You're incorrect that "the Iraq WMD assessments were wrong" in terms of the US presidential determination for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The controlling law, policy, and precedent for the OIF decision plainly show the determination for enforcement with the Saddam regime pivoted on whether Iraq proved it complied and disarmed as mandated, not whether the US proved Iraq was armed as estimated.
I recommend to you (again), your fellow advocates for reviving responsible American leadership, and to the Trump administration, my OIF FAQ explanation that sets the record straight on the law and policy, fact justification of the Iraq intervention by synthesizing the mission's primary source authorities.
Contrary to your assertion that "the Iraq WMD assessments were wrong", in terms of the US presidential determination, the actual "reality" is that UNSCOM to UNMOVIC to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) as well as non-armament fact findings, such as the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) and UNCHR, "broadly" corroborate your assessment "that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs up to OIF" (ISG).
The legally prescribed and practically necessary determinative measurement for Saddam's WMD-related threat was not rooted in the intelligence estimates but rather the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC findings on Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441), inasmuch the WMD-related intelligence estimates were not themselves rooted in the UNSCR 687 inspections.
On law and fact, President Bush and the US (with Prime Minister Blair and the UK) demonstrably were right on Iraq. The OIF decision is a straightforward fact pattern with an exceptionally well developed, decade+ law, policy, precedent, fact record. Iraq's categorical "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire is confirmed by you and other fact-finding authorities.
Beyond the correct US presidential determination for OIF, the US-led, UN-mandated peace operations with Iraq were succeeding before President Obama's deviation.
At the dawn of the Arab Spring, the UN Security Council (on 15DEC10) and President Obama (on 19MAY11) benchmarked the historic opportunity to build a generational peace in the Middle East with the hard-won cornerstone where “In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy … poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress” (Obama).
However, the window to build a generational peace evident in 2010-2011 required American leadership to stay the course with Iraq and the Bush Freedom Agenda.
Instead, President Obama radically changed course with Iraq and dropped the Bush Freedom Agenda. Obama's deviant rationale has been based on the demonstrably false notion which you promote, that with Iraq, "Political leaders made decisions based on ... broadly wrong assessments of reality".
Your basic law-and-fact error, exploited by President Obama, has had a catastrophic ripple effect. OIF stigma - comprised largely of conjecture, distorted context, and readily debunked
The 1990-2011 Iraq intervention, especially OIF and its peace operations, is paradigmatic as it embodied the principles of American leadership of the free world. As long as the stigmatization of the Iraq intervention prevails in domestic and international politics, your current advocacy for reviving responsible American leadership with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and indeed the rest of the world, will continue to be disqualified at the premise level of politics and policy.
The viability of your advocacy fundamentally depends upon you first de-stigmatizing the Iraq intervention. Before you can advocate on current events effectively, you must establish at the premise level of the politics that in principle and policy, President Bush and America were fundamentally right and by the same token, President Obama has been fundamentally wrong to deviate from President Bush with Iraq and the Freedom Agenda.
The following points are included in my OIF FAQ explanation. But as an introduction to setting the record straight on OIF's justification, note:
Iraq's guilt of UNSCR 687-proscribed armament was established by UNSCOM and decided by the UN Security Council. Upon the UNSCOM-established fact of Iraqi WMD, "the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441) was presumed until Iraq proved it complied and disarmed as mandated. In other words, noncompliant Iraq was ipso facto a proscriptively armed threat irrespective of the intelligence estimates. The operative enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire, including the UNSCR 687 disarmament process, was built upon the burden of proof on Iraq. There was no operative burden of proof on the US, UK, and UN.
Therefore, the principal trigger for Operation Iraqi Freedom was not and could not be the intelligence estimates. By procedure, casus belli was primarily established by the 06MAR03 UNMOVIC report confirming Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" in "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire with the same operative enforcement procedure by which the 15DEC98 UNSCOM report triggered Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
The "assessments of reality" that established casus belli with Iraq from UNSCR 660 (1990) onward were the prescribed measurements of Iraq's compliance with the UNSCR 660 series, in particular Iraq's obligations under the Gulf War ceasefire pursuant to UNSCRs 687 and 688 and related resolutions.
The controlling law, policy, and precedent that defined the operative enforcement procedure plainly show that the moment that UNSCR 687 inspectors re-entered Iraq pursuant to UNSCR 1441, the intelligence estimates could not trigger enforcement to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (Public Law 105-235). Rather, the US-led, UN-mandated ceasefire enforcement with Iraq always pivoted on the prescribed measurement of Iraq's compliance with the "measures" mandated to satisfy "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions [and] ... to secure peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 687).
Based on the determinative "assessments of reality" for the OIF decision, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair clearly were correct according to the operative context - eg, "The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable" (Bush at UNGA, 12SEP02), "Resolution 1441 gave Iraq one last chance, one last chance to come into compliance or to face serious consequences" (Powell at UNSC, 05FEB03), "ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" (Public Law 107-243), and "ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441).
Contrary to your unfounded assertion that the OIF decision was based on "broadly wrong assessments of reality", the Saddam regime was evidentially in categorical breach of the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) for the Gulf War ceasefire in Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), especially with the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, and human rights mandates of UNSCR 688. [FYI, it's evident the pre-war assessments significantly under-estimated the Saddam regime's human rights abuses in breach of UNSCR 688 and "regional and global terrorism", including Saddam's "considerable operational overlap" (IPP) with the al Qaeda network, in breach of UNSCR 687, which were also enforcement triggers.]
At the decision point for OIF upon UNMOVIC's 06MAR03 report, Saddam was far beyond the 'red line' with no intention of fully and immediately complying with the Gulf War ceasefire as was required to switch off the threat of regime change that enforced Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) . As you found, "the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions" (ISG) per paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687, let alone the spectrum of ceasefire mandates, especially on terrorism per UNSCR 687 and human rights per UNSCR 688.
... The assessment of reality is you are responsible for the current events and degraded US foreign policy that you protest.
You've used your preeminent reputation to validate the plainly false narrative of OIF that America's rivals - Russia and France chief among them - have employed to stigmatize the Iraq intervention and thereby disqualify the American leadership needed for current events.
For your current advocacy to be effective, it requires the re-normalization of the particular "strong horse" American leadership of the free world that manifested with OIF. Which first requires your mea culpa while you disabuse the myth, "Political leaders made decisions [for the Iraq intervention] based on ... broadly wrong assessments of reality".
Once you've set the record straight on OIF's law-and-fact justification at the premise level of our politics to de-stigmatize the Iraq intervention in order to re-qualify the OIF-embodied principles of American leadership in our policy, then - and only then - can your current advocacy hope to become viable.
Re-framing the discourse by establishing that President Bush and the US (with Prime Minister Blair and the UK) were right on Iraq - and by the same token that OIF critics, including yourself and President Obama, have been wrong - lays the foundation needed for the only real path for your current advocacy to succeed.
The fact record belies your belief that "Worse were the US decisions to disband the army and condemn Baathists to having no future in Iraq."
First, I suggest you see this clarification of the de-Ba'athification process and the CPA decision to build anew rather than reconstitute Saddam's security forces.
Second, knowing what we know now, de-Ba'athification was necessary. The UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) post-war assessment of Saddam's Iraq found that the Saddam regime's "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror" (19APR02) - already marked at the far end of the scale before the 2003 regime change - in fact "were far worse than originally reported to the Special Rapporteur in the past" (18-19MAR04). In other words, the Saddam regime's human rights violations were off the charts. As such, immediately incorporating Saddam's security forces, besides the practical obstacles of reconstituting them, would have been a diametric contradiction of the US-led, UN-mandated coalition's longstanding human-rights policies for Iraq per UNSCRs 688, 1483, etc, that were key components of the UNSCR 660-series compliance enforcement and set the guiding parameters for the occupation and peace operations.
In the same vein, we also know now that pre-OIF analysis vastly underestimated Saddam's "regional and global terrorism" wherein "[t]he predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq" (Iraqi Perspectives Project). IPP found Saddam's terrorism included "considerable operational overlap" with the al Qaeda network, which also carried forward to the terrorist insurgency. All of which of course breached the Gulf War ceasefire per UNSCRs 687 and 688 to add to OIF's casus belli on top of the UNMOVIC findings that by the operative procedure confirmed Iraq's "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) to trigger the OIF decision.
A case in point for the CPA's sensible decision to build anew rather than reconstitute Saddam's security forces is the 2003 assassination of UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. Note that Vieira opted to retain the guards assigned by the Saddam regime in lieu of American military protection, a mistake that likely cost him and his team members their lives. I can imagine Vieira was swayed to his fatal choice by appeals like the April 2003 appeals described in your post.
Could the de-Ba'athification have been better calibrated and undertaken? Of course. But preemptive perfection in any complex endeavor is not the norm. Adjustment, including with necessary measures like de-Ba'athification, is normal.
Moreover, knowing what we know now, it's likely that the terrorist insurgency was principally a premeditated guerilla adaptation of Saddam's ceasefire-breaching, vastly underestimated domestic "widespread terror" (UNCHR) and "regional and global terrorism" (IPP) rather than a spontaneous post-war reaction to an over-broad de-Ba'athification process.
... In nations, as well as in persons, curing an extreme malignant cancer is hard, even in the rare instance that doctors do everything right. Cancers are known to fight back. Even without understanding the far depths that Saddam had corrupted Iraqi society and the far extent of the terrorist danger he posed, the international community understood long before OIF that curing Iraq would be a generational endeavor. Yet in relatively short order, despite the zealous efforts of vicious enemies aided by cruel accomplices, the US-led peace operations responded resolutely to post-war setbacks with necessary adjustments on track with a normal pattern of competition.
If you're sincere about advocating your prescription for "Iraq - avoiding the next insurgency", then
Your equivalence of US decisions regarding Iraq's Saddam and north Korea's Kim is inapposite in that US policy on Saddam was based on the longstanding, well established, clearly spelled out UNSCR 660-series compliance enforcement whose "measures acting under Chapter VII of the Charter" (UNSCR 687) composed the purpose-designed "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) which the "Government of Iraq", eg, the Saddam regime, was mandated to fulfill in order to satisfy "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions in the light of its unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait" (UNSCR 687).
As such, the operative context for US decisions regarding Saddam was founded on "Recognizing the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441). The set condition meant Saddam's threat, including his WMD-related threat, was measured by Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) per the manifold ceasefire terms purpose-designed to resolve Saddam's Gulf War-established manifold threat. The continuing "threat [of] Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions" (UNSCR 1441) related to aggression (UNSCR 949), WMD and conventional armament (UNSCR 687), terrorism (UNSCR 687), and repression (UNSCR 688). At the decision point for OIF, the WMD-related "threat [of] Iraq's non-compliance" (UNSCR 1441) was confirmed by UNMOVIC's measurement of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" for casus belli. Today, with corroboration of Iraq's noncompliance piled high from the UNSCR 1441 inspections and post-war ISG, IPP, IIC, and UNCHR investigations - eg, "[i]n addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his [Saddam's] intent to resume WMD" (ISG), "the Saddam regime regarded inspiring, sponsoring, directing, and executing acts of terrorism as an element of state power" (IPP), and "[t]he new evidence, particularly that of eyewitnesses, added another dimension to the systematic crimes of the former regime, revealing unparalleled cruelty" (UNCHR) - Saddam's threatening breach of the Gulf War ceasefire can now be seen as categorical.
The UNSCR 660-series compliance enforcement since 1990 meant US leaders were not positioned to guess at Saddam's motivations via diplomacy near or far. Making decisions regarding Saddam as you would have had US leaders make them would have been remiss since Saddam's "intentions" (UNSCR 687) were objectively assessed according to the fact measurement of Iraq's mandated compliance in the operative context of "the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions ... poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441). As such, President Bush's decision on Iraq responded to the mandated measurement of Saddam's "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) in good faith with the decade+ controlling law, policy, and precedent that defined the operative enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire mandates.
When a recidivist convicted manifold felon, who for some reason has been allowed to fester in society, continually, categorically, and flagrantly violates his terms of probation, including in his "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), with escalating intransigence, threat, and harm until lesser enforcement measures have been exhausted and the compliance enforcement is on the verge of defeat, there's no burden on the compliance enforcement authority to guess at the felon's motivations on top of the felon's evidential "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) in order to impose the originally suspended sentence. President HW Bush, 27FEB91: "Iraq must comply fully with all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. ... If Iraq violates these terms, coalition forces will be free to resume military operations."
As far as I know, there isn't a clear-cut compliance test for Kim's motivations comparable to the Gulf War ceasefire mandates "Determined to secure full compliance with its [UNSC] decisions, Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations" (UNSCR 1441) by which US leaders objectively measured Saddam's "intentions" (UNSCR 687). There ought to be a comparable compliance test that can ensure the US decision on north Korea's Kim will be as plainly correct as the US decision on Iraq's Saddam. Perhaps if the Iraq intervention is de-stigmatized and publicly upheld, while Saddam's accomplices who've obfuscated the actual why of the Iraq intervention are publicly discredited, then a comparable compliance test can be effectuated for north Korea's Kim.
Also see Decision Points suggests President Bush has not read key fact findings on Iraq carefully and Criticisms and suggestions for International Law and the War in Iraq (Yoo, 2003).