Monday, March 18, 2013

Iraq in the rear-view mirror

The American public has mixed views on the Iraq war. Just in time for the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, Gallup has a poll that finds 53% of the respondents calling America's action a mistake, compared to 42% saying ti was not a mistake. That's certainly the conventional wisdom is Washington, among the punditocracy.

What's interesting to me, however, is that the numbers have changed significantly since 2008, when 63% called the war a mistake and only 36% disagreed.

Majority opinion turned against the war in 2005, never to recover. The surge in US troops and decrease in violence connected with it and the "Anbar awakening" in early 2007 slowed the increase of criticism, but the 2008 campaigns boosted negative feelings.

My own view: lacking any inside knowledge, I felt persuaded that the war was a risk worth taking because of the potential threat posed by Saddam Hussein. I also believed that the congressional authorization of the war made it legitimate and appropriate. I also knew Pentagon & State people planning for the occupation and governmental reconstitution and thought they had good ideas.

Regrettably, those people were not heeded or resourced adequately when the war broke out. The "stuff" that happened was Rumsfeld's fault, and General Franks' refusal to plan for "Phase IV" was a supreme dereliction of duty. These avoidable errors turned a risky operation into a tragedy.

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