Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Rumsfeld's account of the war

Donald Rumsfeld finally published his account of the war in Iraq in his memoir, Known and Unknown. I have been waiting for over eight years to hear his explanation of why there was no plan for the occupation of Iraq. I have speculated as to what happened in this space since November 2006. In that post I blamed Rumsfeld for the lack of a plan, stating that he was in charge of planning for the invasion, and for the aftermath, and that he "deliberately excluded the Department of State and other agencies from any significant participation in the planning for or execution of the occupation."

That was what I thought at the time. Rumsfeld's memoir has changed my view somewhat.

In 2008 former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith published his account of the war, War and Decision. I read his book and wrote about it in this space (See On Understanding the War, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). I also read Tommy Franks' book and a U.S. Army history of the war. Rumsfeld's book provides the best explanation to date of what happened and why no occupation plan was developed and implemented.

On page 487 of Rumsfeld's book he summarizes what happened to postwar planning:

"Postwar planning for Iraq lacked effective inter agency coordination, clear lines of responsibility, and the deadlines and accountability associated with a rigorous process. I suspect that the failure to fashion a deliberate, systematic approach by which the President could establish U.S. policy on the political transition in post-Saddam Iraq was among the more consequential of the administration."

Now, who in the U.S. government is responsible for identifying inter agency foreign policy issues, crafting a policy, and presenting a recommendation or options to the President for a decision? The National Security Advisor, who at that time was Condi Rice.

Rumsfeld doesn't point the finger at Rice and lay all the blame at her feet. He rightfully says that the administration as a whole was at fault. A number of people in that administration did not serve the President, or the nation, well on this issue.

The problem lay in the fact that Rumsfeld and Defense had a very different vision of U.S. government policy for Post-Saddam Iraq than did Colin Powell and the Department of State. Rumsfeld wanted to transition immediately to an Interim Iraqi Authority (IIA). The IIA "was intended to bring Iraqis from all parts of the country, plus externals, and all political factions into a temporary national governing coalition." The State Department had a different vision. "Instead of putting an Iraqi face on postwar Iraq as soon as possible, the State Department proposed an American led civil authority for an indefinite period."

Incredibly, the government entered the war without any agreement at the highest levels of how the post-Saddam Iraq would unfold. No wonder there was no plan. How could this happen?

Admittedly, I haven't read the whole book, but just the parts about the post conflict planning. Fortunately, Rumsfeld doesn't get into petty name calling and wild speculation as to the motives of his counterparts in the State Department, notably Richard Armitage. Its obvious Armitage and Rumsfeld have major policy differences and probably don't even like each other. That's fine. Stuff like that happens in Washington. Despite 726 pages, Rumsfeld leaves a lot unsaid.

But how did this argument go on for almost a year without resolution, to the detriment of the outcome of the entire enterprise? Both guys are smart men, and each course of action had its own merits. Either plan would have been better than no plan. What we got was no plan.

What we got was Ambassador Bremer sent to Iraq to implement what Rumsfeld thought was the IIA, but instead was what State wanted to do all along: the Coalition Provisional Authority. Only, State didn't have the resources to adequately staff the CPA, much less execute their plan as they envisioned it.

Rumsfeld had plenty of resources in Iraq. He had me and several thousand other woefully underutilized civil affairs soldiers mobilized and deployed to Iraq. We received our alert for this mission in May of 2002. May 2002! If the plan was Bremer and the CPA, we could have been preparing for that for nine months. We could have resourced the occupation. But it didn't happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment