Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, appearing on “This Week with David Brinkley” in April 1991, he rightly rejected a march to Baghdad in the effort to turn back Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait.”Once we got to Baghdad, what would we do?” he asked. “Who would we put in power? What kind of government would we have? Would it be a Sunni government, a Shia government, a Kurdish government? Would it be secular along the lines of the Ba’ath Party? Would it be fundamentalist Islamic? I do not think the United States wants to have U.S. military forces accept casualties and accept the responsibility of trying to govern Iraq. I think it makes no sense at all.”
Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell wrote in Foreign Affairs in October 1992 that going on to Baghdad would have been “an unpardonable expense in terms of money, lives lost and ruined regional relationships.”
He asked: “Would it have been worth the inevitable follow-up: major occupation forces in Iraq for years to come and a very expensive and complex American proconsulship in Baghdad?”
Powell’s answer: No.
And Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, wrote in a Sept. 1996 column in Newsweek: “If we had pressed on to Baghdad in 1991, we would have been on our own. And if we had succeeded in overthrowing Saddam, we would have confronted a choice between occupying Iraq with thousands of American troops for the indefinite future, and creating a gaping power vacuum in the Persian Gulf for Iran to fill.”