Obama was an unusual candidate for president in 2008. I had serious questions in 2008.
One criticism of Obama is that his portfolio is mighty thin. He has no record. Well, he actually does and and here it is. Pretty interesting.
It’s a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.
Why was that ? In 2002, the Democrats took over the Illinois legislature, not because of Bush as the reporter says, but because the Republican governor got caught selling drivers’ licenses to truckers with bad driving records. A disastrous truck accident splashed the whole story across the newspapers and the Democrats took over in the next election.
The white, race-baiting, hard-right Republican Illinois Senate Majority Leader James “Pate” Philip was replaced by Emil Jones Jr., a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor.
Jones had served in the Illinois Legislature for three decades. He represented a district on the Chicago South Side not far from Obama’s. He became Obama’s kingmaker.
Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio program.
I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:
“He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.’”
“Oh, you are? Who might that be?”
Obama ended up in the US Senate because the GOP Senator, Peter Fitzgerald, did not run for re-election. Why ?
While State Senator he was a member of a group of conservative state senators elected in 1992 who often challenged the leadership of the Illinois Republican Party and were dubbed the “Fab Five”, the group also included, Steve Rauschenberger, Dave Syverson, Patrick O’Malley and Chris Lauzen.
After a hard-fought primary victory against Illinois Comptroller Loleta Didrickson, in which the latter had the support of most national and state-level Republican leaders, Fitzgerald defeated first-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun in 1998, and served for one term in the U.S. Senate. He was the first Republican in Illinois to win a U.S. Senate race in 20 years, and the only Republican challenger in the country to defeat an incumbent Democratic senator in the 1998 election cycle. Although Moseley Braun was dogged by negative publicity of corruption charges, Fitzgerald defeated her by only 2.9%.
Fitzgerald is a staunch conservative on such issues as opposition to abortion (except to save the life of the mother), gun control, gay marriage and taxes, but on some issues, particularly environmental issues — he opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge throughout his tenure in the US Senate — he broke with conservative colleagues. He was one of only a handful of GOP Senators to support the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.
He was a “maverick” and was not supported by “the Illinois Combine,” a term coined by columnist John Kass to describe the bipartisan corruption in Illinois politics that has brought the state to bankruptcy.
I called former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, the Republican maverick from Illinois who tried to fight political corruption and paid for it. For this sin, he was driven out of Illinois politics by political bosses, by their spinners and media mouthpieces, who ridiculed him mercilessly.
Senator, what do you call that connection that Stuart Levine describes from the witness stand, you know that arrangement across party lines, with politically powerful men leveraging government to make money — what do you call it?
“What do you call that Illinois political class that’s not committed to any party, they simply want to make money off the taxpayers?” Fitzgerald said. “You know what to call them.”
“The Illinois Combine,” Fitzgerald said. “The bipartisan Illinois political combine. And all these guys being mentioned, they’re part of it.”
More from Fitzgerald’d biography.
Fitzgerald declined to run for reelection largely because many Republican insiders who had failed to support him in his first run in 1998 had made it clear he would not have their support in 2004 either. In 2009, conservative journalist John Fund wrote:
“Sen. Fitzgerald also labeled an Illinois congressional delegation ‘wish list’ of $600 million in projects being submitted to President Bush as a ‘mega-hog letter … The mere fact that a project is located somewhere within the state of Illinois does not mean that it is inherently meritorious”, he wrote to speaker Hastert, who called such criticism ‘grandstanding’ … [T]he senator accused GOP governor George Ryan, now serving a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction, of opposing competitive bidding rules so he could dole money to political allies. ‘I want Illinois to get a $150 million (Abraham Lincoln) library, not a $50 million library that just happens to cost $150 million’, Fitzgerald told fellow senators.”
Fitzgerald’s resignation from the Republican Senatorial Trust raised eyebrows because many questioned his allegiance to the party.
As a result, in an almost divine retribution, we got Barack Obama.
Now, we have speculation about “the puzzle of Obama.”
She, like me, is a fan of Richard Fernandez.
The validation of so many sad insights is of little consolation unless one is like those movie paleontologists so happy to be vindicated in their prediction that dinosaurs still exist that they do not care that they are about to be eaten by one. One can only hope the readers of this site are not similarly consoled. A history of good guesses does nothing to answer the problem which desperately needs solving: alright we’re in a crisis, but what do we do now? How do we dig ourselves out of the hole?
Aside from reading Charles Murray’s new book,“By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission,” I have been thinking about revolutions.
On May 5, 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General. Almost immediately, it became apparent that this archaic arrangement—the group had last been assembled in 1614—would not sit well with its present members. Although Louis XVI granted the Third Estate greater numerical representation, the Parlement of Paris stepped in and invoked an old rule mandating that each estate receive one vote, regardless of size. As a result, though the Third Estate was vastly larger than the clergy and nobility, each estate had the same representation—one vote. Inevitably, the Third Estate’s vote was overridden by the combined votes of the clergy and nobility.
The present day ruling elite is the modern version of the First and Second Estate. We are losing to ISIS, and more lately, to Russia which is replacing us in the Middle East. Fortunately, and contrary to the efforts of Obama, we are no longer dependent on the Middle East for oil.
There’s no outrage because the media, our bipartisan political establishment, and indeed the American people themselves are unwilling to face the scope of the challenge the Islamic State presents. To uproot it we would have to send U.S. ground forces to Iraq in large numbers, not just special forces operating in tandem with unrestricted air support. We would have to retake and hold ground lost in the years since we departed Iraq, and we would have to commit to remaining in Iraq and Syria for a long time. To deal a blow to radical Islam that would deter recruitment, stop the bandwagon effect, and secure America from attack by militants and their fellow-travelers would require a military and economic commitment the United States, least of all our president, is simply not prepared to make.
The Putin Russians are talking our place and reversing course is no longer an option. What now ?
Obama considers himself a man of destiny. He seems to have believed that his election itself would have a transformative effect on America, separate from any particular programs or policies he would put into place once inaugurated. He promised change, yes; but the very first change would be the fact that he–Barack Obama, an African-American man–had been elected president. If slavery was (and in some sense still is) America’s original sin, and if the Civil War wasn’t enough to undo that fundamental flaw, then Obama’s election would be a sign that America had finally taken a decisive step to purge itself of that sin.
A step, yes; but only the first in a lengthy process. The second step would be confession. And there were many other sins as well for which America must begin to atone. That is why Obama proceeded to go on a worldwide tour early in his presidency, apologizing to nation after nation for America’s manifold sins of hubris and exceptionalism, militarism and imperialism, greed and excess. These were the many ways in which Obama and his fellow leftists have reframed American exceptionalism as American tyranny.
I fear she is right and the present course is not one we can sustain forever. For one thing, we are being invaded by illegal aliens and more recently by Muslim immigrants. Both have been encouraged by Obama and his administration.
At this this time in history the Left may be correct about what truly matters. The institutional Republicans are still playing the game of administration. By contrast Obama is playing the game of revolution. By slow degrees the entire political system is coming around to Obama’s point of view. Perhaps this is no ordinary time. When Hillary calls Republicans “terrorists” and Obama calls them “crazies”; when Sanders and Trump are outflanking the established wings of their respective parties, each of these in its own way suggests the emphasis of the next ten years will not be on public administration but on determining the power relationships within America and among the countries of the world.
Power relationships in the USA may not always be peaceful. Is Obama our punishment for Illinois political corruption ?
80 thoughts on “Is Obama Our Punishment?”
Obama is our punishment for failing to elect a man for what he has actually accomplished rather than the drivel that falls out of his mouth.
Our country is full of apathetic and shallow people that somehow think if they do the very minimum, i.e. stumble to the polls armed with no intellectual property about what they are doing, and vote- then somehow they have done their civic duty.
The problem of course is that their civic duty occurs long before they pull the handle- but that’s too much work.
So a shallow, narcissistic America elected a shallow and narcissistic President. In the end, it makes perfect sense to me.
Nearly eight years in, speculation is still rampant and answers still few. A lot of people just don’t want to know, others like it just fine, and the majority that don’t, really don’t register anywhere, ever. I think it’s been a long time coming, when I look back now. The lack of opposition during his tenure and the complicity is extremely troubling, but I guess it owes to excellent planning and execution. I just hope that something is in the works, something as equally radical, that will have permanent and lasting effects on the systems that allowed this to occur.
Did you support Bush-Cheney’s Iraq War?
Then Obama is your punishment.
But he and Hillary did to Libya what Bush did to Iraq.
And tried to do it to Syria.
Then there is the reckless drone bombing across Afpak, Yemen, the siding with SA wreaking havoc in Yemen, and today’s war crime in Afghanistan.
His popularity ratings across the Mideast are worse than Bush’s.
It’s hard for any right or left Elitist (Obama for the TPP and the bankster bailout, just like the Rethug Elite) to do much in the Mideast other
than move around like a bull in a China shop (thank you Lavrov) when you’ve got The Lobby in virtual control of Congress.
More venting than response to your background. This is interesting, useful & to the point. And crony capitalism and corruption taints all parties, but certainly some more than others in some places more than others. So I’ll vent
Obama is also our punishment for letting those who rewrote history write the history for everyone retiring now and yet to retire. When in a social gathering of educated people, I might be asked in disbelief – so you think there was a red scare? It wasn’t just communism, it was anti-americanism in so much of our cultural life. Obama’s distaste for the constitution, democracy, America and our heritage – religious, political, cultural – wasn’t obvious, it seemed like the garden variety academic. But a country led by someone who patronizes those who elected him is not on the right track. A country led by someone who believes in theories that have been proven wrong – about human nature, about economics, about capitalism – is not going to lead toward prosperity or happiness. We were passive, involved in our own lives, ignoring. We didn’t think the newspapers and television, the academic coffee rooms and the museums were all that important, somehow. Those aren’t places of power – but they are if they slowly nudge, just a little bit, every once in a while. That second election, yes, that was a wake up call.
Bush saw farther and hung faster than most Americans wanted – Obama wears our memories down with his comparisons if we forget that. So, no, I don’t think backing Bush then is something I’m ashamed of, nor am I ashamed that we are a country that felt atrocities were not to be blinked at. Sure Jeb Bush is a bad idea – we don’t need dynasties. Sure, Bush was not Washington or Lincoln; he also wasn’t Obama.
And when I think of the debates 4 years ago and the clean clarity that came from one side and the general cluelessness from the other, I wonder what we value. I am ashamed that we as a country seem to have lost our “character” and certainly our faith in our values. I am ashamed we voted in that guy.
The leader of the current regime is a leader in name only. I doubt he has ever had an original thought in his entire life. He reads the speeches written for him by his ideological handlers, takes whatever position he’s told to take, and has been propped up in every respect by a corrupt media which would cover up any scandal, no matter how serious, if that was required to protect the progressive project.
We are in the final stages of the collapse of the “blue social model”. The elites whose power and wealth are directly tied to the continuation of a corrupt and hopelessly incompetent administrative state, will do anything to preserve their status, even if the nation as a whole is led off a cliff.
The hardest thing for so many people to understand is that these autocrats have no allegiance to, or love for, this nation, it’s culture, society, or political institutions. All they love is power, and the wealth, influence, and status derived from it.
As in the 1850’s, when the status quo had run out its sustainability, and no further compromise was possible, so too are we now faced with the most dire fork in our future’s path.
Either the world we have known will collapse, and perish, or we will, once again, see a new birth of freedom.
The former will happen by default, if we simply shrug, and resign ourselves to our fate. The latter will only occur if we can steel ourselves to withstand the critical challenges that lie ahead, and preserve our hope and commitment to liberty and human rights.
As is always the case in human affairs, our fate is in our own hands, for better, or for worse.
” takes whatever position he’s told to take”
I don’t agree and do not believe that anyone tells Obama what to do except perhaps the communist ghosts from his past.
This is what we get from a fatherless, mixed culture child coddled by grandparents and who has been indoctrinated in a vague philosophy that does not have an attachment to reality.
Our leftist commenter above is an example of the ahistorical left that is unteachable, although God knows I’ve tried.
It is interesting how the left is uninterested in reality and focuses on myth, like the new movie that repeats the lies of Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.
Unfortunately, the left’s lies get to be the history books that our children read. I have previously commented on the false history that my daughter was taught at the University of Arizona. I caught it and corrected it in her mind but I’m sure others think that “‘the Silent Majority’ consisted of white people who did not accept the Civil Rights act of 1964.” That was in her study guide for “US History Since 1877”
Ginny…”Obama’s distast for (just about everything American)”…it’s not just Obama, of course, and it’s not just “elites.” There are a lot of people, at all economic and social-power levels, for whom a kind of sneering contempt for the majority of their fellow citizens is a very important thing for them.
I have some related thoughts here:
Why does Obama Want to Keep Being President?
The phobia(s) that may destroy America
” There are a lot of people, at all economic and social-power levels, for whom a kind of sneering contempt for the majority of their fellow citizens is a very important thing for them.”
the tribe is – losers. the best way to deal with them is ad hominen attack: hey hilarity 2016 you are a effing clown! yo bernie peeps you follow a effin’ idiot.
“* RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)”
the tribe “losers” would explain trump. who wants to be a loser?
Thanks. For the memories….
David, the posts from 2012 are interesting. All is coming to pass as we expected. I had hoped that Romney would save us but he was the light that failed.
Mike K: “Our leftist commenter above is an example of the ahistorical left that is unteachable, although God knows I’ve tried.”
Me, too. I recently shared with you my explanation of the President’s decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s important to keep at it, no matter how discouraging, because the false narrative of the Iraq intervention made prevalent in the zeitgeist is patient zero for current events. My explanation again:
Addendum to my comment at October 4th, 2015 at 3:50 am:
A retort often attempted is to disqualify my explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a source due to its provenance. My preemptive response is its credibility is not as a source, because it’s not a source. It’s an explanation drawn from primary sources for the mission. Its credibility is the quality of the explanation of those sources.
In other words, it’s a cheat sheet. I encourage readers to use the explanation as a springboard to review the sources for themselves. A short list of basic essential sources for understanding OIF in proper context is here. A comprehensive table of sources for the mission (including UN Security Council, Congress, and Office of the President) is here.
I’d venture an opinion that Obama has also turned out to be punishment for the Iraqis, the Syrians, Egyptians and the Libyans as well.
“Obama has also turned out to be punishment for the Iraqis,”
A sort of :”Be careful what you wish for…” type.
There are several demographics and age groups here that got a bit more than they bargained for with their vote for “hope and change.”
Sgt Mom – Yes, and Yes. We might add the Ukrainians and I wouldn’t be surprised if we will be able to add the Taiwanese and the Latvia/Lithuania/Estonians before he’s through. It isn’t that for 75 years our presidents went to war – they did fight, of course, but at many spots the fact they had fought gave their words weight – to head off these disasters. It is only when an anti-war president believes that the only answers are appeasement or war, combined with a lack of empathy that truly believes no one cares about a million dead, just the one he calls and speaks of in his press conference that we get Obamaland.
One of my sad cynical sources of amusements in the last couple of months, Ginny — is seeing all those Europeans who were so keen on Obama, after that awful, cowboy Bush, get exactly what they said they wished for.
Yep. You wanted a post-American-hegemon world. Welcome to it, y’all.
“our punishment for X”. The thinking of children.
The US is a badly broken system. Nothing is working correctly because ?Good question, we all have a million interlocking reasons, but definitely nobody is or can afford to be honest anywhere any more?.
Blaming Obama more than Shrub more than Clinton more than Bush, … why bother. We know they are each worse than the last because they were later, Presidents of a more-broken system, and ever-more symptom of that brokenness rather than independent cause of anything.
To say that all of these had the same policies is silly. That none fixed entitlements, yes. That none got rid of the huge bureaucracy, yes. But levels of self-respect, of honesty, of dignity and of respecting the dignity of others varied; these are essential in a democracy. I’ve been pushing my way through Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences and am struck by the importance he places on piety – his last chapter. He speaks for a different conservatism than most on here, I think – much more a Southern agrarian conservatism. But we share with him a respect for and gratitude for those who came before. That is one of the largest differences between politicians in the last thirty or forty years – some felt that piety, that gratitude, that respect and some didn’t. Obama not only didn’t respect that tradition, he detested it. My husband’s uncle (a farmer) remarked tonight that he figured the last thing Obama would do would be to name monuments and perhaps Yellowstone for himself (the Grand Canyon might do).
Both Bush and Obama have followed a policy of deliberatively destabilizing the Middle East. Apparently this policy is motivated by an extraordinarily naive belief that in the aftermath of the violence and chaos our policy produced that the Middle East would reform into a bunch of Western type liberal democratic nation states totally different from anything that has ever existed there in the past.
One is simply dumbfounded by the naivety and stupidity of our leaders.
Both Bush and Obama have followed a policy of deliberatively destabilizing the Middle East.
Nonsense. Bush responded to the 9/11 attacks, before which US policy had been to support what turned out to be an illusion of stability based on alliances with friendly dictators. The Middle East has for decades been destabilizing itself as oil wealth, modern technology and western economics affect its cultures. Islamism is one response to modernization. Others may emerge in time if we allow them to. Our strategy of encouraging Middle Eastern stability did not prevent 9/11, and Bush reasonably changed strategies to what appeared to be the best alternative. It may yet be the best alternative. Yet so many people have forgotten due to partisan campaigns of lies, to sloppy thinking and to the passage of time.
Obama is entirely different than Bush. Bush tried to change our strategy as a way to increase our influence and bring stabilizing reforms to the Middle East. Obama has removed us from our main positions of leverage in the Middle East, in a willful attempt to reduce American power and to transfer that power to Iran and other countries whose goal is to destabilize the region to their benefit and without concern for the welfare of individuals.
To Jonathan – Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Even the Bush Administration didn’t claim that. Instead they made up a pack of lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
To Ginny – Trying to defend the Baltic countries against Russia is insane. If the Baltic countries are an area of vital interest to the US then so is Timbuktu. Becoming overextended has been a very common mistake in history.
Your time in the sun is coming to an end. The people who run your country understand this and have taken steps to delay this as long as possible. Perfectly natural, but the end of any Empire, and this one is really worldwide for the first time in history, is difficult.
Obama has dragged his heels far more effectively than any of the right wing could have and is in power because of this. If one of your yahoo morons gets the Presidency it will be over quickly. The people who run your country know this.
Cheney claimed Saddam had links to terrorists who were complicit in the attacks.
The Yinon Plan developed by Israel called for destabilizing all of Israel’s enemies partially via manipulation of the American government.
Yes, you can point to certain varying specifics in regard to the eventual implementation, but for the time being, only Israel in the Mideast has benefited.
Though with Hezbollah better armed than ever, one can argue it’s somewhat a mixed bag in that regard, especially for the medium term.
To Ken Hoop – Cheney is a pathological liar who shamelessly orchestrated a huge disinformation campaign to convince the American people to believe that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Of the 19 9/11 hijackers, 15 were Saudi’s, 2 were fron the United Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebannon. Not likely a group that had anything to do with Hussein. There is certainly some reason to suspect involvement on the part of the Saudi’s and a lot more reason to suspect Pakistani involvement since they later gave Osama bib-Laden shelter in Pakistan after the US invasion of Afghanistan. The US media has been extremally careful in discussing Saudi or Pakistani involvement in terrorism. Hussein and Al-Qaeda were deadly enemies.
It may well be. We have abandoned the rule of law and the Constitution and are a one-party State. Electoral politics are moot. So whatever happens, we are going to be entering an era that Thomas Hobbes understood. Only the Great Blue Sky Tengri Nor knows what the outcome will be.
If I remember correctly, you are a Brit. The sun is lower on the horizon for you, and you have the disadvantage of being unarmed against both government and non-governmental predators, and the additional disadvantage of no modern cultural tendency for free people to band together outside the government to resist such [it was a long time ago that the Magna Carta was signed]. We will have the satisfaction of watching you go first.
And if I am wrong about you being a Brit, at very worst y’all will go down with us.
I blame Ditka. If he had accepted the nomination, he would have won, and Hussein would be another raving lunatic in Hyde Park, where he cannot be distinguished from the stuff left on the street for big item collection day.
Jim: “Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Even the Bush Administration didn’t claim that. Instead they made up a pack of lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction.”
See the explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of President Bush’s decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom linked at my comment at October 4th, 2015 at 3:50 am.
The influence of the 9/11 attacks is addressed in the answers to “Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo)?” and “Why not free a noncompliant Saddam?”.
Your contention “they made up a pack of lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction” is addressed throughout the explanation. It is addressed comprehensively at the answer to “Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq?”. Excerpt:
You’re correct that the 9/11 attacks were not the casus belli of the Iraq intervention.
Rather, the 9/11 attacks were a strong influence that colored the on-going enforcement of the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire, which included terrorism, disarmament, and humanitarian mandates. The casus belli for OIF was Iraq’s material breach across the board of the Gulf War ceasefire in Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441).
You’re incorrect that “they made up a pack of lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction”.
In 2005, the Silberman-Robb WMD Commission “found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction”. In 2008, a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence analyzed pre-war statements by Bush administration officials and concluded they were largely “substantiated by intelligence”, and found no manipulated intelligence nor political pressure placed on intelligence analysts.
The “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament was set by UNSCR 687 (1991) and related resolutions, not the pre-war intelligence estimates. According to UNSCR 687 et al, the UNMOVIC finding of “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues”, which was the main trigger for OIF, and the Iraq Survey Group post hoc findings established that Iraq violated the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” for disarmament.
For example, ISG confirmed, “From 1999 until he was deposed in April 2003, Saddam’s conventional weapons and WMD-related procurement programs steadily grew in scale, variety, and efficiency” and “Saddam had direct command of the Iraqi intelligence services and the armed forces, including direct authority over plans and operations of both. … The IIS ran a large covert procurement program, undeclared chemical laboratories, and supported denial and deception operations.”
The pre-war intelligence estimates were off the mark. That does not change that in fact, Iraq violated the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” for disarmament and the other Gulf war ceasefire mandates for casus belli.
Ken Hoop: “Cheney claimed Saddam had links to terrorists who were complicit in the attacks.”
That claim is correct. The Iraqi Perspectives Project, which reviewed captured Iraqi documents, concluded, “Because Saddam�s security organizations and Osama bin Laden�s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a �de facto� link between the organizations.”
Jim Lacey, a researcher and author for the Iraqi Perspectives Project, discussed Saddam’s terrorism in shorter form here.
Eric, thanks for commenting here. You’ve obviously put a lot of effort into explaining the events of a period that many people no longer remember clearly or never learned about in the first place.
President Bush, June 2, 2004:
I share Mike K’s motivation to set the record straight on Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It matters. The current course of American foreign affairs and the advantage seized by global competitors such as Russia is largely founded on a prevalent false narrative of the Iraq enforcement. For example, the justification for President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran follows directly from the premise that Presidents HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush were wrong about enforcing Iraqi compliance with UNSCRs 687, 688, et al. In order to correct course, it is vital to set the record straight on OIF in the zeitgeist.
Dr. Kennedy takes a broader historic, strategic review of President Bush’s decision. That kind of critical analysis, though, has a tendency to look past the governing context of the operative Gulf War ceasefire enforcement procedure that President Bush carried forward from President Clinton. As such, our takes complement – my ‘fact pattern’ explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Bush’s decision lays a foundation for Dr. Kennedy’s broader historic, strategic review of Bush’s decision for OIF.
Regarding “a lot of effort into explaining the events of a period that many people no longer remember clearly or never learned about in the first place”, that goes to an especially frustrating aspect of the public controversy.
There shouldn’t be a public controversy, let alone a prevalent false narrative – because it does not take extraordinary effort to learn the truth of the matter. The primary sources of the mission are easily accessed on-line and provide a straightforward explanation readily understandable for any smart HS graduate.
Besides having enough background to articulate the explanation, the only difference between me and any other layman is I read the primary sources for myself. Yet, as I say in the preface for my table of sources, most pundits, both supporters and opponents of Operation Iraqi Freedom, underutilize the available primary sources despite that the 1990-2003 Iraq enforcement has a thick law and policy trail in the UN Security Council, Congress, and especially the Office of the President.
I hope the Chicago Boyz community will spread the word with my take and Mike K’s take on the Iraq issue. It matters.
To Eric – Advocating spreading democracy in the Middle East as a goal of US foreign policy shows Bush’s lack of grip on reality. There never has been any democracy in the Middle East in the past and it’s a most unlikely prospect for the future. The Middle East is a seething mass of tribes with long histories of bloody conflict.
Democracies tend to exacerbate internal conflict so they can only be stable in relatively homogeneous societies where there is little internal conflict to begin with. The Middle East is an extraordinarily poor place to try to spread democracy.
The liberal reform piece of Operation Iraqi Freedom was not novel by President Bush.
It originated from President HW Bush’s enforcement of the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688 (1991), then expanded and clarified by President Clinton. Nor did the liberal reform piece operate independently. In the event that Saddam failed to comply in his “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441), regime change was the mechanism for the US-led, UN-mandated process to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (P.L. 105-235), including UNSCR 688.
For context on the liberal reform piece of OIF, see the answers to “The reasons for OIF seemed to change. Was it about WMD or democracy?” and “Was the invasion of Iraq perceived to be a nation-building effort?”.
Setting aside Presidents HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush’s aspirations for Iraqi compliance with the Gulf War ceasefire, would it have worked?
Frustratingly – inconclusive.
We didn’t stay committed enough to find out for sure. Building a nation like Iraq on our terms does not happen quicker than raising a child. The US-led peace operations in Iraq were only there for about 8 years, or only about 4 years if we count from the Counterinsurgency “Surge”. 8 years were barely the 1st stage of our post-WW2 peace operations. Imagine the consequences had President Eisenhower similarly changed course then withdrawn our peace operations from Europe and Asia in the early 1950s like President Obama did with Iraq.
We can only know the progress with Iraq that was achieved until our peace operations were compromised by the Obama administration. See the UN view of Iraqi compliance, including the liberal reform piece, from December 2010. OIF official then senior advisor Emma Sky offers her view.
(You didn’t make this claim, Jim, but I’ll address the point anyway.)
Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom were not a template for US Middle East policy. The casus belli of the Afghanistan and Iraq interventions were specific. There was no Bush administration policy to impose liberal reform across the Middle East via a march of forced regime change.
Rather, as stated by President Bush in his June 2, 2004 remarks (linked in my comment at October 6th, 2015 at 11:19 am):
PenGun, that probably was one of the more moronic things you have posted on this board. There never has been an American Empire. I can guarantee that if there is another attack on the level of 9/11 or worse, there will be one established and then everyone will feel the heel of an American boot, now the 0bama has effectively shredded the last vestiges of our constitution. The post WW2 Pax Americana was probably the loosest, most easy-going hegemony ever established on this planet, but we never ruled the other nations as an empire. We simply established the largest, best equipped and trained military in history that effectively kept the longest period of relative peace this planet has seen since the Pax Britannia of the early 19th century. No major wars for over 70 years, and no, neither Korea, Vietnam or the Gulf Wars were major wars. If they had been, there would be no North Korea, Communist Vietnam, and Muslim jihad right now.
“All right, last question here. Kira in our chat room. Her question essentially is, “what do you think when you hear the Bush administration blaming the CIA, blaming the FBI, for bad intelligence, saying that it was basically their fault?” You served with the CIA proudly for 27 years. Did the CIA get it wrong, or do you hear that and does it tick you the hell off to no end when you hear them blaming the CIA for what it is that he did?
Well, it makes me very sad, frankly, because all you have to do is read a couple hundred pages into that Silverman-Robb report, or the Senate report done by Ted Roberts’ people, to realize that the intelligence was incredibly lousy. The trade craft was sophomoric. The analysis was just… I wouldn’t hire anybody to do that kind of analysis. So, was the intelligence bad?—it was terrible. But it doesn’t stop there. Why was it so bad? Well, there are two answers to that. One is that the administration deliberately pressured people, deliberately as the British memos say. The intelligence was being fixed around the policy, and George Tenet, to his great discredit, head of the CIA, cooperated in that effort. And so, that’s half of the answer.
The other half is, well, how could he have had the willing acquiescence or complicity of top-level Intelligence Officers to do this, and the answer to that is that there has been a whole generation during which people have been promoted and have moved into managerial positions because they smelled which way the wind was blowing and trimmed their analytical sails accordingly. It started in 1981 with Bill Casey and Bobby Gates, and right now you have the inevitable result of a system where people, sycophants are moved upward because they know the right answers and they will tell the President what the President wants to know and that is, if you are going to have that in an Intelligence Organization, you might as well just abolish it as Dan Moynihan suggested years ago, and start anew.”
Ray McGovern, thanks for being with us. Ray is a 27-year CIA analyst.
Your “Ray McGovern” statement is odd. It correctly characterizes the presidential commission as critical of the pre-war intelligence estimates. However, after referring to the investigation, it asserts an answer to “Why was it [the pre-war intelligence estimates] so bad?” that contradicts the investigation finding that “[The Silberman-Robb WMD Commission] found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”
To learn the truth of the matter, it helps to understand that the fundamental premise of the conspiracy theory, ie, the pre-war intelligence estimates were casus belli for OIF, is false.
The law and policy of the Gulf War ceasefire plainly show the Iraq enforcement was compliance-based. There was no burden of proof on the US and UN to prove Iraq was armed according to pre-war intelligence estimates. The burden of proof was on Iraq to prove it disarmed as mandated. The pre-war intelligence estimates could not cause a war with Iraq. By procedure, only Iraq’s noncompliance could trigger enforcement, and only Iraq’s compliance could switch off the enforcement.
Irrespective of the intelligence on Iraqi WMD, until Iraq proved it disarmed as mandated, the presumption was of proscribed Iraqi armament. For example, “it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of [Iraqi] biological and chemical weapons” (President Clinton, CNN, July 3, 2003) and “With respect to stockpiles of bulk agent stated to have been destroyed, there is evidence to suggest that these was [sic] not destroyed as declared by Iraq” (UNMOVIC Cluster Document, March 6, 2003).
Saddam was guilty until he proved Iraq was compliant. If Iraq was not compliant, then Saddam continued to be armed and dangerous. In December 1998, President Clinton cited neither the intelligence nor demonstrated Iraqi possession of WMD to justify Operation Desert Fox. Rather, Iraq failed to prove compliance with UNSCOM, then failed again 5 years later with UNMOVIC.
In other words, if Bush had presented none of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons, the compliance-based enforcement procedure would have been the same. For the conspiracy theory to work with the actual enforcement procedure for Iraq, Bush officials would have had to collude with Iraq on Saddam’s failure to comply with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441), not with US intelligence officials on the pre-war intelligence estimates.
Were the pre-war intelligence estimates off the mark? Yes. But that couldn’t break the ceasefire with Iraq.
Was Saddam guilty of material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire that was casus belli for OIF? Unfortunately, yes – across the board.
“Advocating spreading democracy in the Middle East as a goal of US foreign policy shows Bush’s lack of grip on reality. ”
No, if there was ever to be an Arab democracy in the Middle East (Israel is of course a democracy and Turkey used to be), Iraq seemed like the best bet. It had been secularized by Saddam and had a middle class, many of whom had fled but there was hope they would return. A friend of mine is an Iraqi doctor whose family had fled. His wife was Lebanese who had fled there with her parents when she was a child. I don’t really know if either was Muslim but they were probably Christian.
I thought it was worth a try. The alternative, if the Arabs did not seem to be ready, was a dictatorship like the Park dictatorship in South Korea which ended with a sort of democracy. True Democracy is probably an Anglosphere phenomenon. Japan is as close as Asia has gotten. China is certainly not one. India is very limited in being a functional democracy.
France is not one as we understand it. At least it does not function very well. It is a fairly free society and the health care system is the best in the world in my opinion but it is hobbled by the terrible economy.
I think Bush’s worst error was to put a DoS functionary like Bremer in charge. He had Jay Garner who had done a good job with the Kurds. Bremer immediately disbanded the Iraqi Army, the only national institution that had a chance of working. Disaster followed. The Shia were hostile after GHW Bush did not protect them from Saddam, an event I blame largely on Schwartzkopf’s ignorance.
There as never a chance for any modern political system in Afghanistan but Bush was leaving that to the Special Forces if the Big Army would just leave them alone. Obama, for political reasons (Has he ever done anything for any other reason ?) made the Afghans the focus of his policy and it is even worse, if possible, than Iraq.
Victor Davis Hanson has the best evaluation, and the most frightening, of Obama I’ve seen.
Otherwise, the Obama record is mostly disasters. He promised over 20 times not to act unconstitutionally and issue blanket amnesties. Then he destroyed the idea of a border, both physically and ideologically — and taught the Democratic Party that the salvation for its otherwise unpopular agenda was demographic, as in welcoming in millions of illegal aliens who would form a new constituency for statism . To restore a shred of border security will incur institutionalized charges of racist, nativist, and xenophobe. The only brake on immigration will be bewildered Latino activists who fear that vast increases in illegal Asian immigration will trump their own paradigm, and thus they will call for some sort of immigration enforcement. Obama has left us with an existential question: if there are no borders and no immigration laws, at what point does illegal immigration cease?
Japan is interesting because although democracy doesn’t have deep historical roots there it seems to work OK. Presumably that is because of its highly homogeneous society. Democracies have not been common in history because as a form of government they tend to exacerbate internal conflict. Yugoslavia was fairly stable under Tito’s iron rule but quicly blew up when democracy was introduced. South American countries have shown a fairly consistent pattern for the last two centuries of unstable democracies alternating with dictatorships, punctuated by occaisional periods of horrific violence such as the Mexican Civil War and La Violencia in Columbia. The internal divisions in most South American countries are too great for democracies to be stable there for long. The history of Venezuela is interesting in that regard.
The highly tribal nature of Middle Eastern populations makes democracy there very improbable. Israel is democratic in roughly the same sense as pre-apartheid South Africa was democratic. A large part of the population under Israeli rule is not allowed to vote.
China is interesting in that despite its huge size it’s ethnic diversity is much less than in the US. The Han constitute over 90% of its population. In the long run China seems to be a more likely prospect for democracy than the US.
“A large part of the population under Israeli rule is not allowed to vote.”
I assume you mean the Palestinians who are partly occupied as a measure of defense by the Israelis. Do you deny they are a hazard ? Did you watch what happened when the Israelis abandoned Gaza?
The Israeli Arabs vote and have members of the Knesset, often hostile to Israeli policies. Almost as hostile as US Democrats.
To Mike K. – There is enormous potential or actual internal conflict in Israel as in nearly all Middle Eastern countries. This makes democracy in that region infeasible. Democracy works OK in a place like Iceland or Japan because the populations there are highly homogeneous and cohesive. The Middle East is riven by deep tribal hatreds – Jew vs. Arab, Kurds vs. Turks etc., myriads of ethnic groups and sects with long histories of bloody conflict. Democracy in the Middle East is a fantaxy.
So, democracy in Israel is “a fantasy?”
You have an interesting POV. I’ll keep that in mind when reading your comments.
“Democracy works OK in a place like Iceland or Japan”
So, a brawl in the Japan Parliament is Democracy but Israel doesn’t have it because of “internal conflict.” Got it.
To Mike K. – Your own remark about how Arabs in the Knesset vote “against Israel” indicates the extent to which Israel is riven by deep ethnic hatred and conflict. There is nothing comparable to that in Japan. To compare a brawl in the Japanese parliament to the Jewish-Arab conflict in Israel is ludicrous.
“To compare a brawl in the Japanese parliament to the Jewish-Arab conflict in Israel is ludicrous.”
The only Arabs in the Middle East who have a vote are those Israeli Arabs. Do you think they would prefer to be in Syria or the West Bank ?
“Ludicrous” is an adjective I have not applied to you. Why do these debates have to degenerate?
I’m done, sir.
The U.S. has had a fairly long run – the core in the 18th century that defined it may have been predominantly English but even in 1776, Paine was making the argument (in “Common Sense”) that this was a nation of nations. It is true that assimilation and developing a culture that can “handle” political liberty takes more than one generation. Democracy is hard and it requires analysis and memory. It needs (and should be grateful to) those like Eric who help us remember what so quickly slips down the memory hole.
Ginny – As you say democracy is difficult which explains why it is rare in history and usually unstable.
Your Oct 5 comments show you were tricked by the false narrative, eg, “Cheney is a pathological liar who shamelessly orchestrated a huge disinformation campaign” and “Hussein and Al-Qaeda were deadly enemies”. According to, respectively, the Silberman-Robb WMD Commission and Iraqi Perspectives Project, both positions are incorrect. You’re not alone: many Americans, even supporters of the mission, were tricked by our competitors’ propaganda.
Do you understand now the casus belli for OIF? Ie, Iraq’s breach of the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire (UNSCRs 687, 688, et al enforced under PLs 102-1, 105-235, et al), including violation of the disarmament and terrorism as well as humanitarian mandates.
“Bremer immediately disbanded the Iraqi Army, the only national institution that had a chance of working. Disaster followed.”
See this justification by former CPA officials for demobilizing the Iraqi Army. Also see this reaction to that justification. It’s quoted from another blog (QandO) but represents my reaction.
Like you, I initially thought retaining the Iraqi Army and putting it to work like we did the Germans was the obvious move. But according to the former CPA officials, it was not at all the obvious move. The former CPA officials say the criticism distorts the reality on the ground, including the practical difference.
I’m not clear why the Bush administration switched course from LG Garner so soon after they assigned him to Iraq in the 1st place. My guess is LG Garner may have balked at prioritizing the UN-mandated tasks to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (P.L. 105-235).
See UNSCRs 1483, 1511, et al, ie, the UN resolutions for Iraq following regime change. President Bush’s decisions with Iraq accorded with the UN resolutions. Moreover, the US statutory authorization for the Iraq intervention specified enforcement of the UN resolutions. Yet LG Garner may have pushed the UN-mandated tasks to the backburner that, for the Commander in Chief, were the top priority for the Iraq intervention. (I don’t know this; I’m speculating.)
My Monday morning quarterbacking criticism of the immediate post-war isn’t demobilizing the Iraq Army. It’s that at the beginning of the post-war a faction of diplomats and military advocated for a proto-form of the Crocker/Petraeus counterinsurgency that later succeeded. But the CPA-lead, military-support structure was chosen, instead. I wonder whether, in the ‘golden hour’ of the immediate post-war, military-led counterinsurgency as 1st choice, rather than emergency back-up choice, could have made the difference.
You compared Iraq to Korea. Indeed, our Korea mission is the usual comp (to borrow a term from sports fandom) for our Iraq mission. If you consider the struggle for post-war Iraq to be a “disaster”, then I wonder how you describe our 1st years in post-WW2 Korea. It was a series of compounding errors that dwarfed our missteps with Iraq. At our 5 year mark in Iraq, we were seeing the fruits of the Counterinsurgency “Surge”. At our 5 year mark in Korea, President Truman was ordering a suicide mission in Task Force Smith.
That being said, setbacks, including disastrous defeats, have been normal steps to victory in our military history. After all, the enemy competes to win, too. We lost the ‘golden hour’ in Iraq to the enemy, but the Counterinsurgency “Surge” won a second chance for Iraq. (See the UN view and Emma Sky view linked in my comment at October 6th, 2015 at 1:12 pm.)
President Obama, May 19, 2011:
Jim says, “Democracy in the Middle East is a fantaxy.” Well, the same was said about our peace operations following WW2. Indeed, beyond just introducing an alien political form as with Korea, democracy in Germany had just spectacularly failed with explosive consequences for the world. If there was ever a candidate for installing an ‘our bastard’ autocrat, Germany following 2 world wars was it. Yet, instead, we forged ahead with American leadership of the free world.
Maybe the Iraqi failure touted by Jim was inevitable, but we don’t know that. We do know the concrete progress that we made with Iraq until President Obama switched course then withdrew American leadership from Iraq. The ROK is what it is today, despite a much bumpier road than Iraq at the same stage and the continuing threat of DPRK, because we stayed the course after our egregious initial missteps there. I think Jim underestimates the transformative potential of ‘strong horse’ American leadership that stays committed.
Ginny: “It needs (and should be grateful to) those like Eric who help us remember what so quickly slips down the memory hole.”
Thanks. Links to my explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom and comprehensive table of sources are in the thread.
Like I said to Jonathan, I hope you and the rest of the Chicago Boyz community spread the word. You’re encouraged to use my explanation as a cheat-sheet guide. Once you know what to look for, learning the bedrock sources is straightforward. Then set out with your explanation to correct the prevalent false narrative of OIF in your circles. When you have your explanation down, you won’t need my explanation anymore. I’m not the authority; the sources are the authority. Make sure to convey the sources, so your friends can learn the bedrock sources for themselves and pass them onto their friends when they explain the law and policy, fact basis of OIF to their circles.
For any educator, here again is my short list of basic essential sources for understanding OIF in proper context. They make for a serviceable primer or syllabus block for students, though of course, I recommend for teachers to pick up the comprehensive table of sources.
What impactful policies and events at home and abroad have been direct and secondary consequences of the false narrative of OIF made prevalent? What elected offices at home and abroad, including the President of the United States, have been gained or lost over the prevalent false narrative of OIF? What courses still to be set at home and abroad will be influenced by the prevalent false narrative of OIF?
The false narrative of OIF is a malignantly live legacy. At the premise level, it matters to set the record straight on OIF in the zeitgeist.
Correction of my comment at October 7th, 2015 at 1:14 pm:
“I’m not clear why the Bush administration switched course from LG Garner so soon after they assigned him to Iraq in the 1st place.”
LG Garner is LTG Garner. The abbreviation for Army Lieutenant General is LTG.
Whenever I see footage of brawls breaking out in foreign parliaments, I think of The Crime Against Kansas canefight in our Senate. Democracy isn’t even easy for the United States.
Eric, you make some good, convincing points. Unfortunately, the United States of the late 1940s with its military and economic supremacy was a lot different from the United States in the 2010s.
Germany, a mostly homogeneous nation, had a lot of incentive to cooperate with us because, as Mike alluded to way up there, the alternative was enslavement by the Slavic USSR.
Iraq had some Sunni factions that would eventually see us as the best option over Iran-backed Shia militias and Al Qaeda’s bloodlust, but they weren’t nearly enough and just too weak to make any lasting difference.
Task Force Smith was in the opening months of the Korea War, not 5 years later. It was 5 years after we shared Korea with the USSR at the 38th parallel. Maybe that was what you meant.
” If there was ever a candidate for installing an ‘our bastard’ autocrat, Germany following 2 world wars was it. Yet, instead, we forged ahead with American leadership of the free world.”
We were extremely lucky in Adenauer, who has been forgotten by almost everybody younger than I am.
Ludwig Erhard was also very important as he was the author of the Wirtschaftwunder, or economic miracle.
Interestingly, WEB Griffin, (William E Butterworth) who has written a series of excellent novels about Germany after WWII where he was stationed and then went to school, has written that a lot of the miracle was German money which had been squirreled away in Argentina in the war and came back as the nucleus. I have never seen a good discussion of that and whether it was true.
I know the Iraqi army was considered unstable because of the Sunni/Shia split in the ranks but a lot of Sunni officers could have been used but were turned loose as Baathists and went to Syria to cause trouble. Patten was right about the Nazi issue after WWII. Bremer was wrong.
I think this is pretty close to what happened with Garner. I think it is exaggerated by the Guardian, which is no friend, but Bremer wanted to play emperor. Garner had done well with the Kurds who were not exactly democrats.
We used to have a photo of Erhard in the header of this blog, before I removed the photos.
Mike K: “Bremer was wrong.”
I won’t claim the CPA was right given how events bore out with our practical shortcomings under enemy exploitation, but neither is it obvious that their reasoning was wrong. Their justification was valid.
According to the CPA officials I linked, their vetting process was mischaracterized by the criticism. The issue wasn’t a Sunni/Shia split nor with bureaucrats in a blanket sense.
The issue was with the Saddam regime officials who had undertaken the “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror” (UN Commission on Human Rights), which of course was a breach of UNSCR 688 et al. The UN resolutions for the peace operations, UNSCR 1483 et al, were clear that that category of Saddam regime official was to be disallowed from continued authority.
Mike K: “It was 5 years after we shared Korea with the USSR at the 38th parallel. Maybe that was what you meant.”
Right, that’s what I meant. My lead-in to the Task Force Smith reference was “If you consider the struggle for post-war Iraq to be a “disaster”, then I wonder how you describe our 1st years in post-WW2 Korea.”
The Korean War wasn’t the start of our Korea intervention. WW2 then post-WW2 was the start of our Korea intervention.
I appreciate the Adenauer reference. A history class may have mentioned his name in passing, but it wasn’t featured to where I would remember it. I had to google the name.
Would an Allawi-led Iraq government have approximated the progress of the Adenauer-led German government? Maybe; maybe not. Unfortunately, the Obama administration made fateful choices and we didn’t get to find out.
What also helped Germany was the 1953 debt haircut. By that time it was clear that West Germany needed to be integrated into western economic markets and political structure because of the Soviet threat, and sooner rather than later, especially with the Britain and France drifting into decline.
Yes, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s infinitely easier to say this now with so much time passed. However, in retrospect the greatest lesson we could’ve taken from World War would’ve been to break up Iraq.
Having said that, Saddam definitely had to go. This talk now about a more stable world if he was still in power is utter nonsense and beside the point. He was an enemy and danger to the United States and a constant threat to destabilize the region and the world. We’re much safer with him dead. If you’re concerned that the 9-11 terrorists didn’t specifically take orders from Saddam, you can’t deny that the Arab world they did come from is in total disarray, fighting themselves instead of us.
Grurray: “Unfortunately, the United States of the late 1940s with its military and economic supremacy was a lot different from the United States in the 2010s.”
I agree our position has not improved during the Obama administration.
It now seems like an altogether different era, but when President Bush left office in January 2009, he handed Operation Iraqi Freedom to President Obama having resolved the festering Saddam problem (not a moment too soon based on what we now know), revitalized international enforcement in the defining international enforcement of the post-Cold War, and proved the mettle of American leadership and devastated the terrorists with the Counterinsurgency “Surge”. The emerging pluralistic, liberalizing, compliant post-Saddam Iraq provided the US with a keystone “strategic partner” to reform the region.
Obama should have built upon the hard-won foundational progress made under Bush in geopolitically critical Iraq, and stayed the course from Bush like President Eisenhower stayed the course from President Truman at the turning point of the Cold War.
Instead, President Obama undertook a different course for America’s competitive place in the world.
Grurray: “Iraq had some Sunni factions that would eventually see us as the best option over Iran-backed Shia militias and Al Qaeda’s bloodlust, but they weren’t nearly enough and just too weak to make any lasting difference.”
As you alluded, the (West) Germans made a pragmatic choice to align with American leadership, but that choice was viable because American leadership was there as the ‘strong horse’. Given contemporary German history, homogenous or not, they likely would have chosen, and been compelled to, a different course absent the influence of the ‘strong horse’ American leadership for which Eisenhower stayed the course from Truman.
The Iraqis also made pragmatic choices – life or death choices – depending on whether American leadership was in Iraq as the ‘strong horse’. We were the ‘strong horse’ in Iraq during the Bush administration’s peace operations, which bore fruit when we eventually adjusted to the enemy via the Counterinsurgency “Surge”. But the Obama administration changed America to a ‘weak horse’ in Iraq, then withdrew our peace operations altogether. With the American factor weakened then removed, the Iraqis’ choices adjusted accordingly – and tragically – as the Germans likely would have had Ike been like Obama.
For the Anbar Awakening, the Sunnis staked their lives on the Counterinsurgency “Surge” with the Maliki-led government in Baghdad based on the shared multisectarian Iraqi belief in the American ‘strong horse’. The Sunnis supported Allawi, a Shia, in the 2010 elections. Certainly, Iraqi sectarian identity is a significant factor. But as we learned when our peace operations were in the mix as the ‘strong horse’ in Iraq, sectarian identity is also a relative factor that is not automatically the dominant factor depending on what else is in the mix.
… Or maybe Iraq would have eventually broken along sectarian seams despite the best efforts of a McCain administration. But again, we don’t know that due to the choices made by the Obama administration. We can only know the progress that we made with Iraq until Obama switched course.
Grurray: “However, in retrospect the greatest lesson we could’ve taken from World War would’ve been to break up Iraq.”
This goes to the chronically under-referenced law and policy, fact basis of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
US law and policy for Iraq from the HW Bush administration onward was based on bringing Iraq into compliance with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions, including UNSCR 1483 et al for the peace operations. By the same token, US law and policy objectives were consistent with the UN mandates for Iraq.
President Bush’s decisions accorded with the UN resolutions, and the UN resolutions were consistent and clear that Iraq was not to be segmented.
When folks like then-Senator Biden proposed segmenting Iraq in order to criticize Bush administration policy, they understood full well the mandated parameters of the Iraq intervention disallowed that option.
Grurray: “If you’re concerned that the 9-11 terrorists didn’t specifically take orders from Saddam”
See the Iraqi Perspectives Project findings on Saddam’s terrorism linked in my comment at October 6th, 2015 at 8:47 am.
In any case, judging OIF according to Saddam’s relationship to the 9/11 attacks was besides the point. Among the bundle of mandated requirements for Iraq to switch off enforcement, the terrorism mandate in the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) did not turn on Saddam’s relationship to the 9/11 attacks because the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire pre-dated the 9/11 attacks.
UNSCR 687 (1991):
Eric, I like your ‘Strong Horse’ theory, but I just disagree with the conclusion.
The surge, in conjunction with the Anbar Awakening, did pacify Iraq, but something else contributed.
We stopped nation-building and handed off our disastrous administration to Iraqis. Clearly it was making things worse. Your Strong Horse point does come into play here because we simplified things and concentrated on what we do best – fight. Despite the touchy-feely, trust-building talk of the Pop-COIN crowd, the bottom line is the extra combat brigades fought and beat Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Perhaps more importantly though, the Sunni-Shia civil war, which was happening concurrently and concomitant to our counter-insurgency, had reached a point where sectarian cleansing separated previously mixed ethnic groups.
A bulwark, therefore, was in place to ease the insecurity of the threat of ethnic conflict and cleansing. This threat, as you know, was previously powerful enough to compel Saddam to face American defeat rather than risk appearing weak to Iran or Shia rebels (shades of the German-Russian dynamic).
As distasteful as this is to modern internationalist sensibilities, ethnic resettlements are a tried and true method of completing and establishing and end to conflicts. An example of this was Israel. There’s so much outrage by the liberal minded about displaced Arabs, but the fact was that there were also over a million Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews expelled from Muslim countries. In the short term, it promoted the Israeli/Arab conflict to a national level, but in the long term it solidified natural national boundaries and identities.
The idea is that, as the old poem goes, good fences make good neighbors. This was a hard lesson that we just weren’t prepared to learn in the Middle East.
Eric’s Iraq strategy would recreate another Vietnam polarization era; in fact I wonder if he is also one of Vietnam war revisionists whose recommendations would still have us quagmired there and our own streets in anarchic protest.
Eric insists the policy was Saddam had to prove a negative and that that was just policy, over and against “conspiracy theories”
which somehow both on scene inspectors Ritter and Blix among many other key players are logically complicit in spreading.
Not hard to guess Eric has no problem with Albright’s infamous boast about the justice of killing a million innocent civilians to overthrow Saddam.
As for Grurray, the Arab world is in total disarray due largely to American interventions, military and economic, replete
for its unyielding support of a doomed entity, the Zionist one. So the particulars of your opinion of Saddam are more beside the point than is your evaluation of others’ opinions on Saddam Hussein staying or going.
The “surge” did not come near “pacifying” Iraq, not by any means nor definition.
Saddam clearly told Dan Rather shortly before the war that he had no WMDs and that the US government knew it.
I wonder with regards to Grurray’s repeating government propaganda, if Saddam did not realize Iranians and Shia rebels had access to his interview with Rather.
Ken Hoop, the present conflicts in Iraq and Syria have nothing to do with Israel. Find another scapegoat.
“However, in retrospect the greatest lesson we could’ve taken from World War would’ve been to break up Iraq.”
That was the only time Biden ever got anything right but I agree it was not permitted.
Ken Hoop is a troll.
Seriously, when I see Penny or Ken H in the comment thread on anyone elses’ posts, I skip merrily past them.
Troll, troll, troll we go, merrily down the stream. Nothing intelligent to add to the discussion, may as well think of them as a kind of cat-toy to bat around for our amusement.
Interestingly enough, I’m reading Conrad Black’s history of the US, Flight of the Eagle, and on page 688 he says, It was on seizing Baghdad that the United States committed one of the greatest military blunders of its history, almost on a scale of failure to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail and the failure of military intelligence to detect the infiltration of 140,000 or more Chinese guerrillas into Korea in 1950. The entire armed forces and police forces of Iraq, 400,000 men, were discharged, declared to be unemployed and without income….
You may not agree with him but I have read all his books and they are excellent, adding a new prospective to Roosevelt and Nixon.
He blames Franks, Rumsfeld and Bremer. I think Bremer was solely responsible. Right after the war, I used to read a blog by a master sergeant who was assigned to the high officers’ camp where they were held until released. He had some interesting things to say about some of them. We badly missed an opportunity in my opinion.
AQ: War Launched to Protect Israel – Bush Adviser | Inter Press …
Mar 29, 2004 … Zelikow’s casting of the attack on Iraq as one launched to protect Israel appears
at odds with the public position of President George W. Bush
[Jonathan adds: This appears to be the correct link: http://www.ipsnews.net/2004/03/iraq-war-launched-to-protect-israel-bush-adviser/ ]
I have thought of this and of course hindsight being 20-20 think the original sin was to end the Gulf War 1 with Saddam still in power. They thought he would be toppled (and allowing the Iraqis use of helicopters by Schwartzkoph was another critical mistake) – but think how history would have been changed with us leaving the Baathist party to fight and murder their way to finding another leader.
Bremer I think worked with what he had – a ridiculous time frame to find a solution – no MacArthur occupation – but not ensuring the Sunnis had power sharing was the seed of destruction.
I would have to say that with the help of Obama this Iraqi war is the worst disaster we ever had – winning the war but losing the peace
I would make an argument that we seem to constantly ignore geopolitical issues since WW2
Grurray: “We stopped nation-building and handed off our disastrous administration to Iraqis. Clearly it was making things worse. … we simplified things and concentrated on what we do best – fight.”
You know, it’s competition. The enemy worked hard and deserves credit for “making things worse”. That goes to Mike K as well.
“We simplified things” is an inaccurate characterization because the US mission was not simplified as such. The transition from occupation to Iraqi governance was an on-going process according with the UN resolutions for the peace operations. That wasn’t a strategic change for the sake of the COIN “Surge”. In terms of the military mission, the “trust-building” and “fought and beat Al Qaeda in Iraq” were together. The method adjusted but the focus was the same: establishing the foundational security and stability necessary for everything else in nation-building to work. The range of nation-building tasks continued. For a glimpse of the strategy at the ground level, I suggest these e-mails from Baghdad by an Army infantry platoon leader who was part of the mission. As he relates, not every development was directly initiated by US forces. The COIN “Surge” worked by adjusting the mix to set an effective context for facilitating, enabling, and integrating Iraqi-initiated development as well as directly initiating progress.
Unfortunately, the needed nation-building mix for an effective context to continue facilitating, enabling, integrating, and initiating Iraq’s progress was altered then removed from Iraq by the subsequent US president.
You cited McClatchy DC. I suggest general cautiousness with McClatchy DC as a reference for OIF. They’re a reason I emphasize learning the primary sources of OIF for yourself – especially the UNSCRs that set the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance”, the US law and policy to bring Iraq into compliance with the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire, and the determinative fact findings of Iraqi noncompliance, ie, breach of the ceasefire, that triggered enforcement. Perhaps McClatchy DC’s accounts of murkier aspects of OIF are more accurate, but early in my research, I was disappointed to discover McClatchy DC’s characterization of those sources was often dissimilar to the sources when reviewed directly.
Mike K quoting Black: “The entire armed forces and police forces of Iraq, 400,000 men, were discharged, declared to be unemployed and without income….”
Again, I suggest reviewing the CPA officials’ accounts regarding the controversy.
The disintegration of Iraq’s security forces was a reality resulting from Iraq’s defeat rather than CPA edict. From what I gather, building the post-Saddam Iraqi security forces anew was symbolically different but practically similar as reinstalling the self-demobilized Saddam-Iraqi security forces but with the mandated vetting process.
In other words, according to the CPA officials, the characterization that Iraq’s security forces were simply thrown out en masse and left “unemployed and without income” is incorrect. Rather, the policy was to rehire them forthwith as prudence allowed under a post-Saddam banner while following a similar practical timeframe and process as would have been necessary for recalling, vetting, and retraining them under a retained banner of Saddam-Iraqi security forces.
As such, the demobilization order of Iraqi security forces that were already effectively self-demobilized does not seem likely to be a significant source of the conflict.
Rather, the vetting process that was a mandated requirement either way, to be retained or rehired, seems more likely to be a significant source of conflict. From what I gather, the vetting process – rather than the demobilization order – was the practical point of alienation.
Mike K, was your preferred alternative to subtract the vetting process, thus dropping away the UNSCR 688 humanitarian mandates, and simply reforming ASAP under retained banner the Saddam-Iraqi security forces wholly as they were for Saddam?
I disagree with you about Ken Hoop’s comments, “I skip merrily past them” – at least his comments regarding OIF in this thread. They provide a welcome opportunity to set the record straight by presenting for rebuttal typical points from the false narrative of President Bush’s decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Simply ignoring the false narrative of OIF does nothing to correct the harm it causes. What helps is persistently acting to set the record straight, both reactively whenever the false narrative of OIF is presented, such as with Ken Hoop’s comments, and proactively, such as with Mike K’s efforts to teach the historic context of the Iraq intervention.
Some latter areas of OIF are bound to conjecture by their nature, such as the discussions in the thread about the order to demobilize the Saddam-Iraq Army and the COIN “Surge”.
However, the law and policy, fact basis of President Bush’s decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom goes to explanation rather than speculation because the work has been done for us. The over-decade course of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement to OIF has a well developed law and policy, fact record. The why of OIF is straightforward based on primary sources that are easily accessed on-line, such as the Gulf War ceasefire UN Security Council resolutions that set the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441), the US law and policy that enforced the UNSCRs, the conditions and precedents that set the stage for OIF, and the determinative fact findings that triggered the decision for OIF.
Tip: President Clinton, whose entire presidency was preoccupied by Iraq’s noncompliance with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions, is the best source for understanding OIF. President Bush merely came on for the coda that progressed from Operation Desert Fox and President Clinton’s pronouncement, “Iraq has abused its final chance.”
Don’t ignore the false narrative of OIF – correct it. All you need to counter Ken Hoop’s assertions is in my explanation and, if you prefer not to rely solely on the cheat sheet, the primary sources of the mission.
Ritter was a member of UNSCOM; however, his opinion was not representative of UNSCOM nor consistent with the disarmament standard mandated by UNSCR 687. The UNSCOM findings of Iraqi noncompliance with the UNSCR 687 disarmament standard triggered Operation Desert Fox and other enforcement during the Clinton administration, and were carried forward in the UNMOVIC finding of continued Iraqi noncompliance that was the main trigger for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ritter was not part of UNMOVIC for the UNSCR 1441 inspections.
As for Blix, his work with UNMOVIC in the UNSCR 1441 inspections helped inform my understanding of the grounds for OIF. Blix was clear that the burden of proof was on Iraq to prove it disarmed as mandated.
Hans Blix at the UN Security Council, January 27, 2003:
UNMOVIC Cluster Document, March 6, 2003:
“Mike K, was your preferred alternative to subtract the vetting process, thus dropping away the UNSCR 688 humanitarian mandates, and simply reforming ASAP under retained banner the Saddam-Iraqi security forces wholly as they were for Saddam?”
I think pretty much we could not have done worse. The Shia were angry at Bush I and were allied with Iran, as we see clearly now. Al Sadr was an Iran asset. The Sunnis were alienated and formed the resistance that was finally coopted by the Anbar Awakening. I think a lot of them are now in ISIS.
Maybe the Iraqi officer corps was always going to be hostile but I don’t think we had a chance to find out. Zarkawi had a considerable success in setting off the civil war.
Maybe by 2008 it was salvageable but Obama ended any chance to do so.
Of course the enemy gets a vote. Our critical problems were that we didn’t plan for that and then were unwilling and unable to correct that course for years.
Anyway, I meant we specifically simplified our military strategy in this way:
your link to the LT’s emails shows this perfectly. We switched from a ‘command push’ approach that was directed from the overly centralized rear to a ‘reconnaissance pull’ by letting the Anbar tribesman guide our firepower to the enemy.
” We switched from a ‘command push’ approach that was directed from the overly centralized rear ”
Read “Jawbreaker,” by Gary Berntsen.
He describes what happened in Afghanistan when “The Big Army” arrived. The first thing they did was tell the Special Forces guys to shave and get in uniform. None of that fraternizing with the WOGs.
Also Dakota Meyer’s book, “Into the Fire” and see what happened when they called for help in the ambush. Nothing.
Anonymous (October 9th, 2015 at 10:56 am),
I agree that the aftermath of the Gulf War was a mess for which the US fell short as leader of the free world, and the fateful decisions made by the HW Bush administration at that point set the course to Operations Desert Fox and Iraqi Freedom, and the rest.
After starting the indefinite enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire, President HW Bush then kicked the can to President Clinton, who struggled with the deteriorating Saddam problem and beefed up the Iraq enforcement, including the regime-change policy, until he kicked the can to President Bush, who I believe would have preferred to kick the can, too, except the 9/11 attacks raised the stakes on Saddam’s combined terrorism/WMD threat.
For my link-heavy thumbnail sketch of the HW Bush administration position on Iraq following the Gulf War, see this – excerpt:
You said, “think how history would have been changed with us leaving the Baathist party to fight and murder their way to finding another leader.”
That’s an important point often overlooked in the discourse on the Iraq intervention.
With the enforcement of UNSCR 688 (1991), US policy on Iraq was already oriented towards Iraqi regime change by President HW Bush. With the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (PL 105-338), President Clinton cemented regime change for Iraq as the official solution for Saddam’s continued breach of the Gulf War ceasefire. For Clinton, the UNSCR 1205 et al inspections that triggered Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 was the failure of Saddam’s “final chance”. Thereafter (and perhaps before), Clinton’s policy of regime change for Iraq was active.
President Bush actually took a step back from President Clinton’s “final chance” by offering Saddam another “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441) with the UNSCR 1441 inspections as the 1st step towards full compliance. Unfortunately, Saddam declined to even take the 1st step of proving Iraq disarmed as mandated.
With any way of Iraqi regime change, the US was committed to peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq by section 7 of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. The Iraqi regime-change method that Clinton pursued while in office, if successful, likely would have been akin to the Syria civil war, ie, worse than the insurgency we eventually resolved with the COIN “Surge”. When Saddam failed to comply with the UNSCR 1441 inspections, the OIF regime change was comparatively more humane, quicker, and important for us, better suited for the mission to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (PL 105-235).
Along your point, as difficult as the OIF peace operations were, imagine trying to pick up peace operations with Iraq starting with conditions like the Syria civil war.
Conrad Black has weighed in with a pithy column on Syria and Obama.
If anyone has a taste for fantasy, I would suggest Huffington Post as an example.
The second approach has been to try wrest at least the political initiative back into American hands — by conceding to Russia its military role — whilst trying to set parameters (essentially President Bashar al-Assad’s removal), that would require a major reworking of the Syrian leadership, in which America would have a major say. (Britain and France similarly lifted a leg, to mark their territory of having a claim in any final outcome, too.)
During all these maneuvers and rhetorical skirmishing, however, the U.S. has also been quietly re-positioning itself towards the political settlement which it now sees as coming somewhat into focus. In London and Berlin, Secretary Kerry modified the U.S.’s initial absolute objection to President Assad remaining in office:
Oh, and Turkey is reported to have shot down a Russian plane.
I saw some reports yesterday that the Saudis sent the Syrian rebels fresh supplies of TOW tank-busters. They stopped the Syrian-Iranian ground offensive around Hama. The Russians were supposedly providing close air support. There were youtube videos showing rebels taking easy potshots at Assad tanks like ducks in a barrel. I’m not sure how indicative it is of the overall conflict, but it Iranian/Syrian tactics looked very pathetic.
An Iranian general was killed by ISIS in Syria. I wonder if they have the resources, even with Obama’s $100 billion, to keep this up ?
“Maybe by 2008 it was salvageable but Obama ended any chance to do so.”
It’s frustrating. At the point President Bush handed off OIF to President Obama, it was being salvaged. Like I said to Jim, building a nation is not quicker than raising a child, no less an extraordinarily challenging child. With 2008-2009 Iraq, the indicators clearly were the mission was back on track. We were looking forward to the next elections as a developmental milestone for locking in and building on the gains we earned with the Iraqis during the COIN “Surge”.
Instead, tragically, President Obama valued Iraq differently than Presidents HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush did.
Here are perspectives from media observers, professors, OIF officials, and others that inform my understanding of the US “irresponsible exit from Iraq”.
I’ve looked at the issue and formed an opinion, of course, but I tend to shy away from speculating on why Obama prematurely ended Operation Iraqi Freedom (labeled Operation New Dawn) because it’s murky unlike the straightforwardly dispositive law and policy, fact basis for the why of Bush’s decision for OIF – ie, the UNSCRs that set the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” for the ceasefire, the US law and policy for bringing Iraq into compliance, and the determinative fact findings of Iraqi breach that triggered enforcement, plus the broader historic, strategic context you focus on.
“The Shia were angry at Bush I and were allied with Iran”
As Grurray and I discussed, it was about calibrating the mix of factors in order to influence pragmatic choices.
Iraqi Shia such as al Sadr were justifiably angry at President HW Bush’s (understatement alert) irresponsible handling of the Gulf War aftermath, which set the course for everything else. The question that was answered during OIF was whether their relationship with Iran was pragmatic or loyal. Answer: it was pragmatic.
Iran, of course, was a player all along and exploited the opening left by HW Bush with their own anti-Saddam investment in Iraq between the Gulf War and OIF. As long as the US was the ‘strong horse’ in Iraq, though, Iraqi Shia – who are not monolithic – calibrated accordingly. But when the US altered course with Iraq then withdrew under Obama, thus changing the mix of factors on the ground, they recalibrated accordingly. The emblematic example of Iraqi recalibration is PM Maliki, who adjusted in reaction to President Obama’s changed approach to Iraq.
“I think pretty much we could not have done worse.
…Maybe the Iraqi officer corps was always going to be hostile but I don’t think we had a chance to find out.”
By the same token, I don’t know that we could have done better.
If I recall correctly, your preferred alternative was tried experimentally on a small scale during Fallujah I and the repurposed Saddam-Iraqi unit went over to the enemy.
I agree with you that the need to establish security and stability for Iraq was fundamentally paramount as the foundation for everything else in nation-building to work.
However, setting aside the practical challenge of reforming the self-disintegrated Saddam-Iraqi security forces, I think the alternative of an ASAP-repurposing of Saddam’s security forces, which would have meant little-to-no vetting and retraining, underestimates the “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror” (UN Commission on Human Rights, 2002).
Saddam’s people weren’t helplessly pushed into terroristic insurgency by the CPA demobilization order. They resorted to terrorism because terroristic governance was the status quo they enforced under Saddam. Moreover, Saddam’s Iraq was a world-leading source of terrorism. Saddam didn’t train terrorists, carry out terrorism, and maintain Iraq’s terrorism network all by himself. An ASAP-repurposing of Saddam’s security forces under US-led banner for expedience sake would have, at the outset, diametrically contradicted the UN resolutions and associated US law and policy for the peace operations to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (PL 105-235).
That being said, the record shows that what the CPA did, although justifiably reasoned, fell short in the practical competition versus the enemy on the ground.
My preferred hindsight alternative to the CPA’s actual record and the ASAP-repurposing of Saddam’s security forces is the application of the proto-COIN approach that was proposed at the beginning by a faction of diplomats and military, but rejected in favor of the CPA approach.
Yet I’m not wholly confident my preferred alternative would have succeeded at the outset, either, in spite of the later success of the COIN “Surge”. It’s possible that Saddam’s sickness had to run its course in Iraq, regardless, and the best we could do for Iraq was mitigate the effects while managing Iraq’s recovery and rehabilitation as the ‘strong horse’.
“We switched from a ‘command push’ approach that was directed from the overly centralized rear to a ‘reconnaissance pull’ by letting the Anbar tribesman guide our firepower to the enemy.”
I agree with that.
But you implied that the COIN “Surge” departed from nation-building, when actually the COIN “Surge” was an adjustment of the on-going nation-building mission.
Peace operations is the technocratic term for the range of military inputs in nation-building. The dominant area control achieved by the military in order to establish security and stability is not different than nation-building. It’s a fundamental component, the foundational piece for effective nation-building. The more-decentralized and granular character of the COIN “Surge” increased the depth and breadth of the reach for the nation-building mission.
“Our critical problems were that we didn’t plan for that and then were unwilling and unable to correct that course for years.”
I attended a talk by Bremer in February 2003 where he anticipated the challenges we faced in Iraq. The US was closely engaged with Iraq, including the humanitarian crisis, at the top of the US agenda from 1990-1991 onward. Iraq’s issues were in the middle of the plate for the HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush administrations for over a decade.
However, just because someone knows the weather reports and has experience with storms doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to take on a hurricane.
It’s not fair to say we were “unwilling and unable to correct that course”. The mission in Iraq was constantly adapting. We just didn’t catch up with the enemy until the COIN “Surge”.
It’s also not fair to say “we didn’t plan for that”. It’s more accurate to say our pre-war planning for post-war Iraq was inadequate because our institutional post-war method was retarded (I say that in the clinical sense). Our institutional post-war method was retarded because our institutional culture for peace operations was traumatized by the fall-out of the Vietnam War.
It’s relatively simple for the Commander in Chief to order our military to war. However, it is much harder for anyone, including the President, to reach inside our military and reform deep-seated biases and phobias and their resultant shortcomings before the necessity to reform manifests.
At the same time, that’s not abnormal: that our learning curve for victory in post-Saddam Iraq was driven by necessity on the ground is consistent with our military history. We have always undergone steep learning curves in war that have routinely included devastating setbacks. Due to the nature of the particular enemy in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom just demanded a steeper learning curve for the peace operations of the post-war than the war that deposed Saddam’s regime.
Our post-WW2 peace operations were imperfect, too. Leadership is more about the resilience and persistence to work through arising challenges than omniscience and omnipotence up front.
In defense of the Bush administration, although their pre-war planning for the post-war proved to be inadequate, the ‘go-to-war’ plan for post-war Iraq was state of the art: see this White House Briefing on humanitarian reconstruction issues for Iraq from February 24, 2003.
In hindsight, the opening we allowed for the enemy to take away the immediate post-war ‘golden hour’ is apparent in the pre-OIF WH briefing – the limited post-war role designated for the military jumps out.
Why was the military role for post-war Iraq limited by design? For my perspective on the issue, see this post.
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