Thursday, October 07, 2004

In retrospect...

Babble on.

When he's not cattily calling Wretchard a "partisan Republican, spinning the facts for political purposes," Andrew Sullivan has the odd valuable thing to say.

One of [Paul Bremer's] early complaints was insufficient troop numbers to stop looting, restore order and protect unguarded weapon sites. Leave everything aside and focus on the latter. The war was launched because we feared Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. The main fear was that these weapons might be transferred to terrorists who could use them against us. And yet in the invasion, there was little or no effort to secure these sites! And there was no effort to seal the borders to prevent their being exported, or purloined by terrorists ... Why would you launch a war that failed in its very planning to avoid the disaster that you went to war to prevent? ... We were lucky in retrospect that Saddam didn't have any WMDs. The way this war has been run, it would have actually increased the chances of such weapons getting to America via terrorists rather than reduced them.


There is a strong case to be made that the objective of any war is not simply to destroy the enemy, absent any further consequences, but to achieve a specific strategic result by destroying the enemy. Presumably one of the strategic objectives in Iraq should have been destruction of the Hussein regime in order to reduce the chances of an Iraqi WMD being used against America. In fact, GWB implied that objective when he outlined one of the main threats posed by the Iraqi regime in an October 2002 speech:

Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
...
Failure to act would embolden other tyrants, allow terrorists access to new weapons and new resources, and make blackmail a permanent feature of world events.


By all conventional measures, the Dash to Baghdad was a stunning military success. But if the Baathists had actually possessed WMD stockpiles as the intelligence suggested, and if terrorists were allowed to make off with some of those stockpiles because of lax security during and immediately after the invasion, could the operation have been reasonably termed a success?

Wretchard makes the valid point that the overall military invasion plan was changed dramatically on the fly, as the 4th Infantry Division was diverted from Turkey to the Gulf. He uses this fact to justify the absence of sufficient military presence to prevent looting in Baghdad shortly after the city fell. Did it also affect the coalition's ability to secure suspected WMD stockpiling sites? Was there a plan to protect these sites, and if so, what exactly derailed this plan?

The success of any operation depends at least partly upon luck. The success of the Iraqi invasion may have depended upon luck a little more than most.

Babble off.

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