Recently, I saw the movie Valkyrie, an account of the last German assassination plot against Hitler, and came away with several points relevant to recent history.
First, despite official government pronouncements, our enemies are more than one lone man who hijacked his country. The Valkyrie plotters recognized that killing Hitler was not sufficient for ending Nazi power. Overthrowing, capturing, and executing Saddam was not sufficient to end Sunni and Baathist violence in Iraq. Chavez was restored by others after a successful coup. Mugabe was reportedly going to resign after defeat in Zimbabwean elections until ordered by his subordinates to maintain their power. Despite his exile years ago, Aristide supporters still foster instability in Haiti. More than vilifying a single leader, the motivating ideas and those who hold them must be identified and defeated.
Second, dupes make unreliable allies. The Valkyrie plotters leveraged existing military orders to mobilize the loyal Reserve Army to arrest Nazi leaders and SS forces; however, when it became clear that their orders were unauthorized, these loyal forces turned upon the plotters. This reminds me of the loss of support on Iraq related to claims over weapons of mass destruction, which were not precisely true even if they were substantially true. Instead of narrow criminal justice style evidence or the obligations of treaties, making the case for pre-emption needs to be openly asserted based on principle and interests.
Third, although opposition movements exist in enemy nations, they should not be relied upon to overthrow their governments. The Valkyrie plotters were skilled military men with substantial access to resources and targets, but they still failed. Do we really think that unarmed students and civilians in Tehran would be more successful in overthrowing the bloody mullahs? While our government unproductively spends money supporting Iranian opposition, it does so as an ineffectual alternative to actively causing regime change.
Nothing new here, just tying these points back to a telling historical event.