Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Turning a Do Not Do List into a Checklist

Here is what Rumsfeld anticipated in October 2002 with my thoughts in color:

SUBJECT: Iraq: An Illustrative List of Potential Problems to be Considered and Addressed
Following is an illustrative list of the types of problems that could result from a conflict with Iraq. It is offered simply as a checklist so that they are part of the deliberations.
1. If US seeks UN approval, it could fail; and without a UN mandate, potential coalition partners may be unwilling to participate.
Ya think?  While I tend to poo-poo the UN, not getting support from major allies (Canada, France, Germany) was very problematic.  Made the war's legitimacy suspect from the get-go.
2. A failure to answer this question could erode support: "If the US pre-empts in one country, does it mean it will pre-empt in all other terrorist states?"
Indeed, the Iranian proliferation problem is in part due to questions in Iranian minds about US intent.
3. US could fail to restrain Israel, and, if Israel entered the conflict, it could broaden into a Middle East war.
This problem didn't happen. Ok.  Israel is unrestrained in other ways (settlements) that are more very counter-productive to American interests.  Plus there is the gathering sense that Israel is trying to provoke an American attack on Iran.
4. Syria and Iran could decide to support Iraq, complicating the war.
Well, they supported insurgents that did heaps of damage to Americans (I raised a question in class yesterday--did Iranian support for insurgents in Iraq kill/maim more Americans than Pakistani support for insurgents in Afghanistan?).
5. Turkish military could move on the Kurds or the Northern Iraqi oil fields.
Yes, no.
6. The Arab street could erupt, particularly if the war is long, destabilizing friendly countries neighboring Iraq—Jordan, Saudi Arabia, GCC states, Pakistan, etc.
A little bit.
7. While the US is engaged in Iraq, another rogue state could take advantage of US preoccupation—North Korea, Iran, PRC in the Taiwan Straits, other?
How about China?  And Iran didn't have to take advantage--it got handed predominance in the region by the US.
8. While preoccupied with Iraq, the US might feel compelled to ignore serious proliferation or other machinations by North Korea, Russia, PRC, Pakistan, India, etc., and thereby seem to tacitly approve and acquiesce in unacceptable behavior, to the detriment of US influence in the world.
Well, the war in Iraq did make the war in Afghanistan harder (doing more with less), which increased reliance on Pakistan ....Not a good thing.
9. Preoccupation with Iraq for a long period could lead to US inattentiveness and diminished influence in South Asia, which could lead to a conflict between nuclear armed states.
See previous comment
10. Oil disruption could cause international shock waves, and with South America already in distress.
Oil prices did go up.  Not great, but not horrible besides empowering Putin's Russia and Chavez.
11. Iraqi intelligence services, which have a global presence, including in the US, could strike the US, our allies, and/or deployed forces in unconventional ways.
No, we did most of the damage to ourselves.
12. Countries will approach the US with unexpected demands in exchange for their support (an Israeli request for us to release Jonathan Pollard, Russia asking for free play in the Pankisi Gorge, etc.), which, if the US accepts, will weaken US credibility.
Well, sure.
13. US could fail to find WMD on the ground in Iraq and be unpersuasive to the world.
There you go.  So, then it looks a lot like a war for oil.
14. There could be higher-than-expected collateral damage—Iraqi civilian deaths.
Much more, but that's ok. Americans do not care so much.  The rest of the world?  A bit more.
15. There could be higher-than-expected US and coalition deaths from Iraq’s use of weapons of mass destruction against coalition forces in Iraq, Kuwait, and/or Israel.
No WMD, no problemos.
16. US could fail to find Saddam Hussein and face problems similar to the difficulty in not finding UBL [Osama bin Laden] and [Mullah] Omar.
Nope, we got him. Weee.
17. US could fail to manage post-Saddam Hussein Iraq successfully, with the result that it could fracture into two or three pieces, to the detriment of the Middle East and the benefit of Iran.
Oh boy.  Indeed, we could fail to manage Iraq successfully.  Indeed, I am pretty sure the lack of planning had something to do with this and Rummy blocked most of the planning.
18. The dollar cost of the effort could prove to be greater than expected and the contributions from other nations minimal.
Indeed, two trillion dollars perhaps?  Wasted dollars, wasted lives.
19. Rather than having the post-Saddam effort require two to four years, it could take eight to 10 years, thereby absorbing US leadership, military, and financial resources.
Eight is about on target.
20. US alienation from countries in the EU and the UN could grow to levels sufficient to make our historic post-World War II relationships irretrievable, with the charge of US unilateralism becoming so embedded in the world’s mind that it leads to a diminution of US influence in the world.
Lost influence?  Yes.  Irretrievable?  Only kinda, sorta.
21. US focus on Iraq could weaken our effort in the Global War on Terrorism, leading to terrorist attacks against the US or Europe, including a WMD attack in the US that theoretically might have been avoided.
Well, it did harm the war on terrorism but no WMD on US.  Woot!
22. World reaction against "pre-emption" or "anticipatory self-defense" could inhibit US ability to engage in the future.
23. Adverse reaction to the US could result in the US losing military basing rights in the Gulf and other Muslim countries.
Nope, no lost bases.  Just lost credibility.
24. Recruiting and financing for terrorist networks could take a dramatic upward turn from successful information operations by our enemies, positioning the US as anti-Muslim.
Indeed.  Glad Rummy thought of it.  Too bad it did not dissuade the administration
25. The US will learn, to our surprise, a number of the "unknown unknowns," the gaps in our intelligence knowledge, for example: Iraqi WMD programs could be several years more advanced than we assessed; Iraqi capabilities of which we were unaware may exist, such as UAVs, jamming, cyber attacks, etc.; others one might imagine!
Or they might not have any capabilities at all.
26. Fortress Baghdad could prove to be long and unpleasant for all.
Nope, twas quick.
27. Iraq could experience ethnic strife among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds.
Ya think?  Just a bit?  
28. Iraq could use chemical weapons against the Shia and blame the US.
29. Iraq could successfully best us in public relations and persuade the world that the war is against Muslims.
Well, it was, kind of.
Note: It is possible of course to prepare a similar illustrative list of all the potential problems that need to be considered if there is no regime change in Iraq.
 I don't think I ever said Rumsfeld was dumb.  Just incredibly arrogant.  He knew what the risks might be.  He just didn't think that they were that important.  Or that he would pay the costs if the gamble did not pay off.  Just those missing brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, or just missing limbs, headache-free existences, and so on.  The costs for this war will continue to accrue for the Americans who went and for the Iraqis for generations.

I have long argued that the Bush folks took the list of things not to do and turned them into a check list of things to do.  This list that Rummy came up with is very much what I had in mind, as the Invasion and Occupation decisions made all of the bad things on this list more possible, rather than less, except for that whole WMD thing.  Oops.

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