Powell and Iraq
Colin Powell looks at OIF in retrospect in the Times of London.
"Who knew what the whole mess was going to be like?" He added: "What we didn’t do in the immediate aftermath of the war was to impose our will on the whole country, with enough troops of our own, with enough troops from coalition forces, or by recreating the Iraqi forces, armed forces, more quickly than we are doing now." ...
He said that there was little option now but to continue investing in the Iraqi Armed Forces. Despite his hesitation about the war — "I’m always a reluctant warrior" -- he said that he was glad that Saddam and his regime had been removed.
"A way has to be found for the Sunnis to be brought into the political process. You cannot let . . . Iraq devolve into a mini-state in the north, a larger mini-state in the south and sort of nothing in the middle."
It's a mixed message. Powell seems to believe the operation was worthwhile: he is glad that Saddam was removed, but he is ashamed to have advanced the rationale of the removal of weapons of mass destruction to have done it. Powell's speech at the UN will enter the historical record and he is afraid history will not be kind to it. "George Tenet . . . believed what he was giving to me was accurate". Powell seems to believe that the course should be stayed -- 'little option now but to continue investing in the Iraqi Armed Forces' -- but he clearly desires a unitary Iraq which may not be in the cards: "you cannot let . . . Iraq devolve into a mini-state in the north, a larger mini-state in the south and sort of nothing in the middle".
Powell's assertions will be debated for some time to come. An interesting historical comparison would be the controversy over Yalta. The rapid demobilization of US ground forces following the Second World War; the cession of Eastern Europe to Stalin; the return of 1.5 million former Soviet POWs to the Russians, many of whom went straight to the Gulag, were among the reasons given for charging that Roosevelt had thrown away the victories of the Second World War. Yet despite its blunders and missed opportunities the Second World War and the Korean War for that matter, were American victories. How history will adjudge Iraq remains to be seen.