What's the best -- and worst -- that could happen with Iraq?

To my mind, war with Iraq looks inevitable, however many resolutions are tabled at the UN. I’m interested in your opinions: what are the best and worst possible (realistic) outcomes of any war in Iraq? Do you see a trouble-free handover of power in Iraq to a moderate, democratically-elected government? Do you see an upsurge in anti-US/UK sentiment and terrorism? Do you see permanent damage to US/European relations? Alternatively, if you believe war can realistically be averted, how would this occur?

Worst outcome:

Kurds and many others join al-Qaeda in droves
Sadaam, thinking rightly that he is going to be assassinated, orders a hit on Bush, and is successful.
Hundreds of thousands of casualties or more in Baghdad, and the fight continues three months later
At the same time, N. Korea does an offensive and launch bombs over no man’s land.
During the confusion, an inavertent bomb lauched by somebody level an Iranian city. Iran joins in.

Best outcome:

Troops sneak in find Sadaam, the real one not a decoy, and captures him and his sons.


What capacitor said…plus:
Multiple terrorist attacks on U.S. and U.K.
Attack on Israel prompts nuclear response from Sharon.
Complete chaos in the Middle East.

Saddam steps down peacefully, leaves Iraq, goes into exile.
Eventually tried for warcrimes.
New government created a la Afghanistan.

Best Outcome: Saddam kills himself before the war starts and the UN moves in and begins putting Iraq on the path towards democracy.

Worst Outcome: The UN spends years chasing after Saddam’s WMD, meanwhile hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s die due to Saddam’s practices. One of the survivors grows up hating the Western world with a passion, seizes control of Iraq, and begins the path to world domination.

Umm, what did I miss? I thaught the Kurds would be the most pleased by Saddam’s demise. The more painful the better.

Slight hijack –

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62438-2003Feb24.html
Best? No war. Saddam is no longer in power. The Iraqi People decide their new government in freedom.

Worst? Intensive ground action. Saddam uses WMDs against US/UK/Aussie troops and thousands of troops dies within first 24 hours of ground campaign die. (Americans feel duped by Bush. Internal anger mounts.) Israel pulled into conflict with Scuds launched by Saddam. Israeli response causes other Middle Eastern countries to join the fray. The entire Middle East fragments. Israel given blank check by Bush to do whatever necessary to keep Middle East Arab countries on the defensive. US seizes control of major oil fields in Saudia Arabia, Iaq and several other countries. US uses WMDs against Saddam and threatens any other country with first strike if they interfere anywhere in the world.

North Korea crosses the DMZ and overruns SK and USA troops within hours. Limited US support (because Bush has pulled most active carrier battle groups to the Middle East) means Bush has no choice left open and launches air strikes. North Korea launches missiles against Japan. Bush goes nuclear. The world economy collapses into a depression.

The UN goes the way of the League of Nations. (No, wait. The USA is already predicting that in the link above.)

Terrorists strike in the UK, USA and Australia. Thousands of civilians die. Police/fire officials in the USA overwhelmed. Banks, retail, schools close. Military called out in America. Ashcroft assumes domestic control. Bush removed from power not by Congress or terrorists, but by a vigilante group of Americans from SDMB right-wing hardcore.

France sits back and does nothing, taking no sides. When the dust settles, France begins making business deals with the victor(s). Frances toasts the victors with French wine.

Worst outcome:

  • US strikes fail to conquer Iraq. Soliders are engaged in street to street fighting, and US is defeated by chemical weapons used on troops. Our withdrawal is forced and Arabs see this as a sign.

  • Complete revolt begins in Middle East. Saddam calls for holy war against US for attack. Muslims in all middle east states rise up and join as one under Saddam to declare war on US/UK/Israel. All friendly US governments in the area overthrown.

  • Terrorists develop and begin to use nuclear weapons on US cities, since they have no other technology or means to deliver mass blows from afar. Bombs are smuggled in on the sea/ground and detinated locally in many major US cities all at once. And Israel is also destroyed.

  • US retaliates with full nuclear force, launching 1/3 nuclear arsenal in the middle east obliterating all major cities. Completely destroying the entire region.

  • China/Russia/India retaliate against US launching their warheads at all remaining US cities.

  • US Retaliates. Nuclear winter begins.

Best outcome:

Iraqis cheer in the street when the U.S. troops arrive. The Iraqi military folds like a cheap suit. U.S. special forces prevent Saddam from torching oil fields.

Success in Iraq allows U.S. to pull out of Saudi Arabia. Not requiring the cooperation of the Saudis anymore means the U.S. is now free to pressure them into stopping funding for terrorism and Wahhabist schools.

A large U.S. military presence in Iraq gives the U.S. a staging base for going after terrorists in Syria, Yemen, etc.

In the longer term, the transition of Iraq into a democracy acts as a catalyst and an example for other middle eastern nations. THe mullahs in Iran lose power, and Iran becomes a democracy. Removal of sanctions and a re-started Iraqi economy gives the middle east a tremendous economic boom, which causes a further weakening of the radical mindset.

Best outcome: U.S. troops storming the imperial castle break into the inner sanctum only to discover that Saddam is actually full of DELICIOUS CANDY.

Reeling with victory, the free world is assured a steady supply of oil, which it wisely puts to good use by powering huge oil-based electrical generators to create hydrogren for hydrogren powered vehicles as the President has proposed (since he cut funding for alternative energy, seemingly not realizing that you can’t just grab hydrogen out of thin air, and have to use electricity to produce it). Sure, this requires burning more oil and releasing more CO2 than simply using the old gas engines on cars, but hey, it’s the wave of the future, man.

France, Germany and Russia, their oil companies losing out on the promised control of Iraqi oil, cry tears of deep deep sadness that eventually flood the world, eliminating the need for cars anyway and turning the yacht industry into the biggest industrial operation on the planet. World goes on nearly all sushi diet.

Then, some other stuff happens that’s pretty cool too. I dunno. Bugs and stuff.

Worst outcome?

Bush enters a second term…

Sam, you don’t mention a worst case - nor have you ever, for that matter, made any prediction in less than the rosiest terms. But that’s necessary to uphold your belief in Bush’s righteousness, isn’t it? Now try to complete the answer, please.

It’s more useful IMHO to discuss best and worst cases among the range of realistic possibilities, not fantasy, as well as identifying the most likely case in between. That’s how I’m couching this.

Best case: Saddam is assassinated by an ambitious commander in the Republican Guard who thinks he has the support of enough of the rest of them to take charge of the government afterward. He presents himself to the US (not Allied, get real) forces and offers a “peace” treaty that lets Bush declare victory and leaves himself in charge, with US forces to support him for a period. His regime is otherwise domestically interchangeable with Saddam’s.

The best plausible case does not include Saddam’s death by US forces (that depends on too much luck), or surrender and complaisance of all significant opposition (too many have their own interests outweighing that). The best plausible case also does not include Iraq’s magical recreation as a model of democracy - there is no reason to believe Bush is truly committed to that other than as a selling point, and he cannot be counted upon to execute it.
Worst case: Quagmire (yes, there’s that word again). Street-to-street fighting as Iraqis of all backgrounds resist the invasion of who they see as the imperialist conquerors. Weekly body count reports by the Pentagon. Good people coming home in bags. Saddam remains on the loose, exhorting his people to defend their homelands. Human shields from all over get killed, perhaps some deliberately. Bush’s successor has to find a way to extricate forces with some sort of “peace with honor”. A generation of radicalized poor Arabs becomes a new generation of terrorists. US is left with no credibility, just huge debts and another wall full of names - few of whom will be from countries offering the loudest (but unbacked) support now. And no, I can’t think of an implausible case that’s even worse.

Most probable case: Just like the worst one, but with less-determined Iraqi military opposition, and little from civilians. Effective breakup of country into regions, with Turks occupying Kurdistan and Shiites gravitating toward Iran (evolving despite being in the Axis), and new dictator ruling Sunni region. Each area pays for US military control with oil.

Let’s go for broke, with the extreme best and worst cases:

Best Case – nuclear war averted. Democracy spreads through entire middle east . Israel-Arab conflict ended.

Worst Case – Iraq wins the war. Iraq dominates entire middle east, including all the oil; kills all non-Muslims in the middle east; destroys Israel.

Oh, yeah, the world outside Iraq - here goes.

Best case: Bush reinstates the North Korea accords stopping their nucular program, and coerces Pakistan and India into moratoria on theirs, using money/food/whatever as bribes.

Worst case: Every tin-pot dictator in the world who thinks he might be the target of Bush’s righteous wrath cuts a deal with North Korea for a nuke of his own, as a preventive measure. Eventually one of them uses his against a neighbor (I’m betting Pakistan) and gets it back in return.

Most likely case: Only some dictators do that, and get bought out by US “largesse” offered under the guise of humanitarian aid, but some don’t. North Korea keeps the capability in place just in case.

While they do hate Saddam they have no love for Turkey. They may see themselves sold down the river to the Turks after the war.

Best: A free and democratizing Iraq is established that serves as a model for other nations in the region.

Worst: America lacks the will to comit the attention and resources to Iraq for years to come. The whole nation falls into a spiral of dependancy on international aid that turns Iraq into one giant refugee camp that is a breeding ground for factionalism and terrorism.

I like your best case, but that worst case needs a little work. How about this ?

Worst Case – A desperate Saddam thaws out his stocks of smallpox and uses them injudiciously, thus triggering a worldwide pandemic that leaves billions dead.

Best case.

Bush sees the errors of his ways, asks congress to revoke the War Powers act. Removes the military buildup in the Middle East, and sets down at the table for insuring Iraq’s cooperation for maintaining piece in the area in exchange for military, technological, and humanitarian aid. Iraq becomes the next Israel of the Middle East. Oh and we just leave NK alone.

Worst case,

We go in guns blazing, get stalled on chem/bio/nuke response, we respond in kind. Iran invades Iraq. Israel invades Iraq. NK knowing that a war on two fronts is un-winnable storms SK and drags my nephew’s body down the ruined streets of Soul while CNN cameras are rolling. Any non nuclear response form America is meet with overwhelming conventional forces. The NK theater soon becomes nuclear. China waxes our ass with a preemptive nuclear strike on mainland US. Russia not being a fool, follows suit. Those of use that are left eat out of cans, lose our hair, and die.

Yes, that’s a better wrost case, Squink. And, it can’t be entirely ruled out, either. :eek:

Why do you say this stuff? I’ve posted lots of negative possibilities in Iraq. There was even a thread a couple of months ago where I got frustrated with the quality of the ‘anti-war’ messages being posted, and left a long, detailed message describing what could go wrong.

In case you didn’t see it, I’ll describe some of the worst-case possibilities below:

Worst Case:
[li]Saddam withdraws his forces into the cities, torches his oil fields, launches biological and chemical weapons into Israel. The U.S. is forced to dig him out, and Saddam makes sure there are huge civilian casualties, even if he has to kill them himself and blame the U.S. for it.[/li][li]Israel attacks Iraq in retaliation, further inflaming the middle east. Syria begins shelling Israel, and Iran uses the opportunity to crack down on dissidents and cement the hold on government by the Mullahs.[/li][li]Hezbollah declares Jihad on the United States, with backing from Iran. [/li][li]The kurds in the north use the opportunity to rise up in Turkey and northern Iraq, and the Turks enter the war in serious force.[/li][li]Eventually, the U.S. prevails, but world opinion is at an all-time low, putting tremendous pressure on the U.S. The Blair government loses a vote of no-confidence, and the new British government withdraws its forces and declares itself neutral.[/li][li]The U.S. finally ends all hostility in Iraq, and establishes a military occupation. This enrages the Shi’ites and others in the Iraqi National Congress, and they formally denounce the United States and demand that it leave immediately. [/li][li]The U.S. begins suffering devastating attacks in the middle east at the hands of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and is forced to confront Iran.[/li][li]Iran uses its opportunity to move troops across the Iraqi border in a land grab. This move is supported by radical Islamists in Iraq, as a counter to a U.S. military occupation.[/li][li]George Bush’s popularity is at all-time lows, and he is thrown out of power in the 2004 election, replaced by a candidate who promises to end the ‘adventure’ in Iraq. Subsequently, the U.S. begins a draw-down of military forces.[/li][li]Islamic radicals take power in Iraq, creating a new complementary theocracy to next-door-neighbor Iran. The Kurds declare an independent Kurdistan.[/li][li]The U.S. is humiliated, Iraq is converted into a radical Islamic theocracy, Bin Laden cheers, and this is all seen as a huge victory by lslamists in the middle east. Recruiting for al-Qaida is at an all-time high, and Iraq becomes the new Afghanistan, except with much more money and weaponry.[/li][/ul]

Do I need to go on? You can concoct any number of horror scenarios, up to and including Israel unleashing nuclear weapons against Iraq, Syria, or Iran, or North Korea deciding the time has come to try to take South Korea, or China trying to take Taiwan.

Do I think this is likely? Nope. I think such a negative result is highly unlikely. But war has risk. Battle plans do not survive first contact with the enemy. As a limited government libertarian, I recognize that the law of unintended consequences apply to central planning whether it’s done by congress or a military commander. Stuff happens. War should never be entered into lightly.

But in this case, it is necessary. And on balance, I think the result will be a positive effect on the world. I think the various negative scenarios are less likely than the various positive scenarios.

Now I’m going to start a thread on the best and worst case scenarios of leaving Saddam in place. Let’s see how that looks.

The US defeats Iraq militarily in a matter of weeks. The government abandons the major cities. The Republican Guard fractures into a dozen forces backing various mid level military leaders. The US suffers the inevitable military casualties, and there are massive civilian casualties among Iraqis and neutral foreign visitors. The civilian population of Iraq is unwilling to revolt, fearing that the US will abandon them, just like last time. Kurds in Iraq are the only actively resistant faction, and they are supported heavily by the US. The Guard uses bio weapons, which start a smallpox epidemic in Kurd held areas. This rapidly spreads to neighboring countries.

Refugees are denied entry to any nation because of smallpox fears, and millions die of starvation and neglect. The Islamic world almost uniformly believes that the US used biological weapons. Israeli intelligence reports proof that Hamas or another group has biological weapons, and makes massive military strikes on all known Palestinian centers. Palestinians release more biological agents, and the smallpox jumps over to the rest of the Middle East.

Turkey finds Kurdish resistance cells involved in plans to revolt against Turkey, and Iran in those areas predominately inhabited by Kurds. They respond with force, and demand that the US either join them in suppressing the Kurds, or remove all US military forces from Turkey.

The Security Council asks the US to distribute its reserves of smallpox vaccines to Europe, and East Africa. The US refuses. NATO does the same, and again the US refuses, maintaining its stocks for US citizens, who are not infected.

Iran begins genocide against the Kurds. Five separate generals claim to be the legitimate ruler of Iraq, and establish very harsh military law in remote areas of Iraq. Saudi Arabian interests support several of these with money, and weapons. Kuwait invades all the previously disputed areas along its border with Iraq, and claims sovereignty. Iran does the same.

Indonesian Muslims call for the government to denounce any association with the murderers of Islamic Heroes in Iraq. Revolution in Indonesia becomes widespread, and very violent. Conservative Muslim factions in Pakistan, and Afghanistan demand immediate withdrawal of all US interests, radical terrorists in both countries begin attacking embassies, and aid workers.

The British Government receives a no confidence, and the only coalition able to assume power must accept complete withdrawal from Iraq as a stated precondition of their assumption of power. The UN votes to rescind all prior resolutions about Iraq, and gives the United States thirty days to withdraw their forces. The US vetoes this resolution. World opinion of the US plummets with this act, even more than the invasion itself.

Months after the military defeat of Iraq, clandestine forces of a dozen different factions continue sporadic actions against US forces. American citizens begin massive anti war demonstrations, as the first two interim governments installed by US military forces are found to be “unacceptable” to the US Government. (Read: President) The smallpox epidemic becomes the dominant economic fact of life in the Middle East. Quarantine efforts are characterized as an attempt to impose US rule on the entire region. Anti US factions in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia threaten to revolt, and those countries all begin pressuring the US to leave Iraq.

The first smallpox cases in the US lead to a massive political response, the major one being a wide spread call to end all immigration, and recall all US troops home. Smallpox makes little headway in the US, and causes only a few hundred deaths. American self interest in this matter, and its decision to keep its vaccines for its own use are seen as proof of the contention that the US started the biological war. Islamic fundamentalists in many nations issue fatwas calling for the deaths of all Americans. Civil liberties in the US are declared to be “Secondary to the Safety of the Nation” by the president, and the newly established chairman of National Security Department. Quarantine rules are invoked in many cases where no smallpox has been reported. Trials of immigrants accused of “acts of war” are held by the Government to be “outside of the purview of the Bill of Rights.”

The next President withdraws from Iraq, which then falls into anarchy and revolutions, funded by its neighbors, and continuing on for decades. American businesses all over the world are bombed, and Americans are killed in sufficient numbers that US travel industries are bankrupted in droves. Oil prices skyrocket, and the balance of payments becomes a bleeding wound in the already troubled US economy. The National Debt triples in the next two years.

Now, I ask you, is this the best case, or the worst case?