The greatest risk would be to U.S. moral sensitivities. To help push Iraq into chaos and then stand aside would require abiding uncertainty about the ultimate result in Iraq and a willingness to ignore heart-wrenching humanitarian disasters (refugees, ethnic massacres). It would be a mistake for the U.S. to embark on this course and then — as dismaying pictures started to come in via CNN — decide that it wanted to try to influence the final result after all. This would create a situation in which the U.S. would be merely responding to, rather than firmly shaping, events (as in Vietnam). If we prefer not to court the uncertainty, but to follow instead a path that would oust the Iraqi regime quickly and be much cleaner, the U.S. should jettison half-measures and invade and occupy Iraq.
The United States could pull off an invasion with the help of only Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. It would require a significant buildup, a long air campaign against all of Saddam’s military assets, and finally a land invasion (which would be a strain, given the troop drawdown that brought the endlessly costly “peace dividend” of the 1990s). The main attack, as NR contributing editor John Hillen has argued, would be launched from Saudi Arabia toward Baghdad, with air support smashing Iraqi forces whenever they massed either to fight or to flee. Pre-invasion, the U.S. would work closely with some sort of Free Iraqi government, making it clear that the war was against the regime and not the Iraqi people. American forces would probably enjoy a reception from the locals much warmer than that accorded the ROTC on many college campuses.
An American occupation would not last years, on the model of a MacArthur regency in Japan. Instead, the U.S. would quickly — say, after less than a year — hand control of the country over to a U.N. protectorate, with some Arab input to soothe feelings and a non-American — some anodyne European, such as a Swede — running the show. He would in effect act as Iraqi dictator, but without the brace of pistols. After five years or so, as Iraq’s public institutions were firmed up, the baton could be passed to an Iraqi government that one would hope would be thoroughly democratic — but that would at a minimum be pro-Western and capitalist. The entire effort would represent a return to an enlightened paternalism toward the Third World, premised on the idea that the Arabs have failed miserably at self-government and need to start anew.
— Richard Lowry, “End Iraq: To conclude the Gulf War, ten years later,” National Review (15 Oct. 2001).