Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies:
Getting rid of Saddam and Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction is an important set of goals if the war goes well. No war, however, can do more than provide a basis for making Iraq somewhat better and then giving the Iraqis control over their own destiny. No outcome of the war can reshape the Gulf or the Middle East.
The idea of instant democratization coming out of the war and spreading throughout the region denies the laws of cause and effect and is ridiculous. So is the idea we know enough about national building to create an Iraqi United States.
The best we can do is minimize our mistakes and the effect of the law of unintended consequences. To do this requires both realism and commitment. If we rely on miracles and good intentions, or act as occupiers rather than partners, we are almost certain to be far more unhappy on the tenth anniversary of the next war as we were on the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War.
(My late mother had a crush on Tony Cordesman.) Throughout the last half of 2002 the subject my mother and I talked the most about was: Iraq’s soon-to-come moment in Dick Cheney’s cross-hairs. One day I stopped by, sat on her bed, and our conversation commenced with her question, a question promoted by an article in the New York Review of Book that lay opened up across her lap.
She asked me,
“Do you suppose that, besides all the UN inspectors, Iraq is also the most photographed country from air and space that ever was?”
At seventy-five years of age and privy to exactly none of the intelligence Cheney enjoyed, nevertheless, her estimate of the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD was far superior to that of Cheney and his gang of neocon thugs.
How do you account for this difference? The actual difference isn’t a matter of hair splitting. The open source turned out to be correct and the top secret source turned out to be completely bogus.
Scroll ahead ten years and consider: more than a half million casualties, upwards of one million excess deaths, and, not to mention, vast treasure adding up to trillions of dollars, and consider, today, the failed state of Iraq.
By spring of 2003, weeks past shock and awe, my mother had decided, rightly, that a hideous war crime was being perpetrated.