Critics of the Iraq war point to plans drawn up in the US prior to 9/11, to dispose Saddam Hussein. The Project for a New American Century, for example, while not an official body, has several very influential members such as Richard Perle. In one of the project’s 1998 reports Robert Kagan wrote, ‘It has long been clear that the only way to rid the world of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is to rid Iraq of Saddam. Last week, Paul Wolfowitz, a defense official in the Bush administration, laid out in testimony before Congress a thoughtful and coherent strategy to accomplish that goal.’ It is also said that in the immediate days after 9/11, the US administration sought fresh plans on ways in which to topple Saddam Hussein.
Of course, governments have to plan for a whole range of possibilities. During the Cold War, for example, both sides had all sorts of scenarios planned for – many of them utterly horrifying, as the Open Democracy interview with Daniel Ellsberg makes clear.
So the question remains – does the fact that the US has drawn up plans on military action against Iran mean that it’s a foregone conclusion? On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the US military was updating its war plan on Iran, but that this was, according to a senior military source, ‘routine.’ Of course, the lesson from Iraq would appear to be that the US was hell-bent on military action regardless of what Saddam Hussein did. But in the case of Iran, it is still perfectly possible that the plans drawn up by US are contingent – and that the diplomatic game is going to be played for some time. This is perhaps more a sign of the factors which constrain the US administration, such as the current impasse in Iraq, than anything else.