IRAQ AND THE RULE OF HALF-MEASURES
The irony about the entire situation of Iraq is that the Bush administration failed in the aftermath of war to follow the approach that had brought them success - take full measure of what needs to be done and do it. Nation-building, like wars are not accomplished by half-measures.
For approximately twelve years from Bush I through Clinton the United States dealt with the threat of Saddam Hussein's through a number of measured and limited approaches designed to send " signals" or coerce a change in Iraqi behavior. Cease fire agreements, UN resolutions
, economic sanctions, UNSCOM and UNMOVIC inspections, no-fly zones, safe-havens, air strikes, and covert operations all failed to elicit any improvement in Iraq's defiance of it's international obligations. Glumly, the Clinton administration admitted in principle in 1998 and seconded by legislation
that the goal of United States policy in Iraq must become " regime change ". No action was taken to achieve this by the Clinton administration because to effect regime change in reality meant invading and occupying Iraq.
The Bush administration accepted the costs of regime change and Saddam Hussein's government fell more easily than any of the critics anticipated or even most of the supporters of war with Iraq. Forgotten are antiwar predictions of " months of battle ", Baghdad as Stalingrad
, the disintegration of Iraq, mass reprisals and civil war amongst Iraqis, mass civilian casualties. large-scale use of biochemical weapons against American troops. Instead critics now misrepresent ground conditions in Iraq as Vietnam revisted and focus on a political campaign to " prove " that Mr. Bush " lied " about Iraqi WMD that most critics, like Senator Bob Graham, were sure themselves existed and made an American invasion of Iraq too dangerous to risk.
The critics gain traction because it appears the Bush administration has attempted to occupy and rule Iraq through the same policy of half-measures and acting on the cheap that failed against Sadam Hussein. No clear lines of authority were drawn for Iraqis by the coalition authority. Jay Garner had no troops to enforce his orders and little enthusiasm for giving any. Democracy was promised but Paul Bremer has been inexplicably reluctant to lay out a roadmap to the Iraqi people for how to get there and irritated when impatient Iraqi groups demanded liberty ( getting Shiite clerics to sound like Tom Paine is one of the ironies of occupied Iraq).
The coalition faces a guerrilla war composed of former Baathist Special Security Organization
loyalists trained on the Soviet Spetsnaz model of sabotage and assassination, amateur Feydayeen Saddamists and Islamist militants
funnelled in from Syria and Lebanon and agents of the Iranian Pasdaran who aim to stir up trouble amongst Iraqi Shiites. It is a limited group but the SRO fighters are well-trained professional special operations soldiers who have the sympathy currently of some Iraqi Sunnis - potential supporters in the thousands. They are capable of great havoc.
The United States needs to give the Iraqi people a positive political future because without popular support the Saddamite resistance cannot be rooted out - the climate of fear athat is Saddam's legacy and uncertainty about our intentions will keep Iraqis on the sidelines or in passive support for the guerrillas. The time for half-measures in Iraq is over A strong occupation government is required, plans for a freely elected Constituent assembly need to be unveiled and basic services restored.