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Kimon
03-27-2016, 06:32 PM
Assad has retaken Palmyra. The damage was extensive, but there was still at least enough of the archaeological site left intact that it should still be able to become again, if stability is ever restored, an important tourism and archaeological site for Syria.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35909456

Hopefully with Assad's position now strengthened, this recent changing of hands won't be temporary.

Sarevok
03-27-2016, 07:26 PM
Probably good news for the people in the city and historical sites. But the cynic in my can't help but notice that it's now being "liberated" by the party that was the bad guys a few years ago, before ISIS was on the scene...

GonzoTheGreat
03-28-2016, 03:12 AM
Probably good news for the people in the city and historical sites. But the cynic in my can't help but notice that it's now being "liberated" by the party that was the bad guys a few years ago, before ISIS was on the scene...
Ah, but since then, Assad has gotten a lot worse. Which, admittedly, isn't much of an endorsement.

Davian93
03-28-2016, 08:11 AM
Probably good news for the people in the city and historical sites. But the cynic in my can't help but notice that it's now being "liberated" by the party that was the bad guys a few years ago, before ISIS was on the scene...

Saddam doesn't really seem all that bad in retrospect either...weird how things turn out. Both are/were basically just your typical 3rd world dictator rather than insane religious extremists.

Kimon
03-28-2016, 09:49 AM
Ah, but since then, Assad has gotten a lot worse. Which, admittedly, isn't much of an endorsement.

At this point the best that can be hoped for is stability. Life under Assad may be brutal, but he still is a safer choice than ISIS or the Turk-backed FSA - aka the Muslim Brotherhood. This is unfortunately a circumstance where there are no good options.

GonzoTheGreat
03-28-2016, 09:59 AM
At this point the best that can be hoped for is stability. Life under Assad may be brutal, but he still is a safer choice than ISIS or the Turk-backed FSA - aka the Muslim Brotherhood. This is unfortunately a circumstance where there are no good options.
Does that mean that Europe gets to send back those millions of Syrian refugees, using the "it could be worse" excuse, or do we have to admit that the lack of freedom coupled with persecution of opponents makes the country still somewhat not safe?

Kimon
03-28-2016, 10:04 AM
Does that mean that Europe gets to send back those millions of Syrian refugees, using the "it could be worse" excuse, or do we have to admit that the lack of freedom coupled with persecution of opponents makes the country still somewhat not safe?

Sarcasm aside, Europe is doing that already. They are just offering to send back some in exchange for granting asylum to others. Presumably, however, some of these refugees wish to eventually go home when Syria becomes more stable, and hence safer. Ideally those that wish to stay in Europe, could stay, and those that wish to return will one day have a state that is safe enough to return to. Assad is unfortunately the most likely option to produce that safety and stability.

GonzoTheGreat
03-28-2016, 10:39 AM
But a lot of those who do want to return do not want to return while Assad is enforcing "stability". So what does the EU do, when it has to admit that Assad is the best option left?

Nazbaque
03-28-2016, 01:33 PM
But a lot of those who do want to return do not want to return while Assad is enforcing "stability". So what does the EU do, when it has to admit that Assad is the best option left?

Convince itself that not admitting it is an even better option?

GonzoTheGreat
03-29-2016, 03:06 AM
Convince itself that not admitting it is an even better option?
I think that for the EU, a more realistic option is embracing some kind of convoluted compromise that no one likes and then finding out that because it doesn't work, further emergency measures are needed immediately which can't be properly debated anymore because there isn't time.

Nazbaque
03-29-2016, 05:06 AM
I think that for the EU, a more realistic option is embracing some kind of convoluted compromise that no one likes and then finding out that because it doesn't work, further emergency measures are needed immediately which can't be properly debated anymore because there isn't time.

Isn't that what I said?

GonzoTheGreat
03-29-2016, 05:39 AM
You used "convince" when "confuse" would have been a far better description of the process.

Nazbaque
03-29-2016, 06:08 AM
You used "convince" when "confuse" would have been a far better description of the process.

Ah but it would not have been describing the resulting progress, merely its starting point.

Ozymandias
03-29-2016, 03:19 PM
Saddam doesn't really seem all that bad in retrospect either...weird how things turn out. Both are/were basically just your typical 3rd world dictator rather than insane religious extremists.

Ask the Iranians or Kuwati's. I bet they'd disagree. He doesn't seem as bad to you, because you were protected from his insanity by daily military intervention which last only slightly less time than the current conflict in Iraq has.

And Saddam had begun adopting fanatical religious imagery and symbolism into his regime well before 9/11 (not that there is a connection, but it's a useful date for when we began to take Islamic extremism seriously).

Kimon
03-29-2016, 06:03 PM
Ask the Iranians or Kuwati's. I bet they'd disagree. He doesn't seem as bad to you, because you were protected from his insanity by daily military intervention which last only slightly less time than the current conflict in Iraq has.

And Saddam had begun adopting fanatical religious imagery and symbolism into his regime well before 9/11 (not that there is a connection, but it's a useful date for when we began to take Islamic extremism seriously).

Iran certainly prefers a friendly Shia govt to their old enemy (and our old friend) Saddam, but even for the Shia populace life under Saddam was far safer than the civil war that is ripping the country apart right now. And life under Saddam was far safer for the Yazidis and Christians. Saddam was the thread that held that tapestry together. Without him it has unravelled into chaos. It is a lesson that should be considered when considering the potential (and already ongoing) consequences of the attempt to remove Syria's despot.

We have, however, had this discussion many many times...

GonzoTheGreat
03-30-2016, 03:13 AM
Iran certainly prefers a friendly Shia govt to their old enemy (and our old friend) Saddam, but even for the Shia populace life under Saddam was far safer than the civil war that is ripping the country apart right now. And life under Saddam was far safer for the Yazidis and Christians. Saddam was the thread that held that tapestry together. Without him it has unravelled into chaos. It is a lesson that should be considered when considering the potential (and already ongoing) consequences of the attempt to remove Syria's despot.

We have, however, had this discussion many many times...
Mind you, I still think that it was not inevitable that things would dissolve into the kind of chaos there is today. Or at least, it could have been avoided if the US government had wanted to do so; but they chose to not bother with keeping any kind of order (thus effectively promoting chaos) after they had ousted Saddam.

What should have been done was maintain or restore the rule of law as quickly as possible, and then start replacing some of the laws to permit more freedom, thus giving the Iraqi the benefits of their 'liberation'. Instead, it was decided to leave rule to "the market" and the result was that criminal gangs ran rampant and only religious or clan affiliations provided any protection for anyone. So, predictably, the country fractured into a lot of armed and mutually hostile groups, which have been fighting ever since. The current situation is what Bush wanted to achieve, and he got what he decided to aim for.

With Syria, now, I strongly doubt it would be possible to achieve some kind of positive outcome from an invasion. There is too much justified doubt in the local population to make them trust our intentions, and there isn't any more willingness to in our own countries to commit to the enormous expenditure of posting a large scale occupation force and paying for it than there was in the Iraq case.

Davian93
03-30-2016, 06:52 AM
Ask the Iranians or Kuwati's. I bet they'd disagree. He doesn't seem as bad to you, because you were protected from his insanity by daily military intervention which last only slightly less time than the current conflict in Iraq has.

And Saddam had begun adopting fanatical religious imagery and symbolism into his regime well before 9/11 (not that there is a connection, but it's a useful date for when we began to take Islamic extremism seriously).

Well with Iran, that was 100% with US goading/support so its hard to fully blame him for that. We basically begged him to attack.

With Kuwait, not so much. But still, there is a huge difference in atrocity level between your typical 3rd world secular dictator like Saddam, Assad, Pinochet, Batista, etc and the level/intensity and wholesale destruction taking place in Iraq/Syria now under ISIS. In those areas, if left unchecked, we'd have another Rwanda or Khmer Rouge...those two examples showing that fanatical insanity and extreme violence don't just stem from religious belief like it has with ISIS.

But the overall point being that there are scales to this and some are worse than others.

Nazbaque
03-30-2016, 08:34 AM
Well with Iran, that was 100% with US goading/support so its hard to fully blame him for that. We basically begged him to attack.

With Kuwait, not so much. But still, there is a huge difference in atrocity level between your typical 3rd world secular dictator like Saddam, Assad, Pinochet, Batista, etc and the level/intensity and wholesale destruction taking place in Iraq/Syria now under ISIS. In those areas, if left unchecked, we'd have another Rwanda or Khmer Rouge...those two examples showing that fanatical insanity and extreme violence don't just stem from religious belief like it has with ISIS.

But the overall point being that there are scales to this and some are worse than others.

But you've got to admit that if Saddam had succeeded in his dastardly plans, we'd all be eating kebab! I happen to be eating kebab now anyway, but that's just a coincidence.

Ozymandias
03-30-2016, 05:47 PM
Well with Iran, that was 100% with US goading/support so its hard to fully blame him for that. We basically begged him to attack.

Whether or not this is true or hyperbole is immaterial. Many senior members of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party have told American/British forces post-2003 that Saddam was merely waiting for the UN to let down their guard and remove the military impediments to his aggression before he attacked again. He was also planning on restarting his nuclear program, explicitly with the intent of aiming them at Iran (if not using them).

With Kuwait, not so much. But still, there is a huge difference in atrocity level between your typical 3rd world secular dictator like Saddam, Assad, Pinochet, Batista, etc and the level/intensity and wholesale destruction taking place in Iraq/Syria now under ISIS. In those areas, if left unchecked, we'd have another Rwanda or Khmer Rouge...those two examples showing that fanatical insanity and extreme violence don't just stem from religious belief like it has with ISIS.

I disagree. While fixing exact figures is obviously quite difficult, I doubt you can find a single expert who thinks more death has resulted from the post-2003 chaos than was caused by Saddam. For children alone, the estimate of excess deaths caused by Saddam are (at the extreme low end) 170,000, and almost certainly closer to half a million, and that is being conservative. Infant mortality more than doubled in areas controlled by Saddam, while it dropped in the Kurdish autonomous region.

But the overall point being that there are scales to this and some are worse than others.


I agree entirely. There is almost no system by which Saddam was not far worse than even the current chaos. Its the uncertainty of maybe experience the chaos firsthand versus the certainty of experience starvation, death, and oppression.

One can argue that the sanctions which caused all this excess death are the fault of the UN, but the alternative was aggressive war in all directions and a genocidal campaign of extirpation against the Kurds. Amazingly, killing hundreds of thousands of children and certainly hundreds of thousands more adults was the less bad option.

Davian93
03-30-2016, 06:29 PM
Our invasion to depose him is estimated to have caused anywhere from 200,000 to potentially 1,000,000 excess deaths. What does that make our government then? How much blood is on Bush or Rumsfeld's hands? Even our own estimates that were leaked show 66,000 direct civilian deaths from our military campaign...and that ignores all the other increased factors we caused with our idiotic half-assed intervention.

GonzoTheGreat
03-31-2016, 03:11 AM
Whether or not this is true or hyperbole is immaterial. Many senior members of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party have told American/British forces post-2003 that Saddam was merely waiting for the UN to let down their guard and remove the military impediments to his aggression before he attacked again. He was also planning on restarting his nuclear program, explicitly with the intent of aiming them at Iran (if not using them).
If you believe everything that Saddam said, then why don't you accept that he was peaceful and was merely maligned by Zionist henchmen?
But if you do not believe everything that Saddam said, then why believe that he meant what some of his henchmen say he said after they'd been caught by the Zionist henchmen?

In other words: why trust those senior Ba'ath members?
Saddam had very good reason to lie: he wanted to keep his followers divided so that they did not conspire with each other against him and he also wanted to impress them with his own power and vision, so that they wouldn't dare try to overthrow him. Given the fact that lies would work better for such a goal than actual plans, let alone failed invasions, there does not seem to be any reason to think that if Saddam said such things he actually meant them.

SomeOneElse
03-31-2016, 01:06 PM
Cool news, though not for the US.

Ozymandias
04-08-2016, 08:40 AM
If you believe everything that Saddam said, then why don't you accept that he was peaceful and was merely maligned by Zionist henchmen?
But if you do not believe everything that Saddam said, then why believe that he meant what some of his henchmen say he said after they'd been caught by the Zionist henchmen?

Well, lets see. On the one hand, he had already invaded Iran without any provocation. So its not like we didn't have prior objective evidence as to his antipathy to Iran. Secondly, I'm not trusting his word. I'm trusting the word of the many Iraqi's in a position to know who were "interviewed" after Saddam's fall.

In other words: why trust those senior Ba'ath members?
Saddam had very good reason to lie: he wanted to keep his followers divided so that they did not conspire with each other against him and he also wanted to impress them with his own power and vision, so that they wouldn't dare try to overthrow him.

This is a stupid argument more worthy of Southpaw. Fine. Why trust anything anyone says? In every statement, ever, one can find an ulterior motive that would lead to distrusting said statement. Besides which, even if what you're saying is true, then why would he tell everyone the same thing?

Saddam was pretty open about his desire to re-invade Iran. Everyone confirms this. The US believes it to be plausible. There isn't a single good reason ever represented that contradicts it, except your desire to believe that somehow Saddam wasn't a psychopath who causes millions of deaths and would have gladly caused millions more if given a free hand to do so. Which, of course, is part of an ongoing political agenda against former President Bush. Who had a multiplicity of faults, including many of his reasons for deposing Saddam. But the act itself of regime change in Iraq, if not many of his justifications, was the ethically and politically humane thing to do.

Given the fact that lies would work better for such a goal than actual plans, let alone failed invasions, there does not seem to be any reason to think that if Saddam said such things he actually meant them.

Again, you've conjectured a possible (and maybe even plausible) scenario and then assumed its the truth. The evidence ALL points the other way. Even some of the reasoning you use is suspect. You're assuming Saddam's primary goal was to divide his senior followers, and not, say, to conquer his neighbors. Which relies on the idea that he didn't have other, more blunt ways of doing this (such as just purging them, as he had done many times in the past). And then assuming that the facts must be twisted to suit your theory, instead of the other way around.

Here's a fact. Saddam threw away millions of lives and billions of dollars for seven years to prosecute a war it was obvious he could not win (and I won't even count the initial invasion of Iran here, as he might have had a chance early). There is no real reason for him to have kept fighting, and as brutally as he did, with chemical weapons, except a desire to inflict as much damage on Iran. That is a fact (except the last bit, which... frankly is the only thing that fits any kind of fact pattern). You know what isn't a fact? Alleging some kind of vast conspiracy Saddam was instituting in order to divide the Iraqi Ba'ath party by lying about invading Iran a second time once the current American military occupation had ended.

GonzoTheGreat
04-08-2016, 09:09 AM
This is a stupid argument more worthy of Southpaw. Fine. Why trust anything anyone says? In every statement, ever, one can find an ulterior motive that would lead to distrusting said statement. Besides which, even if what you're saying is true, then why would he tell everyone the same thing?
Because it worked.
First, for years, he had been relying on having chemical and biological weapons to cow his subjects and keep them docile. He used them a few times (mainly against the Kurds, but also against the Iranians), but mostly he kept them in reserve. That worked quite well, from his point of view.
Then, after his Quwait adventure, he decided he had to get rid of those weapons in a hurry, so as to not be convicted of having proscribed weapons. A consequence of this hurry was that no one could prove what had happened to those weapons. On the one hand, that proved to be a major headache to him, but on the other hand, it turned out that the rumour of weapons worked just as well as the actual weapons did.

He may actually have been more worried about an Iranian attack than about his own followers, for all we know. But against such an attack, the possibility of WMD also worked as deterrence, so there too the rumours were enough.

Saddam was pretty open about his desire to re-invade Iran. Everyone confirms this. The US believes it to be plausible.Maybe true, but there is no way at all that the American invasion was meant to protect Iran.
Given a choice, the USA would have again helped Saddam against Iran, but he wasn't going to do that again, unless he first got a lot of reinforcements and the sanctions prevented that instead of helping him.

Ozymandias
04-09-2016, 10:46 AM
Because it worked.
First, for years, he had been relying on having chemical and biological weapons to cow his subjects and keep them docile. He used them a few times (mainly against the Kurds, but also against the Iranians), but mostly he kept them in reserve. That worked quite well, from his point of view.

Firstly, he used them more than a few times. And by the way, the attempted genocide against the Kurds was in and of itself all the legal justification (not that there weren't many other perfectly legal justifications for the war, as noted at the time).

But it wasn't fear of chemical weapons that kept Iraqi's in check. The use of secret police, torture, etc was far more effective. There is almost no evidence that this was a consideration. If you squint right it makes sense, but the average Iraqi had to be far more immediately concerned with the Mukabarat showing up to their door than a detonating mustard gas missile.

Then, after his Quwait adventure, he decided he had to get rid of those weapons in a hurry, so as to not be convicted of having proscribed weapons. A consequence of this hurry was that no one could prove what had happened to those weapons. On the one hand, that proved to be a major headache to him, but on the other hand, it turned out that the rumour of weapons worked just as well as the actual weapons did.

Again, this is pure and not even particularly logical conjecture. He had just used those chemicals weapons a few years earlier; why would anyone believe him of not having them? That was why the disarmament and inspections regime was set up in the first place by the UN!!

He may actually have been more worried about an Iranian attack than about his own followers, for all we know. But against such an attack, the possibility of WMD also worked as deterrence, so there too the rumours were enough.

This is true enough, but the problem here is that he wasn't worried about an Iranian attack. He was planning to attack Iran. That is an extremely important distinction.

Maybe true, but there is no way at all that the American invasion was meant to protect Iran.
Given a choice, the USA would have again helped Saddam against Iran, but he wasn't going to do that again, unless he first got a lot of reinforcements and the sanctions prevented that instead of helping him.

All very true. Maybe I have a slightly less cynical view of the world than you do, however, because I think it is possible that the Bush Administration was concerned in humanitarian as well as geopolitical terms for the costs of any further Iraqi bellicosity. We probably would not have helped Iran or cared in a geopolitical sense, but we certainly cared about others in the region, and while I know you think George W Bush was some combination of Charlie Gordon and Satan, it is still plausible that he didn't want to see thousands if not millions of casualties in another war if Saddam was left unchecked.

GonzoTheGreat
04-09-2016, 11:07 AM
Actually, I don't think Bush did it out of malice. Instead, he was motivated by greed, indifference and deliberate ignorance. The result, of course, was thousands, maybe millions, of casualties.

Ozymandias
04-09-2016, 11:18 AM
Actually, I don't think Bush did it out of malice. Instead, he was motivated by greed, indifference and deliberate ignorance. The result, of course, was thousands, maybe millions, of casualties.

Or, possibly, he was of the opinion that the permanent establishment of a military protectorate over half of a country because its head of state couldn't be trusted not to exterminate the local populations if left un-muzzled was ridiculous in the extreme.

Clearly the Bush Administration was ignorant. The complete lack of understanding of how a post-war Iraq would function, the absence of any kind of plan to rebuild the country or amnesty enough Ba'athists to ensure a degree of continuation of civil governance, certainly shows that. Perhaps they were even greedy; greedy to boost their popularity, to burnish a reputation for the history books, MAYBE even to gain financially.

But if you believe those are the only reasons, then you are too biased to be participating in such a discussion. George W Bush is not the devil. He said, many times, that international safety and, most importantly, the safety of the citizens of Iraq, were the foremost reasons for his actions. And while we can debate what he felt most strongly, to ignore that, or deny that those were valid ethical and (in some cases, legal) justifications is ridiculous.

And the flip side is that on a net basis, Bush may have saved thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives.

GonzoTheGreat
04-09-2016, 12:37 PM
... the absence of any kind of plan to rebuild the country ...There were such plans. Rumsfeld deliberately threw them out. That's why I did not just accuse them of ignorance, but specifically of deliberate ignorance.
The neo-cons had certain beliefs about how things (economics, society as a whole, and such) should work, and they knowingly ignored anything that contradicted those beliefs.

But if you believe those are the only reasons, then you are too biased to be participating in such a discussion. George W Bush is not the devil. He said, many times, that international safety and, most importantly, the safety of the citizens of Iraq, were the foremost reasons for his actions.I am willing to grant that he may have believed such things; but since his approach was based on deliberately ignoring reality, the results were not beneficial at all.

And while we can debate what he felt most strongly, to ignore that, or deny that those were valid ethical and (in some cases, legal) justifications is ridiculous.I do not think that if someone deliberately harms someone else out of a deliberately false belief of doing good, that that then makes the perpetrator a good person.
To name but one other example: the 9/11 perpetrators also thought they were doing good; they too were acting for what they felt was the good of humanity.

And the flip side is that on a net basis, Bush may have saved thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives.Where?

Not in Iraq. The yearly death toll there was as high as it was in the latter days of Saddam, if not higher, and that's with the sanctions that were having a lethal effect. If those sanctions had been reduced, then Iraq would have been better of.
Not in Syria. There the USA might have been able to play a more constructive role, if it hadn't blown all its credibility and its willingness to act in Iraq.
Not in Iran. If Bush had wanted to protect that country from Saddam, then all he needed to do was normalise relations and start trading weapons to the them again. Heck, he could even have asked for a repeal of the Rushdie verdict.
Not in North Korea, which got nukes because of his focus on Iraq.

Where Bush may have saved lots of lives is in South America, which was mostly ignored by him and the USA as a whole. As a result, democracy there is far more stable than it ever was in preceding century when the USA was constantly meddling there, trying to squash socialism and drug production. But, once again, that's a result of ignorance and incompetence, not of deliberate policy.

Ozymandias
04-11-2016, 09:29 PM
There were such plans. Rumsfeld deliberately threw them out. That's why I did not just accuse them of ignorance, but specifically of deliberate ignorance.

Which is not the same as saying he was deliberately planning on there being anarchy. As I remember, the idea was that constituting a civilian government, bureaucracy, army, etc... which would be populated with many Ba'athists who had been complicit in the previous regime, would undermine the entire concept of regime change and pave the way for a return to power of one of Saddam's cronies.

Obviously, some middle ground should have been paved.

The neo-cons had certain beliefs about how things (economics, society as a whole, and such) should work, and they knowingly ignored anything that contradicted those beliefs.

Donald Rumsfeld wasn't a neocon, so... not sure what the point of this is. Neoconservatives were in large part against nation building, I'll give you that. Which I'm sure they would say is being in favor of self determination.

I am willing to grant that he may have believed such things; but since his approach was based on deliberately ignoring reality, the results were not beneficial at all.

Easy for you to say in hindsight. Everyone sees the world through their own set of biases. You refuse to acknowledge that Saddam Hussein was an unrepentant genocide who was only being restrained from further murderous warmongering by the daily application of armed force. Who was openly disdainful of the sanctions placed upon him, and who was caught harboring terrorists and suborning international diplomats to enrich himself at the expense of his starving, dying populace.

I do not think that if someone deliberately harms someone else out of a deliberately false belief of doing good, that that then makes the perpetrator a good person.




To name but one other example: the 9/11 perpetrators also thought they were doing good; they too were acting for what they felt was the good of humanity.


Even if I accept this as equal, its categorically not true. They actively and openly were doing it (if you ascribe Osama's beliefs as those of all al-Qaeda, which is fraught but I'll roll with it) to restore the Caliphate. At the broadest, all they could claim was to be doing it for the good of Muslims. And it isn't like they pursued a peaceful solution.

The Bush Administration was explicitly invading to benefit the vast mass of the Iraqi population being exploited by the Hussein regime. I'm not sure how the two are even remotely related. One was an attack on a random selection of several thousand people, regardless of creed or nation. The other was as targeted of a campaign against a particular subset of oppressors as one could hope to have.

Where?

Not in Iraq. The yearly death toll there was as high as it was in the latter days of Saddam, if not higher, and that's with the sanctions that were having a lethal effect. If those sanctions had been reduced, then Iraq would have been better of.

Well, to my mind the most accurate death count was the 2006 Lancet survey, which relied on actual death certificates instead of cruder estimates. That number was 650,000 excess casualties due to the war and its aftermath. The Lancet estimated in 1995 that sanctions had caused excess casualties among children under 5 (a small subset of the population, though admittedly the most vulnerable) at 550,000.

And your point about the sanctions is silly. First, it was quite obvious that all efforts to improve the lot of the people of Iraq were being diverted to fund Saddam's pet projects and not actually going to feed the people. Secondly, again: Saddam Hussein was in the process of committing genocide on his own people, and arming himself in such a fashion to carry that genocide out more effectively, when sanctions were imposed. Under the circumstances, the ONLY argument is that we should have removed him then instead of forcing the Iraqi people to suffer Saddam's psychopathy. The alternatives were mass starvation, or the systemic extirpation of several (large) subgroups of Iraqis. There is, literally, no other option. Under the circumstances, I'd argue that the regime change strategy initiated in 2003 was far and away the most humane one possible.