Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Was There a Plan?

[With the US elections now over, perhaps the question of US plans for the post-invasion of Iraq phase can be discussed with more objectivity and less heated, partisan sentiments.]

Was there a plan or wasn't there a plan for the post-invasion phase?

Even informed army personnel seem to be in some disagreement.

Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq, seems to think that there wasn't.

"While there may have been 'plans' at the national level, and even within various agencies within the war zone, none of these 'plans' operationalized the problem beyond regime collapse… … There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations."

This is a serious allegation… and it comes from a serious person! I have posted a longer reference to his assertion in my other blog Disgruntled Americans.

I find this not only confusing, but rather odd. Faced with such a contradiction, one is naturally inclined to believe General Franks simply because his position allows him to know better! But this does not solve the dilemma; it complicates matters a bit! If there was such a plan, was it successful, or did it fail miserably?

I didn't hear of any senior army or political figure being scolded or demoted by Congress or by the administration on account of the "failure" of the post-invasion plan. Can we therefore assume that the plan was successful? Is what we are witnessing in Iraq the result of a successful plan? Is this the plan?

Could the US army, with the mission now accomplished (!) publish some highlights of that plan for us to see? How well did that plan fare? Otherwise, one is forced to look somewhere else for a theory that fits the facts on the ground.

For example, Naomi Klein offers an alternative explanation in a long article that is worth reading in full [I hope the fact that the author is a left-wing activist will not discourage right-leaning Americans from examining the facts and explanations presented]. Excerpts:

The fact that the boom never came and Iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. Rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.

The theory is that if painful economic “adjustments” are brought in rapidly and in the aftermath of a seismic social disruption like a war, a coup, or a government collapse, the population will be so stunned, and so preoccupied with the daily pressures of survival, that it too will go into suspended animation, unable to resist… …

At first, the shock-therapy theory seemed to hold: Iraqis, reeling from violence both military and economic, were far too busy staying alive to mount a political response to Bremer’s campaign…

As the British historian Dilip Hiro has shown, in Secrets and Lies: Operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’ and After, the Iraqi exiles pushing for the invasion were divided, broadly, into two camps. On one side were “the pragmatists,” who favored getting rid of Saddam and his immediate entourage, securing access to oil, and slowly introducing free-market reforms…. On the other side was the “Year Zero” camp, those who believed that Iraq was so contaminated that it needed to be rubbed out and remade from scratch.

The Iraqi Year Zeroists made natural allies for the White House neoconservatives: … Together, they came to imagine the invasion of Iraq as a kind of Rapture: where the rest of the world saw death, they saw birth—a country redeemed through violence, cleansed by fire. Iraq wasn’t being destroyed by cruise missiles, cluster bombs, chaos, and looting; it was being born again. April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell, was Day One of Year Zero.

The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible… These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned… For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.

Is it possible that there was such a plan that went sourly wrong… and failed?

Or, as many cynics in Iraq and elsewhere now believe, what is happening in Iraq, the break-down of law and order and services, the lawlessness and the chaos, is itself the plan?

Don't Iraqis and Americans have a right to know?


Hmmm, unstable Iraq, deliberate or accidental?

First thing that has to be clear is that Democracy does not make nations "good" from any point of view.

Democracies can have nuclear weapons. Democracies can declare aggressive wars. Democracies are very good at going to war and democratic populations are very easy to rally behind wars.

Everything the US does not like about Saddam Hussein, could easily be present in a democratic Iraq. There is no reason at all the think a democratic Iraq will not pursue weapons of mass destruction, will not support the Palestinians, will not threaten the corrupt pro-US governments in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

From a strategic point of view, it is just a flat-out lie that it is in the US interests to create a democratic Iraq. I'm not sure when Americans say that if they actually believe it or are being cynical.

What kind of Iraq can be counted on to refrain from doing things the United States does not want? A) A Mubarak/Musharraf-style dictatorship complete with payments to the leader and his family in exchange for US control over select areas of policy and B) A fully destabilized nation that cannot look outward and cannot afford to do anything that would be threatening.

Now A is much better than B, because B too often eventually leads to radical leaders who are not open to influence from the United States.

Given the choice, Americans would prefer a nice puppet who takes the blame in the country when things go wrong but whose decisions are subject to a US veto in areas of policy that the US cares about.

If that is not possible, then the second choice has to be an unstable nation.

Democracy or Dictatorship is not the important factor from the US point of view. A strong Iraq that is a democracy is just as bad from the US point of view as a strong Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

But the Americans would much prefer a peacefully weak Iraq more like Jordan or Egypt than a situation such as now where an organization might arise any month that makes turns Iraq into a strong nation outside of US control.

Oh, one last thing - every nation is a dictatorship. The US supported rebels in Haiti who overthrew Aristide even though Aristide won the most votes. The US was involved in a similar plan in Venezuela that happened not to work.

If the United States was a small poor country, someone could finance a revolt against George Bush - the election irregularities the rebels would cite would be at least as real, even much more real than the grievances against Aristide or Chavez.

So any Iraqi government outside of US control is going to be called a dictatorship by the Americans, regardless of the level of popular support. Regardless of what happens at the elections. If the situation was reversed, the Iraqi government would right now be overthrowing the fraudulent Bush dictatorship.

All this neocon stuff, free markets or whatever, comes second. American troops would not be dying to give Iraqi people free markets. They are dying to ensure that Iraq remains either under a puppet or weak. Only after the goal of a controlled Iraq is ensured, does anyone care about secondary concerns.

Until the Americans leave, your choices are Mubarak or civil war. Once the Americans leave, if there is some organization that is respected by the whole country, that organization may be able to establish the American worst-case scenario - a strong Iraq, democratic or otherwise.

In other words: Conspiracy or Cock-up?
On the one hand, stuff like the Klein article seems to be well-researched, logical and very convincing. But then any successful partisan journalism has to appear to be all these things. Does the "Year Zero" sinister capitalist theory really ring true or is there a whiff of paranoia about it?
On the other hand, there are just so many facts every day that don’t seem to fit in with a conspiracy theory that attributes any co-ordination at all to the conspirators: Bremer high-tailing it out of Iraq and going into hiding, Fallujah as a monument to a couple of insane Marine Generals, Rumsfeld’s ambivalent relationship with his troops - the list is potentially endless.
Cock-up seems frankly to be more plausible as the explanation for everything that’s happened. (And certainly George Bush has been accused of many things, but intelligence is definitely not one of them.)
Riverbend tells us that on the voting cards for the elections, all voters are identified as male, regardless of sex. I’d say there’s a 5 percent chance that this is the devious brainchild of some neo-con conspirator huddled away in the Green Zone, for purposes we can’t imagine. And a 95 percent chance that it’s just another cock-up.
Hunker down, Abu, it’s going to be a lunatic election, and a long hard year.
They once put men on the moon. If they aimed a rocket at Moscow now, it’d probably come down in Miami.

Circular (& Abu Khaleel),
I'd love the cock-up theory to be true; but, if it were what really happened, those people wouldn't be able to administer Dogsville, bar being the only superpower in the world! That's why I suspect that the 'conspiracy' theory might be the one most fitting reality. There is some evidence that Colin Powell's ministry had prepared a reasonable post-invasion plan for the stabilisation & reconstruction of Iraq, but Rumsfeld & Cheney managed to have it thrown into the wastepaper basket. While I think that the first, anonymous commenter is dead right about the two possible Iraqs (A & B) being the most favourable to US imperial interests, I feel that some different interest (i.e. the Likhudite Israeli one) pushed the hand of the US Administration decidedly towards option B: a Lebanonised Iraq, divided into ethnic, sectarian & political feuds, constantly warring one with the other, as has been the aim of Israeli policy towards its neighbours since the late Seventies. Of course, to the US real interests option A would be the best; but most common Bushists (like those pestering Iraqi bloggers) don't realise that by now there is only option B, and that it was brought about intentionally by sectors of their own Government.
Maybe I'm wrong; but, Circular, it is anyway a mistake to underestimate one's own enemies.
An Italian.

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I'd like to make a request -

Can anyone provide an Iraqi view of the Iran-Iraq war?

It seems to me that on the one hand, the West was hypocritical for working with Hussein when it served their interests, but on the other hand, Saddam seems to me to have been doing the bidding of the West at that time.

I'm reminded of that war by thinking of South Africa's strategy for surviving as a nation dedicated to one ethnic group's dispossession of another but surrounded by nations that identified with their victims.

South Africa found figures such as Savimbi who were willing to lead civil wars against the countries that neighbored South Africa. These figures were never supported enough to actually win, just enough to keep fighting which kept the nations in question harmless from South Africa's point of view. If Savimbi had been in power the South Africans would just have easily have found somone on the opposite side.

From here it seems the Iran-Iraq war seems like a similar situation. The West supported both sides and from the Western point of view, the aim was just to keep Iranians and Iraqis killing each other as long as possible.

One question is what if the Iraqi people come to believe that the goal of the US is to sit stationed in Iraq to oversee a decade of civil war - increasing or decreasing their level of assistance as needed to make sure no side wins, but that Iraq is completely turned to ruins - what could the Iraqi people do about that?

Another question is what would it take to convince the Iraqi people that civil war is the aim of the US? There probably will never be a memo made public that spells it out.

A last question is is there any other nation Iraqis would have trusted more to oversee the removal of Hussein? If these were Turkish troops, Saudi Arabian troops, Iranian troops, Chinese troops, French troops would there be less resistance?

Tanzania invaded Uganda in the late 1970's to remove Idi Amin, removed him and left. Is there any outside nation that you think could have come in, removed Hussein and left without a further agenda?

Intel-Dump, a blog by a former Army officer, journalist and a recent UCLA law student, links directly to Dr. Wilson's 64 page report.

I'd be curious to know your opinion of Dr. Wilson's analysis of the Operational Planning in Northern Iraq.

And, off-topic, interesting profile in Sunday's New York Times: The War Inside the Arab Newsroom

Do Americans have a right to know what it's government has wrought allegedly on our behalf? Absolutely. We wil get an honest answer? Never.

I am of the mind that the NeoCons did in fact have a plan. It’s not like they haven’t been scheming for decades to enact it just to scribble a little something on a cocktail napkin. The disconnect for me, is that I don’t think most of us can fully comprehend something so inherently rooted in megalomania and plutocracy. Though Bush is an intellectually-challenged, dry-drunk adherent to evangelical Christianity, I don’t think the rest of the Cheneyniks’ policies are as formed by religious rightwing dogma as they are by their worship of the almighty dollar and lust for power.

I believe that illegally invading Iraq conveniently provided cover to achieve a number of long-held NeoCon aims:

- bankrupt the national treasury and create a budgetary crisis thus forcing the defunding and/or privatization of saftey net programs for the poor and middle class. Witness the establishment of “faith-based federal grants” as pay-off and centralized recruitment centers for conservative churches complete with weekly Sunday sermon Republican talking points (free inside!).

- create greater wealth for the burgeoning oligarchical society the NeoCons want to create via tax cuts for the super rich and setting in motion new wealth opportunities for the investor class through war profiteering in the military industrial complex, the elimination of the federal estate tax, and replacing Social Security with tens of millions of new privately-held retirement trust funds. Grover Norquist and the anti-tax nutcases pee their pants in joy.

- gain control of a prime Middle Eastern region to exploit its natural resources and impede further Russian investment in Caspian Sea oil and gas development projects with its ME/Central Asia neighbors. You think it’s a coincidence that most of the full two-term cabinet members and advisors are Cold War warriors?

- feed the Godhead Rapture fantasies of the fundamentalist Christian voters who identify with Bush’s born-again salvation to ensure the 2004 electoral margin of victory and to exert continued pressure on Congress to enact NeoCon-friendly legislation and appoint arch-conservative judicial nominees. Rightwing wacko, James Dobson, pick up the white courtesy phone.

- extoll the PNAC’s value of “preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles” vis a vis a unipolar world where the UN, EU, China, and Russia cede to the self-ish economic and political machinations of BushCo. Freedom Fries, y’all?

Some plan, eh? I feel like the old boot game token on a global Monopoly™ board where Dick Cheney is the tycoon and the Iraqis don’t get any money, a game token, or a “Get Out of Jail” free card.

em dash/Liberal Street Fight.com

"Is it possible that there was such a plan that went sourly wrong… and failed?"
To Italian, regarding "underestimating," I still suspect that Abu is closer to reality here than those who propose that it’s all going according to some deep dark devious plan, as emdash suggests.
We can probably never really know, because it’s in the nature of deep dark devious plots that they can never be publicly announced, and whistleblowers are easily refuted simply by not responding to them.
But when conspiracy becomes cock-up, it’s still a cock-up.
I stand to be corrected, but my understanding is that US public sentiment ultimately does not want endless and unwinnable war, and that this attitude will eventually prevail.
And Iraq seems to me to be too old and sophisticated a society to become totally Balkanised or reduced to a failed state. Somewhere down the track, in two or five or ten years after the US has left, some kind of stable society will probably emerge. And the one thing sure is that whatever that state is, it’s not going to be friendly to US interests or amenable to US influence?
Commonsense 1, Conspirators 0?

Circular, I'd be willing to call it a nil:nil match -- since we're all on the losing end of BushCo planning.

A bit of the crazy NeoCon propaganda from Dick Cheney's think tank, Project for the New American Century, and a whole lot of mistakes, poorly conceived military manuevers to achieve unspoken political aims, pre-war manipulations by Chalibi, and grave miscalculations about the level unrest in a post-invasion Iraq. Winning hearts and minds, indeed.

em dash/Liberal Street Fight.com

Hello Abu Khaleel,
'Was a plan?' There was never a plan, there is still is no plan, and I predict there will never be a plan. The elections look like a PR stunt for his re-election, a case of 'run it up the flag pole and see if anybody salutes it[nobody did, the UN took off like a bat out of hell]..But there was a miraculous vision...Reverend Bush prayed and lo, the Angel of the Lord, Richard Perle spoke unto him of a Promised Land, Iraq...
Now, I hear that there are 30000 Baathists-Salafist supermen terrorizing Iraq. What word is the opposite of 'plan'..chaos, maybe?

Emdash the PNAC link is helpful, but they’re not exactly a conspiracy, it’s all been pretty much out in the open - basically a statement of strategic intent.
Is there a sense in which strategy became a cock-up when it foundered on the rock of tactical reality? Because most of the strategists didn’t have military backgrounds?
I understand that among the military the Army maintains it’s claim to be the primary service with the argument that, while ships and planes are a help, wars can in the end only be won by boots on the ground. (Japan being a special exception.)
What Iraq has done is confirm the lesson of Vietnam - if you can’t win hearts and minds, then laying partial waste to a nation from the air doesn’t defeat resistance, you have to be prepared to go the whole hog and deliberately target the entire population as was done in WWII Germany. Or do Fallujah over and over and over.
But even the craziest neo-con is not into using nukes tactically.
Which makes plans about "the world’s only superpower" having "military hegemony" simply futile dreams. How many boots would they need on the ground in Iran? Does their conventional military muscle scare China? Or India? Or the EU?
Was it just a conspiracy of yesterday’s men, outdated dreamers still stuck in WWII?

How is anybody here suposed to know the reality of the Iraq plan? But, as long as we're guessing my guess is there were a lot of plans from a lot of people working front channels, back channels and power struggles to try and get their plan signed off in washington and it all just got garbeled up by the beaurocratic processes.

If you had the same team that facilitated the Afghan's victory over Russia in the 80s working this situation we'd see a lot more success. And if the Insurgents and terrorists had the same kind of supprot we gave the warriors in Afghanistan the US would be in serious trouble. Then again I'd argue that in that engagment the US and Pakistan made the techno terrorist we are fighting today, but that's a whole other story.

And circular, If you think you can judge America's total military capabilities by this one engagement then feel free. But once again, keep in mind the US has not asked it's average citizen to be personally involved and sacrifice for this war. And it is not a war that a significant majority of citizens support. These two factors mean the military is limited politically. So believe it or not, despite any citation of civillian casualties, the gloves are still on.

In WWII some men would commit suicide because they were turned down for military service.

Hello fathom,
'In WWII some men would commit suicide because they were turned down for military service.'
Imagine the horrific effect of fanatical US suicide bombers( better still, suicide bloggers!) on the Arab world! Please forward your suggestion to the Reverend Bush!

Hey! I do the jokes around here! That wasn’t me, Fathom.
But I think you miss my point about the US not terrifying everyone as much as it thinks it does. A lot of its power resides in its "total war" fighting capacity - ships, tanks, planes and of course nukes. Hence my reference to yesterday’s men. The US can obviously win a conventional war against any small to medium sized power it likes: what it is learning in Iraq, having forgotten about Vietnam, is that the only way to defeat a guerrilla movement is with huge numbers of boots on the ground. (Or a massive effort to win hearts and minds, yeah right!) And the Administration is obviously convinced that a draft would be political suicide, which it probably would. Even the ruthless exploitation of the National Guard and the Reserve (so-called back door draft) seems to be going badly wrong.
And nobody is really thinking conventional wars of conquest between states these days. Except yesterday’s men in the Heartland. So, conspiracy became cock-up. They thought the Iraqis would just roll on their backs with their paws in the air, and do what they were told.
Bad dog! Down! Down!

Circular, I think we're both right in our assumptions. Major mistakes in a politically-motivated plan to invade Iraq for competing reasons--none of which had solid rationales and thus have not stood the test of errors in judgment, tactical military mistakes, and a grave underestimation of violent resistance.

I did not mean to imply that the PNAC works in secret. Perhaps, my cavalier use of the word "propaganda" misled you. I do believe that old white men (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al) are still fighting the Cold War (and Condi Rice is a part of the club too) do not appear to have adjusted their hegemonical military gameplan for a more present-day, guerilla warfare/insurgent style conflict. Additionally, the Bush Administration principles are exceptionally wealthy individuals whom are considerably out of touch with the average daily life of a typical American. That lack of connectedness outside the Bush inner circle creates ignorance which breeds fear which nurtures contempt.

One of the contributing writers on the group blog in which I serve as editor made an interesting observation which supports both our premises on Abu Khaleel's essay. From The Washington Post: there are over 9,000 non-competitive upper-management level positions in the executive and legislative branches of the US government. Typically, those jobs are filled by political appointees, often with no experience or minimal credentials. Happens in every administation. The problem lies in the fact that the Bush Admin aligns itself closely with rightwing Christians, many of whom hold clearly theologically-inspired agendas, and that the number of these types of politically-motivated jobs has increased 40% since Bush took office in 2000. Hmm, what happened to his promise of smaller government. And what the hell happened to the separation of church and state in this country? And how much influence have the political appointees had on war planning?

em dash/Liberal Street Fight.com

EmDash, if you are trying to depress me you are succeeding beyond your wildest dreams. If I understand you correctly, what you are saying is that the lunatics aren't just trying, they've already taken over the Asylum.
Thank God for the Pacific Ocean. Thank God we haven't got any oil in NZ.

Heh, Cirular. Depressed? Trying living here! I want my Neoconide and I want it now.

But many of us will continue to fight, continue to organize, and continue to loudly protest Bush's madman crusade-of-the-day.

I mean how bad can it get? It's not like the Congress is going to confirm a close advisor to President Bush, who created the loophole to illegally circumvent the Geneva Conventions to allow torture of prisoners of war, to become the Attorney General and principal guardian of the US Constitution?

Uh oh.

em dash/Liberal Street Fight.com

"Is it possible that there was such a plan that went sourly wrong… and failed?"

I'm with Abu Khaleel on this, as indeed seem to be most of you, despite differences in the details. Heck, I'm even more with the idea that there were a number of competing plans simultaneously being implemented by competing bits of the US government that just got all tangled up. Some of those plans, like this one, were dafter than others. Klein describes a cunning plan made by people far more stupid or at least limited in their knowledge than they think they are.
This reminds me somewhat of a friend of mine who is an analyst for A Certain Branch of the Government and an old-school Midwestern Republican. He insists that the influence of the neo-cons is grossly exaggerated. He also admits that the counter-insurgency will take far longer than the President can admit to, 'just like in Nicaragua and El Salvador.'
Does anyone else think Nicaragua or El Salvador are remotely useful analogies? Other than the usefullness of most of the insurgency being brought out of the cold and into Parliament, as in El Salvador. But his analysis of the Iraqi situation, while rational, is so shallow and is based on such a terribly narrow, partisan and ahistorical perspective as to be laughable. Any of the commenters here could run rings around him. Also, everyone who is a critic of the US is obviously a propagandist for the insurgency (am sure he'd include you, too, Abu K).
sigh I blame it all what Jerry Pournelle calls 'incompetent imperialism.' (hey, if the righties can give Klein a break the lefties can give one to ol' Jerry) It will leave Iraq a mess and America with a lot less influence and with a demoralized military.

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