Predictions on Iraq, From 2002

TBogg links to Jane Galt post, in which Galt insists that having supported the war in Iraq doesn’t make her any more wrong than those who predicted problems. Quoting Mr. Bogg:

“You see, the devil is in the details. Galt (McArdle) was wrong about well, everything. On the other hand, you and I were right about where this was headed but we failed to dot our i’s and cross our t’s meaning that we were just as wrong as Megan even though we were right.”

Jane Galt is very smart, and she often brings a perspective that I’ll admit is somewhat alien to me. But on this, I have to side with TBogg. I wasn’t blogging at the time, so I can’t prove it by quoting myself, but I figured GW was going to make a hash of it – I was already concerned about Afghanistan, given that the administration had chosen to side with such worthies as Rasheed Dostum and the fundamentalist warlord in Herat. My best guess was that Iraq would be another Afghanistan… each major city run by some corrupt, violent, and/or fundamentalist warlord or drug dealer.

But some people actually did dot the i’s and cross the t’s to use TBogg’s phrase. It took me a minute and a half to find this article by Nicolas Kristof from September 2002 using Google. It begins:

“Najaf, Iraq — As soon as American troops are rolling through Saddam Hussein’s palaces, the odds are that this holy Shiite city 100 miles south of Baghdad will erupt in a fury of killing, torture, rape and chaos.

The Shiite Muslims who make up 60% of Iraq — but who have never held power — will rampage through the narrow streets here. Remembering the whispers from the bazaar about how Hussein’s minions burned the beard off the face of a great Shiite leader named Muhammad Bakr al-Sadr, then raped and killed his sister in front of him, and finally executed him by driving nails through his head, the rebels will tear apart anyone associated with the ruling Baath Party.

In one Shiite city after another, expect battles between rebels and army units, periodic calls for an Iranian-style theocracy and perhaps a drift toward civil war. For the last few days, I’ve been traveling in these Shiite cities — Karbala, Najaf and Basra — and the tension in the bazaars is thicker than the dust behind the donkey carts.”

Now, Kristof had the benefit of actually wandering into Iraq. But even he wasn’t right about everything… he frets about a Turkish invasion of Kurdish territory, for instance.

However, he did point out some details that should have been evident to the administration, if it hadn’t been peddling the “no history of ethnic strife in Iraq” line:

“More broadly, if the United States brings democracy to Iraq, it will mean seizing power from the 17% Sunni minority who dominate the army and government and giving it to the 60% Shiite majority. The upshot could be greater influence for Iran, a fellow Shiite country with close ties to Iraq’s Shiite cities.”

He closed with: “If we invade Iraq, it must be with eyes wide open. The most ticklish challenge ahead is not overthrowing Hussein but managing the resulting upheaval for a decade afterward.”

Maybe I should read Kristof a bit more often, as to me, four years and change later, he looks more spot on than what the President was telling us last week.

Update… I screwed up a link again. Corrected the first link. Sorry.