I read many neocon and conservative blogs and some of them (See here, for example) point to the success of the occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II as an indicator that the current occupation of Iraq will succeed. Look at how these two totalitarian dictatorships were transformed into peer democracies under the benevolent occupation of the United States. How could Iraq not be the same?
I think they are overlooking, intentionally or mistakenly, the major difference between those past occupations and our occupation of Iraq. After World War II, both Germany and Japan were decimated after long bombing compaigns carried out by the US. We had firebombed many of their cities, the worse that come to mind are the cases of Dresden and Tokyo. The people of these countries were beaten, both militarily and psychologically. They were ready for anything, so long as it ended the pain and stress they had been receiving up to that point.
In Iraq, the situation is different. They have "only" been suffering under Saddam, a situation they seemed quite willing to put up with for thirty some years. There has been no great war of conquest during which they suffered unimaginable horror on a wide scale, as in the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo. There horror has been on a smaller scale, though perhaps on a more sinister tone. They have suffered the Stalinesque knocks on the door at midnight and the disappearance of loved ones. While by no means acceptable, this kind of suffering can be borne, as shown by the people of the Soviet Union. They haven't had to pull charbroiled babies out of burnt up buildings like the citizens of Germany and Japan during World War II.
I'm not trying to make a case against the occupation. I think the war was a just one in the greater fight against terrorism. However, I believe that those who thought this occupation was going to be a great success like those of Germany and Japan were sorely mistaken. I just hope our leaders, both military and political, aren't operating under the same illusions.