Philip Mudd, former CIA official: If you think of the civil unrest piece, we have a lot of experience in looking at the Sikhs, the Kashmiris, Sri Lankans, the tribal areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan. I looked at all these other insurgencies at the agency, and it's not clear to me that provision of more assistance would have been helpful.
If you have a local population that supports the civil unrest, the ability to impose will is going to be extremely difficult, regardless of the investment. And again, looking at the Indians going against the Sikhs, the Kashmiris, the southern Sri Lankans and Sinhalese going against the Tamils -- a history of this tells me that if the locals like the message of violence, you can't stamp it out.
The second and final message is local power. If you want to stamp it out, you've got to have somebody locally -- and that is the Sri Lankan Army, the Indians in Kashmir, the northern alliance in Afghanistan -- who's going to crush heads.
And this is where I think the de-Sunnification piece comes in. One of our big assumptions was, why wouldn't these guys be with us? That was wrong. If we assume we're not going to have local support, we're going to have to crush them. And to crush them, my experience with all these other areas tells me, we need a local power who will do it, because we can't.
Doug Feith, Bush Pentagon official: There was a lot of talk in the run-up to the war about basic strategic ideas, and one of the most basic was that we would have a strategy of liberation rather than occupation.
We actually had a plan for political transition in Iraq that would have been a?variation on what we did in Afghanistan, where we would not have set up a protracted U.S. occupation regime. In Afghanistan, as everybody knows, we overthrew the Taliban but didn't set up a U.S.-led occupation government. But we wound up having an occupation government in Iraq despite the fact that there had been quite a substantial discussion and formal agreement at the NSC level that we were not going to have that.
When you have a problem with a regime, I mean, as we had in Afghanistan, as we had in Iraq, as we now have in Syria, North Korea, when you have a problem with a regime, and if you're going to take action to move that regime aside, how do you define your goals? And what are the consequences of deciding to run the place for a substantial period of time? I mean, that's quite important.
One of the consequences of what we did in Iraq by shifting, essentially, to an occupation approach, despite, as I said, the pretty widespread agreement before we went to war that that would be a problem, was that all of the problems of Iraq, which were very substantial (and more, in fact, than we knew as a government -- you know, like the horrible state of their infrastructure, which was worse than we had known). But all of those problems, like the electricity problem, became an American problem.
Is there some way to deal with horrible regimes like that, that you want to move aside, and even taking some steps, as I think Steve Hadley rightly pointed out, are kind of required of the United States, you're not going to want to put a dictator in place of another dictator. You're going to want to try to give an opportunity for the people to build better, more democratic political institutions. But is there a way to [deal with horrible regimes] where you don't wind up being the occupying power; where you don't wind up owning every problem that that country has because of its decades of misrule?
But I think that a lot of bad things flowed from the fact that we took the kind of ownership of Iraq and its governance, after Saddam's overthrow, that we did, and I don't think it was inevitable.