Of all the arguments in The Threatening Storm, Kenneth Pollack’s book arguing in favor of invading Iraq with a massive force, the most convincing one is that the so-called “Afghan Approach” advocated by many in the pro-war camp as a way to get rid of Saddam on the cheap is doomed to failure. I just read an article in the New York Times that helps expain why. It quotes a Kurdish leader from Northern Iraq saying that Kurdish forces intend to march on Baghdad if the US invades.
If the US sends in a small force and lots of air support and relies on rebels to help us finish off Saddam’s regime, then those forces get to carve up the country when Saddam is out of power (that is, if they succeed, which is probably unlikely). If we leave Iraq to the Shiites, Sunni, and Kurds to carve up or fight over, then we’re going to be left with a big gaping black hole of infighting and crap in the middle of the Persian Gulf region that also happens to control a pretty good sized chunk of the world’s oil. There’s little doubt that countries like Iran, Syria, and Turkey would use the situation to their advantage to take what they want from the morass that Iraq becomes as well. If we’re going to go to war with Iraq (it seems inevitable at this point), then we ought to send in a massive force that can get the thing over as rapidly as possible (thus inflicting less casualties than we would in a protracted fight and guaranteeing stability once the fighting stops).
If we leave it to the Iraqis to take out Saddam, the worst case scenario is that they lose (again, just like they have every single time they’ve tried to unseat him). At that point, Saddam goes on yet another killing spree against the rebel forces and their supporters, which means a whole crapload of killings and deprivation. Saddam has already used chemical weapons against the Kurds in the past, killing them en masse, and he had his army destroy plenty of Shiite villages after putting down the insurgency that followed the Persial Gulf war. Furthermore, the Shiites have suffered more under the sanctions than any other group, because Saddam has no real interest in feeding them. If we’re going to fight this war, then let’s go in as strong as we can, and put an end to Saddam’s regime as quickly as possible. I remain puzzled that the most ardent supporters of the war are often in favor of a half assed approach.