March 31, 2006

Baghdad's Detiorating Security Situation

From The Mesopotamian blog:

The situation in Baghdad is deteriorating from day to day. I have warned about this long ago. The "insurrection" is lead by the Baathists, without any doubt, and they are converging on Baghdad and seriously bent on taking over [ed. note: I'd only say that I believe the narrative is much more complex than this, and that the Shi'a cannot escape blame for much of the difficulty underway in Baghdad too, and further that I'm not sure to what exact degree we have neo-Baathist trouble-making at work in Baghdad, relative to Sunni insurgents writ large and/or Zarqawi elements as well, recalling, of course that they are allies fighting, at least to some degree, collaboratively). They are creating havoc in the capital. Very soon, if this situation continues like this the city is going to be brought to a complete standstill and paralysis. The confusion and conflict between the Americans, the army and the Ministry of interior is producing a situation where the citizens don't know anymore whether the security personel in the street are friends, enemies, terrorists or simply criminals and thieves. Everybody is wearing the same uniforms. Whole sections of the city have virtually fallen to gangs and terrorists, and this is especially true for the "Sunni" dominated neighborhoods. People and businesses are being robbed and the employees kidnapped en masse in broad daylight and with complete ease as though security forces are non-existent, although we see them everwhere.

I don't know anymore what can be done to rescue the situation. At least, those who are supposed to be in positions of responsibility should stop lying and painting a false picture. It has to be admitted that the city is under siege and has become the front battle line. Emergency measures have to be put in place immediately, otherwise as everbody in Baghdad knows, the whole city is going to fall soon. I regret sounding so pessimistic, but the alarm must be sounded with the loudest volume possible, since what is happening is Baghdad is something really awful.

Tom Friedman, who writes today he found the Mesopotamian blog via Andrew Sullivan, adds in today's New York Times:

Donald Rumsfeld's criminally negligent decision not to deploy enough troops in Iraq to begin with created this security vacuum. But the insecurity was compounded by the unique enemy that emerged to take advantage of that vacuum — Sunni Islamo-nihilists. These are a disparate collection of groups with one common agenda: America and its Iraqi allies must fail; they must not be allowed to build Iraq into a Western-style, democratizing society. When you are up against an enemy whose only goal is that you must fail, and which does not care about how much death and destruction it inflicts on its own people, let alone on others, it is extremely difficult to establish order.

The Iraqi Shiite community showed remarkable restraint in the face of the murderous provocations by these Islamo-nihilist gangs during the past three years. But that restraint is over. It's now clear that some Shiite militias are ready to match the Sunni nihilists, killing for killing. So the slide into a medieval barbarism has begun.

Do not believe any of the Bush team's happy talk. It doesn't matter if Iraq is quiet in the south and quiet in the north. If Baghdad, the heart of the country, is being ripped apart, then there is no Iraq — because there is no center.

There is only one hope for halting this slide and that is the formation — immediately — of a national unity government in Iraq, with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds sharing power, and the deployment on the streets — immediately — of massive numbers of troops and police, both Iraqi and American, to prevent more of these tribal killings. If a national unity government is not formed soon, and if these identity-card murderers gain more momentum, any hope for building a decent Iraq will vanish.

It is five minutes to midnight. [emphasis added throughout]

Fire Donald Rumsfeld, and replace him with John Warner or Richard Armitage or someone else qualified soonest. Bulk up our troop presence in Baghdad asap, even if it means rotating some troops out of places like Anbar (especially in locations where we are still more in whack-a-mole posture than clear, build, hold). Let's have a major show of strength, including large amounts of U.S. troops, in the most problematic neighborhoods (US troops are critical, as confidence in the integrity of Iraqi Army units as impartial arbitrers or plausible peacekeepers simply doesn't exist yet among much of the Iraqi public. This is why under-informed blather about the Iraqi Army being "solid", or the militias being simply "pesky", is just crap, and it's quite sad prominent right wing bloggers link to such hokum as offering soi disant serious perspective).

Order. Order. Order. It's desperately needed in the capital, the very linchpin of a stable Iraq, if we mean for the country to remain a unitary state. So we need someone at the Pentagon who, at the very least, definitively comprehends said order doesn't exist today, alas, and that the battle-space in places like Sadr City is most definitively not under control by non-militia infested forces (as Rumsfeld disingenuously claimed a couple weeks back). Nothing is more important at this hour than beating back the cycle of sectarian violence, as Friedman well explains in the context of his Beirut experience (read his whole op-ed, Times Select subscribers), especially given that a situation already fraught with such immense danger is even more so, with formation of a cohesive national government still elusive.

The prospects of chaos are obviously enhanced by such a vacuum, so all efforts to stave off further sectarian mayhem must be pursued with maximum drive. Stabilizing the situation will require, not only a real show of force on the streets, to provide for enhanced ground up security, but also more efforts from the top-down, where Ambassador Khalilzhad's interventions to form a government need to become even more urgent. (This might include, if necessary, calibrated series of higher-level interventions by the Secretary of State, President (he's made such calls in the past) and other very senior Administration officials, perhaps even other interested Foreign Ministers from major powers. Unfortunately, the Arab League continues to wallow in irrelevance, more worried about rising Iranian influence than doing anything even remotely helpful, which is painfully pitiable but woefully predictable, of course).

To recap: I'm afraid it's US troops that must take the lead, supplemented by Iraqi forces wherever this can be plausibly achieved (but not merely for show when it would otherwise prove ineffective), as the Iraqi troops simply aren't trusted by large swaths of the people whom they are meant to protect, and many units, regardless, and particularly among the police (but also the Army, you T&E cheerleaders out there) are not ready for primetime. Also, Sunnis distrust much of the nascent Iraqi Army as but some attempt at erecting a Shia-Kurdish militia-heavy condominium, falsely masquerading as pan-national force. And, inversely, and perhaps somewhat ironically, too rapid Iraqification, particularly in Sunni populated areas (with Sunnis understandably often hastily recruited, so as to try to mitigate this very negative perception that the national army is being developed largely as a force that will be arrayed against them), will likely lead to an increase in infiltration by insurgent forces, criminal elements, and other bad eggs. This process of Iraqification has to take place very methodically, very cooly, not at an artificial blitzkrieg pace so that the 240,000 odd forces number gets to go up by 5,000 every few weeks, so people can pretend things are hunky-dory from the Pentagon podium.

Put simply, a major show of force by American forces is needed in Baghdad to finally, once and for all, put an end to the Stuff Happens approach to nation-building, and get in tune with the Overwhelming Force side of things. In other words, it's time to get serious, rather than continue to half-ass it as we've been doing too often. In tandem, massive diplomatic efforts needs to be pursued to ensure key ministries are run by individuals, or cross-party committees with workable power-sharing arrangements, or some other innovative modalities--and they must be monitored and held accountable to at least some modicum of best practices in terms of melding together effective national institutions over the coming years. This requires both an effective American military presence, as well as the turning over of every single rock and opportunity Zalmay Khalilzad can think of to keep the political situation afloat, and for a long while yet.

Neither task is impossible, but we need the will, the intelligence, the patience, the perseverance, and, not least, a good deal of luck. Unlike Tom Friedman, I'm not sure it's 5 minutes to midnight just yet. But it's not tea time either, it's well into the late evening indeed, and this potentially dismal failure is not the media's fault, or Nancy Pelosi's, so we might as well stop chiming on moronically along those lines. The failure is rather the product of a variety of factors, of which any list must include an astonishing degree of ignorance about what nation-building entails, an abysmal lack of post-war planning, hubris of epic proportions at the helm of the Defense Department, and much more. Of course it would be a huge boon if our so-called Commander in Chief, you know, 'commanded', by holding a failed Defense Secretary to account and getting urgently needed new blood and fresh thinking into the E-Ring soonest. The better so as to preside over the next critical years of the Iraq conflict, so as to help somehow secure an acceptable outcome. Yes, yes, of course commenters are right that sacking Rumsfeld is no panacea, not by a long shot. But, believe me, it may well start to make a difference. He's largely been an unmitigated disaster on Iraq, and needs to go. Even the Fred Barnes of the world think so. Let's get it done. And soon.

In today's WSJ, James Webb, Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration, recalls Cap Weinberger warmly:

In this town of inflated egos and ruthless ambition, I have never met a more gracious man...This was a man--rare in government circles--who was not afraid of strong personalities, who encouraged debate, who brought out the creative energies of people with a wide array of backgrounds and policy interests. Unlike so many government leaders who do not want to hear bad news, or who wish only to direct their subordinates from the top, Cap wanted to know, and the country was better off for it.

Would that we had someone like Cap Weinberger at the helm of the Pentagon today. Instead, we have Don Rumsfeld, and the country is the worse for it. Not to mention Iraq.

UPDATE: Think the Sunni insurgency is dead? It's not, my analysis of an ICG report here.


Posted by Gregory at March 31, 2006 05:07 AM | TrackBack (3)
Comments

Greg,

In September 2003 you said:
"The international system is off-kilter and unmoored from traditional balance of power politics. This has upset many in Europe who, particularly post 9/11, fear that American policy is taking a militaristic turn without any nation (or group of nations) able to restrain such perceived tendencies."

Now, in 2006, looking back at the failures of the "lone ranger" mentality of the American invasion of Iraq, do you still maintain that Bush & co were wise to ignore the opposition in much of the world (and Europe in particular)?

I'm not talking about whether or not the Chirac was "right" (I'm not sure that he was, objectively speaking, any more than Bush was). I'm talking about the assumption that you and many other conservative writers made about the diminished importance of international opinion and the forums which strive to facilitate the exchange of such opinion and reach an international consensus on warfare (essentially the U.N. and related organizations).

It seems to me that many of the mistakes committed by the Bush administration would have been partially mitigated by greater international involvement in the war. Two examples (there are probably many more) are: The failure to utilize U.N. expertise at nation-building and post-war reconstruction and the decreased legitimacy of the post-war Iraqi government.

Sure, you would say that the Europeans have been "pissy" for not supporting post-war Iraq even though the opposed the invasion, and of course you would be correct to do so. But still, isn't there a lesson for American foreign policy makers in here somewhere with respect to international agreement and European support?

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at March 31, 2006 11:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq isn't directly comparable to vietnam. Lots of details were different.

But how long did it take to get Saigon as bad off as Baghdad is now?

Posted by: J Thomas at April 1, 2006 12:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Djeredjian:

First let me proffer compliments on the high quality of your commentary: in a blogosphere so badly polarized, and prone mostly to cheapjack analysis, namecalling and overheated frothing (left and right), Belgravia Dispatch is a welcome voice of clarity: even when the message is not one we like to hear. Please don't give up!

That said, one factor which I think you are overlooking in your analyses of "what to do about Iraq" is the extent to which America's foreign policy under the Bush 43 Adminstration is, and has been, driven mainly by domestic political considerations. Mostly, IMHO, by the nagging, and ultimately overriding fear by those in power in Washington of losing that power, which they have wielded for a dozen years: and that mainly, post-9/11, by staking their political reputations on a successful outcome of the US invasion/occupation of Iraq.

Thus, just as the "best and brightest" in the Johnson Adminstration staked their status and reputation on managing the Vietnam conflict to "victory" - and suffered, along with their boss, ignominy when that "victory" proved elusive - the powers-that-be in Washington today are probably incapable of effecting any significant changes in Iraq policy. As I read it, this entire Administration has based its policies and practices since the beginning on a fundamental credo of never (or if absolutely necessary, grudgingly) admitting it could be wrong about anything. Especially where "The War" is concerned: hence, the seemingly obsessive spin-management to put a positive gloss on the news from the war zone, and its lunatic fixation on disparaging (with the aid of its allies in the press and blogosphere) any and all critics of how the conflict has been handled (a la Howard Kaloogian).

Yes, Greg, you are quite right: a change in management is badly needed: unfortunately, the likelihood of that, with the current crew in charge, is pretty slim.

Oh, and JFTR, what would YOU consider an "acceptable outcome" in Iraq?

Posted by: Jay C at April 1, 2006 12:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Very well said and far better written than I could ever do, but it shouldn't have taken Tom Friedman's handwringing to spur you to these thoughts. The news and blogging from Baghdad have documented the chaos for some time. Friedman is a handwaving old woman, a cassandra who is often declaiming that if we don't meet this or that challenge disaster will befall us. But he (too?) was a smug American chauvinist who had the clarity of vision to admit that Sadaam was no threat to us, but supported the war nevertheless because we needed to demonstrate our resolve and to put the fear of god in our enemies (and our friends) by kicking some Arab butt and it really didn't matter whose. Such careless bravado. But he is on record now, saying let them eat civil war, it will be their own fault it they can't create a functioning polity and economy. Never mind that we blew their country apart first.


You say: "Put simply, a major show of force by American forces is needed in Baghdad to finally, once and for all, put an end to the Stuff Happens approach to nation-building, and get in tune with the Overwhelming Force side of things."

Once and for all? Is this a dream on occasion, or is this still possible.? Maybe we can still do this in Baghdad But if we go back into Baghdad, and protect the Sunni neighborhoods, we will have to be careful not to precipitate a full on firefight with the Shiite militias and Interior Ministry Shiite dominated paramilitary forces. That would risk blowing the political process wide open. Or is that what you want? Anyway I'm in favor of trying and risk the increased casualties. We owe it to the Iraqis.


Posted by: chew2 at April 1, 2006 01:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg.....

(RIverbend has similar news, btw)

How many American troops do you think will die while we "put on a major show of force".

Do you think that this is doable given the political atmosphere here at home?

Do you really believe that a show of American force in Baghdad right now will actually improve the situation?

We are talking urban warfare now --- so some sniper takes a potshot at an American patrol....what happens next?

I'm afraid that if we are at the point where Americans have to assume responsibility for civil order in Baghdad after three years in Iraq that we have reached the "tipping point" --- the point where things are going to fall apart no matter what we do. To me, the only solution is to make a deal with Iran --- we'll "cut and run" and they can take over security in Iraq and restore order.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 1, 2006 02:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why dont you run for president and get elected..then you can run the war. Otherwise let the military handle it.

Posted by: JayCee at April 1, 2006 04:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's over.

And I blame you.

And every other fool who voted for George W. Bush in 2004. There was at least some excuse in 2000: Clinton Fatigue, blurred distinctions, even better organization by the Republicans.

But if you pulled the lever in 2004 for this clown car administration then it's your fault, pure and simple.

You pkept a Christian fundamentalist, incompetent, and tremendously stubborn fool in charge and these are the consequences. And I have not an ounce of sympathy for you as we stare at the abyss. Only for the troops whose lives have been wasted.

Hope you sleep well at night.

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at April 1, 2006 04:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Why dont you run for president and get elected..then you can run the war. Otherwise let the military handle it.

I have to admit: this is a refreshing change from the standard "So what's YOUR plan, smart guy??" rejoinder. (Probably because Greg HAS a plan, FWIW.)

Friedman doesn't seem to realize that you can't have a Unity Government without some unity of purpose among the factions forming it. If there were any unity of purpose we'd already have our unity government.

One of the biggest holdups is that the sides can't agree who gets the ministries of Defense and Interior. Those are the ministers that will directly control the fire sticks and explody things.

Think about why this is a sticking point.

Friedman's "Islamo-nihilist" coinage shows how arrogance and self-flattery can make you stupid. All of the insurgent factions have goals. The native-Sunni restorationists want to regain hegemony over the whole country or, failing that, maximize what power they can. They want to drive what they (self-servingly) consider to be Iranian catspaws out of power. The Jihadis take the same long view that has become the fallback position of our own hawks - they see themselves in a generational struggle against Big and Little Satan. I'm sure it's very comforting to say "All they want to do is destroy." And it's not so bad if Friedman or your average blog commenter do it. But if the people with actual power, the ones whose boots Friedman licks, tell themselves the same fairy story, they're going to make stupid decisions. Keep making stupid decisions, I mean.

Posted by: Jim Henley at April 1, 2006 04:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I really don't think that we can blame Rummy for the current mess per se. The failure of Iraq to come up with a functioning government is a direct result of Bushco demanding how that government will be formed/structured -- demanding a 2/3 majority to actually form a government in a nation with as many factions as Iraq would be difficult under normal circumstances.... throw in the fact that there is an insurgency/civil war going on, and it becomes nearly impossible. And you can't blame Rummy for setting those political conditions.

Then, having the President of the United States decide that the consensus candidate of the largest bloc of votes (which make up an actual majority of parliament) is "unacceptable" -- well, you've just made things virtually impossible. And you can't blame Rummy for Bush sending that letter/message....

I'm all for blaming Rumsfeld for the bad choices he made --- but lets not scapegoat the guy, because the failure in Iraq was the result of bad choices made at every level of this administration -- starting with the decision to invade....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 1, 2006 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PLukasiek, replacing Rumsfeld is the one constructive thing Bush can do, short of withdrawal.

He can't expect a good result from replacing the chairman of the JCS. He can't expect a good result from replacing anybody at a lower level. If he replaces Rumsfeld with somebody at random -- what he can do -- it imght possibly result in better choices at one level. And that might result in better choices at lower levels. We can't hope for better choices at any higher level.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 1, 2006 06:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I don't understand why anyone takes Tom Friedman seriously. At one time he insisted that Iraqis were resisting only because Saddam hadn't been captured. His 'Islamo-nihilists' are from the same fantasy world.

Firing Rumsfeld is something I have long advocated. The troops deserve a competent SecDef, period.

Show of force? Sure. Those wogs don't understand much but force, but they sure do understand force. Let's just have a show of force, and they'll fall into line.

Of course, by now we should know that such a show by the American military will mean several thousand more dead Iraqis. But it's not like the Iraqis are a tribal society that deals in blood feuds. They're just dumb wogs brimming over with respect for force.

I regret to say I haven't taken the time to study the intricacies of the Iraqi political crisis. My best guess is that a national unity government will happen only through deals that will be rejected by the people on the ground with the guns. If I'm right, the new government will just be a Green Zone charade.

AFAIK, the Bush administration has never repudiated its opposition to 'nation building'. Not long ago Rummy made a point of saying that whatever it is doing in Iraq, it isn't nation building. See also Packer's _The Assassins' Gate_, on how Bush administration hostility to 'nation building' continued even after the decision to invade Iraq.

Posted by: David Tomlin at April 1, 2006 11:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Order. Order. Order. "

Precisely. It should have been our mantra since day one. It all began with mistaking looting for the messiness of freedom.

Rumsfeld should have gone long ago. He'd demonstrated he was too arrogant to do anything but conceal and compound errors before Bremer left Iraq.

Something very nasty may be slouching towards Baghdad but it's not the Baath. The Sunni insurgents have largely abandoned the party and an Iraqi nationalist/neo-Salafi agenda.

Kaplan looks at Tal Afar:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-kaplan31mar31,0,5858364.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions
The 3rd Armored has put itself on the streets, offered Iraqis some security and now the mayor is writing begging letters to Bush fearing there departure. I suspect this isn't Pentagon spin, it rings true.

If we don't offer them security Iraqis will form militias which in a terrorist war can only defend their angry communities by taking the war to the enemies supporting population. Belfast or Baghdad this dynamic is the same.

Reading the Iraqi blogs it's clear that elements in the Iraqi security forces are viewed with fear and suspicion by many to a point were even the hated occupier is preferable. The strategy of a hastily trained sectarian force standing up while we stand down looks badly flawed.

As ethnic killings rocketed US casualties have dropped to a five month low. The US forces are increasingly hunkering down in their bases as Rummie hinted they would if civil war broke out. Unlike the 3rd they are already effectively standing down as commanded.

"But how long did it take to get Saigon as bad off as Baghdad is now?"

Never:
http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2005/11/a_shrinking_per.html

Posted by: ali at April 1, 2006 12:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, the proposals that you suggested to turn around the growing anarchy and civil strife centered in Baghdad seems too little, too late. And placing American soldiers in the middle of this urban warfare would worsen the situation. Baghdad is clearly on the verge of becoming Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, and one must always bear in mind what happened to the Marines that President Reagan sent there to restore order there in 1983: the worst terrorist attack in this nation's history prior to the 9/11 attacks. We certainly want not want replicate that tragedy in Baghdad.
And the military cannot solve what is essentially a political crisis: the continued bickering among the Iraqi politicians, militias and imams over forming the government.
Replacing Rumsfeld would be a good sign that President Bush has regained a semblance of rationality; but the damage done under Rumsfeld's tenure at DOD would still be plaguing whoever Bush replaced him with.
Of course, the real tragedy in Iraq is how much could have been done to remedy the blotched American occupation in the first or second year. But as with all wars, the internal dynamics among the various players has spun out of control, and unfortunately even these players now are confronting the results of their stubbornness in keeping to their individual agendas that have produced the emerging civl war in their midst. Now they must ride the tiger.

Posted by: George Hoffman at April 1, 2006 02:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Continuing on my comment above, I see (via Greg's earlier post) that Fukuyama has learned a lesson that in my view seems inevitable for any foreign policy thinker with integrity: "The one area that I've rethought concerns international institutions. I believe that the conservative critique of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the UN is right, but that we need a world populated by a multiplicity of others kinds of organizations. Iraq has changed my view on this."

So, since I think that Greg IS a thinker of integrity, I ask again: Has the Iraq war changed YOUR views at all on the merits of international cooperation a. la. the U.N.?

Or do you think that doing post-war nation building with young Replican tax-cutting idealists recruited from the Heritage foundation instead of experienced multi-national U.N. staffers is still a good idea?

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at April 1, 2006 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


It turns out the Friedman piece is available for free here:


http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635196005,00.html

Posted by: David Tomlin at April 1, 2006 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why does Greg harp on firing Rumsfeld? Is it intellectually derived? No he has no alternative plans for Iraq . His "length counts" posts are vapid and Pseudo intellectual. He really just strikes a cord with the lefties. Is it politically motivated? Hmm, I know being Armenian he has strong family ties. Hey didn't his father work for and still have close ties with the State Deparment.
Bingo!!
No love lost between the DOD and State Department. As mom would say "good boy, respect your father"
Just a plain dirty vendetta hiding behind a veneer of pseudo intellectualism.

Posted by: Moose at April 1, 2006 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moose, I'm in awe. I'm a connoisseur of dishonest hawkish rhetoric, but to pull the old "he has no alternative plans" sneer in a comment to a post that presents an alternative plan is bravura. (I'm skeptical of Greg's plan, but then, I would be.) I salute you, sir!

Posted by: Jim Henley at April 1, 2006 08:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with Jay C- you can take credit for trying to face nasty facts. Real leaders say, “Those who live in glass houses must not throw stones. Americans live in a glass house created by deficit spending, lack of household savings, disappearance of pensions, oil dependence, Lou Dobbs- people at each others’ throats”. Americans gladly bought war bonds during WWII, were willing to sacrifice. No longer. Social security itself can be easily financed. Medicare on the other hand is a ticking time bomb as is much of our healthcare system- overcrowded ERs unable to handle true emergencies, nonprofit hospitals facing severe financial threats. We need a single payer system, but such a system requires trust, acceptance of the limits of third party healthcare and common goals.
I don’t worry about civil war in iraq, I worry about civil war in the US in the next decade. US politics are pure poison; both parties are to blame.

Posted by: malvolio at April 1, 2006 11:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mads Kvalsvik: "It seems to me that many of the mistakes committed by the Bush administration would have been partially mitigated by greater international involvement in the war. Two examples (there are probably many more) are: The failure to utilize U.N. expertise at nation-building and post-war reconstruction and the decreased legitimacy of the post-war Iraqi government."

The administration excluded internal expertise on the Middle East from the CPA, deliberately. When a president doesn't want internal US government expertise, he wants foreign expertise even less.

And back in ~May 2003, the administration announced that all contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq were restricted to US companies - even the British were excluded! The British were shortly admitted, after complaining, but the administration's thinking was laid out very clearly - they thought of Iraq as loot belonging to the administration (not even Congress, if Bush had a say).

"Sure, you would say that the Europeans have been "pissy" for not supporting post-war Iraq even though the opposed the invasion, and of course you would be correct to do so. But still, isn't there a lesson for American foreign policy makers in here somewhere with respect to international agreement and European support?

There's an excellent lesson - for some strange reason, other people might decline to give us tens of thousands of troops and many billions of dollars, to spend as Bush wishes. They must be Evul Librul Traitors, or something :)

And if things go badly, it's even less likely that others will jump in to a losing situation.

Posted by: Barry at April 2, 2006 01:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am ashamed to be an American. Our government has completely abandoned the Iraqi people in their time of need. Rumsfeld didn't send in enough troops and now look what happened! There is no order and crazy militias and extremist groups are running amok, killing innocent civilians and destroying the country's infastructure (or what's left of it after sanctions and war.) We are incompetent nation-builders and we should give that job to the United Nations as soon as possible. We have no right whatsoever to still be occupying Iraq. This Bush administration is crazy, and the American people are stupid for voting him in AGAIN!!!

Posted by: Andrew Nowicki at April 2, 2006 02:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Rumsfeld didn't send in enough troops and now look what happened!

There were not enough troops to send.

There were not enough troops to send.

There were not enough troops to send.

There were not enough troops to send.

There were not enough troops to send.

Had there been enough troops, the Kurds would still want Kirkuk, the Shiites would still want the oil and the Sunnis would still want everything back the way it was. You know how all the hawks talk about how Saddam was just waiting until everyone got sick of maintaining sanctions and the no-fly zones? Did anyone ever think that, maybe, if we'd gone in with 500,000 troops that the various factions would just wait until we decided to draw them down to start up the exact same crap we see today? Not that it matters, really, because

There were not enough troops to send.

When General Shinseki testified before Congress what he was really saying, ever so politely was, "We can't do this."

Because there were not enough troops to send.

Posted by: Jim Henley at April 2, 2006 05:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Order, order, order! Spoken like a true European, one of the sort who wants a Master to make everything safe then steal his valubles away afterwards. I want "disorder" in Iraq! Why should the U.S. repeat in Iraq the mistakes it made in Europe?

Posted by: Solomon2 at April 2, 2006 08:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>There were not enough troops to send.

Last time we went we had 500,000 troops. But then we had a coalition that that didn't depend on Samoa for help. Not that it made a difference to willing suckers ready to believe the Smirking Chimp.

As the pyres pile high with the bodies of the Iraqi's we dropped into this Hell, I am sure our host, and others will sleep soundly, their responsibility assuaged by saying ever so quietly: oopsie.

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at April 2, 2006 09:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rumsfeld didn't send in enough troops and now look what happened!

There were not enough troops to send.

There were not enough troops to send.

[....]

There were not enough troops to send.

When General Shinseki testified before Congress what he was really saying, ever so politely was, "We can't do this."

Because there were not enough troops to send.

And Rumsfeld tried it anyway, on Bush's orders. And now look what happened!

Posted by: J Thomas at April 2, 2006 03:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


There were not enough troops to send.

I'm not sure of that. Certainly more could have been sent than were in fact, with complete mobilization of the reserves. I think the administration didn't want to influence the pre-war debate by letting people know how large and potentially costly an enterprise was being undertaken.

Posted by: David Tomlin at April 2, 2006 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We could have sent a larger surge. But we couldn't maintain that. We'd have had to mostly go home regardless.

It might have worked out if we'd gone home. Maybe badly, quite likely better than it did. But that wasn't the plan.

Remember that Bush still hasn't been willing to say he isn't planning permanent bases, even though saying that would buy him something with the insurgency.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 2, 2006 06:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I hate to admit it, but Jim Henley is right - to a point.

There weren't very many more troops to send, if you insist on keeping the U.S Army's current force posture in the rest of the world, and/or doing nothing pre-war to increase the number of troops.


Jim, those were very doable steps. Some wouldn't even have required an act of Congress. The President and Rummy didn't do them, because they were arrogant, they were greedy, and they were afraid. The fear was of taking steps to truly prepare, due to the political disadvantages of doing so and the threat that all that sacrifice might turn the public against the war. The greed and arrogance convinced them that they in turn did not need to take those steps.

Personally, I think the war was morally wrong and self-castrating with 500,000 troops or with 150,000, so this debate has never really interested me. But certainly there's no hard-physics barrier to a cap of 150,000.

So when you say, 'there were no more troops to send', you need to add the catch, "without exposing the administration to, gasp, shudder, political risk."

The truth is, even Rumsfield was right. Asking to triple the size of the army or pull out of North Korea might have in fact spooked the public away from war.

As it should have been.

Posted by: glasnost at April 2, 2006 07:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

glasnost: Where you're wrong is - wait. You're not wrong. I agree with everything you say.

Posted by: Jim Henley at April 2, 2006 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thirding that - it would have been possible. The problem is that, if a siz-month lead time was desired, to prepare, retrain and reorganize the American Army for a 2-3 year occupation and nation-building campaign, the orders would have had to go out in Summer 2002.

This would have meant that, by the 2002 mid-term elections, it'd have been perfectly clear that the administration didn't expect a 'cakewalk', but a real war, lasting for a couple of years, and needing the entire US Army for it. Including NG's and reservists - who'd be looking at a 2-3 year active duty hitch, with many units (i.e., artillery) being retrained as MP's or light infantry.

The result of that would have been the Democratic Congress slapping the sh*t out of the Administration, after landslide in the mid-term elections.

In short, to do it, the administration really needed to short the resources to do it successfully.

Posted by: Barry at April 2, 2006 08:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Posted by: malvolio:
"US politics are pure poison; both parties are to blame."

Lie. The GOP has publicly and repeatedly demonized the Democrats as disloyal; the GOP took 9/11 as a domestic political prize, and has exploited it mercylessly.

During the 1990's, the GOP subjected us to a screamfest of lies against Clinton, a screamfest which transferred to Gore and Kerry without even a blip. The GOP subjected us to a string of fraudulent investigations, done quite deliberately, with a string of fraudulent books put out to support their lies. The GOP turned the AM radio band into a hatefest of rightwing propaganda.

The GOP trashed the budget with 100% fraudulent projections; the GOP has declared and waged war on science and expertise throughout government and academia.

The GOP has claimed Christianity, and perverted it into a whited sepulchre.

Posted by: Barry at April 2, 2006 08:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Barry, they didn't have to do all that before the 2002 election. They could have delayed the war a little. Attack in fall 2003 instead of spring, and start the 6 month preparation after the elections.

And they could have dropped the silly WMD stuff. Just have another 9/11 type incident after the elections, or maybe just before. People already knew Saddam was involved, a few mentions of classified evidence proving it this time would have been plenty.

It would have given Saddam that much more time to prepare, but what could he do? Move his WMDs to syria?

I'm just as glad they didn't do it that way.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 3, 2006 02:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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