Friday, March 23, 2007

Why Iraq Was a Mistake

The war in Iraq hasn't gone to pot as a result of inept prosecution, not having enough "boots on the ground," or any of the other tactical mumbo jumbo offered by Neoconservative critics. Iraq isn't a mess because of de-Baathification. It is not falling apart as a consequence of the Iraqi army being disbanded.

The problem was going in at all given the inevitable outcome obvious to any person with an IQ above room temperature. There were only two possible outcomes to the war in Iraq. The first possibility was complete chaos, a Hobbesian battle of all against all with various factions duking it out for control. The end result would be a civil war and a "failed state," fertile ground for non-state entities to take root.

The second possibility, fostered by "democracy", was the creation of a Shi’ite regime aligned with Iran. Neither outcome was desirable given the historic role played by Iraq as a counterweight to Iranian power in the Middle East.

In another insightful offering at, William Lind summarizes and explains why the "surge" is destined to end in failure:

First, a higher level dominates a lower. If you win on the tactical level but lose operationally, you lose. If you win on the tactical and operational levels but lose strategically – Germany's fate in both world wars – you still lose.

Second, in most wars, including Fourth Generation wars, success on higher levels is not merely additive. That is not to say, you cannot win operationally or strategically just by adding up tactical victories.

If we consider the operational and strategic situations in Iraq, we can easily see why no amount of tactical success can save us. Strategically, we are fighting to support a Shi’ite regime closely aligned with Iran, our most potent local opponent. Every tactical success merely moves us closer to giving Iran a new ally in the form of a restored Iraqi state under Shi’ite domination. The more tactical successes we win, the worse our strategic situation gets. This flows not from any tactical failure (though there have been plenty of those), but from botching the strategic level from the outset. Saddam's Iraq was the main regional counterweight to Iran, which means we should not have attacked it.


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