Recently Lawrence continues to assert that the Iraq War was a good idea, even if the occupation and democratization project were not.
Forgetting for a moment his assertion that everyone believed Saddam had WMD (see my previous blegging post) and that it was likely that he would pass them on to terrorists (and forget for a moment the question of whether chemical weapons, which are the most lkely banned weapons for Saddam to have had, are really WMDs in any objective sense), there is a question as to whether his solution is realistic. [Note: In case it is not clear, I do not question Mr. Auster's integrity. I just think that he is likely to be honestly mistaken in some of his conclusions].
Essentially, he thinks we should have gone in there, smashed Saddam, and set up a new government immediately, not caring if it was democratic or not, and then withdraw most of our troops, leaving perhaps a small contingent in a deserted area as a forward base in case of future troubles.
There is one big problem with this. Unless we planned on simply putting the next layer of the Ba'ath Party in charge, there is no way that any government we installed could take control without a massive U.S. presence.
The Ba'ath Party is the only organization that already had the forces and the infrastructure to keep control of the country. Only someone whom they would follow would be able to use them to do so. If we were to install Ahmad Chalabi, as the execrable Andrew McCarthy, Michael Ledeen, and Barbara Lerner wanted, we would still have needed to have occupied Iraq in order to make certain that he maintained control of the country. The idea that if we had just set up an "Iraqi"-controlled government in the beginning, that that would have somehow quieted everything down, is as ignorant as the belief that once you remove the dictator, suddenly the "natural" desire for democracy will manifest itself.
I suppose one might argue that the Iraqi National Congress would know more about the people of Iraq and thus would have avoided some of the problems that were caused by cultural ignorance (e.g. they would know who to talk to and what to say in order to get things done). Perhaps, although I question whether their various agenda would necessarily be conducive to keeping the country stable and together.
There is also the fact that any government we installed would have to, to some extent, reflect ppular will unless we were willing, personally, to massacre large numbers of people to suppress any rebellion. Sistani, remember, was the one who pushed for elections when Bush wanted to have a caucus. This is one of the things that delayed the "tansfer of power" to an Iraqi government. Those who argue that we alienated the Iraqis by occupying the country rather than by turning it over to "Iraqis" (i.e. the Iraqi National Congress) immediately seem to forget who it was who pushed for the delay, in order to make certain that Iraqi would have elections.
Of course, we could have just said "screw you," to Sistani, and put the Ol' Chalabster in there anyway, but it could have caused great civil unrest. And we, not the INC, would be the only force capable of putting it down, so we would be the ones responsible for killing large numbers of Shiites to suppress their terroristic goal of actually voting for their own government. Bad PR, I would think, although I suppose we could avoid it yb simply shooting any journalist who had the temerity to report on it rather than focusing on school re-paintings.
In short, in for the war, in for the occupation - unless you don't care if Iraq devolves into chaos, in which case, we could have removed Saddam, smashed his governemnt, and left, not even bothering to set anyone up to take his place.
That is all.