June 20, 2004

The "Transformationists": As Reckless as Saddam?

How ticked off are intelligent pro-war people about the Administration's post-major combat phase handling of Iraq?

This T.O'd:

The willingness of members of the Bush administration to abandon their past records of prudence and match Saddam's reckless and delusional behavior with their own may have been the most important element missing from my own thinking about the war.

Alexander Cockburn? Robert Fisk? Noam Chomsky?

Nope, Ken Pollack!

Pollack is clearly torn on Iraq now well over a year out.

He rues the fact that Powell didn't have more influence re: Iraq policy-making and, correctly, states that one might have thought he would have around the time he was spearheading passage of 1441.

And Cheney, whom Pollack doesn't talk about quite as much, had as 41's SecDef shown a willingness to mount a war effort in the Gulf with 28 coalition partners and a high troop count.

But, of course, this was pre-9/11 Cheney.

He hadn't yet caught the "fever"!

Pollack doesn't mention Wolfowitz at all and mentions Rummy just once (unless you count the reference to the "transformationalists").

But, of course, everyone knew that those two would be key players in any prosecution of the Iraq war. And, it bears noting, they weren't necessarily known as the most cautious, realpolitik types in the Beltway.

What we didn't know, I guess, was that State was going to get so firmly shut out of the process and, most important, that the Pentagon would be flat out unwilling to put enough boots on the ground to create secure conditions.

That, ultimately, was the biggest F up (with the related disbanding of the Iraqi army writ large with the requisite Jacobin fervor amidst all the de-Baathification chest-beating).

Does this mean Wolfy (or Rummy) pace Pollack, were (are?) as "reckless" as Saddam?

No, that's a tad exaggerated, don't you think?

But it does mean they imperiled a nation-building excercise with their stubborn refusal to pursue real 'shock and awe'--at least 300,000 troops patrolling that country, securing supply lines; specialized constabulatory units policing less 'hot' areas; more marines; fewer reserves; more effective intelligence gathering (sans Ghraibian truncheons) fewer lugubrious 'sack-hoods' and razor-wire; fewer I.E.D's and terror bombings.

Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria wishes we had done Iraq more like we did Afghanistan:

Why has Afghanistan been more successful than Iraq? In Afghanistan, the Bush administration adopted a version of postwar policies developed over the '90s. After the war, it handed the political process over to the United Nations and directed its military efforts through nato. The United Nations was able to structure a political process (the loya jirga) that had legitimacy within Afghanistan as well as internationally. With some massaging, it produced a pro-Western liberal as president. Making the military efforts multinational has meant that today, the European Union spends about as much on Afghanistan as the United States and that the new Afghan army is being trained jointly by the United States and ... France.

Of course, loya jirgas are a bit harder to pull off when two ethnic groups in a country have been victims of genocidal policies by another.

Put differently, I'm not so sure Zakaria is right that Afghanistan was perhaps a more complex state-building exercise than Iraq.

Iraq is plenty hard folks. Probably, all told, harder.

Even if we had NATO and, er, the French there (who, incidentally, have likely let Radovan Karadzic slip through their gallant Gallic fingers more than once--so aren't necessarily the most, er, morally upstanding peacekeeping partners to be in bed with).

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at June 20, 2004 04:42 PM
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