Iraq I – Happy Anniversary !

This is an email I sent to a friend back  on 10/14/2002.  He was arguing that Saddam was close to having the Bomb and would then make Iraq a terrorist base – so we should invade.

Madness of Crowds:

Come on, you take that seriously?  By that argument China is harboring anti-American terrorists right now.   This is all horseshit.  As far as I can tell, exactly nothing new has happened in Iraq concerning nukes. Most likely they are getting steadily farther away from having a nuclear weapon..  Look, back in 1990, they surprised people with their calutrons.   No normal country would have made such an effort, because calutrons – mass spectrometers – are an incredibly inefficient way of making a nuclear weapon.  We know just how inefficient they are, because E. O Lawrence conned the government into blowing about a quarter of the Manhattan Project budget on a similar  effort.  Concentrating enough U-235 for one small fission bomb cost hundreds of millions of 1944 dollars.  Probably the Japanese could have constructed new cities for less money than this approach took to blow them up.  By far the cheaper way is to enrich the uranium just enough to run a reactor and then breed plutonium. The Iraqis wanted U-235,  probably because it is much easier to make a device with U-235 than with plutonium. You don’t have to use implosion and  you don’t even have to test a gun-type bomb – we didn’t test the Hiroshima bomb. .  I would guess that they realized their limitations – they’re not exactly overflowing with good physicists and engineers – and chose an approach that they could actually have made work. Implosion is not so easy to make work.  India only got their implosion bomb to work on the seventh try, back in 1974, and they have a _hell_ of a lot more technical talent than Iraq.

Anyhow, Iraq doesn’t have the money to do it anymore (1).  The total money going into his government is what, a fifth of what it used to be?  (Jeez,  quite a bit less than that,  when you look carefully) Big non-private organizations tend to  gradually slide towards zero output  when the money merely stays the same: cut and they fire the worker bees and keep  a few Powerpoint specialists.   There is no reason to think that Arabs are immune to  that kind  of logic of bureaucracy.  On the contrary.  Not only are they not making any nuclear progress, they’re probably making regress.

At best, if we hadn’t interrupted them back in the Gulf War, they would have eventually had a couple.  I doubt if it they even would have been an effective deterrent. It’s hard to make classic deterrence work when you have one or two bombs and the other guy has thousands, when he can hit you and you can’t hit him.

He would cause himself practical trouble by harboring anti-US terrorists. If they ever made a significant hit on the US, he’d be in deep shit.  What would he get out of it?    And I am supposed to think that he fears terrorist groups more than he fears a Trident boat??  He should appease _them_, rather than us?   Look, if we really got mad, we could turn him and his entire nation into something that was no longer human.  Kill them too,  of course, but that’s too easy.

This particular argument is nonsense, even if he had a little deterrent.  as are all the ones that I have seen floated by the Administration or by their hangers on and flacks.  It’s not as crazy as the idea that we’re going to democratize Iraq, or Iraq and then the entire Arab world – that’s about as crazy as a human can get – but it makes no sense.   Anyone with a brain knows, for example, that the last thing Israel wants is democratic Arab states, because they”d be _more_ hostile than the existing governments, and possibly stronger. . People like Mubarak understand that they can’t beat the IDF, and also understand who makes the deposits in their Swiss accounts:  a  new popular government might not.   And a popular government might have some enthusiasm to draw on  – Iran did, at first, after the fall of the Shah – whereas in places like Syria or Iraq > 70% of the population hates the government.

I know why Wolfowitz wants this, and why Bill Kristol wants this.  I know that most Americans have decided that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9-11,  because what else would explain the Administration’s desire to attack?  And so they support an attack, which would make every kind of sense if Iraq _had_ been behind 9-11   Except that everyone knows that they didn’t have anything to do with it.   The problem is, I don’t understand, even slightly, why Bush and Cheney want this.

Gregory Cochran

(1)    Almost all the oil sales  (other than truck smuggling) go through the UN.  68% of that revenue is available for buying _approved_ imports.  Mainly  food and other things that we approve of.  The US has a veto on such purchases.  The total amount  available for those approved purchases was something like 7 billion last year.   Saddam is getting under-the-table payments of something like 20 cents a  barrel from some or for all I know all of the buyers: but how much cash is that? we’re talking something like 1 or 2 % – no more than 100 million a year. Sheesh.  Probably the truck smuggling accounts for more.  Hmm.. That might be as much as a billion.  Not much cash to run a government. .  It’s a little hard to for me to see how he manages to keep the show on the road at all.

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72 Responses to Iraq I – Happy Anniversary !

  1. Well, it helps to have some knowledge of physics. I think that general press comment was of the sort: “This Saddam guy has found a short-cut to making a nuclear device. Stop selling him screwdrivers”. I think the real reason was that he was a renegade US client, and hence very irritating.

    • That Guy says:

      I think the real reason was that he was a renegade US client, and hence very irritating.

      Agreed! In much the same way that Noreiga had to be taken out…

      IIRC, it was Colin Powell who strongly advised Bush Sr., not to pursue Saddam Hussein back into Iraq. When Bush Jr did attack, I’m sure the Russians, Iranians and Chinese assumed he was doing so, so as to control the oil supply in Iraq. What must have astonished all of them was that the US seems to have largely ignored the oil. By so doing, we handed the Iranians the victory we had stymied them at previously, when we initially armed Iraq. It’s one bad decision after another…

      At this point, the best solution is probably to just let the country, continue dividing… so we will have an independent Kurdish state and a Shi’ite/Iranian affiliated South, and a rump Sunni Iraq in the middle, which may join a rump Syria eventually… when the Alawite coastal/mountain region breaks away…

  2. real reason for invading him, that is.

  3. Santa says:

    So it wouldn’t have happened if the government asked you for your opinion instead of asking political people. How does the US compare to other countries in having sciencey types informing government policy ?

    • gcochran9 says:

      The people who knew anything about nuclear weapons, people at the national labs, were ignored, with vigor. Note that the political leadership, appointed guys in the government, legislators, the press, public intellectuals (with the exception of Freeman Dyson) don’t know anything about any technical issue. Or about anything else.

      But Bush was wrong on non-technical issues as well (like the likely fruits of Arab democracy). Most of the foreign policy professionals thought he was wrong: the Joint Chiefs, previous CentCom commanders, most of the CIA analysts, anything who had any Middle East experience, etc.

      In those areas where scientists have special expertise, the US government has been doing worse and worse for decades. Eisenhower took them seriously: it’s all been downhill since then. It has been made worse because scientists will lie on subjects that push their political buttons: but I put most of it down to natural decay after WWII. The top guys believed in science and trusted scientists because of results in WWII – not because they understood it – and with time that memory faded. To an extent it involved trust between particular scientists and particular leaders: naturally that goes away.

      I doubt if any other countries are much better. I have wondered what would happen if there was a predictable disaster that was hard to understand. For example, suppose we get LIGO working, and detect the signature of two neutron stars spiraling in towards collision – two relatively nearby neutron stars. Near enough that the gamma-ray pulse would kill everyone on one side of the Earth. There are things you could do, but probably we wouldn’t do anything. We’d just die.

  4. Alexi de Sadesky says:

    That is a pretty good analysis of the situation. I would’ve added, the US president is a goofy kid trying to impress his dad. That fact alone should’ve been enough to pump the brakes on operation invasion.

  5. Ziel says:

    No, he wasn’t trying to impress his Dad – Dad was against it, and tried to send that message via surrogates. Rather, he was trying to avenge his dad’s perceived failure to finish the job the first time. GHWB had this great Victory in the Gulf, and then let Saddam off the hook, and then lost the election. W had to rectify that. In a way it worked – his father has never been more appreciated than he is today.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I’ve heard people say that Bush Senior lost the election because he didn’t go on to Baghdad, but of course that’s nonsense.

      • Murray Anderson says:

        Yet Bush Jr., who did go to Baghdad, won re-election. And retains his popularity with the Republican party base.

      • gcochran9 says:

        You tend to get re-elected in a war.

        I am reminded of a couple of polls. The first was in 2003, before we had a chance to look. Something like 80% of Republicans believed in Iraqi WMD, and about 70% of Democrats. Several years later, after we’d spent a billion finding absolutely nothing of the kind, another poll asked people about Iraqi WMD. Something like 70% of Democrats said that of course they had never believed in it, while something like 70% of Republicans were sure that it had actually been found. Because they’re crazy.

      • albatross says:

        That’s not crazy, that’s confirmation bias among people who don’t pay much attention.

      • gcochran9 says:

        You can’t beat it out of them with a stick.

  6. Jim says:

    Bush was talking to God or thought he was.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      This is the real reason. George W thought that God told him he had to take out Saddam. Logic had nothing to do with it. What history will be the most incredulous about is that after this immense fuck up the man got himself reelected in 2004. It all confirmed my worst fears about how easily mislead the american public can be.

      • Anonymous says:

        Since God invariably tells people to do what they already want to do anyway that hypothesis has as little explanatory value here as it does anywhere else. One can simply ask why he thought God wanted him to do that.

  7. Jim says:

    “everyone knows that they didn’t have anything to do with it” –
    Everyone that is except about 70% of the American people according to the polls I remember reading about at the time. The media made no attempt that I noticed to correctly inform their readers about the truth. I was amazed at the time about this. Up until a month or so before the actual invasion I couldn’t believe that they would really do it. I expected Bush to come on television and announce some “settlement” that would allow US inspectors to look under Saddam’s bed for nukes. The world would have been saved again without war by our glorious leaders.

  8. Jim says:

    Sciency types informing government policy would only have mattered in this case if the political people had really been concerned about Saddam’s nuclear “program”. They had other motives, pretty transparent in the case of Wolfowitz and Kristol, and more obscure ones lurking deep in the mysterious corners of W’s brain.

    • gcochran9 says:

      As you will note, it is not just my science-based comments that were correct. I also knew that Islamist types (to varying degrees) were likely to win fair elections in the Middle East and North Africa, which meant that more democratic governments would likely be less cooperative with the US, certainly not more friendly to Israel. Which people like Condoleeza Rice did not see, but then, she is an idiot.

      I was wrong about Wolfowitz, at least in part and maybe entirely. Sure, he was a loon, but that had something to do with his Arab girlfriend, of all things. Kristol is about what I thought. No one would ever accuse him of dual loyalties.

      I don’t know what W’s reasons were – but waterboarding ought to bring them out.

  9. JayMan says:

    Dr. Cochran, I know you wouldn’t be interested for a variety of reasons which I can understand, but I gotta say: Greg Cochran 2016, man! :)

    • gcochran9 says:

      Don’t be too sure. Of course I would pursue an unconventional electoral strategy, tongue-lashing the voters for their sloth and ignorance, etc.

      Anyhow, you can and should separate political ideas into two categories: ultimate goals, and technique, your model of how the world works. My technique would not be bad – at least in theory. I probably know more about how many things work than most politicians, but I might have trouble executing. particularly when it involved me eating fresh shit.

      That to the side, my goals might not be yours. Probably aren’t.

      And then, I’m not quite sure that I’m temperamentally suited to high office. Not just the bit about hating to abase myself to jerks – no, irritability may be an issue. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

      • JayMan says:

        “And then, I’m not quite sure that I’m temperamentally suited to high office. Not just the bit about hating to abase myself to jerks – no, irritability may be an issue.”

        Oh I definitely understand about dealing with the shit. I figured as much, and I hear you.

        “That to the side, my goals might not be yours. Probably aren’t.”

        Hey, a Cochran administration can’t be any worse than what we’re likely to actually end up with in 2016, regardless of which party wins. I’d take my chances…

        “My technique would not be bad – at least in theory. I probably know more about how many things work than most politicians”

        Precisely. That would be a refreshing change.

        “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

        It would sure make for one hell of a thing to watch during the debates… Actually, that’d be one of the best parts.

        Oh well, it was a fun thought… :)

      • Glengarry says:

        Too big an ego. They’d play you like a violin, Physicswallah.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I can tell you what my campaign commercials would be like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1MuvvS_xSw

  10. Jim says:

    We’re waiting for

    “If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.”

  11. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    The dynamics of power dictate that each power has to undermine and weaken all potential rivals. Strong leaders like Mubarrak and Saddam Hussein had to be destroyed, even if they were nominally in our side. More than anything, all possibility of a coalition of rivals (like OPEC) had to be inhibited. Fomenting chaos is America’s worldwide strategy, and it worked wonderfully against the USSR and the Middle East – all broken up into miniature rival fractions and impotent. The current target is China: it will be divided up in sectors of influence as a hundred years ago. Mr Cochran, you seem to think that the creation of the worldwide power of the United States just happened, its victorious wars against German Europe and then the URSS were preordained by fate, and the US is ruled by a bunch of imbeciles. You are underestimating the iron will and the intelligence in the core of the USA.

    • That Guy says:

      J,

      That’s a fair point, summed up by “Divide and Conquer”. However in China’s case, most people don’t seem to realize that they are facing an imminent housing/building market bust, that could cause turmoil for the country and its leadership.

      To me that’s the biggest threat to global stability right now, I think it’s a matter of when, not if, this happens.

      Curiously I don’t see any coverage of this in the media or anywhere else?!

    • gcochran9 says:

      You’re wrong. Silly wrong: it hardly matters who runs Egypt or Iraq, in terms of great power politics, because both are weak as a kitten and always will be.

      We won WWII because our overall war potential was three times larger than that of Germany – a Germany that was already fighting two near-equals, Great Britain and the USSR.

      The Soviet Union is another story. Nobody really understands why it fell.

      • Richard Sharpe says:

        Yes, if you look at the GDP of the US, Germany, Italy and Japan in the 1940’s, the US had something like more than twice the combined GDPs of Gernany, Italy and Japan.

        It was clear who was going to win and I suspect the administration knew it.

      • gcochran9 says:

        And those numbers aren’t the whole story. The US was almost completely self-sufficient in raw materials, other than natural rubber. The US was by far the largest oil producer. Germany had lots of industry, but was short on raw materials. Their conquests in Western Europe didn’t help.

      • teageegeepea says:

        “The Soviet Union is another story. Nobody really understands why it fell.”
        Could you elaborate on that? The conventional view is that communism wasn’t delivering the goods, the revolutionary generation was replaced by people who ceased to believe in the cause, and even devoting a huge portion of their production to the military they couldn’t match the U.S. I suppose though the same argument should apply to other communist countries which didn’t collapse.

        Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on the other hand explains it as the unintended result of political jockeying between Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

      • athEIst says:

        The ;price of oil after Saudi Arabia retook control of OPEC

      • norman says:

        I do. Most people who lived there do. The populace lacking in the bread and spectacles department is very susceptible to the propaganda of the way of life where these things abound.

  12. Soviet Union? Vodka. Lifespans decreased. The young had deserted the system a generation before. There simply wasn’t enough stuff in the supermarkets or on television.

    • gcochran9 says:

      But that’s not a reason for a state to collapse. Come on, think about it.

    • That Guy says:

      When the US lost the Vietnam War, it ushered in a period of change, or coincided with a period of change in society.

      For the USSR, losing in Afghanistan, was their Vietnam…

    • gwern says:

      > Soviet Union? Vodka. Lifespans decreased.

      ? Much of that recorded lifespan decrease happened after the Soviet Union fell, and has been attributed to the fall of the large-scale anti-alcohol campaigns they had been running: http://iriss.stanford.edu/sites/all/files/iriss/Russia_mortality_crisis.pdf

      • unladen swallow says:

        That’s not true, I remember reading in a news magazine ( I think it was Newsweek because my best friends’ parents subscribed to it. ) that lifespan started declining in Russia before Gorbachev, because of the aforementioned rampant alcoholism. Male life expectancy in particular was already down about 4 years starting in the late 1970’s of the Soviet Union according to it’s own figures. This article was written not long after Gorbachev came to power, I want to say around 1986. That was why Gorbachev was so adamant about his anti-alcohol campaign when he first came in.

        I think the female life expectancy was down a negligible amount as well, due to the bad health care system and the fact that women in the Soviet Union were using abortion as a form of birth control, and hence had a lot of them. If the official figures were showing a 4 year decline for males, my guess is the real decline was even larger, the Russians always cooked the books. Gorbachev may have stemmed the fall the last 6 years of the Soviet Union, but the pattern was already there before the collapse in 1991.

      • gwern says:

        A vague memory of an unknown news magazine which may or may not have been right or relevant versus a paper with actual numbers and stuff? Oh, of course. I apologize for filling the comment section with such rubbish like papers.

      • Thanks, I am now reading it. However, I was talking about Russia prior to the fall of the wall. I haven’t got my references to hand. It was work by Michael Marmott on international health indicators, and specifically higher mortality in what we will call late Communism. In a quick look on the net, all I can find is predictions by Emmanuel Todd in 1976 but in his case based on infant mortality.

      • unladen swallow says:

        RE: Gwern, the book Ecocide in the USSR: Health and Nature Under Siege co-written by a Professor of Demography at Georgetown named Murray Feshbach and Alfred Friendly, a former Moscow Bureau chief for Newsweek details that Soviet male life expectancy fell from 66 years in 1964-65 to 62 years in 1980-81 in the very first chapter, and the first scholarly citation of the book, based on official Soviet government statistics ( Which given their track record, probably understated the decline ). They claim that it recovered to 63 years by 1989, although I would think given both Gorbachev’s need to show improvement thru reform and the Soviet propensity for inflating figures for propaganda value that is was still 62 or even lower when the system collapsed. The decline in life expectancy for men thus began a quarter century before the the post-Soviet era.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        According to the graph in wikipedia, Gorbachev managed to restore male life expectancy to the 1960 peak.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        A more recent version of the paper Gwern cites contains not just a crude mortality graph, but an age-adjusted graph.

    • frost says:

      For insight into why the USSR broke up look at how it broke up. Let’s see, off the top of my head the result of the breakup was Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia…All ethnic states which split off because they could. (Probably missing a *stan or 2 and a Caucasian state or 2.)

  13. Dross Hammermill says:

    Bush knew full well that there was no Iraqi nuclear weapons program worth the name.

    In his excellent book _Wedge_ Mark Riebling describes a program set up by James Angleton of CIA (and his favored friendly foreign agencies SIS and Mossad) which monitored Iraq’s nuclear ambitions. CIA and SIS sought to monitor the program by supplying it, through Matrix-Churchill among other firms. (I would surmise from your comment about calutrons that the agencies also steered the Iraqi program in unhelpful directions.) In this way the US and UK could shut down the program in a hurry when the time was right. This was done in 1991.

    UN weapon inspectors in Iraq after the 1991 ceasefire were impressed at the uncanny accuracy of bombs which fell on Iraq’s nuclear facilities. Chemical and biological sites suffered from some damage here and there, but the buildings which housed nuclear-related activity were largely eliminated. What remained was eliminated during the periodic airstrikes during the Clinton administration. All of this would have been fully briefed to and believed by Bush the Younger, being involved in the family business as he was. It was a known known.

    For the president of the United States to resort to a communications strategy of dropping large hints about “WMD” for over a year before the invasion of a medium size Middle Eastern country suggests an unprecedented strategic problem. The issue Bush was driving at during 2002 was not nuclear warheads, a non-issue, but allowing the public discourse to revolve around nuclear weapons was useful. The ratio of bait to switch (if you will) offered flexibility for escalation and de-escalation.

    “Cherchez la femme” one might remark of Wolfowitz. Indeed, but I would look more closely at Claire than Shaha. Laurie Mylroie’s work _Study of Revenge_ , dedicated to Claire, has been rightly criticized. I doubt her motives were pure as the driven snow, and her second book was complete hackery. But I would argue that it is of a piece: the ratio of bait to switch offers flexibility.

    So: September 11. What was the other part? What turned W.’s hair gray? Perhaps if we wait long enough Vladimir Pasechnik or David Kelly will pen a memoir offering a fuller explanation.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Bush didn’t know jack about anything. As for Angleton, he resigned in 1975. Your scenario is silly.

      There is a natural human tendency to think that the people at the top are magically shiny. Generally, they’re not. For example, a friend of a friend once tried to explain to McNamara the reason for MIRVs – which is basically the square-cube law. He tried and tried, but McNamara never could understand it.

  14. Jim says:

    For an ordinary person knowing much of anything about what is going on in the power elite is pretty hopeless. I don’t know much about Wolfowitz’s girlfriends for example and care less but apparently the state of his love life was of great geopolitical significance. Probably it’s just as well I know so little about what is going on. If I knew the truth I couldn’t do anything about it and I would just be terrified. It would be like riding on an airplane and glimpsing a chimpanzee at the controls when the cockpit door opens for a second. So that’s why the fare is so cheap!

    • bruce says:

      If Putin doesn’t know what happened to the Soviet Union either, he’s liable to be touchy. Big country still run by secret police, lot of nukes, riled populace, tough big First World Army.

      I sure wish we had elements of the 82nd doing joint maneuvers with elements of the Red Guards, preparatory for including Russia in NATO. Better the Bear inside our tent p-ing out, than outside p-ing in. Russia for NATO- less treacherous than Albion perfid’s Candid Friend act, likes America better than the French, less creepy than the Germans, more stable than Italy, not as Commie as Scandinavia, less broke than Greece! Besides, they may be stiffening Cypriot spines to where the West stops thinking ‘banks collapse even though they are run by crooked retards who’ve bought some politicians’ = ‘planet explodes’.

  15. j mct says:

    I don’t think that analysis is actually right as in what the point of all the arguements about WMD. I agree with everything Greg says about the ‘physics’ of the thing, actually I cannot really disagree since I don’t know how enough about the particulars about making a nuke in order to do so. All that isn’t really here nor there though, since the ‘arguement’ at the time wasn’t a physical one, it was a legal one.

    The main, but not necessarily whole, point to the arguement wasn’t about whether Saddam was a threat, it was a legal case that he’d ‘violated the UN resolutions’. If one remembers that was Bush kept yelling about chemical and biological weapons, he didn’t talk much about nukes. A physicist wouldn’t bother to even go there, in that though nerve gas is nasty stuff, per physical science, it’s not a WMD, the only WMD’s are nukes. Greg, who is obviously a better physicist than I am, if I were on an A bomb project I think I’d have to learn how Greg likes his coffee to be of any use, though I’m good enough to intelligently think about whether nerve gas is a WMD, doesn’t go there as a competent physicist wouldn’t. That didn’t really matter though, under the UN resolutions they were listed as WMD’s and per lawyer thinking, that makes them WMD’s, full stop. Thus, Saddam was violating the UN resolutions, so in we go. I personally think that taking into account UN resolutions at all as to whether the US goes to war or not is pretty stupid, but lots of people don’t, and in politics, if lots of people think UN resolutions matter, then they do, and that’s that. Finding them or not after we went in mattered politically from the legal pov too, not the ‘physical’ one. If we had found a big cache of nerve gas, we still wouldn’t have found any ‘physical’ WMD, but the legal case would have been vindicated.

    In addition, psychoanalyzing Bush to say he had Daddy issues or God said so, or he was really dumb because he says ‘nucular’, or something like that is silly. That’s not that he didn’t do stupid stuff, though no blood was lost on this, the amount of treasure spent or lost on the Iraq war was a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of treasure lost on the policy based on the notion that “having to put 20% cash down on a house is eeeeevil and must be stopped”. Nobody psychoanalyzes Bush over that, nor should they, no matter how stupid that is, and that notion is very very stupid. I’d bet that some Bushies might have thought all that, or thought that ‘Saddam fired missiles at Israel, let’s smash him’, but if one is willing to believe all that about Bush and most of the Bushies, would one think that about Cheney?

    The fact of the matter, is that was an obvious, hard headed, realpolitik, reason as to why we went in, that had nothing to do with democracy promotion or anything like that, though it was never stated. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a very bad miscalculation made, maybe such a bad miscalculation that one wonders if there was any calculating done per what went badly at all. It has to do with why we had a cow when Saddam invaded Kuwait in the first place. I guess this post has gone on long enough, and I’ll continue sometime soon, for anyone who has read this far already.

    • j mct says:

      I suppose I’ll finish by replying to myself.

      If one looks at the south shore of the persian gulf, there are a lot of little countries each of which has lots of oil in them. Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, the last two in the UAE. Oman’s got some oil but not much. Most of Saudi Arabia’s oil is on it’s piece of the Persian Gulf shoreline. If Hussein had gassed up his tanks after Kuwait and kept them rolling until they got to Oman, which if he wanted to do so and was only opposed by the locals, he very well might have been able to pull off, at the end, he would have controlled a massive piece of the producer side of the world oil market. He might not have wanted to or been able to pull it off, but that would have been such a disaster from the US and it’s allies point of view that cutting that off as a possibility was necessary. We like the producer side of the oil market as fragmented as possible. One of the reasons that the Saudi’s play ball with us and fling such large amount of money around DC is that they never want us thinking that busting up the Saudi portion of the oil fields into 3 or 4 little emirates like Kuwait is something we might like to try make happen, given that all other things equal that would be better for us, and would be politically doable as in Saudi Arabia is a kingdom, not a nation state.

      So the first Iraq war had nothing to do with UN resolutions, the inviolability of borders, freedom, or anything like that. It was a war over oil, though not because we wanted to steal it, we were and are perfectly willing to buy it, but not from a monopsony seller. This may seem like inside baseball hair splitting econocrap about the risk of dealing with a monopsony seller of oil being something worth going to war about, but it isn’t.

      The Gulf war did not end either. The best way to look at what followed was that it was a siege. Siege warfare is less dramatic than the usual kind, but it is warfare. The best outcome would have been some colonel doing in Hussein, but that did not happen and ten years into the siege, it was obvious that the siege wasn’t going well, as in it looked like Hussein was going to die in bed of old age. If we didn’t invade Iraq, the siege would probably still be going on. A twenty year siege is a pretty long siege, and if it was still going on plenty of people would be complaining about how Bush was a moron because he didn’t get it done in 2003 when the politics were lined up, not that they’d be right.

      So we invaded. The invasion goes well, but the aftermath, not so well. That’s where the stupid is, say if everything about the Middle East, fighting in Syria, what sort of country Iraq is like, what’s going on in Egypt, Iran trying to build a bomb… were exactly the same as now, but we had gotten out of Iraq in 2004, would the Iraq war be counted as a success or a failure? Definitely a success. It was a failure since either the occupation was screwed up, or a successful occupation and exit was impossible so we should have continued the siege and should never had tried in the first place. Either way not worth the blood and treasure spent over the continue the sanction stuff indefinitely. It’s pretty obvious that they could have thought all that through better than they did and if they’re morons, that’s what they were morons about.

  16. Jim says:

    I find it preposterous to believe that either Bush or Cheney or anybody else in his administration were motivated to carry out the “wishes” of the UN. The drivel that Bush or other people in his administration uttered for public consumption had little to do with their actual motives.

  17. Jaim Jota says:

    It is well known that leaders must be about one standard deviation smarter than the led masses, but not a drop above. However there are always extra smart people in the US government, starting with Dr Kissinger and others. They strategized following game theories, and one of the theory asserts that it is useful to do unexpected things, even random terror acts, to put fear and discipline in the ranks. To create a fame of being a bit crazy is a sensible strategy, like Malcolm X running his team. Maybe hanging Saddam Hussein was to intimidate the monkeys by killing a chicken, as the Chinese say.

    • gcochran9 says:

      It is well known that people about one std above average think that.

      Kissinger thought that the Soviet Union was the coming thing, something like Germany in 1910, and detente, his version of it anyhow, was supposed to gradually yield more power to them while keeping the international order stable and avoiding a catastrophic war.

      He was wrong. Since his claim to fame was expertise, rather than being a wit, snappy dresser, or good dancer, let us never speak of him again.

    • gcochran9 says:

      And your point is? Yellowcake is uranium oxide, unenriched: you need to enrich it to do anything with it. That’s the hard part. Very difficult. Iraq was known to have several hundred tons of yellowcake, sealed by the UN. Those seals were unbroken…

      I remember Congresscritters talking excitedly about yellowcake. It was obvious that they didn’t know about enrichment – didn’t know that you had to raise the percentage of U-235 from its original 0.7% to something over 90%. Didn’t know how difficult that is, basically because different isotopes have almost identical . There’s no point in being too harsh with them. They can’t help being schmucks.

  18. Sid says:

    The Bush Administration by several accounts was itching for a war with Iraq even before 9/11. Bush believed that Saddam Hussein was plotting to avenge himself on America, one way or another. After 9/11, the Bush Administration calculated that the risk of letting Saddam Hussein stand was too much a risk, not when he could transfer WMD to a terrorist outfit who would smuggle and then detonate the weapon. From a cost/benefit analysis, the cost of uprooting Saddam was now seen as far less than the risk of leaving him in power, not when 9/11 showed that there was at least one terrorist network hungry for American blood.

    In hindsight, it’s apparent that their analysis was completely foolish, and that the costs of the Iraq War were steeper than the damage 9/11 did. There were no discernible benefits in the venture. The Surge just turned what would have been a humiliating defeat into a Phyrric victory.

  19. AG says:

    Bush junior personal revenge since Saddam had botched assassination of Bush senior in his Kuwait visit during Clinton presidency. “You want kill my dad? You are dead man walking now”

  20. Ralph Hitchens says:

    Two things: First, you’re right that the DOE national lab experts rejected claims that Saddam had a serious nuclear weapons program. I worked in DOE Intelligence at the time, & we all knew the aluminum tubes were bogus. Unfortunately, our acting Director and the chief of the Proliferation division were weak leaders who didn’t want to “rock the boat” on the Iraq WMD National Intelligence Estimate. CIA’s “expert” was driving the train on that issue, and had won over both DIA & NSA. Had we taken a footnote, as did State/INR, that NIE would have hit a serious roadblock. Of course you still had “Curve Ball” and the bioweapons myth, and those suspected stocks of chemical munitions, neither of which we could seriously contest, but it’s possible we could have put the nuclear issue to rest by taking the strong stand that our DOE lab analysts (and the State Dept.) wanted us to take. Second, the Russian mortality crisis — with alcohol consumption as a big factor — began long before Gorbachev, as I recall from what Murray Feshbach, probably the world’s leading expert on Russian demographics and healthcare, had to say back in the 1980s. I was fortunate to hear him speak at interagency intelligence analysis gatherings to which he was invited.

  21. Jim says:

    The idea of a power elite that is informed by “expertise” and then makes decisions for the “common welfare” is hilarious.

  22. fnn says:

    Some ex-DOD employee on another site seems to be justifying the Iraq War on the basis of the discovery of mass graves containing hundreds of thousands of bodies following the 2003 invasion. Leaving aside the fact that many of those grave sites date from the period when Iraq was an US ally, how do we balance those deaths against the deaths caused by the “allies” in various ways?

  23. fred-m says:

    Being from the South and quite familiar with “Bible believing” evangelicals and fundamentalists I believe that Bush’s actions were guided by a desire to avoid an approaching Apocalypse. In this mind-set the end of the age must be brought in by an attack on Israel by a confederation of surrounding states who are met on the plain of Megiddo (Armageddon). This is what Bush meant when he said “If we do not act the world will drift towards catastrophe” (approximate quote). Saddam clearly saw his route to greater power in opposition to Israel.

    Those who do not live among and converse with “Bible believers” do not appreciate how seriously they take the prophecies and how they see today’s world..

    • gcochran9 says:

      I’m sure they’re crazy, but who isn’t? For example, nobody who knew anything about the situation would have thought that Baathist Iraq was any threat to Israel. Iraq was broke, flat on its back.

  24. Pingback: Liberalism and Immigration | JayMan's Blog

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