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How could Iraq have been handled successfully?


Pangloss
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Presumption (circa 2003) for the sake of argument: The US is going to invade Iraq, and you are charged with the responsibility of making that happen. There is no debate, you simply get to carry out the broad order of "invade this nation, topple its government, and construct a new democracy in its place".

 

Question: How do you do it?

 

I wouldn't have done anything differently other than secure a clear status of forces agreement wherein the Iraqi government publicly acknowledges the freedom of the Multinational Force to act, with or without consultation, in their territory, against any and all armed parties.

 

Specifically, what steps do you take? What actions do you perform differently from how the US/UK actually did things? How, in a nutshell, do you prevent the onset of the situation we have today?

 

I imagine the alternatives, including not invading, could and probably would be much worse. In the end, the United States and its coalition partners took down a regime in a month, built a native, republican political system in a year, and have brought the three holdout governates to the to political table in three. It doesn't get much rosier than that, at least not in Iraq.

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Now we're finally getting to the heart of the thread! :)

 

Sisyphus you may well be right, but let me ask you this: What specific plans would you have made?

 

The statement that "no planning was done" may be an exaggeration. I'm not at all convinced that it is. I suppose it's fair to say some technical/paper planning was done, but it's a very good and very real question as to whether a comprehensive and intelligent plan existed at the end of the initial fighting phase of the war.

 

It most certainly is an exaggeration. There was a good amount of Phase IV planning done. There's been over a decade worth of it. What everybody's talking about is the 2002-3 workup of contingency planning. There was a clear emphasis on Phase II and III planning (which was the more immediate concern). That that's the problem, you're always going to find somebody who thinks that a certain part of the planning process got short shrift, especially when results fall short of some people's expectations. On top of that, you're going to find people who'll chalk anything up to poor planning if conditions on the ground (especially those at the end of April 2003) compel decisionmakers to revisit their plans and make changes. Of course, it didn't help that nobody really took a look at how to insulate domestic politics from these revisions--but then again that's a problem American war planners have had for decades since real time mass media became a feature of the battlefield.

 

But I think we also have to dig deeper than that. Assuming for the the moment that the answer to that question is "no such planning was done", then the question arises: What could such planning have accomplished, were it done, and done perfectly?

 

It might help to actually look at what OIF Phase IV looked like in the first place. This is harder than it seems because interagency contingency planning rarely produces overarching documents we can readily examine for the big picture. More often than not, you're going to be sifting through a lot of white paper-like content from State, Energy, Commerce, and all the various agencies of the DoD.

 

I think that this is a legitimate, non-partisan, and important question. In fact it may be the most important question of the entire war.

 

I'd say it's the most important question of the public debate on the war; this probably one of the most vacuous political wartime environments in American history. And it's not due to a lack of information, but simply a flood of it not publically organized in a way that independent analysts, media, and the average citizen can parse. There may even be a generational component to it (we're twenty years from the rich strategic studies debates at the end of the Cold War). It's gotten so bad that pretty much every talking head in Washington is bullshitting their way through the topic. And it doesn't help when you have 535 would-be Presidents seizing on any little chart, study, poll or other tangent and claiming it represents the definitive message of the war.

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This might sound crazy, but maybe crazy enough to work.

 

I think that if we played some kind of a tactical game with the people in the area we would cause a big enough distraction to possible slow or stop the fighting.

 

For example, create a gimic that mocks the coming of a messiah, or drop some fabricated holy item in the desert where it could be found, with a message on it from god.

 

If you can't think like the enemy or get on their level you can not understand them.

 

Other tactics would be of building Giant bullet proof glass rooms and drop them off in populated areas of the city, where, a group of 'masked of course' people could communicate understanding and teachings.

 

I theorize all problems can be broken down into simple basic truths. If you find these basic truths, you can understand why the mass carade -that billows out of the basic issue- is occuring.

 

Either that or we can continue killing and ignorance for another thousand years.

 

Problems are an inivation to find a new and higher way of thinking!

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I think mass bombings of pot and cheeseburgers would work better. These people spend all of their time obsessed with death and religion - take life so damn seriously that they don't spend any time living it. Dump off some iPods, Xbox's, TV's - divert their attention from death to life. That's my idea anyway...

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How could it have been handled successfully?

 

Well, frankly I would have been more in support of saving Darfur than the Iraqi people because the former really is a more dire humanitarian crisis.

 

That said, assuming that the elimination of Saddam Hussein's government and a replacement is the goal, my idea would be to attempt to (not very actively) get the Iraqi public to rise up against the government. Look at what's happening in Iran; university students protest all the time, which is far beyond what we saw in Iraq. In order to cause successful regime change it's important to win public approval. They need to be willing to die for the cause of changing their government. The US could have helped bring them to this level of passion. Once the citizenry was to revolt, even if it took 5, 10 or 15 years, the US could have aided them by neutralizing the Iraqi army and allowing the Iraqi people to do the actual overthrowal and replacement of officials. Consider the recent coup in Thailand; not a shot was fired if I recall and it went fairly smoothly. This sort of thing was possible in Iraq, but we blew it.

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Bud, that really sounds like hindsight vision to me. We did try the "rise up and overthrow him yourself" approach before, most notably with the Kurds after Gulf War I, and you remember what happened then. If you're suggesting that we should have done the same but with more active support and involvement, wouldn't you be the first one to criticize that kind of activity, because of all the "civilian deaths" it would have entailed (while we "sit back in safety")?

 

(Part of the purpose of this thread was to point out how hard it is, even with the benefit of hindsight, to find workable solutions that everyone would be happy with. I think this exchange demonstrates that problem really well.)

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