Here's food for thought for Americans going to the polls today: a 1999 secret gov't war simulation theorized that 400,000 troops would be needed for the invasion of Iraq and its post-invasion administration. That's almost three times the number that are there now.
You can access PDFs of the report at the National Security Archive's website.
The report's conclusion: "There was consensus that the United States would not intervene without coalition support except under the most dire circumstances such as WMD use or catastrophic humanitarian disaster."
Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, who lead the project in 1999, attempted to stress these findings to current leaders with no success: "When it looked like we were going in, I called back down to CENTCOM and said, 'You need to dust off Desert Crossing.' They said, 'What's that? Never heard of it.'"
And even then, the games showed, the country still had a chance of dissolving into chaos.
In the simulation, called Desert Crossing, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence participants concluded the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs. [...]
The documents came to light Saturday through a Freedom of Information Act request by George Washington University's National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library.
"The conventional wisdom is the U.S. mistake in Iraq was not enough troops," said Thomas Blanton, the archive's director. "But the Desert Crossing war game in 1999 suggests we would have ended up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground."
The war games looked at "worst case" and "most likely" scenarios after a war that removed then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power. Some of the conclusions are similar to what actually occurred after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003:
"A change in regimes does not guarantee stability," the 1999 seminar briefings said. "A number of factors including aggressive neighbors, fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines, and chaos created by rival forces bidding for power could adversely affect regional stability." "Even when civil order is restored and borders are secured, the replacement
regime could be problematic -- especially if perceived as weak, a puppet, or out-of-step with prevailing regional governments."
"Iran's anti-Americanism could be enflamed by a U.S.-led intervention in Iraq,"
the briefings read. "The influx of U.S. and other western forces into Iraq would exacerbate worries in Tehran, as would the installation of a pro-western government in Baghdad."
"The debate on post-Saddam Iraq also reveals the paucity of information about the
potential and capabilities of the external Iraqi opposition groups. The lack of intelligence concerning their roles hampers U.S. policy development."
"Also, some participants believe that no Arab government will welcome the kind of lengthy U.S. presence that would be required to install and sustain a democratic government." "A long-term, large-scale military intervention may be at odds with many coalition partners."