I wasn’t really focused on this issue because it seems obvious that, on the one hand, Saddam Hussein is a monster who the world will be well rid of and, on the other hand, that convicting and executing Saddam won’t change anything that matters in Iraq or in the world. It is, however, actually worth noting a few things about this case. One, as Spencer notes in its zeal to avoid an international tribunal (Bush hates international law), we organized a total farce of a trial and wound up creating a kangaroo court to try a guilty man.
GWU’s invaluable National Security Archive rounds up documents related to the 1999 “Operation Desert Crossing” war game here. Casual fans will probably want to read this after action report briefing the full report fleshes out some details, but doesn’t seem to me to introduce a ton of extra material and the miscellaneous emails are fun.
Scanning some of the reportage on these documents, one thing that I think often isn’t being made clear is that the “Desert Crossing” scenarios were assuming the presence of some kind of crisis to prompt US military intervention — either the collapse of Saddam’s regime due to internal factors, an imminent Iraqi threat to a regional ally, or something else along those lines. This isn’t a “how to” guide for an unprovoked American invasion, it’s an effort to find the best possible way to cope with a difficult situation. Note that it’s not very optimistic that the more far-reaching American goals are achievable. They say an Arab coalition will be necessary to have legitimacy in the area, but that such a coalition will make it hard and/or impossible to sustain a long-term American military presence or the establishment of a democracy. They also say it’ll be vital to secure Iranian cooperation, perhaps through lifting sanctions, and certainly not that a post-Saddam Iraq could be used as a base for launching anti-Iranian initiatives.
Via Jim Henley, a FOIA request unearths a 1999 war game “Desert Crossing” about a military campaign aimed at deposing Saddam Hussein. Various interesting conclusions in here, but the most interesting one, from my perspective, is the conclusion that “we would have ended up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground.”
Saddam Hussein’s suspiciously timed trial came to an end today with a guilty verdict and a death sentence. Rand Beers, via email, observes: “Everyone agrees that today’s verdict is a good thing. It was important that Saddam be brought to justice and everyone is united in the hope that it doesn’t lead to an increase in violence. What is equally true, however, is that this changes nothing. America is no safer, Iraq is more dangerous and in chaos.” Also in my inbox Harry Reid says “The Iraqis have traded a dictator for chaos. Neither option is acceptable, especially when it is our troops who are caught in the middle.”
I’ll happily agree with all of that. Ahmed Chalabi says everything would have been fine if Bush had just installed him in power and let him run the country. That seems much less true.