The Not SO Willing And The Not So Able Plus Postwar Window Closing in Iraq
July 18, 2003 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace The Bush administration planned well and won the war with minimal allied casualties. Now, according to interviews with dozens of administration officials, military leaders and independent analysts, missteps in the planning for the subsequent peace could threaten the lives of soldiers and drain U.S. resources indefinitely and cloud the victory itself. Lonely At The Top Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week that he hoped to enlist as many as 30,000 troops from 49 nations. The problem, however, is that many of the recruits the Pentagon has tried to line up so far appear to fall into two categories: the not so willing and the not that able. Report: U.S. May Call National Guard for Iraq Duty - The Pentagon could start a call-up of as many as 10,000 U.S. National Guard soldiers by this winter to bolster forces in Iraq and offset a lack of troops from allies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Postwar Window Closing in Iraq, Study Says A team of outside experts dispatched by the Pentagon to assess security and reconstruction operations in Iraq reported yesterday that the window of opportunity for achieving postwar success is closing and requires immediate and dramatic action by U.S. military and civilian personnel. Turning and turning in the widening gyre...
posted by y2karl (49 comments total)
I love this format. Can we get all FPPs in this format from now on?
posted by jonson at 3:17 PM on July 18, 2003

The Bush administration planned well and won the war

Doesn't the war have to be over before you can say you won it? Regardless of what Dubya says (which everyone, even on the Right, realizes we must now disregard if we're going to stay in touch with reality), the Pentagon says we're still at war. If the Pentagon says we're at war, I actually believe it.
posted by badstone at 3:23 PM on July 18, 2003

Cool, good format, good show. Now this can just about do it for Bush/Iraq links for about a year.
posted by xmutex at 3:27 PM on July 18, 2003

Couldn't you make it any smaller?
posted by timeistight at 3:36 PM on July 18, 2003

I'm still not convinced that Iraq is a problem. Complaints that Americans are still getting killed, that Iraqis are unhappy, that the political opposition approaching an election season is unhappy, and that "experts" that seem to be cropping up out of the woodwork are moaning "all is lost because you aren't doing it *my* way!", are all pretty petty, if you think about it.

First of all, Iraq is a country, what? the size of New York State? Larger? Full of weapons and balkanized, but not as bad as we thought. Every day the US is providing something new and good, such as electricity and water, and police, and creating jobs, and trying to get their government reorganized.

Yes, it takes a lot of people to hold it all together, but it takes even *more* people to make it thrive. And that seems to be the goal, here. The US doesn't just want Iraq "back on its feet", we want it to be economically prosperous, democratic, with a reasonably secular government, and minding its own foreign affairs in a very rough neighborhood.

So I place myself in the shoes of the Americans running the place right now. They are not inefficient, they are busting hump to get the Iraqi on the street food, water and a place to live, employment, security, and a government that will keep doing these things once the US is gone.

C'mon, cut them some slack. Rome was not built in a day.

I also question the morality of those who propose, what? that the US should just leave and let the Iraqis kill each other until another Saddam emerges? Shameful.
posted by kablam at 3:40 PM on July 18, 2003

you write for television, huh?
posted by quonsar at 3:43 PM on July 18, 2003

Excellent use of titles! (Opera 7 displays them better than Opera 6). I'd never read The Second Coming in full.

Frankly I think the hysteria over a) Iraq, and b) the intelligence about yellowcake, are this summer's Shark Attack! story. We will muddle through, but it will seem like a huge mess for a long time.

Unless we don't.
posted by coelecanth at 3:44 PM on July 18, 2003

The US doesn't just want Iraq "back on its feet", we want it to be economically prosperous, democratic, with a reasonably secular government, and minding its own foreign affairs in a very rough neighborhood.

I'll add that the US also wants them to be good christians and love their Mommas.
posted by bradth27 at 3:49 PM on July 18, 2003

Kablam: Complaints concerning the deaths of American GI's are far from petty if you ask me. The problem here is that the Bush government rushed into war and then occupation without a clear plan of how to turn Iraq into a "beacon of freedom in the Middle East." Now the soldiers in Iraq face the problems of lawlessness, a destroyed infrastructure and a continued guerilla war without the necessary resources. Should the US leave Iraq? No, the US should admit it moved too quickly and should now ask the UN for assistance. Iraq is too dismembered as a country for the US to pull out, but UN peacekeepers could continue the occupation multilaterally and perhaps bring about the goal of Iraqi democracy.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:51 PM on July 18, 2003

Rome was not built in a day.

How long will it take to build the American Empire though?
posted by dash_slot- at 3:56 PM on July 18, 2003

Rome was not built in a day.

I'm only going along with the Pax Americana if we get the free tickets to the gladiator fights. Senseless slaughter is such a nice distraction from the tedious problems occurring in one's own country.
posted by romakimmy at 4:14 PM on July 18, 2003

If we gonna be the world's policeman I want my doughnuts for free! /New Bomb Turks
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:19 PM on July 18, 2003

The Pax Americana: brought to you by Japanese and European banks!

And excellent call with the Yeats poem.
posted by solistrato at 4:20 PM on July 18, 2003

How many days was Rome built in anyway?

The Bush administration isn't saying.
posted by Neologian at 4:29 PM on July 18, 2003

I'll add that the US also wants them to be good christians and love their Mommas.

And horses, and their boyfriends too.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:32 PM on July 18, 2003

Y2Karl - Nice invocation of Yeats. Who is the rough Beast? ( yuk yuk )
posted by troutfishing at 4:39 PM on July 18, 2003

iraq is about 3 times the size of new york state (think montana). assuming i've googled correctly.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:51 PM on July 18, 2003

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Washington to be born?
posted by quonsar at 4:52 PM on July 18, 2003

Good post, y2karl.

If people dying is "petty," how are we supposed to be impressed by things like water and electricity (leaving aside the fact that water and electricity are far less widely available than before the war)?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:53 PM on July 18, 2003

Complaints that Americans are still getting killed ... are all pretty petty, if you think about it.

Um, okay.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:58 PM on July 18, 2003

From the first link, an interesting quote from Rumsfeld's assistant, regarding post-conquest chaos:

"This is the future for the world we're in at the moment," he said. "We'll get better as we do it more often."
posted by jeffj at 5:02 PM on July 18, 2003

Don't worry, when all fails in Iraq, Bush and his pals will just revise history. It's what they do best. (That would be our President inventing another reason that we went into Iraq.)
posted by eyeballkid at 5:03 PM on July 18, 2003

(That would be our President inventing another reason that we went into Iraq.)

That is, other than the fact he refused to prove he disarmed after he surrendered during the 1st Gulf War.

That is, after he never accounted for the bio weapons that the UN KNEW he had. VX, Anthrax, etc

That is, after he booted the UN weapons inspectors and Clinton was too much of a pussy to do anything about it. Which, by the way, if Clinton had done something about it, Bush wouldn't have had too.

and so on, and so, on.....
posted by WLW at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2003

So all that other shit aside, you admit that it was a lie, or would you actually claim that Saddam did kick out the weapons inspectors, and not the US?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 5:16 PM on July 18, 2003

and Clinton was too much of a pussy to do anything about it

It's called containment, folks, and if it worked on Stalin and Kruschkev, it may just have worked on Hussein.

Look it up, you'llbe glad you did!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 5:18 PM on July 18, 2003

It's called containment, folks, and if it worked on Stalin and Kruschkev, it may just have worked on Hussein.

Yeah, just like it worked on Hitl ... ow! Hey, who threw that?!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:25 PM on July 18, 2003

France & the UK persued a policy of appeasement, not containment against Hitler's Germany. It's not fair to say that it didn't work because it wasn't tried.

But Cold War containment was hideously expensive - 6 to 8 million lives lost in all sides in Korea + Vietnam. Including all the proxy wars ignited or exacerbated during that time, the death toll could top 20 million, depending on how you count.

Containment certainly could have worked - the question is who would bear the burden, and how high the price in lives would be.
posted by Jos Bleau at 5:48 PM on July 18, 2003

Rome was not built in a day.

It was destroyed pretty fast, though.
posted by rushmc at 5:50 PM on July 18, 2003

Clinton may or may not have been "too much of a pussy to do anything about it" - one could even make snide comments to the effect of how he was too busy getting pussy to do anything about it. But from my vantage point here, Clinton was a far more respected diplomat than GW, generally speaking. GW has squandered any potential support from allies with hamhanded twangy rhetoric. While doing a jig in front of the urinal of patriotic frenzy, he's spattered on a lot of people's shoes.

Blix got 120 days to look for WMD before GW decided things weren't moving fast enough. Raison du jour for the invasion aside, by my approximate count (going from the first official meeting with Iraqi leaders to discuss the future of their country and its rebuilding in mid April) this administration has around 40-some days to find WMD.
posted by romakimmy at 5:57 PM on July 18, 2003

WLW: You didn't bother to read my comment and the associated link, did you? Because if you did, you'd note that Bush, in back peddling about using certain shaky intelligence as an excuse to go to war, made up something on the spot.

I'm assuming that you didn't read it because your response has nothing to do with it (though oddly it quotes my post).
posted by eyeballkid at 6:21 PM on July 18, 2003

Far be it from me to defend Clinton, but its not fair to say he was a pussy on Iraq - he did what he could do at the time.

If you remember, the French left the 'no-fly' coalition rather than take part in the Desert Fox bombing in '98. They would never have supported firmer measures than that. There was certainly no groundswell in the US for war then, outside of the Neocons, and lacking that there could have been no war then.

In fact, it has been French policy to support Saddam since the 1970's, as long as he behaved in accord in with French wishes. The French would never have suported action to remove Saddam no matter who was president of the USA - that removal was not in their interests. So its not fair to critisize Bush for that.

Th difference betweent the Bush and the Clinton policy is not due to party, to belief, or to ideology. It's due to the fact that after 9/11 when question is "are they a threat?" the answer "maybe" ain't good enough anymore.

Although it would have been fought differently, Clinton would have had the war with Iraq just like Bush did. Gore would have, too. No one in the job can take 'maybe' any more.

The person who beats Bush won't do so by saying "nyah, nyah, you lied, you were wrong" but the one who says "I have better ways to keep the nation safe."
posted by Jos Bleau at 6:25 PM on July 18, 2003

Yes, because catering to the fearful is so much more important than telling the truth....
posted by rushmc at 6:32 PM on July 18, 2003

I don't know if 9/11 itself was as significant--strictly speaking in terms of US policy towards Iraq--as the expolitation of 9/11 by the PNAC crowd, who had been keeping their fingers crossed for a new Pearl Harbor [pdf, quote on page 63].
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:01 PM on July 18, 2003

Complaints that Americans are still getting killed ... are all pretty petty, if you think about it.

"According to official military records, the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since May 2 is actually 85. This includes a staggering number of non-combat deaths. Even if killed in a non-hostile action, these soldiers are no less dead, their families no less aggrieved. And it's safe to say that nearly all of these people would still be alive if they were still back in the States.

Nevertheless, the media continues to report the much lower figure of 33 as if those are the only deaths that count."

Now that 'the troops' are begging publically to be allowed to come home, it's interesting how little 'support the troops' baying you hear from the bloodhounds these days.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:05 PM on July 18, 2003

"Yet, I don't see millions of Americans demanding we take on Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia ASAP out of concerns for national security."

You don't see Bush taking them on either, do you?

"In fact, if the media is any compass ..." No, the media is not a compass. Not Fox, the NYT, or any of the rest. Not a compass.

As for what Clinton/Gore would have done if they were President, I think you are confusing what you think they should do with what they actually would have done done. Two very different things.

I think I can make a hell of a case that the two guys who lead us into a non-UN approved pre-emptive war against Serbia over Kosovo would have done the same in Iraq after 9/11. You can tell why they shouldn't have, but you've got a much tougher case when it comes to wouldn't have.
posted by Jos Bleau at 7:10 PM on July 18, 2003

Skallas, I didn't see your post when I wrote my last one. You are right about the Miss Cleo part, but I think that the PNAC influence on Bush pre 9/11 is way oversold. I don't remember Bush making a big point about how he'd go get Saddam in either the campaign or in his presidency pre 9/11.

The only signifigant changes I can recall were a push for 'smart sanctions' by Powell, which was shot down by the French and Russians, and that Bush then dropped without too much complaint.

Bush had many people in his cabinet from many different backgrounds. Consider his Treasurey Sec., Paul O'Neil. Yes, he was a wealthy Republican CEO, but he didn't contribute any money to the Bush campaign, and he didn't vote for Bush, either.

I think you can't hire people who have been arround Washington for a while without winding up with some that have all sorts of kinks that point all over the political compass.

Thats doesn't mean that their employer shares those kinks, at least when they were hired ...

After 9/11 everything changed, and all of a sudden those PNAC'ers seemed to Bush to have a pretty good idea after all ... but I don't think their ideas had a big influence before then, no matter who signed what in the '90's.
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:25 PM on July 18, 2003

As my comments in other threads today have made amply clear, I'm anything but a Bush apologist. But I need to point out that Clinton's Iraq policy, while less overtly violent, was incredibly destructive in terms of human life. Witness Madeleine Albright stating that 500,000 Iraqi children dead because of the sanctions was worth it.

U.S./U.K. Iraq policy has been an unmitigated disaster from the word go - it has killed hundreds of thousands, alienated millions, and solved nothing.

Jos Bleau is right to note Powell's push for smart sanctions, but Bush clearly had no interest in this. Had Bush responded to 9/11 by devoting resources to the fight against Al Qaeda, pushing Israel on the issue of settlements, and easing economic sanctions against Iraq while insisting on meaningful interdiction at the Iraqi border, the U.S. would be well on its way to enhancing its security both directly and indirectly - by winning the war for 'hearts and minds.' Instead...well, here we are.
posted by stonerose at 8:55 PM on July 18, 2003

Jos Bleau - Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz are all signatories to PNAC's "statement of principles". and Jeb Bush is also a signatory.

PNAC Statement of Principles:
" June 3, 1997

American foreign and defense policy is adrift. Conservatives have criticized the incoherent policies of the Clinton Administration. They have also resisted isolationist impulses from within their own ranks. But conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America's role in the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for American foreign policy. They have allowed differences over tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives. And they have not fought for a defense budget that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the new century.

We aim to change this. We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.

As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?

We are in danger of squandering the opportunity and failing the challenge."

Well, I'd say they certainly seized the opportunity. Has the opportunity now seized them?
posted by troutfishing at 8:59 PM on July 18, 2003

stonerose, you are right that Bush never was warm to any real change in the sanctions policy - it was mostly a product of State Dep't insiders and that was pushed forward by Powell after he became USSoS. To Bush's credit, he allowed Powell to pursue it, and to his shame, he never backed him up on it, either.

And troutfishing, I'm not disputing that there were PNACers in the administration. I'm just saying - where's the beef? No matter what they signed in '97, how was Bush's pre 9/11 Iraq policy different from the prior admin's?
posted by Jos Bleau at 9:23 PM on July 18, 2003

Jos Bleau:
Where is the contention? I would think that most would agree that PNAC exploited 9/11, and that their message only really reached Bush's ears then.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:57 PM on July 18, 2003

UN Claims Broad Role in Iraq, Chides U.S. on Safety U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spelled out on Friday a broad and ambitious plan for a U.N. role in Iraq and prodded Britain and the United States to quickly establish order and let Iraqis control their future.

In a report covering the first few weeks of U.N. activity in post-war Iraq, Annan stressed that restoring security and Iraqi sovereignty should be the top goals for Iraq's U.S.-British military government.

Annan sent his report to the Security Council as the U.S. death toll in Iraq surpassed that of the first Gulf War in 1991 and Washington said it was considering whether additional U.N. action was needed to convince other governments to more freely offer their help.

The Syrian Bet
Did the Bush Administration burn a useful source on Al Qaeda?

Broken promise: Why I quit the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development CouncilOn July 9, with deep sorrow, I respectfully submitted my resignation as a member of the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

I did this with great sadness but, in doing so, I was able to leave Iraq with a clear conscience. If I stayed any longer, I might not be able to say that. I feared my role with the reconstruction council was sliding from what I had originally envisioned -- working with allies in a democratic fashion -- to collaborating with occupying forces.

Iraqi Shi'ite Leader Rejects Governing Council
posted by y2karl at 11:13 PM on July 18, 2003

question the morality of those who propose, what? that the US should just leave and let the Iraqis kill each other

I thought it was rather that the logistics-morale-policy meltdown now underway amid the Americans in Iraq might inspire, not withdrawal and chaos, but finally some diplomacy through the U.N. and friendly gestures to the single country whose army is most available and useful (France), as we recognize that the risk/reward formula will eventually look a lot better if we yield than if U.S. Army micromanages the Iraqis. This would be moral, and a good day. Yeah, I know I'm kidding myself.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:18 PM on July 18, 2003

y2karl: Re your Syria post, yes, the "outpouring of information that came to an end only with the invasion of Iraq" is definitely a neglected story. I look forward to reading Hersh's article. He doesn't mention the latest ominous sign that this is not ineptitude but sheer malicious gaming of the war on terrorism: CIA bars plan to issue alert over Syrian arms. (Read: "CIA has to bar alert because conscience screams at the next batch of warmongering Bolton-Cheney-Wolfowitz lies about to be presented as fact to our paranoid solons.")
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:25 PM on July 18, 2003

The difference between the Clinton Administration's policy towards Iraq and the Bush Administration's policy is different only in approach. Had Clinton been President when 9/11 happened, I imagine that there would indeed be some sort of military action against Iraq - although Clinton would have sold it a lot better, being that he was much more respected in international circles than Bush. Remember, Clinton authorized a bombing run on Iraq in 1998, very shortly after Kofi Annan thought he had won an agreement with Hussein. Clinton simply had no reason (irrational or no) to topple Saddam. And as was mentioned, Albright was certainly cavalier about the cost of containing Iraq.

PNAC saw their opportunity to fulfill long-standing policy goals: the country had been attacked, confusion and fear reigned, and they had a President who would listen to them. (Bush's much-touted "instincts" regarding policy seem to mean that he'll listen to people he trusts, regardless of the worth of what they say. And relying solely on instincts are no way to govern oneself, let alone a nation.) When a group of like-minded individuals who have been advocating an idea for years finally see their opportunity to realize said idea, very little will dissuade them.

Now, of course, American soldiers are paying the price for such a policy push. And despite the insistence of Administration officials, they are now in an impossible situation. I don't know if it's enough to cripple Dubya come election time - Nixon got reelected even though the Vietnam War was sapping the soul of two nations - but the long-term repercussions will not help the United States at all.
posted by solistrato at 11:36 PM on July 18, 2003

Had Clinton been President when 9/11 happened, I imagine that there would indeed be some sort of military action against Iraq - although Clinton would have sold it a lot better, being that he was much more respected in international circles than Bush.

This is probably true (just given his history), but the fact that he would have "sold" it better is crucial. It can mean the difference between having multilateral support, with the moral authority of the U.N. behind it, or the current admin's unilateral, "our way or the highway" method that is backfiring right now.

With the growing pockets of instability around the world these days, the U.S. cannot afford to act alone. Our current situation has us bogged down in Iraq, with something like 80% of our troops now held down (not just in Iraq, but also Serbia, and a few other places). I'll bet a lot of countries are probably smirking right now, waiting for us to overextend ourselves so we become forced to crawl back to the U.N. on our hands and knees and beg for international support in Iraq just to keep the peace. Yes, it's immature, but then, that's what we get for telling them to go screw themselves in the first place.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:13 AM on July 19, 2003

Great synopsis and supporting links, y2karl - thanks for the work you put into this post.

Meanwhile, in Iraq it's business as usual.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:14 AM on July 19, 2003

The only "network" news show that I see do daily updates on casualties is the News Hour. How sad that the "support the troops" crowd can't also put a little effort into honoring them. Just like the administration they court, which has taken it upon itself to alienate the military establishment on all levels. Good luck with your re-enlistment rates, assholes.

I have about 12 draftable cousins, and am technically draft-age myself, so if we move this caravan of national self-destruction forward into Syria or Iran, I'm opening up a US-to-Canada underground railroad.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:22 AM on July 19, 2003

This is a good, if troubling, summary of the first 100 days of occupation in Iraq. Some things stand out - £1 Billion is needed (a billion!) to repair the electricity system - so far £185 million is budgeted. Messy. There's encouragement however from an opinion poll of ordinary Iraqis commissioned by and the Spectator. The results are summarised here.
posted by grahamwell at 9:31 AM on July 19, 2003

foreign policy, the economist, newsweek and the kennedy school of government all think NATO and/or UN involvment is the way to go...
posted by kliuless at 8:00 PM on July 19, 2003

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