Why We Need to Be Wary of Simple Solutions to Iraq

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Mr. Polk taught at Harvard from 1955 to 1961 when he was appointed a member of the Policy Planning Council of the US State Department. In 1965 he became professor of history at the University of Chicago and founded its Middle Eastern Studies Center. Subsequently, he also became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. Among his books are The United States and the Arab World, The Elusive Peace: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century, Neighbors and Strangers: the Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs and the just-published Understanding Iraq. Other of his writings can be accessed on www.williampolk.com.

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Under the headline “A little tenderness can turn around insurgents,” the International Herald Tribune on August 26 published an article on how to win the war in Iraq. It is an important article although important in ways the authors did not intend.

I have not met the authors, Scott Gerwehr and Nina Hachigian, who both work at RAND, a spin-off of the U.S. Air Force which is now largely funded by the Pentagon; they describe RAND as a “nonprofit research organization,” but obviously it is more than that. Being quasi-governmental it affords people like the authors of the article, Mr. Gerwehr and Ms. Hachigian, access to classified information and the time and opportunity to think about major policy issues. So what do they give us?

The article focuses on a program known as “open arms” (Chieu Hoi) which they say “succeeded in winning the support of nearly 200,000 [Viet Cong] fighters for the American-backed government of South Vietnam.” In return for better food, vocational training, jobs and clemency, some of the captives provided intelligence and a few even took up arms, ostensibly for us. If we did the same thing with the 10,000 or so imprisoned Iraqis, the authors argue, we could “reap huge dividends in terms of gaining intelligence for our forces, diminishing support for the insurgents and reducing anti-American sentiment among average Iraqis.” In short, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

While I commend the authors for opposing shameful and illegal treatment of prisoners, what is important about the article is not what it says about Chieu Hoi but what it tells us about ourselves. For all our great virtues, Americans are prone to seek gimmicks, forget history and adjust reality to fit our hopes. The article by Mr. Gerwehr and Ms. Hachigian exemplifies all three.

The gimmick is obvious: be (relatively) kind and your enemy will come to love you. That, we are told was the “brainchild” of three experienced counter-insurgency warriors.1 Did it work in Vietnam? We now know that the Viet Cong had active agents throughout the South Vietnamese government (including the office of the president), the foreign press (including the New York Times) and the South Vietnamese general staff. 2

In contrast, I have yet to hear of a single penetration of the Viet Cong by any of our agents or of any gainful intelligence from the 200,000 Chieu Hoi beneficiaries. But let us assume that Mr. Gerwehr and Ms. Hachigian are right: that we did get “good sources of intelligence” in this way. At best that would have been a small piece of our overall tactical “package” which included creation of fortified villages, massive population “regroupment,” assassination of about 23,000 Vietnamese suspects (the “Phoenix” program), introduction of nearly half a million U.S. troops, training of a whole South Vietnamese army, development of such “winning” devices as the light weight rifle (the M-16) and deployment of an armada of helicopters. The costs included the death more than 50,000 Americans, of about 2 million Vietnamese and expenditures that derailed the domestic American development program. What was the result? Defeat.

Why? Example after historical example – dating back to our own Revolution in 1775 -- should have taught us a simple fact: no people likes to be dominated by foreigners. When they can do so, they will struggle for independence. That was the central reality of Vietnam and is the central reality of Iraq. It is self-determination not good treatment for which they are fighting. The “good cop” (Chieu Hoi ) “bad cop” (Abu Ghuraib) routine may work among natives of a country but not between foreigners and natives. “Winning the hearts and minds” while occupying a subject people3 has been repeatedly tried and seen to fail everywhere. Apparently none of our leaders has any historical memory.

We Americans not only are oblivious of the past, but we also insist on adjusting the current world to fit our preconceptions. This is certainly true of the Bush administration, but, to be fair, it was also true of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was as unwilling to listen to information and analysis that did not “fit” his world view as is Donald Rumsfeld. That is why it is so important that we have an informed, independent and influential intelligence evaluation process. Only by a vigorous application of judgment can we hope to avoid costly mistakes or to correct them before they become disasters. Alas, intelligence evaluation is a casualty of the Bush administration.

What would such an evaluation process now be telling the leaders of our government? We can reconstruct at least some of the intelligence “appreciation,” from what is now appearing outside government councils. Here are the key elements:

1. The war is being lost. In every category the decline is evident. First “security:” In the last year, active combatants have risen from “a handful of diehard Baathists” to perhaps 15-20 thousand; their supporters have increased from “practically none” to probably several hundred thousand. Attacks have risen from an average of 45 a day to more than 70. US personnel killed have neared 2,000 and those wounded, many grievously, now amount to at least 15 thousand. American-appointed Iraqi police have suffered about 30 percent more casualties. Consequently, instead of being pulled back US troops are being augmented from 138,000 to 160,000.4

2. Economic figures for Iraq are no more encouraging: Oil production is down about 90,000 barrels/day; electrical production is down about 5 percent , unemployment has hit 50 percent - 65 percent , 5 and so on.

3. Whatever the purpose of the war was – preventing terrorism, protecting oil production,6 creating democracy, stabilizing the Middle East, none of which was ever precisely defined – it is not being achieved:

  • Iraq was not before but has since become a training ground for terrorists, and their activities are spreading far beyond the Middle East;
  • oil prices have risen to unprecedented levels;
  • Iraq had a constitution and elections, courtesy of the British, already in the 1920s and no one thought that they equated to democracy. The current American-inspired and edited constitution is far from “democratic,” is a travesty of civil rights, and is also probably as irrelevant as was the constitution the British gave Iraq. Elections are just as unpromising. In the last election, while many voted (interestingly almost the same proportion, 83 percent , as in the South Vietnamese election of 1967, under similar dangerous conditions), they voted not for programs or for candidates but by ethnic groups and, at least in the Arab Shia areas, by command of the supreme religious leader, himself a Persian national. Experience tells us that democracy is not a gift one people can give to another. It either grows internally or not at all and it does not grow from the top down but from the “roots” upward.
  • Rather than stabilizing Iraq (which hovers on the brink of civil war) or the rest of the Middle East (where everyone admits that anti-American and anti-American-sponsored-regime sentiment is rising), the Middle East shows signs of increasing instability.

4. As in a business venture, so in “politico-military” affairs, it is wise to have an exit strategy. “Staying the course” is not an exit strategy. A common mistake of political leaders is to rush into situations without thinking how to get out. This is not just Mr. Bush’s mistake. In the Johnson administration, the “rapid reaction force” (RRF) was the hot new idea. Few thought about a “rapid withdrawal strategy” a RWS. American leaders of both parties are prone to throw aside caution and rush into situations; then having created or exacerbated an intractable problem, they proclaim that the die is cast and so we must deal with the situation as it has become rather than lamenting (or learning from) the way we created it.

Thus, the argument today is that if we pull out of Iraq, we will leave chaos behind us. Undoubtedly, we will, because Iraq is already chaotic. But, I believe that a close reading of the history of other insurgencies shows that the only way out of the chaos is withdrawal of the foreign forces and that failure to withdraw perpetuates chaos. Withdrawal, I argue, is the least bad of possible existing alternatives once the mess had been created.

5. What were the alternatives? It is important to raise this question not only because we should try to learn from the past but also and more important because we now face a new situation that is similar to Iraq as it was in 2003.

The first step should have been a sober assessment of the situation. Was Iraq really a mortal danger to the United States, as President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, National Security Council director Rice and others proclaimed, or was it merely one state among a number – several of which are our allies – that are ugly tyrannies. Did it have the capacity or intent to attack the United States? Was it in league with a vast terrorist network?

Once a realistic assessment of these questions was achieved, various alternatives were to be considered. Military intervention was one, but it seems to have been the only one ever seriously considered. Various others were already evident in 2003. They included an enhanced U.N. inspection program, more intrusive economic monitoring, a more “targeted” sanctions program, further restrictions on the “reach” of the Iraqi regime to Kurdistan and southern Iraq, serious consideration of regional issues including nuclear weapons reductions in other states and, finally, temporary inaction to give time to work out what we were already doing. I, for one, wrote about each of them well before the invasion.

6. When the alternatives were laid out and examined, the effectiveness and cost of each could have been evaluated. No attempt was made to examine the likely effects of any program other than the initial “shock and awe” and none on the predictable follow-on events, but orders of magnitude on cost for all were evident in 2003 if not before. We can now say with some precision the cost of the military option: nearly 2,000 Americans killed and 15-20 thousand wounded – with many more to come; 7 a shattered Iraq with civilian and military dead never-to-be-fully reckoned but perhaps 100,000 and monetary costs to America of more than $1.3 trillion already spent or projected over a five year period.8

Most important, of course, is what an informed, independent and influential intelligence evaluation process should be telling our government now about the much-hinted-at next Middle Eastern venture, the invasion of Iran.

Once again, are we to believe that the inhabitants will be out in the streets with smiles on their faces and flowers in their hands to greet us, that the war will be so short and easy as not even to be a “war,” that it won’t cost much, that it will protect us from terrorism, that it will ensure our access to cheap energy, that we can install a democracy and so forth. How many times since the Bay of Pigs have we fallen into such fantasy?

Are we likely to do so again? The portents are compelling: President Bush has proclaimed that Iran is a part of the “Axis of Evil” whose regime must be “changed” and that “all options” on how to achieve this objective are open. Vice President Cheney has gone further essentially to suggest that we expect the Israelis to do the job for us. And the administration has given the Israelis at least part of the means to do so, 102 F-16i fighter-bombers capable of reaching Iranian targets and some 500 “bunker buster” bombs to use on them. The Israelis are known to be practicing the operation on mock-up sites in the Negev desert.

Hearing the signals, the Iranians are preparing for an onslaught by laying in stocks of weapons for a guerrilla war and also are giving those who want a war a pretext for it by rushing their program to acquire a nuclear weapons capacity.

I have written extensively about what I think the result of this policy would be. Here, to summarize:

  • we would sink into a bog of quicksand much deeper than Iraq. Even if Israeli aircraft and commandos were successful, which of course is problematical, the Iranian regime would survive, would be more strongly supported by a hurt and angry population and would emerge even more determined to acquire the ultimate defense, a nuclear capacity.
  • Almost certainly the US would be drawn into the conflict. Then American casualties would be at least as high as in Iraq and the monetary costs would likely be far higher. Iran would have a strong reason to counterattack in any possible way.
  • If we “win,” however we define that elusive concept, we will have acquired a vast zone of occupation stretching from China to the Mediterranean with no identified means of withdrawal or even any means of achieving internal security. The likely result would be a protracted and very costly guerrilla war.
  • Ironically, our action would serve to unify all factions in Iraq on the one thing on which they could then agree, opposition to the United States. It would swing the Shiis into action beside the Arab Sunnis and would make it difficult for the Sunni Kurds, who have strong ties to Iran, to stand aside, particularly if our Turkish allies take the opportunity to “liquidate” the Kurdish problem.
  • Impinging as Iran does, culturally, religiously and politically, on other areas, we would inexorably be drawn deeper into problems in Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. If Israel were used as our proxy, we could expect revolts, coups and even revolutions in many of these areas and the great enhancement and growing popularity of anti-American terrorist movements far beyond. In short, we would have a virtually unending war.
  • The 26 significant military bases we already have in the Middle East would probably have to be doubled – we are already building 14 new “enduring bases” in Iraq -- and new ones will doubtlessly be added to the many we already maintain in the rest of Asia and Africa. Our troops would prove insufficient and we would have to begin to draft young Americans.
  • We would have increasing critical financial problems. China, which now depends heavily on Iranian oil and is also our main creditor, would almost certainly cut back on purchases or even cease to buy U.S. government obligations. The price of oil, already up six fold (from just over $10 to over $60 a barrel) from just before the first Gulf War, would go up still further, putting further strain on our balance of payments. Our currency, already under great pressure, would fall and our ability to borrow would drastically decline.

If even a part of these events are the likely outcome of an invasion of Iran, why is it apparently being considered?

There are two answers: one is political -- the program of the dominant Neoconservative clique in the Bush administration has always called for perpetual warfare9 and has always targeted Iran.10 Focusing attention on the danger of Iran might also appeal to other of the president’s advisers, including his political “brain” Karl Rove, since it might distract the public and diffuse the growing criticism of the war in Iraq.

The other answer is “security.” Iran is moving toward at least the potential of acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. It certainly has most of the necessary ingredients and industrial capacity. There is some doubt about the timetable: the most reasonable approximation, I think, is between five and ten years from today. But, given our current policy and what I and most other observers think is a likely future American policy, we are insuring that Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is inevitable.

Are there alternatives?

I think there are. I have spelled them out in two previous essays (available on my website, www.williampolk.com) so I will not repeat them here, but in essence they are to move away from threat and confrontation toward negotiation and conciliation on the one hand and on the other toward regional and then general nuclear disarmament. As the world’s militarily most powerful state and the deployer of the vast majority of the nuclear weapons, America must take the lead. We know how to do this. We spent many years in difficult negotiations with the Russians developing approaches to this complex and sensitive issue. Now we had better go back over that learning experience and find ways to apply it to our current problems before it is too late.

The omens are not good. The administration has announced that it is moving in the opposite direction, planning a new generation of more usable nuclear weapons rather than working to eliminate the many thousands the US and other states already have. Sooner of later, it is almost inevitable that some of these will find their ways into non-governmental hands and even if this does not occur soon, eventual use of a weapon with truly horrible consequences is virtually certain.

Time is not on our side. As Fitzgerald had Omar Khayyam warn us,

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To fly – and Lo! The Bird is on the Wing.

I believe that decisions made on these issues in the next months -- or at best in the next few years -- will shape the twenty-first century. The Bird truly is on the Wing. It – and we – have little time to fly. We had better begin. Immediately.

1 Sir Robert Thompson, then much lauded as the wise counter-insurgent, had won his spurs in the fight against the Malaysian insurgents. But that was not a “war” so much as a limited police action; the tactics that Thompson suggested for Vietnam were evidently inappropriate although also obviously beguiling. The other two men, Rufus Phillips and Charles Bohannan, were credited with having won the war against the Muslim insurgents in the Philippines. That insurgency, as we know, is still going on.

2 The penetration of the South Vietnam government and the foreign press have been widely reported; perhaps less well known is the penetration of the South Vietnamese general staff. While I was still in the government, I was chairman of various task forces on one of which served a brilliant Marine colonel (later a lt. general); in due course, he was sent to Vietnam as operations officer of the First Marine division. When he returned, he told me that his painful experience was that if any information on operations was passed to the Vietnamese general staff, the Marines inevitably walked into an ambush.

3 Major-General Douglas E. Lute recently remarked (quoted in The Independent on August 25, 2005) that it was “very difficult” to deny the “perception of occupation” while there were so many US troops in Iraq.

4 So concerned about the “stretching” of American troop strength that the army is seeking recruits from men and women with school dropouts, delinquents and even those with records of crime and drug addiction; and it is urging that the draft be reintroduced.

5 Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, August 14, 2005.

6 As Paul Wolfowitz suggested at an Asia Security Summit on June 3, 2003 and reported in two German ( Der Tagesspiegel and Die Welt) one English (The Guardian) but no American newspapers.

7 Terrell E. Arnold, who has been responsible for training our most senior and most promising military officers as chairman of the Department of International Studies at the U.S. National War College in Washington, reports that Coalition dead and wounded may actually be twice what the US government admits and that, including the effects of our use of depleted uranium and other toxic weapons, “a long-term casualty rate for American forces of 40-50 percent appears realistic.” wecanstopit@charter.net.

8 Linda Bilmes, former assistant secretary of commerce, add up the actual expenditures, the projected costs over the coming five years (for which the military are planning), veterans costs, deficit financing costs, and the economic impact particularly on oil prices. Total $1,372 million. The International Herald Tribune August 22, 2005.

9 Neoconservative spokesman and former CIA director James Woolsley set this out in a talk at UCLA on April 2, 2003

10 Pushed particularly by Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Michael Ladeen through the “Coalition for Democracy in Iran” and in an April 30 2003 public lecture on April 30 at the Neoconservative lobbying organization, JINSA (The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs)

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Robert F. Koehler - 9/22/2005

>>>I have only been speculating...<<<

Well, if that is all your doing than you have done a good job of it. You will likely find the following link interesting. http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_9_15_05.htm

John Chapman - 9/22/2005

I have only been speculating whether it’s U.S policy to promote civil war in Iraq. But why not? It would serve a purpose advantageous to the hated US occupation. They fight among themselves meanwhile the US still has its finger in the pie.

As to a civil war element to the insurgency diminishing, only yesterday I saw a Reuters report saying all the symptoms indicating civil war was growing and I’m sorry I didn’t copy that link.

I cannot compare civil war in Iraq exactly to any other social upheaval of the past. It has its own uniqueness. But civil war is usually when there is an unresolved political struggle for national control of state power going on between two or more factions or factions aligning against another group of factions. And that’s what we have there despite "democratic" elections.

But, civil war or not, the violence, if not escalating, it’s certainly doesn’t appear to be diminishing - just last week insurgents launched a series of attacks in response to a U.S. offensive in the northern town of Tal Afar and the suicide bomb in Baghdad that killed 160 people on the 14th. I see a stalemate, political upheaval, Sunnis, Shiis and Kurds competing for power, and the US occupation with the final authority in this new exported democracy. You can’t export democracy. It has to come from the roots. The British tried it there before and no one then was impressed with this form of government.

John H. Lederer - 9/21/2005

"Also in the equation is the other "faction" the US troops who are backing the present government."

That would not be a civil war would it?


IYet when you have gunman and bombers from one community killing people from another one it certainly looks like civil war.
It is not that clear cut. I note that a significant percentage of terrorists caught lately have been foreign. Moreover, the Iraqi military is getting an increasing percentage of Sunni makeup, particulrly in the NCO's and officers.

Your definition of civil war is possibly different than mine. It may not be a horrific one at the moment but I believe it’fewer secss begun (I take back the "full-blown" comment).
My impression is that to the extent there was a "civil war" element to the insurgency it is diminshing. The danger is that it might pick up after the referendum.
There also seems to have been another plan, made previously by this Administration, that the elections in Iraq where only staged for the purpose of social upheaval (civil war). Because why did they bother with elections at a time when security was almost nonexistent, when a mere 7% of the people at the time could hardly identify the candidates? To aggravating tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and divert attention away from the occupation.
Are you saying that U.S policy is to promote civil war in Iraq?

They held the first election when they held it because it had been scheduled long earlier and was a crucial first step to turning the Iraqi government back to the Iraqis.

Most observers were surprised at the low level of security problems with the election, far lower than predicted.

While it is true many voters could not identify individual candidates, the election was largely campaigned not on individual candidates but on slates of 60 to 100 candidates ( a sensible way given what the election was for), so the critical question is did they know what slate they voted for.

John Chapman - 9/21/2005

Mr. Polk’s article is one of the best commonsense round-ups of U.S. adventures in Iraq and the world I’ve ever seen on HNN. Even though I realize that there are two halves in American, each living in different worlds, it’s difficult not to see the main logic here.

And if you link to web site he has a few dozen articles that are quite interesting.

The insanity on what each state spends on the Iraq war is interesting. Texas spent 11.5 billion on Iraq so far but only 1.93 on Homeland Security and 1.81 B on the No Child Left Behind program. One Republican friend told me that’s because it "cost money to fight them over there so we won’t have to fight them over here, it’s for our future, our national security Bush never promised a fast or easy victory." I beg your pardon, friend, but I remember someone in this Administration saying it would be a cakewalk.

Concerning another US adventure. It’s incredible that Afghanistan is considered a success by some in democracy building. It is a country that has had a resurgence in the drug trade (Kabul) run and invested in by drug barons, a country where former Taliban leaders and communists will end up in the country's new parliament. This is winning? This is success? Although progress has been made, democracy there is way too fragile too last without a permanent US occupation.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 9/21/2005

Readers may be also interested in Concerning Academic Ignorance
By Alexander H. Joffe
FrontPageMagazine.com | September 21, 2005 (http://frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=19563)
I support Campus Watch. Why? Because the ideological fervor of my graduate school teachers was so strong, that my fellow students would come to me after class and whisper: "We just want to tell you we agree with you." I asked why they do not speak out and they refused to answer. No, the subject was not the Middle East. It was Africa.

John Chapman - 9/21/2005

It may not seem obvious, maybe because we have been deceived by the news coming out of Iraq, but the fault lines are not clear between Sunni/Shi'ite/Kurd , both the Sunnis and the Shi'ites seem to be splitting into smaller and more mutually hostile elements. Also in the equation is the other "faction" the US troops who are backing the present government. If you omit this, of course, the perception is different. Yet when you have gunman and bombers from one community killing people from another one it certainly looks like civil war. Your definition of civil war is possibly different than mine. It may not be a horrific one at the moment but I believe it’s begun (I take back the "full-blown" comment). Also, with puppets like Jalal Talabani saying there are differences but no civil war, it covers the up the real situation.

There also seems to have been another plan, made previously by this Administration, that the elections in Iraq where only staged for the purpose of social upheaval (civil war). Because why did they bother with elections at a time when security was almost nonexistent, when a mere 7% of the people at the time could hardly identify the candidates? To aggravating tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and divert attention away from the occupation.

John H. Lederer - 9/20/2005

I don't see civil war ...yet. That certainly is the current strategy of Al Qaeda and the Baathists, who seem to have largely abandoned direct attacks on the US, but it has not succeeded so far.

Do you see large numbers of Shiites attacking Sunni's? Vice versa other than the fact that the original insurgents are largely Sunni? Seems to me the Sunnis are concentrating on politics right now. Why then would you say there is civil war? Am I missing something?

The progress towards a democracy would include one successful election, and a nearing election (referendum actually) in which the Sunni leadership is now urging participation.

A future test will be whether the "losers" of the referendum accept the result.

That seems like solid progress to me. There are many problems and security is a huge one, but overall there certainly seems to be progress towards the goal of a Mid-east democracy. Do you see it differently?

Michael Beatty - 9/20/2005

Considering Professor Polk's observation that, in the event of a US/Israeli/coalition invasion, "the Iranian regime would survive . . . and would emerge even more determined to acquire the ultimate defense, a nuclear capacity," I have to say that if the Iranian regime were to strike back at the US with nuclear weapons, the US nuclear response would (properly, to my mind) be overwhelming. This would result in the longterm contamination of Iran's oil fields and oil production infrastructure.
My question is, What is the state of research/development of protection gear to allow oil-field workers to operate in a radioactively "hot" area? That is, do we have the technology available to allow the oil industry, more or less expeditiously, to resume production from Iranian wells? I assume that the problems involved in designing an effective N-HAZMAT system that allows for the sort of manual labor that would have to be done to restore the oilfields to production, has already been worked out at least on the theoretical level. But has the technology been developed to capitalise on that theoretical work?

John Chapman - 9/20/2005

"Viewed against that goal ( having a successful democracy in the Middle East) it seems to me that we are making very substantial progress."

Don’t see how you figure this. Some of the facts for failure are listed in Polk’s article. As far as the big picture goes - it’s pretty much a full-blown civil war in Iraq.

Jim B. Harris - 9/19/2005

A lot of good points have been made. I just wanted to point out that on 10/15/05 Iraqi's will go to the poll's to vote on whether to approve or reject the current Constitutional Draft that the assembly put together.

If that draft is rejected, new elections will be held, and one would believe the Sunni's will be much more involved the next time, and a new assembly would put together another draft, which would then be voted on by the people of Iraq.

The above does sound simple, but I think it is pretty incredible considering what would have happened to anyone in Iraq who wished to voice objection to any policy put out there by the prior regime.

A nice announcement today came out of North Korea, one can only hope that will help calm things there so we can move attention to Iran.

Iran is a young country, as per the age of their people. We have to be very careful to not cause these people who want reforms, who want democracy, who don't feel the west is evil. Any unilateral strike on Iran may throw these folks into supporting the regime for nationalistic reasons that would be understood.

Any action or inaction being decided, whether to take out Saddam, etc. has its potential for positives and negatives.

I just don't see how Saddam would ever have been a force for anything other than chaos in that region of the world. I mean, had anything he done in his past made anyone think he would somehow become a postive force?

That being said, I think there is at least a chance now that the nation of Iraq can be a force for good. I know I am rooting for it to be so.

John H. Lederer - 9/19/2005

Whatever the past, it seems to me that the present American policy goal in Iraq is quite simple:
Have a democratic, successful, country in the Mideast.

Viewed against that goal it seems to me that we are making very substantial progress.

Iran is a threat to that goal, and to the region, largely because a successful Iraq is a grave threat to the theocracy that Iran is.

If there is US military action in Iran,I could see it occurring in one of three ways:

1. Support of a revolution
2. Take out of nuclear weapons
3. Defend Iraq from an invasion by Iran

The first appears likely to me though the military effort would likely involve principally supplies and expertise.

The third would arise from Iran's rulers seeing their country increasingly destabilized by a succesful Iraq. It does not seem logically likely to me, but a threatened regime is unlikely to be logical.

The second is, I suspect, the largest danger, but I can't ee ground troops involved in something much larger than a "raid" type operation, and even that seems unlikely save in combination with the first scenario.

Mike Schoenberg - 9/19/2005

If as Professor Polk states that hte Isralies are going to do the dirty work for Bush about Iran the world is litteraly going to hell. I'm a Jew though not much of one but I can't see Sharon going into another mess after the Gaza pullout even if it was for an election.

John Joseph McGrath - 9/18/2005

Professor Polk - Thank you for as great article about incredibly ill-advised 'policy', if one can call it that. BTW, Michael Ledeen isn't Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff (Lewis "Scooter" Libby has that honor) but a close adviser to this administration and a resident "scholar" at AEI - might want to correct that? Thanks again for your writing.