Bang Bang Theory of Iraqi Invasion

Josh Manchester argues that the toppling of Saddam’s regime in Iraq has had enormous, positive consequences for the region. The money ‘graph:

The ‘big bang,’ as invading Iraq has sometimes been called, was meant to reorder the nature of politics in the region. This has been accomplished in a fundamental way. The idea of dividing an enemy force into its constituent parts and then dealing with it piecemeal is at least as old as Caesar’s actions in Gaul. It applies no less to US strategy in the Middle East. Every faction there has been made to reconsider its relationship with every other. Rather than there being a monolithic clash of civilizations, thus far the US is dealing with the area in pieces — in whatever way it sees fit to do so — whether making it tacitly clear to Syria that what happened in Iraq could more easily happen to it, or threatening Iran on behalf of the region and world, or seeking cooperation with the Saudis in hunting down al Qaeda.

TigerHawk adds more analysis. His most controversial point is this:

[W]e have gained enormous leverage over the region by interposing American troops in Iraq. The left argues that we have limited our military options against Iran by having “stretched” our military in Iraq. This argument is silly. We have vastly more leverage over both Iran and the Sunni regimes to the west and south of Iraq precisely because we, rather than Saddam, now guarantee the security of the latter against the expansion of the former. When Saddam was all that stood between Iran and the Sunni Arabs, he had enormous influence over both. Now the United States does. It is that simple. Yes, it comes at a huge price to us and it remains to be seen whether the gains will be worth that price, but Saudi Arabia and Jordan (particularly) are in the fight against both the Sunni jihadis and the Iranian proxy Islamists only because the United States is fighting the war in Iraq.

With the same caveats, I agree.

Still, the precipitous escalation of the crisis by Israel–provoked by both Hamas and Hezbollah, to be sure–is another matter. While having a large troop presence in Iraq has some enormous logistical advantages, it also all but ensures that we will be stuck in the middle of something that may well escalate out of anyone’s control. An all-out conflict involving Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and the United States–with various internecine sectarian and/or ethic squabbles thrown in for good measure–would, to say the least, be unwelcome.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Iraq War, Middle East, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. anjin-san says:

    Lets see. Syria is backing Hezbollah, Iran is telling us to piss off, and Bin Ladan remains at large.

    Yep the divide & conquor thing is really paying off…

  2. LJD says:

    Lets see. Syria is backing Hezbollah, Iran is telling us to piss off, and Bin Ladan remains at large.

    And this was different pre-invasion, how exactly?

    I guess I can ignore any other strtegic benefit to being in Iraq because, welll, you said so.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin salami, There are many ways to describe the situation regardng OBL. I doubt that “at large” best describes his plight. At best, you could say he lost a bit of command and control of his organization. As far as Syria is concerned, as well as Iran. Are you suggesting a new situation exists? Just how extreme is your case of BDS, moonbat?

  4. madmatt says:

    So full fledged chaos throughout the middle east and saudi peninsula was the goal….yes the mission truly is accomplished. Rewards to the US taxpayer…higher gas prices, dead and mangled soldiers and the ability for halliburton to loot the US treasury, no bin ladin, resurgent taliban, thge hatred and disrespect of the world….ok your turn what exactly are the pluses?

  5. Anderson says:

    What an exotic fantasy world Manchester and TigerHawk dwell in. Sounds like a nice place.

    Much more plausible is this from a Jordanian intel officer who spoke to Ted Koppel:

    Washingtonâ??s greatest gift to the Iranians lies next door in Iraq. By removing Saddam Hussein, the United States endowed the majority Shiites with real power, while simultaneously tearing down the wall that had kept Iran in check.

    According to the Jordanian intelligence officer, Iran is reminding Americaâ??s traditional allies in the region that the United States has a track record of leaving its friends in the lurch â?? in Vietnam in the 70â??s, in Lebanon in the 80â??s, in Somalia in the 90â??s.

    In his analysis, the implication that this decade may witness a precipitous American withdrawal from Iraq has begun to produce an inclination in the region toward appeasing Iran.

    It is in Iraq, he told me, â??where the United States and the coalition forces must confront the Iranians.” He added, â??You must build up your forces in Iraq and you must announce your intention to stay.â??

    Given the choice between continued Bushism and withdrawal, I probably favor withdrawal. Better than either, however, would be the serious kind of commitment that the Jordanian calls for.

    Unfortunately, with the President clueless as ever, the Republicans thinking about the next two elections rather than our responsibilities to Iraq, and the neocons already bored with the wreckage of Iraq and wishing to move on to the next china shop, that just doesn’t seem likely.

    (The Dems of course are incoherent, but then, they’re not exactly in power either, now are they?)

  6. legion says:

    And this was different pre-invasion, how exactly?

    Congratulations, LJD, you just made the left’s point in one sentence. After all the chaos, all the deaths, all the sacrifice, every country in the M.E. respects us less and hates us more than pre-invasion. They don’t hate our freedom – they fear our insanity.

  7. Jopop says:

    Some politicians want a partical withdrawl from Iraq. This is because we are on the ground right next to Iran. Isreal, after Sharone annouced a third party and got sick, has decided to put us in a difficult position. We are, in effect going to be used by Isreal to go into Iran. this is what Isreal really wants and maybe Syria too. We need isreal to withdraw from Lebanon, but they will not and probably have plans to use us in Iraq to attack their enemies. Bush has decided to wait on Isreal as they invade Lebanon. It is a matter of time until we are manipulated by someone like the Mossad into Iran or Syria.

    The persons in power in Isreal are the retired military and intelligence people(like Plame in the US). Sharone is no longer around and this was their goal. It was also a goal to invade Lebanon. It is probably a goal to use the US in Iraq.

  8. Steven Plunk says:

    There was full fledged chaos in 1944-1945 but the necessity of the war was clear. To expect nothing but an orderly transition in the middle east is unrealistic. Keep in mind who is creating the chaos rather than accepting and moving toward the new post Saddam era. Anyone who did not expect this sort of unruly period should now see it was a likely outcome.

    The benefits seem to be a middle east where nations look seriously at their own interests the way a nation-state should look at them. They now understand that with power comes responsibility and that creating mad dogs to attack Israeli and American interests could backfire in many ways. In the long run this benefits the entire world.

    Many on the left still propose either totally running Iraq or leaving them on their own. It’s like raising kids, you slowly give them more responsibility and let them learn rather than just kicking them out in the street to fend for themselves without guidance. What’s so hard to understand about that?

  9. Dadmanly says:


    Glad to see you linking to both Chester and TigerHawk. Rarely will you see this explanation of the real strategic implications (along with caveats) of removing Saddam from Iraq within the context of the broader Middle East and the radical Islamic terrorism it breeds.

    That many readers or commentators find such the logic behind the strategy so “absurd,” in my mind underscores how few people really understand what’s really at stake, or what forces are at work.

    Josh Manchester (Chester of Adventures of Chester) was a US military officer, a plans and ops guy (S3 or G3, I’m not sure at what level).

    His military analysis as been generally excellent, and his work with Bill Roggio in doing near real time analysis of combat operations in Iraq was terrific at a time when the MSM could only harp IEDs and explosions in Baghdad.

    Is the military point of view the only legitimate view in discussing the current situation in the Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon)?

    No, but without a military perspective what you get is a lot of handwringing and ignorance. That starts with reading the AQ propaganda reprinted by the MSM as all there is to know.

    Iraq was a very plausible tipping point, and if any readers here think AQ or Iran or any of our other Jihadi minded enemies would have retired to Islamic scholarly pursuits were it not for Iraq, are probably unteachable.

  10. Wayne says:

    The ME is a swamp and one canâ??t drain a swamp without getting their feet muddy.

    It seems like many on the left donâ??t have any concept of reality. One doesnâ??t win a war by jumping ahead to a peace treaty. You have to win it first and you do that by taking on each battle as it develops. You may not win every battle and you may have casualties in each but the idea is to win overall.

    The ME has been in chaos for decades. The only problem is the players including the terrorist have been getting stronger and more dangerous as time goes by. The damage they have been able to inflict onto the U.S. has increasing while the U.S. sat on their hands.

    Since we have gone into Iraq, we have gained a great deal of ground. Many countries like Sadie Arabia, Jordon, Pakistan, Libya, and many others have taken a great deal of action against terrorist groups then they have in decades. Have they been perfect, no but to expect 100% perfection is a Hollywood dreamland and not reality. We have a great deal better military position then before which gives us a great deal more leverage on countries in the area.

    The rest of the world has been jealous or hateful of U.S. for decades now. To act like they love us before is living in fantasyland. Although it is not in the way MSM makes it out to be. I seen Chinese fight to get hold of a U.S. flag that I think was made in China.

  11. LJD says:

    Nice try Legion, but you can’t put those words into my mouth so easily. Obviously, I was speaking in the context of Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran. Although they would be just as much our enemies sans Iraq, we would be at a much more disadvantaged position to deal with the Axis, and would not likely have made the gains with countries now condemning Hezbollah.

    Dadmanly makes my point about Anjin’s ignorant comment perfectly:

    ‘…any readers here think AQ or Iran or any of our other Jihadi minded enemies would have retired to Islamic scholarly pursuits were it not for Iraq, are probably unteachable.’

    ’nuff said about that.

  12. anjin-san says:

    I see. Having out badly overextended and over-committed military next to Iran has increased our leverage. That would explain why they are doing as Bush wants and backing away from their nuclear program.

    LJD, my point was that our strategic position has not improved because of the Iraq war. I don’t recall saying that I feel Iran’s extremist would have taken up knitting by now had we not. But they might be a bit less cocky right now had we finished the job in Afghanistan and avoided the quagmire we now have in Iraq…

  13. Wayne says:

    Iran would be moving ahead with their nuclear program regardless if we are in Iraq or not. Nobody ever claim that everyone would fall in line just because we went into Iraq. Many have though and do give us leverage throughout the area and it has cause some to help the U.S. when they would not have done otherwise.
    Having our forces on two of Irans border does give us leverage. It also greatly impede any transfer of forces between Iran and Syria and defiantly Saddams Iraq if we do get into a military fight with Iran or Syria. It also gives us a large staging area to conduct operations against those two countries.

    Liberals out there claiming the U.S. military is badly overextended are full of it. If we get into another conflict, we will show just how badly mistaken they are. That lie spread by the liberals and MSM does not reflect facts and only hurts our efforts to avoid war by undermining our leverage and foreign policies.

    Nothing that we have done in Iraq has prevented us from carrying on operations in other parts of the world including Afghanistan. Another liberal red herring.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Re: Wayne’s comment

    >Liberals out there claiming the U.S. military is badly overextended are full of it. If we get into another conflict, we will show just how badly mistaken they are.

    Tell me Wayne, are you currently serving in a combat unit in the middle east? Or are you just another online tough guy who likes to talk about how much ass “we” kick while in reality, it is other men who do the fighting and dying…

  15. Wayne says:

    I have been over there as an Infantry officer and many of friends have been or are currently serving over there including some who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I plan on volunteering to go back over once my daughter graduates next may. Presuming I donâ??t go back before then.

    I have watched the MSM mischaracterize much of the military status. The Army and Marines miss their recruitment goal once in a seven-year period with them getting in 90 s percent range that year while exceeding in many of the other years. Yet we hear again and again that the military cannot meet their recruitment goals. Try watching the MSM when you actually there and it almost drives you mad. Some time you wonder if they are even talking about the same place.

    It odd how liberals like you claim that those that support the war cannot unless they are serving but the anti-war crowd can undermine the war all they want without ever serving in military. If you think you can do a better job then we can, why donâ??t you sign up and show us.

    Throwing you hands up in the air and surrendering donâ??t win wars and protect our freedom. So if you not willing to fight, shut up and get out of our way.

  16. anjin-san says:


    At least you have the courage to back up your convictions with action.

    Sadly, the war in Iraq is not in any way protecting our freedom. Iraq was not a threat to America. The President’s father did a very nice job of pulling Saddam’s fangs.

    Read what Bush said leading up to the war. Hardly a whisper about spreading democracy in Iraq/the Middle East. It was all about the phantom WMD. Rove did a massive re-branding of the war after it turned out there were no WMD, and you bought it.

    Bush the younger failed to finish the job in Afghanistan. The Taliban is making a com back years after Bush declared he had destroyed them.

    Homeland security is a mess. Yet we continue to pour national treasure into Iraq. How long would the Iraqi govt. last without the US military to prop it up? A week? A pretty poor return for the lives and $$ invested by a country that has plenty of work to be done at home.

    We cannot secure peace and freedom simply by killing people and blowing things up. If that worked, Israel would be at peace now. Look where they are.

    Ultimately, it is our ideals that will win for us, or not (of course we do need to keep our powder dry). Sadly, we preach about spreading democracy abroad, while the current government does not seem to care much about it at home.

  17. Wayne says:

    Talking out differences is always the prefer way. However it does not always work. Once you get into a fight, talking very seldom works. We have been in a fight with terrorist for decades now. We have sit on our ass why they get stronger and do greater damage.

    Many Middle East supported terrorist groups to include Syria, Iran and formerly Iraq. You need to dry up the support if you going to dry up terrorist groups. Saddam was shooting at our pilots on weekly bases. He paid money to terrorist family and was increasing his contact with terrorist leaders. We had to take on at least one of those countries and Iraq was the logical choice.

    Do you have a link of Bush saying he destroyed the Taliban? Not likely. You probably a typical lib that twist and warp Bushs words and claim he said something he did not.