Sunday, June 29, 2008

Planning failure in Iraq

The New York Times reports:
The story of the American occupation of Iraq has been the subject of numerous ooks, studies and memoirs. But now the Army has waded into the highly charged debate with its own nearly 700-page account: "On Point II: Transition to the New ampaign." . . .
The report focuses on the 18 months after President Bush’s May 2003 announcement that major combat operations in Iraq were over. . . .
A big problem, the study says, was the lack of detailed plans before the war for the postwar phase, a deficiency that reflected the general optimism in the White House and in the Pentagon, led by then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, about Iraq’s future, and an assumption that civilian agencies would assume much of the burden.
"I can remember asking the question during our war gaming and the development of our plan, 'O.K., we are in Baghdad, what next?' No real good answers came forth," Col. Thomas G. Torrance, the commander of the Third Infantry Division's artillery, told Army historians.
I'm not sure whether the "general optimism in the White House" phrase is part of the Army account or the reporter's own interpolation. Nevertheless, the Army seems to acknowledge the folly of de-Baathification:
Paul Bremer III . . . issued decrees to disband the Iraqi Army and ban thousands of former Baath Party members from working for the government, orders that the study asserts caught American field commanders "off guard" and, in their view, "created a pool of disaffected and unemployed Sunni Arabs" that the insurgency could draw on.
Students of history will recall that Patton, during the occupation of German, got in trouble for opposing de-Nazification, which he saw as removing from office skilled and respected civilian administrators merely because of their political affiliation. It made no sense, Patton said, to remove the head of a hospital or a water works merely because -- perhaps as a condition of keeping his job under the totalitarian regime -- he joined the ruling party.

Bremer's insistence on de-Baathification --what can only be called a radical reconstruction policy in Iraq -- was an error that was obvious to many at the time. Unfortunately, those who saw Bremer's policy as an error didn't have the influence to stop it.

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