Mon, 17 Mar 2003 19:47:43 -0800
While there's a certain morbid delight in imagining worst-case
outcomes, we should also consider best-case and likely-case
I tend to think there's a good chance the situation will unfold
- "Shock and awe" turns out to really be "bluff and roll".
We *could* bomb the hell out of every plausible Iraqi regime
target with our bigger, better, and more accurate weaponry,
but why? They're weaker than they were 12 years ago, and very
few of their people want to fight us. Most targets we'd rather
possess than destroy.
So except for some select command and elite unit targets,
we might go easy over most of the Iraqi forces, just dropping
a few token bombs as a signal: "It's begun."
- That signal will cause a stampede of Iraqis racing to switch
sides. Except for a small cadre of Baath loyalists, the country
will swap allegiance lightning-fast. Saddam will either flee
or be holed up, Manuel Noriega-style, in some fortress or temple,
perhaps with hostages.
- A few nerve-gas missiles or artillery shells may be used, but
with no more impact than in Gulf War I. Postwar revelations
will show ambitious but mostly inept and resource-starved
covert Iraqi WMD programs -- the kind of thing that'd be scary
if left alone for a few years but no big problem today. (Doves
will use this as evidence war was unnecessary; hawks will
use this as evidence we acted in time.)
- A last-ditch effort to transfer some of their most dangerous
materials, technology, and know-how to other rogue organizations
will partially succeed. A lot of this dispersal will be tracked
and cleaned up postwar, a little won't, and will eventually be
used in other varied terrorist attacks. (Doves will blame
these attacks on the war resentment and dispersal; hawks will
say the attacks would have been even worse had the source not
been shut down.)
- There will be a postwar feeling of euphoria; Iraqis who've
been taught for decades to insincerely kiss up to a brutal
government will enthusiastically kiss up to the more liberal
occupation regime, at least for a while. Countries that
opposed the war will gladly jump on the rebuilding/peacekeeping
bandwagon. Even France won't be completely shut out, despite
embarassing postwar revelations of dealing around the sanctions
that cause minor domestic scandals.
- There will be continued ethnic violence, terrorist attacks, and
on-and-off-again insurrections. Though the pain will be small
compared to the nightmare scenarios being shopped about right,
the narrative spin will still be, "not as easy as it looked,
this could go own forever, are we in a quagmire." The euphoria
will fade, but an Iraq that's a little more like Kuwait/Qatar/
Jordan/Turkey is still a giant win for the region and the free
- A stable, more liberal regime in Iraq will allow the US to take
a harder line against the sponsors of radicalism and terrorism
in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran. The economic flurry caused by
rebuilding, modernizing, and free trade in oil will be generate
envy in some of Iraq's neighbors.
Sure, this is an optimistic chain of events.
But after hearing doomsday scenarios about what would happen in eastern
europe as the soviet bloc governments fell, or in the collapsing USSR,
or in Gulf War I, or in the Afghanistan campaign, and seeing how those
all turned much better than many predicted, we should be ready
for a reasonably positive result here.