by September 2003.
Some military experts,though, warned that such optimism wasunwarranted.
Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, predicted that the occupationwould require “several hundred thousandtroops” for a period of “many years.” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz flatly rejected Shinseki’s assessment in congressionaltestimony. For his pains, Shinseki was rendereda lame duck when reports of his retirementwere leaked to the press.Wolfowitz also scoffed at notions that theoccupation would be a financial drain. He pre-dicted that Iraq’s oil revenues would pay forthe entire costs of reconstruction.
Andrew Natsios, the administrator of the Agency forInternational Development, stated that costsof the reconstruction effort to the UnitedStates “will be $1.7 billion. We have no plansfor any further-on funding for this.”
Again,officials who dared sound discordant noteswere shown the door. Lawrence Lindsey, chair-man of the Council of Economic Advisers,warned that the cost could exceed $200 bil-lion. He was pressured out of his post soonthereafter. Of course, in one sense, Lindsey waswrong. The Iraq war did not cost $200 billion;it has cost $350 billion and counting.Uneasy officials were not the only ones towarn that the administration’s optimisticscenario was unwarranted. In January 2002,more than a year before U.S. troops enteredIraq, I cautioned that “no matter how emo-tionally satisfying removing a thug likeSaddam may seem, Americans would be wiseto consider whether that step is worth theprice. The inevitable U.S. military victory would not be the end of America’s troubles inIraq. Indeed, it would mark the start of a new round of headaches. Ousting Saddam wouldmake Washington responsible for Iraq’spolitical future and entangle the UnitedStates in an endless nation-building missionbeset by intractable problems.”
As war grew nearer, other experts echoedsuch warnings.
On September 26, 2002, 33prominent foreign affairs scholars publishedan advertisement in the
New York Times
withthe headline “War in Iraq Is
in America’sNational Interest.” Among the points they made was that the administration of George H.W. Bush “did not try to conquer Iraq in 1991because it was understood that doing so couldspread instability in the Middle East. . . . Thisremains a valid concern today.” They added:“Even if we win easily, we have no plausible exitstrategy. Iraq is a deeply divided society that theUnited States would have to occupy and policefor many years to create a viable state.” Expertswho signed that ad included University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, MITprofessor Barry Posen, Columbia University professors Richard K. Betts and KennethWaltz, and the dean of Harvard University’sKennedy School of Government, Stephen M.Walt.
In February and March 2003, BostonUniversity’s Andrew Bacevich and Texas A&MUniversity’s Christopher Layne added their voices to the chorus warning of disaster, withLayne correctly predicting a “post-Saddamquagmire.”
Not only did the administration and otherproponents of war ignore warnings fromexperts before the United States launched itsinvasion, they refused to recognize growingevidence later on that the mission was goingbadly.
Even as the security environment dete-riorated, the chorus of optimism scarcely diminished.
In May 2005 Vice PresidentDick Cheney asserted confidently that theinsurgency was in its “last throes.”
When theIraqi parliament approved the Islamist-lean-ing government of Nouri al-Maliki in April2006, the editors of
hailed thedevelopment as the triumph of democracy and stated that the “purveyors of doom now have some explaining to do.”
By late 2006, though, it was clear to all butthe most obtuse individuals that the Iraq mis-sion was not going well. By virtually every measure, the Bush administration’s expecta-tions for Iraq were being dashed. On the eco-nomic front, reconstruction programs werefar behind schedule and riddled with corrup-tion. On the legal and social front, Iraqappeared to regress, with religious zealotsrunning roughshod over their fellow citizens,enforcing edicts on such matters as alcohol
The administra-tion and otherproponents of war ignoredwarnings fromexperts before theUnited Stateslaunched itsinvasion, andthey refused torecognizegrowing evidencelater on that themission wasgoing badly.