Paul Pillar, former CIA analyst: The textbook scenario, for whenever a nation like ours undertakes something really major, and certainly a big offensive war of choice is major, is that we have a policy process in which all of the relevant parts of the bureaucracy, as well as external sources of expertise, are engaged that examines in detail, what are the objectives that we would be trying to achieve if we undertake this? What would be the cost? What are the other side effects? And you weigh the pros and cons, and that's the way a policy process works. And as Rich Armitage once observed, we didn't have that with going to war in Iraq. And there was no process to decide whether it was something this country ought to do in the first place, as opposed to discussions about getting public support for the decision, or for implementing the decision.
And in my view, that's the most basic lesson to be learned, and to be applied in the future, is have a policy process. Of course, that gets right to the key question of doing the war or not doing the war. But it also subsumes so much else of what we've discussed already. You know, we didn't anticipate this, or we didn't apply enough resources to that. Those are exactly the sorts of questions that, in a thorough pre-war policy process, would be forced to fore.
Peter Feaver mentioned, for example, a paucity of counterfactual analysis, and I think that's a correct observation in terms of what we've seen over the last 10 years. But, of course, the right time to do the counterfactual analysis is before you do the war, not the subsequent 10 years.
You know, we had, back in the Johnson administration decisions on Vietnam in the mid '60s, a very thorough policy process, all documented in the Pentagon papers, and you can read about it in LBJ's memoirs, but that didn't guarantee success.
But I would estimate that not just 10 years from now but 50 years from now, when historians look back at this, the absence of that kind of process is going to be one of the most extraordinary things that historians will comment on.
Mansoor: I want to go back to the comment that Iraq was a civil war. Although I agree with that, I don't think it shows the complexity of the conflict. Because it was an insurgency, there was terrorism there, there was organized crime there, and it wasn't just one civil war, it was multiple civil wars. Shia on Shia, Sunni on Sunni, and Shia on Sunni. And the key, which we finally got around to in 2007, was to leverage the fault lines between them to find allies.
So I think the takeaway here for the future is, we need to understand better the local dynamics of these places if we're going to go in there with an industrial strength armed force. And I don't think we understood those dynamics in 2003 at all.
David Sanger, New York Times: Picking up on that same point, I had a chance recently to go back over notes from the interviews that we had done with members of the administration, including some in this room, in the weeks leading up to the war. And a couple of things jumped out at me. One was an assumption at the time, or at least a discussion of an assumption at the time, that it would be a war of liberation, as Doug said, rather than a war of occupation, because it would be able to cut off the very tops of the ministries, de-Ba'athify each of the ministries, and the following Monday morning everybody would come into work and the infrastructure would kind of pick up where it was, and Doug made the point, nobody understood the degree to which the infrastructure didn't work, but they also didn't understand the degree to which that bureaucratic structure didn't really exist.
When you go back and you look at the speeches that President Bush gave in the run-up to the war, there was one that he gave that dealt with the democratization issues, and there were six or seven that dealt with the WMD threat, including the big Cincinnati speech, which had the discussion of how attacks could actually strike the United States, and so forth. I suspect that, had that ratio been reversed, that it might have been a lot easier to set up the later conversation about the opportunities for democratization, and might have affected in some way the way we approached this.
But since it took, instead, five or six months to come to the determination that there wasn't an active WMD program even if there had been one before, that meant that there was a lag in coming up with what became a new justification for the war. And I think that that, in the end, ended up costing pretty vital time.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post: The political transformation plan was, in a sense, quite aspirational before the war. And as we look forward to sort of enduring lessons from all of this, particularly in terms of resourcing, the lack of attention to political transition strikes me as at near the top of the list. And it ties directly into the issue of de-Sunnification. Its true cost, yes, was the insurgency, but also leaves us with a legacy of the politics we have now, which are far from inclusive. And that ties directly back to de-Sunnification decisions, and had there been a more robust and meaningful transition plan, we might not even have gotten there.
Look at Afghanistan today. It's a problem of politics more than anything else. And you could argue all along, we've had counterinsurgency military strategies, we've had reconstruction strategies, but there's never been a very good diplomatic political strategy there, as we failed to have early on in Iraq.