Cohen: Yes, you need political strategy; yes, it's all about local dynamics and including personalities and so on. And my point would be, you never know that stuff until you're really there on the ground. You don't know that from the outside. My strong suspicion is, as I said, you don't understand the local dynamics until you are physically on the ground, until General Allen is out there with the Anbari sheikhs, and talking to them, all the time, and figuring out who's who and what's what.
And the implication of that is if you do do this kind of thing, you are doing occupation. Don't kid yourself. And I think we did kid ourselves, you know, just looking at those simple words, liberation and occupation, they can mean different things. Liberating Prague is one thing. Liberating Baghdad is very, very different.
Feaver: I had in mind many different counterfactuals, but the one that Paul and a couple other people had raised is, what if we had had no invasion?
Here's what I think the reality would have been. One, a much stronger al Qaeda than we ended up with 10 years later. Secondly, a conviction that Hussein had a much larger WMD arsenal than he actually had, because, of course, our knowledge about his absence of WMD involved interrogations of Hussein, which we wouldn't have had. And third, based on that same rationale, the collapse of the sanctions regime in the UN, which would have allowed him to actually start rebuilding in a way that he would have been able to.
Is that a better world than the world we're in today? Maybe. I think people can still disagree. But it is not the idyllic world that the argument is usually made.
Last observation, Doug asked sort of the rhetorical question: Could we ever avoid responsibility? I think we're running a natural experiment on that very question on Syria. President Obama right now appears to be running the experiment that, if we don't intervene, we can avoid responsibility for the very predictable chaos that's coming. Then, when and if Assad falls, and the chaos that everyone has predicted comes to pass, we will all say, we told you so. And apparently the Obama administration's position is, but we're not responsible for it, and therefore it's not our problem. And I think when we're looking for lessons to go forward on Iraq, one of the hard questions we should ask is, what are the areas in the world where our inactivity will absolve us from responsibility from cleanup?
Feith: The strategic question is, is there a middle ground between the kind of inactivity in Syria that we now see, and occupation? Eliot's suggesting that there might not be, that occupation is inevitable in some ways. But it's an interesting question, because if the only option for dealing with a problem regime is forcing it out of the way, and then owning the country for a substantial period of time, then I think your point that the American people are going to say, we'll be damned for a very long time, is almost certainly the case. And maybe that is right.
Gen. John Allen: I was a deputy commander out in Anbar Province. We spent an extraordinary amount of time preparing ourselves intellectually for what we would face in the Anbar Province, which was, in many respects, a closed system compared to other areas within Iraq that folks had to deal with, which was, perhaps, multiethnic, multi-confessional. And the environment in which we operated in Anbar presented us with the challenge of dealing with virtually the complete absence of governance with the complete ascendancy of the tribes. And so understanding the human terrain, understanding the dynamics of the social fabric into which we were ultimately thrust gave us, I think, a number of opportunities.
One of the most important opportunities was not just our ability to deal with the tribes, to have entree to tribes at the level where we could deal with sheikhs as a matter of regular intercourse. But it also gave us the ability to recognize the potential value of the Awakening when it occurred. We really sensed that something was changing dramatically in the battle space, and we were very familiar with, and very aware of, the previous tribal attempts to organize, and how those had either failed or been stamped out by al Qaeda.
Leaving Iraq, I would become the Deputy Commander at CENTCOM where, to Dr. Hadley's point, I was very concerned that many of the lessons that we had learned in terms of the capacity for civil military execution, but even more importantly, the capacity for civil military planning, I was very concerned about losing the edge, potentially, of that. And so, for us, as we undertook at CENTCOM contingency plans for other potential regional issues, we spent a great deal of time understanding the environment in Phase Zero, which is called the shaping phase, which is peacetime, if you will, but also spent a lot of time trying to understand, in areas where there could be potential contingency operations, understanding tribal, ethnic, confessional governmental dynamics, so that should a contingency begin, we had attempted within the context of our formal planning to understand that, as you shift from peacetime to the contingency, in a very real sense, you are beginning your execution for stability operations, and ultimately the shift to civilian government. You're beginning that shift the moment that the contingency begins if you've done the planning correctly.
So an immediate lesson learned for me, a really key takeaway from my personal experience in Iraq was that, in the context of contingency planning, for contingencies which were really not even on scope at that particular moment for us, understanding what would be necessary to stabilize an environment following a contingency operation, and then shift that stability over to an indigenous civil governance was a very important takeaway for us.
And of course, the big takeaway, again, back to Dr. Hadley's point, the big takeaway was, while the military is quite good at that, frankly -- quite good at shaping in Phase Zero, what might be the outcome in Phase 4, there is still a great deal of room for the development of capacity, so that it is in fact a civil military, and ultimately a civil lead in Phase 4 and Phase 5. And that was a direct outcome for me. It is a concern of mine today, as we continue to think about the future: Are we adequately resourcing ourselves intellectually so that future contingencies, as a direct result of what we learned in Iraq, are we going to be properly postured at a civil military level ultimately to move to Phase 4 and Phase 5?