I have had a running twitter battle with some folks who are defending various parts of the US invasion of Iraq. As any dedicated reader of my blog (that would be three of you) would know, nothing could irritate me more.
Anyhow, the concept of tradeoffs has been raised so let me just illustrate the complete lack of concern about tradeoffs in 2002 in the Rumsfeld Pentagon (so, I can be clear that many of us saw that Iraq would be a trainwreck--not just in hindsight).
In the summer of 2002, the US was busily trying to get ICC [International Criminal Court] exceptions written into every UN mission in which the US was involved. I was on the Bosnia desk so I got to type up the documents concerning this issue. The idea was that the US did not want its peacekeeping soldiers charged for war crimes while working in Bosnia, Kosovo, etc. While this played well with the folks in Congress who were ICC-averse, it was not that real of a problem since Bosnia would not turn folks directly over to the ICC and even the ICC would give the country the first chance to try folks.
The key thing here is this: the US was antagonizing its allies because they cared about ICC a great deal when the US was planning a war at the time (Iraq) and would clearly like to have the allies involved or at least not opposed. So why antagonize the French and the Germans over an issue that really, really, really was never likely to be a significant problem when it posed potential harm to a war the US was about to launch. I raised this at the time with my military colleagues and obviously was not the only person in the building to think of it. But still, full steam ahead on OPERATION ALIENATE ALLIES.
This was one of many examples where this administration, with Rummy playing a big role, where the side effects were ignored (such as empowering Iran). As long as Saddam Hussein was dead, big victory. Nothing else mattered. Well, wrong, everything else mattered a great deal. The list of the consequences that will be ever-lasting are huge. But I have a student waiting so that is a blog post for another day. Or perhaps just later today.