April 17, 2003
Superb Victory, Huge Problems in Iraq
by Donald G. Mashburn

The “mother of all battles” that Saddam Hussein blustered about never materialized. Neither did Saddam.

Coalition forces routed the Iraqi armies in a brilliant victory that will find a prominent place in military textbooks. The performance of American and British soldiers has been superb, and is worthy of worldwide appreciation.

However, expressions of appreciation from China, France, Germany and Russia, the “Feckless Four,” are about as likely as Saddam personally leading a charge against the 3rd Infantry Division.

Our forces deserve the superlative “superb.” From breaching the first berm to Baghdad – some 300 miles by the way the tanks roll– took 19 days! And 21 days after push-off in Kuwait, U.S. tanks were in the New Presidential Palace.

These brave warriors won their battles while trying, as no large army in history has tried, not to kill civilians. And history will note that the brilliant military campaign, led by American and British forces, was waged in spite of the inept United Nations.

Moreover, history – the non-liberal part, at least – will note that President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair stand out as the most decisive and courageous leaders of their times. Both understood the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. And they stood firm against the anti-American, save-Saddam cabal in the U.N. Security Council.

The planning and execution of the overall strategy were exceptional. Fighting through sandstorms and dusty desert, our troops found, and gave, new meaning to “true grit.” And Bush and Blair now give added meaning to “head of state,” and “world leader.”

But problems more knotty than planning and executing a winning war strategy lie ahead. Those problems involve the incredible difficulty of bringing order and representative government to a country that has never known freedom and order.

Thoughts of basking in the glow of victory now must be turned to dealing with the sometimes-ugly behavior of the Iraqi people. Looting was rampant early on – even hospitals weren’t spared. But less than four weeks from jump-off, our military units were working out patrol and security details with Iraqi policemen in Baghdad.

The United States and Britain have made it clear that, having borne the human and material costs of freeing Iraq, they will retain primary responsibility for rebuilding Iraq. They say, however, that they visualize a “vital” role for the United Nations. Still, three (France, Germany, Russia) of the Feckless Four have held meetings to plan how the Security Council might gain control of Iraq.

The fumble-prone United Nations cannot be trusted to guide Iraq to freedom. The United Nations’ record of nation rebuilding is non-existent – name a nation they have rebuilt. The United States and Britain have excellent records – France, Germany, Japan. The Iraqis deserve better than the United Nations. And Bush and Blair deserve the world’s appreciation for their strong stance.

The Iraqis have no history of real freedom, but freedom, citizen’s rights, and government by the people have been a strong part of the histories of both Britain and the United States. As long as the Feckless Four have a voice in the UN Security Council, the U.S. and Britain must call the shots.

Although Iraq is not ready immediately for a “pure” democracy or democratic republic, it must develop an interim government acceptable to the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, which can guide Iraq through the transition to a permanent democratic republic.

Iraq’s tremendous oil reserves give it a great advantage no other nation-building effort has had. Rebuilding the war-torn country will be expensive, and it will be interesting to see how much the Feckless Four are willing to ante up to help.

Oil, and the $20 billion-plus Iraq owes them, are partly why the Feckless Four want the Security Council to have control of Iraq. The United States and Britain have unsurpassed oil know-how, and can make sure the oil revenue goes to benefit the Iraqi people. Funding with U.N. oversight is subject to waste, corruption, and (built-in) inefficiency.

A conventional democratic form of government, chosen by the people, won’t come easy for the Iraqi people. But they can have it if enough of them, working in freedom, want it.

And when they have it, may they and the world remember that it was the blood of brave soldiers, nearly all American and British, who ended Saddam’s tyranny, and made freedom a reality for some 24 million Iraqis.