August 12, 2003

Bush-League Implementation

Last February Daniel Davies asked if there was any reason to think that the Bush adventure in Iraq would not be a SNAFU:

D-squared Digest -- A fat young man without a good word for anyone: Can anyone... give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:

  1. It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
  2. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
  3. It wasn't in some important way completely f***** up during the execution.

Now comes Daniel Drezner to say that the Bush Administration has created and is unlikely to be able to fix the SNAFU that is the reconstruction of Iraq:

Daniel W. Drezner :: Why this administration is losing me on Iraq: The day after the fall of Baghdad, I posted: "For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving." Ten days later, I posted the following dilemma for the administration: "Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road." What's becoming increasingly clear to me is that because the administration has yet to solve this particular dilemma -- and that this will have disastrous implications for Iraq.

Posted by DeLong at August 12, 2003 03:47 PM | TrackBack


Like father, like son? Daddy Bush lacked the "vision thing." There was an overwhelming sense (to me) during the run-up to the war that Bush and his advisors took everything, simply everything, for granted. Bush had to beef up the invasionary force from what Rumsfeld wanted. His (not the Army's) planners neglected supply lines. He and his advisors expected a open welcome, a quick reestablishment of services, a relative lack of resistance after Iraq's main army had been defeated. Maybe that was all offered for public consumption. Maybe Bush's advisors knew better, but if they did, it was a public relations mistake not to tell us so at the outset. "Incurious" is the new version of "lack of vision."

Posted by: K Harris on August 13, 2003 06:30 AM

I fear there is no solution to this particular dilemma and that the 'disastrous implications' will go far beyond Iraq. We will continue to pay for this madness in lives and money for decades.
-Fair and Balanced Dick

Posted by: Dick Durata on August 13, 2003 09:20 AM

"Like father, like son? Daddy Bush lacked the "vision thing.""

Well, Bush Sr. at least had the wits to not go into Baghdad, resulting in a war which didn't involve occupation and nation-building.

For that matter, so did Cheney back then.

Posted by: Jon H on August 13, 2003 09:58 AM

Jon H,

Yes, there was that little bit of oedipal queasiness over Bush Junior "finishing the job" that Bush Senior didn't, out-machoing the old man. That isn't working out so well.

The old man's airplane was shot down, the boy's plane never made it to the war, which always made me wonder whether the one pulling back didn't have slightly better background for making judgements about war than the one going forward.

Posted by: K Harris on August 13, 2003 10:32 AM

Careful protection of infrastructure from bombing went for naught because of post war looting. The plan going in was to inherit Saddam's peace keeping forces including supposed mass defections of Iraqi troops. This was the "decapitation" or external coup. Unfortunately the only credible plan B is a couple hundred thousand US troops which is why the big dustup between Rummy and Shinseki over the number of troops needed to secure Iraq after the war. Shinseki never thought Rummy's plan A was viable and the military always plans for the worst case scenario.

The US is going ahead with training its own Iraqi peacekeeping force but that is a slow process. We still do not have a handle on the logistics required for Iraq as judged by letters home from our troops. Rumors are that the civilians in the Pentagon planned the whole operation and ignored logistic advice from the Brass, nation building advice from Foggy Bottom and Intelligence advice from CIA. The military has contracted private companies and some of these have had to pull out because of skyrocketing insurance costs. US personnel in Iraq don't go anywhere without a military escort. Rebuilding the infrastructure under these conditions is next to impossible.

The process is messy but still can be pulled out. It will take longer and cost more than originally planned. As long as Iraqis can be engaged in the rebuilding and not in a partisan war, the situation will improve. It is probably good that it is turning out to be more costly than anticipated. It makes the US less likely to make the same mistake in the future.

Posted by: bakho on August 13, 2003 11:54 AM


American soldiers 127
British soldiers 11
138 Since May 2

American 266
British 44
310 Since March 20

Note: American forces have risen to 148,000
British forces have been cut from 10,000 to 5,000

Posted by: lise on August 13, 2003 12:25 PM

Unfortunately, I think that George W. Bush has far too much vision. Let's hope and pray that, contrary to the rumors, the book of Revelation is not a constitutive part of that vision. (Coming from me that sounds like a cheap, partisan shot, but can anyone really be sure about that? He has many dealings with Armageddonists and speaks their language).

(NOTE: Most Christians do not use Revelation to predict the future. I'm talking about a specific, religiously-insane subgroup, which is frighteningly large and is a key component of the Bush-Rove core constituency).

In the runup to the war, I opposed the war in part simply because Bush was leading it. Again, this was thought to be the result of my blind, unreasoning hatred of Bush, who perhaps had stolen my lunch money in sixth grade, but my feeling is that if there's someone you don't trust with small and medium-sized jobs, you absolutely can't trust him with big ones. (Of course, one line of argument then was that the liberation of Iraq would be a cakewalk, which sounds like a pretty good warning sign of impending disaster right there.)

By and large I feel pretty good about my policy of refusing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt that you normally give to competent men of good will. I think that by now more people should realize that it's a mistake not to at least consider the worst plausible interpretation of everything he ever does.

So I'm still not a nice person, but I think that I've been right more often than I've been given credit for.

Posted by: zizka on August 13, 2003 12:39 PM
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