The death of Saddam Hussein is unlikely to have the beneficial effect that such a drastic step should have. It has become one more example of failure since the US/UK decision to invade Iraq.
Invasion of any sovereign country that does not pose a direct and immediate threat is a decision that no military power should contemplate lightly. As more information creeps into the public domain, it is becoming clear that the US already had some solid intelligence, even if that may not have been shared with any other country. On that intelligence the US DOD planned for a blitz krieg using relatively light forces, vindicated by the very rapid military campaign that followed the invasion. It was a high risk strategy and British troops suffered from a lack of adequate equipment, that resulted in the unnecessary loss of British lives, but the initial military phase was still a great success.
The publicly released intelligence, notably the British ‘dodgy dossier’, was intended for public consumption to justify an act of aggression. We may not know for some time just how cynical that information release was and it is possible that Bush and Blair allowed themselves to believe what they wanted to hear.
A British Prime Minister should have privately been questioning of the US President before fully committing British troops to a foreign adventure. It appears that this never happened, Blair blindly following Bush without any regard for British interest or international relations.
The first real operational failure was the total lack of any plan to secure the defeated country and avoid a descent into anarchy and civil war.
The US and British Governments failed to learn from the lessons of 1945 when order in Germany was created by allocating adequate troops as occupying forces, with a clear directive and rules of engagement with the German population, that included the employment of Nazi officials and police to impose the will of the occupying forces.
Not only had a careful and detailed plan of occupation been drawn up, but a plan was also prepared to deal with the major and middle ranking Nazis through a series of show trials that operated under something approaching an impartial judiciary. There was also a well provisioned plan in place to hunt down key figures who had not been caught as troops advanced into Germany.
The occupation of Germany in 1945 was not flawless but it did provide a staged transition that was eventually to establish a partitioned country that was able to move progressively towards some normality without widespread civil disorder.
Some Allied politicians did not fully agree with the process and Churchill, as the British war leader, would have preferred rapid summary execution of Nazi leaders to deny them any prospect of propaganda opportunities.
The invasion of Iraq left a vacuum for many weeks during which time policing was provided soley by soldiers untrained for the task and vast munitions and arms dumps were left completely unguarded. That allowed terrorists to enter Iraq through porous borders and for the emerging factions to arm themselves with weapons left unguarded by the occupying forces.
Having allowed Iraq to begin slipping into violent civil war and partition by Iraqi factions, the occupiers were slow to capture Saddam Hussein and then even slower to bring him to trial and conviction.
Unlike the War Crimes Trials of 1945, Saddam was held by US Forces but tried by a government dominated by Shia elements, making it a trial of a Sunni by Shias. If that was not in itself a recipe for a partisan trial, the US occupiers intervened in the process, with judges being replaced and with defence lawyers being killed. That provided the platform for Saddam Hussein to perform on television and present an image that has resonated with some Iraqis and with Arabs in neighbouring countries.
The manner of the execution has added to the failure by allowing Saddam Hussein to meet his end with some dignity and composure that will win for him supporters who might otherwise have been less disposed to him.
In death, a blood-stained tyrant is coming to look more like a martyr who may be buried in what will become a shrine, further deepening divisions between Sunni and Shia. The worst possible outcome.
If anything, civil war is likely to intensify, US and British casualties increase, requiring either the injection of considerably more occupation forces, or a premature and humiliating withdrawl, as was the result for the US in Vietnam.
The legacy of the Bush/Blair invasion is that Britain faces a greatly increased terrorist threat, political fault lines are increasing between the US and the UK, Iraq is burning, and the region moves ever closer to a dangerously widening conflict that could develop into nuclear war.