A thought about strategy, which no doubt has already occured to someone in Washington

We’ve all been hoping for a quick, low-casualty war. I’ve been somewhat regretting not having had a longer period before the war started during which its start — conditional on the current regime staying in power — was certain, since the best result would have been getting SH and friends to flee, or the army to toss them out, without actual fighting. And it seems to have surprised lots of people that the start was less than shocking and awesome, with no heavy airstrikes at the regime centers.

Duhhhhh….as long as SH leaves before lots of people get killed, it hardly matters whether that tomorrow or next week. The relevant length of the war is measured in lives, not hours. Starting the war, not very intensely, but with demonstrations of how thoroughly in control we are and how hopeless the Iraqi situation is, without racking up many casualties on either side, is exactly the strategy most likely to secure a termination after the minimum number of deaths.

However, as I play out that scenario in my head, it looks as if it has some tricky moments.

What happens if, tomorrow, some general goes on Iraqi TV, announces that Saddam Hussein and his sons are dead or in a dungeon, and that the Emergency Temporary National Council of State Security, Peace, and Niceness is now in control, ready to give up all weapons of mass destruction and means of making them, per Security Council Resolution 1441?

Then we will have to decide (1) whether we believe him and (2) whether we’re satisfied with regime change, rather than an occupation that would allow us to dictate the shape of the next government (and who gets the oil rights).

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com