2003 May 19 Monday
Bush Administration Tries Harder To Restore Order In Iraq

Lawlessness and crime in Baghdad had to get pretty bad for quite a few weeks before the Bush Administration finally acknowledged the need for greater resources.

Only in the past week did administration officials begin to acknowledge publicly these miscalculations. They described continued lawlessness as a serious problem in Baghdad and called for more U.S. forces on the ground to quell a wave of violence that has kept American officials from assuring the Iraqi people that order would soon be restored.

The Pentagon did not put enough effort into planning for how to establish basic order.

From the outset, the Bush Administration was overly optimistic and in many ways unprepared for the myriad, messy challenges of rebuilding Iraq. The Pentagon had expected the postwar transition in Iraq to be orderly and quick, without requiring a major, long-term commitment of U.S. forces and other resources. Washington, it now seems, spent too much time thinking about how to reform institutions and not enough time on how to provide people with basic security or infrastructure such as electrical grids, oil-refining equipment, hospitals and museums.

Even as more US troops are sent to Iraq the Bush Administration has yet to accept the size of the task they've taken on. Donald Rumsfeld does not want to see Iraq as a problem that takes a large number of troops to handle because he wants to build a smaller but higher tech force for war-fighting. The problem is that while the high tech weapons are great force multipliers on battlefields they do not do very much to amplify the peacekeeping abilities of soldiers. It seems like Rumsfeld so concerned with winning budget battles over new weapons programs that he's ignoring requirements for doing the occupation of Iraq.

Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor writes about US Army Rangers patrolling in Baghdad.

"We tell them to get on the ground, and sometimes they argue," explains Gleason. "We increase force with butt strokes to the head, and they seize up. We show them who's boss and once they realize, they cooperate unconditionally."

Most law-abiding Iraqi citizens appear to welcome such rough treatment for the hoodlums and thieves who have been spreading chaos through the capital.

More professional police talent is being brought in.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who gained wide respect for his response to the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack, will lead a team of policing experts in an attack on rampant street crime in Iraq's capital.

The US could have built up a lot more goodwill among the Iraqi population had the Bush Administration been more realistic about the nature of Iraqi society and the need for basic policing to maintain order. I suspect they are still very unrealistic about how easily Iraq can be transformed into a successful democracy (i.e. non-corrupt and classically liberal with fress press and respect for individual rights).

Far fewer people are watching what is going on post-war than followed the progress of the battles as the war was underway. Yet it is the outcome of the post-war attempt to transform Iraqi society and government that is most in doubt. There was never any question of whether the US military could easily defeat the military of Saddam Hussein's regime. By contrast, what is very much in doubt is the question of whether the US can transform Iraq in a way that will ensure that Iraq will not be a problem for the United States in the future. So far the United States has made big mistakes in pursuing that goal.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 19 02:26 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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