This administration stood no chance of doing well in Iraq because they made a choice to be ignorant. That was evident from the day that Wolfowitz went before Congress and said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq. We’ll never know if things would be different if things had been done differently – if they had been willing to look at the intelligence honestly and thoughtfully. Even had they been willing, there were many unknowable unknowables as our former Poet Laureate of the Pentagon might have said. But then, there are unknowable unknowables.
So as an exercise… say its January 2002 and you’re in charge of doing some sort of planning for Iraq. How would you go about estimating the likelihood of success, and its opposite, in Iraq? Assume success is what it more or less was defined as for much of last year – some form of stable, more ore less democratic and not excessively anti-US government that plays ball. How do you assess whether the various factions will be at each others throat, and/or whether they’ll be at each other’s throat depending on the behavior of US forces and the occupation government?
(I have my own thoughts, but I don’t want to bias you so I’m not writing ’em down.)