How to win allies and influence people
I've been thinking about two different ways that we could try to make this sales pitch. Since I don't get many readers who are members of the group at which these pitches would be directed, I'm asking anyone reading this to imagine himself or herself as a member of this target audience.
Suppose that you're the leader of a country who did not join the coalition that invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. Whatever you believed about the evidence that Sec. Powell presented before the UN, you decided that going to war alongside the US was not the right decision at that time. Your decision may have been partly motivated by your beliefs about what should have been done in Iraq, or perhaps in part by your beliefs about international processes, or perhaps in part by the unpopularity of the war in your country, or perhaps for other reasons. Since March of 2003, you've seen all of the news out of Iraq, including the US capture Hussein, the problems with the occupation and the insurgency, and the reports that Iraq did not have WMDs.
Now, suppose that the US will be asking for your assistance in Iraq, in terms of troops and money, in the coming months. Which of the following pitches would be more persuasive?
When we decided to go to war in Iraq, we made the right decision. Even if we had known that Saddam did not have WMDs, that still would have been the right decision, because he intended to produce WMDs if that became practical, and he might have developed closer relationships with terrorists and shared his WMD technologies with them. Since 9/11, it is clear that the United States has to act whenever we see a threat, even if you don't agree with us. We are not going to give you a veto over our foreign policy. If other situations arise that are as big of a threat as Saddam Hussein was, then we may go to war again (though I hope that we don't have to, just as I hoped in 2000 that we would not have to go to war in these past years). But right now, the coalition wants your help in dealing with the aftermath of this war. We're fighting the terrorists in Iraq. Things are on the right track there - it's heading towards democracy - freedom is on the march. But even though I can't point to any mistakes that have been made by the people who have been running this occupation and will continue to run it, there have been security problems, and there are terrorists to go after, so it would help to have your assistance.
This war in Iraq was a mistake. We should not have abandoned the internationally agreed-upon process which was underway at the time, a process by which every corner of Iraq was open to weapons inspections at a moment's notice, and a process which, we now know, had kept Saddam from having any WMDs. America is never going to rush off to war like that again - at least not under my watch. We'll work with your country and the rest of the world to try to come to a solution that we can agree on. But the fact of the matter is that the war has happened, Hussein's government has been removed, and Iraq is now a country with serious problems. Insurgents and terrorists are gaining power and prestige, and that's not good for any of us. It's not good for America if Iraq turns into a failed state that is a breeding ground for terrorists, and it's not good for your country. I think that we can avoid that bleak scenario, and I think that Iraq can be turned into a decent, stable state, but we're going to need to start doing things right. We haven't had enough troops on the ground from the beginning, and if we're going to turn this country around we're going to need some help. What do you say - if I can get some other countries to join this, and give you some say on policy, and try to act with the blessing of the UN, are you in?
So, if you were a member of the target audience, do you think that you might join the effort in Iraq after either pitch? Which one would be more persuasive? How could either pitch be refined to become more convincing? Should either pitch be edited to make the things that we say that we'll do closer to what we realistically will do?