Monday, September 25, 2006

# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A GLARING OXBLOG FAILURE? A few weeks ago, an OxBlog reader e-mailed the text of a post I put up in early April 2003. It began:
"I TOLD YOU SO" WATCH: The time has come for those who had faith in American war plans to mock those who didn't. All I add is a note of caution, lest those who now mock become overconfident and leave themselves open to having the tables turned.
So have the tables turned? Well, if the issue is the initial invasion plan for Iraq, then no. Being right about that may not be worth much anymore, but it still is worth remembering Andrew Sullivan's list of prominent liberals who predicted the invasion itself would be a disaster.

[NB: I just discovered that link to Sullivan's list is no longer functional as a result of his website's new URL. But his April 2003 archives are here and make fascinating reading.]

The more embarrassing part of my old post is this one:
Moderation aside, I have almost no sympathy for those who predicted an indifferent or even hostile response to Coalition forces by the people of Iraq. Believing that an entire population would prefer Saddam's brutality to a foreign occupation is unjustifiable.
Yes, it would seem we have an encountered a wee bit of hostility since then. But I guess I still am curious about the fact that even the Sunni regions of Iraq were so passive during the first few months of the occupation. Did we truly have a window of opportunity during which it would have been possible to head off an insurgency? Alas, it a question that will never be answered any more than whether a sound strategy could have won the war in Vietnam.

Interestingly, I discovered via Google that this is the second time a reader has written in to remind me of that specific post from April 2003. That first time, in May 2004, my self-defense was much more confident. I said that the Kurds and Shi'ites, or 80% of Iraq still saw us as liberators.

Even now, thugs like Moqtada al-Sadr order the death of countless Sunnis but sullenly accept the presence of American soldiers. Even so, Sadr's brutality may undermine what prospects remain for a stable, democratic Iraq.

So where do we go from here? I don't really know. Regardless, thanks to all those who spend their time going through the archives to keep me honest.
(6) opinions -- Add your opinion

The Andrew Sullivan links don't seem to work.
It would be wise to conduct a post mortem analysis on why you got this so wrong.

In the intelligence biz, there have been some spectacular failures. Indian nuclear testing and Saddam's invasion of Kuwait come to mind.

After a failure, one does not say where do we go from here but rather how did we get here.

Was it a failure of analysis? If the information was there and you failed to connect the dots, this is a failure of analysis.

Was it a failure of understanding? This is common with mirror imaging or projecting your belief system onto your adversary.

Was it a failure of collection? If you relied on few sources of information then you can be badly misled.

Hind sight is 20/20 so you should use it.
Thank you for the kind advice.

Perhaps one should ask both how we got here and where to go from here? Otherwise we may just stay here.

Also, shall I presume you are not a historian? Because every historian knows that hindsight is very, very far from being 20/20.

Historians argue constantly about the past because reconstructing it is so terribly difficult, as well as subject to the distortions of the lenses we wear today.

Of course, that is no excuse for ignoring the past, but I do hope to temper your confidence that a sober analysis of what went wrong will provide all the answers.

Finally, let me note for the record that my failure is a distinct possibility, not a certainty. Its status unfortunately rests (as I point out in my post) on the unanswerable question of whether there was a window of opportunity after the invasion or whether the situation was hopeless from the start.
Hind sight is 20/20 so you should use it.

Doh! Why write when you can overwrite.
To keep it in perspective, out of 25 million Iraqis, how many troublemakers are we really dealing with? The people working for a free Iraq still greatly outnumber the others. But it's the car bombs that make the news, not somebody trying to rebuild a pipeline.
To keep it in perspective, out of 25 million Iraqis, how many troublemakers are we really dealing with?

According to this poll, 6 in 10 Iraqis say that it is ok to attack US troops. So that's about 15 million troublemakers.
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