the Iraq War," or some such inflated claim.

If five soldiers acting stupid and evil in war can so unbalance your plan, your plan wasn't good. They needed to supervise people tightly if success was such a narrow path. By Believing that it was easy, they didn't supervise the effort as well as they needed.

G. Verloren said...

@Thomas

The flaw from the very beginning was that there was no plan whatsoever on what to do with either country once military occupation was established. There was no real way to "win" the wars, because they had no attainable objectives past occupation.

And so in both wars so we just sort of... sat around in a power vacuum, waiting for the flimsy illegitimate puppet governments we installed to magically become strong, legitimate, and representative governments of the people. Of course, it certainly didn't help that both countries were in shambles, with infrastructure bombed to hell, and we hadn't planned on doing anything to fix it.

And so we just sent out our humvees on patrol every day, and the various local factions and warlords kept taking potshots at us and disappearing into the hills, and nothing got fixed, and no one was in charge, and the weak puppet governments persisted in being useless and corrupt, and nothing ever changed. And things are still in shamble today because of it.

The complete lack of foresight is astonishing, as is the total disregard for history. When you roll into a country and destroy it, it becomes a hotbed of conflict that lasts until someone manages to pick up the pieces and put them back together. You either need to hand over administration to someone both willing and capable of rebuilding and maintaining order, or you have to do it yourself.

When we toppled the Nazi regime in Germany and the Imperial Regime in Japan, we didn't just sit around and carry out an endless occupation while hoping for the countries to magically stabilize themselves. There was no one locally who we could hand power over to and trust to rebuild, so we had to dig our heels in and do the rebuilding ourselves. We poured vast amounts of money and resources into raising those countries back up out of the ashes and rubble, because we knew that if we didn't they'd never stabilize on their own.

If we really wanted to topple these regimes, we needed plans in place for rebuilding afterwards. But we never even considered such plans, we just rushed into a fight that had no realistic victory conditions, and we've been paying monumentally for that glaring mistake ever since.

David said...

They certainly messed up the occupation, no question. But I doubt there was any way the occupation could have been done "right." The challenges were enormous, almost insurmountable, but the fundamental flaw, as I see it, was that the tolerance of the American people for that scale of challenge, given the invasion's exiguous and largely theoretical motivation, was paper thin.