Thursday, January 25, 2007

Because It's Impossible to Move Forward Without Frank Assessment

Generals saying what President Bush apparently cannot (or Rumsfeld before him, "Give us all your sevens.").

I've pulled up some items that highlight the political problems, rather than the current fashion, which is to focus just on troop levels, surge or otherwise. I've tacked on a few military issues at the end, because there is no clear way forward without an honest and factual assessment.

Political Mistakes / Issues / Problems

On de-Ba'athification:

The very slow (if that) execution of the reconciliation component of de Ba'athification left tens of thousands [documented?] of former Ba'ath Party members (many of them Sunni Arabs, but also some Shi'a) feeling that they had no future opportunities in, or reason to support, the new Iraq. To be fair to CPA, AMB Bremer intended to execute reconciliation (Or exceptions to the de-Ba'athification order) and gave me permission, e.g. to do so on a trial basis in Ninevah Province; however, when we submitted the results of the reconciliation commission conducted for Mosul University and subsequent requests for exception generated by Iraqi processes with judicial oversight, no action was taken on them by the de-Ba'athification Committee in Baghdad [so what was done, instead?]. As realization set in among those affected that there was to be no reconciliation, we could feel support for the new Iraq ebbing in Sunni Arab majority areas [so was Rumsfeld right about dead-enders, but "flat wrong", to borrow one of his own phrases, about how to deal with them, then?]
On disbanding the Army:
Disbanding the Iraqi army (which was, to be sure, an army that Iraq did not need in the long term as it had vastly more senior officers than were remotely required and was more of a jobs program than a competent military force) without simultaneously announcing a stipend and pension program for those in the Army, the future plan for Iraq's defense forces, and provisions for joining those forces undoubtedly created tens of thousands of former soldiers and officers who were angry, feeling disrespected, and worried about how they would feed their families. (The stipend plan was eventually announced some 5 weeks after the disestablishment was announced, but it did not cover senior officers, who remained, therefore, influential critics of the new Iraq.) This action likely fueled, at least in part, the early growth of the insurgency and anti-coalition feeling.

Military Problems / Civilian Defense Department Issues
Sufficient Planning
We obviously had inadequate plans, concepts [!!!], organizations, resources [!!!], and policies for the conduct of Phase IV (stability and reconstruction) operations; consequently, we were slow to move into Phase IV operations.
There was an underestimation of the security challenges in Iraq, particularly in 2006 ...coupled with an overestimation of our ability to create new security institutions
There was the feeling that [national] elections would enhance the Iraqi sense of nationalism. Instead, the elections hardened sectarian positions as Iraqis voted largely based on ethnic and sectarian group identity.

Rapid Reaction / Adaptation
We took too long to recognize the growing insurgency and to take steps to counter it, though we did eventually come to grips with it.
We took too long to develop the concepts and structures needed to build effective Iraqi security forces to assist in providing security to the Iraqi people.
It repeatedly took us time to recognize changes in the security environment and to react to them. What began as an insurgency has morphed into a conflict that includes insurgent attacks, terrorism, sectarian violence, and violent crime. Our responses have had to continue to evolve in response, but that has not always been easy [that seems like code talk for the old saw, "The Right Way, the Wrong Way, and The Army's Way ...].

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