When did you realize that the American presence in Iraq was going off-track?
The lightbulb went off when I began to meet the officials and advisers who were attached to my first ministry, and I discovered the varying qualities of those people. Before I went back to Iraq, I spent a lot of time reading about the occupations of Germany and Japan so that I could compare and contrast the team that was being assembled in Baghdad with those who went in after the defeat of Germany and Japan. And the quality was just not there.
He certainly understands many aspects of the situation in a way I will never attain. Many of pronouncements about what the US should have done after the overthrow sound very plausible. I do not possess the foreign policy knowledge to counter his general arguments. Thus I grant outright that what Allawi thinks would have been better could well be so.
As I have noted before, however, I am pretty good at seeing the weaknesses in reasoning. Assistant Village Idiots are most useful when they look at a bit of reasoning and say "I don't see how you get from there to there."
Several things trouble me about his reasoning, nonetheless. It could have been nipped in the bud if the United States had handed over administration of the country to the Iraqi opposition. The Americans could have come in, overthrown the regime, spent maybe a few weeks looking for weapons of mass destruction, and then pulled out like they did in Kuwait. And If the Americans pulled out tomorrow, I don’t think much would change. Maybe the Iraqi military would fall under the control of the Shia-Islamist parties, something that the United States is now trying to stop, but not very successfully. Simple counterfactuals such as those strike me as inherently implausible. "If only we had done this one simple thing..." "If only the ambassador had held his teacup like this..." They might well have been better, but to lightly claim that a single change would have fixed pretty much everything is the epitome of hindsight bias. If we had bought the Chevy instead of the Ford, we might not have had electrical problems, but we might have had brake problems instead. Historical counterfactuals notoriously underestimate problems.
Secondly, I get a little twinge-y when a Shia thinks that turning things over to the (largely Shia) opposition is such a great idea. The suggestion may not be sly or agenda-driven, or even particularly prejudiced on his part. He may be a remarkably openminded and tolerant gentleman with no particular animus against the Sunnis. But little red flags go up in the back of my mind: on what basis does he think this would work?
Allawi doesn't say, and gives scant attention to possible downsides.
As I noted, the man knows far more than I ever will about Iraq and its governing. But in your own field of work, how often do you find that the people who have simple solutions to past problems are all that good at solving future ones? Where I work, those people are often the greatest barriers to success.
If he had stuck with claiming "this would probably have worked better, for reasons a, b, c" I would have been more persuaded.