2003 May 24 Saturday
Wolfowitz Explanation Of Iraq Conditions Undermines His Argument

The testimony of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee defending US handing of post-war Iraq has some obvious contradictions in it.

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2003 Pundits criticizing the coalition Iraq reconstruction effort are demonstrating "an incomplete understanding" of pre-conflict in-country conditions and "an unreasonable expectation" of the progress level, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said to the Senate May 22.

We were all impressed by the military's ability to move large armored columns with a huge logistical train to bring up large quantities of military supplies to support a fighting force that went thru many hundreds or thousands of pounds of supplies per soldier per day. But once the fighting stopped the amount of supplies needed per soldier plummeted. So then why couldn't that logistical train have supplied a much larger occupation force that could have done more patrols and held more facilities to provide better security more quickly?

"Much of what I read on this subject suggests what I believe is a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the security problem in Iraq and, consequently, a failure to appreciate that a regime which had tens of thousands of thugs and war criminals on its payroll does not vanish overnight," Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If Wolfowitz could foresee that the security problem was going to be so large then why didn't he push for the prepositioning of a much larger occupation force in the Gulf ready to move in as soon as the ground fighting stopped?

He said that Saddam Hussein's regime terrorized the people of Iraq for more than two decades, and "the people who created the mass graves that are now being uncovered in Iraq still represent a threat to stability that was not eliminated automatically when the statues came tumbling down in Baghdad."

The deputy stated that those saying the coalition is ignoring the lessons of the Balkans in Iraq do not realize the fundamental difference between the two experiences. He said they are ignoring the difference between normal peacekeeping operations and the combination of peacekeeping and low-level combat coalition forces find themselves in.

If Wolfowitz does appreciate the difference and he knew there was going to continue to be low-level combat continuing after the major combat was finished then why didn't he argue that more resources should have been on hand to deal with it?

"To give you some statistics, in the last two weeks there have been 50 hostile incidents, 37 of them initiated against our troops," Wolfowitz said to the senators. "We have had 17 wounded in action and one killed. That is since the end of major combat activity."

President Bush declared major combat operations over in April, yet American soldiers continue to be shot at almost daily.

Wolfowitz said the coalition has made substantial progress in Iraq, yet much more remains to be done. The low-level combat complicates the situation for coalition forces because it constrains their freedom of movement.

"We face in Iraq a situation where a substantially defeated enemy is still working hard to kill Americans and to kill Iraqis who are trying to build a new and free Iraq," the deputy said, "because they want to prevent Iraqi society from stabilizing and recovering."

"Bizarre as it may sound, it would appear that their goal is to create nostalgia for Saddam Hussein. We cannot allow them to succeed."

Allowing Baghdad to effectively go unpoliced for many weeks was certainly not helping the populace feel happy that Saddam was gone.

He said Americans must realize the situation in Iraq is completely different from Haiti or Bosnia or Kosovo, where opposition ceased very soon after peacekeeping forces arrived. "We do not have the choice in Iraq of avoiding confrontation with these repressive elements of the old regime," he said. "We have to eliminate them, and we will do so, but it will take time."

The deputy said it is unrealistic to judge the plan for a post-war Iraq against perfection. "There is no plan that could have achieved all the extraordinary speed of this one and, at the same time, been able to flood the country with military policemen," he said.

Why not? Was it physically impossible to have the military policemen in Kuwait ready to enter Iraq within a week or two of the end of the war? If so, why? Insufficient port facilities to bring them into Kuwait? Insufficient logistics capacity to supply them in Iraq? I do not buy any explanation that is based on logistics constraints. One could argue that the MPs would have been in too much danger in the Iraqi cities in April. But then doesn't that argue that more regular troops were needed?

But let us come back to the bit about his argument that Saddam's thugs are the main reason for the lawlessness.

Assertions that the administration was failing in Iraq "reflect both an incomplete understanding of the situation as it existed in Iraq before the war and an unreasonable expectation of where we should be now," he said.

Critics of the administration don't "appreciate that a regime which had tens of thousands of thugs and war criminals on its payroll does not disappear overnight.

Even the explanation that the post-war chaos is being caused by Baathists and other supporters of the old regime does not hold water. The commander of the 3rd ID in Baghdad says 90% of the security problem in Baghdad is not coming from old regime holdovers.

The administration's effort to acknowledge the ongoing violence, but blame it on Hussein holdouts, has sometimes appeared at odds with military assessments. Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, who commands the 20,000 troops of the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, said last week that "about 90 percent" of the security problem "is common criminals -- the looters, the car thefts, attempted bank robberies, et cetera -- and only about 10 percent . . . is a holdover from the previous regime."

Even assuming that thousands of military police could not have advanced up thru Iraq along with the armored columns why couldn't the military police have been pre-positioned in Kuwait in large numbers ready to enter Iraq as soon as Baghdad was captured?

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said it would have been impossible to bring in thousands of military police with such a rapid-strike force and still achieve the relatively quick three-week victory.

Again, why?

The Bush Administration does not want to admit they made a mistake. Worse yet, they are still not willing to intervene on a scale large enough to fix the problem that their mistake allowed to happen. Worst of all, they either do not want to admit the size of the problem facing them in their attempt to transform Iraq or they are truly naive and underestimate the size of that problem. Iraq can not be transitioned into being a democracy quickly. Iraq needs a great deal of policing to eliminate the lawlessness. Family structure in Iraq is an obstacle to the development of an effective nation-state. Also, illiberal political Islam is a very real problem as well.

Wolfowitz is spinning for the Administration. I wouldn't mind the spinning if it was clear that they understood the depth of the problem that they face in trying to transform Iraq. However, it is still not clear that they do.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 24 01:06 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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