While I have already stated my overall reasons for supporting the war in Iraq, the questions "why now? Why the rush? Why not more time for inspections? Why not more time for negotiation?" are legitimate ones. A few more months, even a year, would have made little difference. Why not wait?
In all this debate, not once have I seen simple logistics mentioned. As the aphorism goes, "amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics." In my opinion, looking at the logistics and circumstances of the lead-up to this conflict provides the ultimate answer not to "why?" (which we addressed in part 1), but rather, "why now?"
It was widely speculated in the media that one of the strategic purposes of the governments who apposed the war was to delay action long enough for summer to start. This is a very valid point. If the jump-off point was pushed from March to, perhaps, July, the average high temperature would've spiked from 66F to 108F (citation), making the weather at least as dangerous as the Iraqis themselves. Had the international community gotten its wish and been given an extra three months, they would have effectively been given an additional four months as the brain-frying summer heat passed by.
This additional four months would have, of course, been spent with troops gathered inside countries who held no particular love for them. The opportunities for terrorism would have been many. Armies are similar in some respects to athletic teams... motivation over long periods of inactivity is challenging to say the least. The sword that was sharp in March might have been far duller in November. The political cost of having reserves and national guard units sitting thousands of miles from families and jobs while doing literally nothing goes without saying. The fiscal and logistical price of moving them home then moving them back would have been prohibitive.
Well, if a few months were impractical, why not a whole year? The problem then is not logistical, but political. Waiting until March 2004 would have put the operation in the heart of the election season, providing the opposition a titanic stick with which to beat the current administration. Most everyone should remember the "wag the dog" debacle Clinton went through when he attacked Baghdad in '98 (on the eve of his impeachment vote), and those were just cruise missiles (citation). Our government moves slowly in the best of times. In an election year it moves not at all.
So delaying the war even three months would have effectively delayed it at least two full years while the national elections passed and the dust settled. Two years of international pressure to not only delay a war, but remove sanctions completely. Two years of costly, dangerous enforcement of no-fly zones at the full expense of US taxpayers. Two years with an election in the middle that may have installed a different administration, one that would perhaps have allowed the sanctions to lapse or be removed. Two years of potential gestation before the real nightmare began.
Had Osama's operation gone off a year earlier, I do not doubt we would have given the international community their year. Whichever president ended up in the White House would've been able to do that. Unfortunately it didnít. In my opinion once Afghanistan was targeted first and Iraq second, the only way the timetable could work was for an invasion to be started in March of 2003 at the latest. It wasn't a comfortable clock, and its gears may have been made of knives, but our discomfort with it did not stop its ticking.
In my opinion, this is the reason the governments of France, Germany, and Russia decided to risk outright rupture with the United States and pushed so hard to delay the campaign. A delay of only three months, a reasonable request among gentlemen concerning such a barbaric but effectively de-fanged little brown man, had the very real potential of scuttling the entire project, perhaps forever. The oil money promised to them in construction contracts, defense purchases, and outright graft would've flowed freely, and it would've been a fine party indeed. Right up to the point of apocalypse.
It's quite true that our forces probably could've gone in the height of summer and won anyway. An inverted Odessa campaign wouldn't have resulted in a blast-furnace Stalingrad. Certainly the Iraqis would have been fighting under the same, if not worse, conditions. But I wonder how the fierce detractors of the conflict would have reacted had even a single US or UK soldier died of heat stroke simply because they wanted the international community to like us.