I appreciate the Gardener's post below in which he featured a post from Wizbang: "A few random thoughts about the war in Iraq, and warfare in general." However, while the post is instructive in many places and well-argued, the analysis is too rosy.

Jay Tea at Wizbang makes an excellent point differentiating objectives, strategy and tactics in general and applying those definitions to Iraq in particular:

"Objectives describe what we wish to do."

"In Iraq, as I think it goes, the objective was to remove the Baathist government from power, help the Iraqi people establish a new, freer government, and work to make sure that new government was not the threat to its neighbors and vital US interests that Saddam had been."

But we cannot stop there. In terms of objectives, we must add remaking the Middle East in the long term and stabilizing Iraq as a model for success in the short term.

Job well done in ousting Saddam. We are well rid of that corrosive regime. The Baathists are gone. Bravo. But the "freer government" is a work in progress, at best, and the pressing and troubling question is what comes next. An unstable Iraq is a definite long-term threat to vital US interests. Even worse, we seem to be stuck in Iraq and the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Meanwhile, there seems to be less and less that we can do about it.

"Strategies describe how we will do that [achieve our objectives]."

"The strategy was to invade Iraq, defeat and disband the military, and then establish a new civil and military structure that could maintain its own security without threatening others'."

The strategy was fine, but as Aesop warned us millennia ago, "some things are easier said than done."

"And tactics are what we will do."

"The tactics involve careful use of airpower and ground power against select locales, groups, and individuals; establishment of civilian institutions and governing bodies; national elections; and rebuilding of key elements of Iraq's infrastructure."

"There is an old saying that no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy...with that in mind, sticking to a set of tactics is stupid. The enemy will eventually figure out a way to counter them. Tactics need constant re-evaluation and revision, sometimes even need to be tossed out entirely as circumstances change. That is the normal way of things, and has virtually nothing to do with changing strategies or goals."

See Part II for how we failed tactically (politically) in our Iraq policy.