2005 June 12 Sunday
More British Memos Show No Bush Iraq Post War Planning

More British government documents on the pre-Iraq invasion period are leaking out.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.


In a section titled "Benefits/Risks," the July 21 memo states, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks."

Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."

US military plans assumed only a very small occupation force would be necessary and the Iraqi people, so happy to be "liberated", would be dancing with joy every time they saw American soldiers.

Some British Foreign Office officials saw Iraq as more likely to develop WMD if Saddam was overthrown.

Foreign office officials reportedly told the UK Prime Minister that there was a risk of the Iraqi system "reverting to type" after a war, with a future government acquiring the very weapons of mass destruction that an attack would be designed to remove.


A Cabinet Office document reveals:

"Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years. Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives. For Iraq, 'regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam."

One thing that strikes me from these documents is the higher quality of the British national security bureaucracy and top civil service. They saw Iraq very clearly. The massive budgets of the CIA, NSA, and other US intelligence agencies ultimately did not buy us good policy.

This latest report follows on the heels of the May 1, 2005 release of the July, 23, 2002 so-called "Downing Street Memo" which shows the top level in the British government saw no WMD justification for an Iraq invasion and no US planning for the post-war aftermath.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Let us travel back to pre-war February 2003 when then deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz asserted the war wouldn't cost more than $100 billion and would not require an occupation force of more than 100,000.

Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward.

"We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground," Mr. Wolfowitz said at a hearing of the House Budget Committee. "Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion." Mr. Wolfowitz's refusal to be pinned down on the costs of war and peace in Iraq infuriated some committee Democrats, who noted that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the budget director, had briefed President Bush on just such estimates on Tuesday.

US forces in Iraq are well north of 100,000. The US Army is not big enough to supply the number of troops needed. So Shinseki's estimated need has not been met. A combination of opposition to a draft and opposition to withdrawal (particularly on the part of people who do not want to admit the war is a mistake) leaves us stuck in a pointless war that will last for years to come.

Here is a transcript from April 1, 2003 where Wolfowitz claimed the United States wouldn't have to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq.

But when it comes to rebuilding Iraq the important thing to remember is this is not a bill that needs to be paid by the United States. There are a lot of sources of help, and most importantly -- unlike Afghanistan, unlike Somalia, unlike Bosnia and Kosovo and most of the other cases that you can mention -- Iraq has enormous resources of its own. It has natural resources wealth and it has incredible human resources wealth. And ultimately it's a country that will, I think, fund its own reconstruction.

On December 30, 2002 Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., then director of the US government's Office of Management and Budget claimed that the Iraq war would only cost $50 to $60 billion. (same article here)

The administration's top budget official estimated today that the cost of a war with Iraq could be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion, a figure that is well below earlier estimates from White House officials.


Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush's former chief economic adviser, were too high.

When the Bush Administration makes claims about future costs and future progress in the war in Iraq keep in mind their ridiculous claims of the past.

Genera Tommy Franks expected no insurgency and a rapid draw down of troops.

Gen. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander's first visit to the city.

Much of the Sunni Triangle was only sparsely patrolled, and Baghdad was still reeling from a spasm of looting. Apache attack helicopters prowled the skies as General Franks headed to the Abu Ghraib North Palace, a retreat for Saddam Hussein that now served as the military's headquarters.

Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

Donald Rumsfeld also expected no insurgency and a rapid withdrawal of US forces.

Thomas E. White, then the secretary of the Army, said he had received similar guidance from Mr. Rumsfeld's office. "Our working budgetary assumption was that 90 days after completion of the operation, we would withdraw the first 50,000 and then every 30 days we'd take out another 50,000 until everybody was back," he recalled. "The view was that whatever was left in Iraq would be de minimis."

The delusions here are staggering. They were going to destroy the Iraqi government and military. How did they expect even basic police protection to be delivered? Would a new police force of the Iraqi people magically form in a massive volunteer effort? What were they thinking?

While General Eric Shinseki saw Kosovo and Bosnia as models for how many troops were needed for an occupation Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saw a large occupation force as a sort of welfare state that fosters dependency.

Neither the Defense Department nor the White House, however, saw the Balkans as a model to be emulated. In a Feb. 14, 2003, speech titled "Beyond Nation Building," which Mr. Rumsfeld delivered in New York, he said the large number of foreign peacekeepers in Kosovo had led to a "culture of dependence" that discouraged local inhabitants from taking responsibility for themselves.

Of course, this sort of ideological nonsense could be taken on its own terms: If we "liberate" some people aren't we encouraging "a culture of dependence"? If people are being ruled by a dictator then shouldn't they find it within themselves to rise up and overthrow him as a way to learn that they really do value freedom? If we allow them to escape from tyranny without doing the work themselves we foster a culture of dependency on foreign liberators. So best we not liberate anyone. Following this logic the fact that we invaded in the first place then becomes the reason why the Iraqis won't defeat the insurgents in Iraq. Or we can twist it around and say that the insurgents learned they had to become liberators when they came to be ruled by foreign conquerors. So our invasion spurred the freedom loving people of Iraq to a realization that they loved freedom and therefore they had to take up arms against US forces.

Of course such arguments are as nonsensical as Rumsfeld's argument. Lots of people don't love freedom. They love ruling and they love power and they have greater loyalty to their religion and their tribe than they do the concept of freedom.

Also see "Iraq Aluminum Tubes Intelligence Analysts Rewarded". For more on why the Bush Administration's expectations for the size of the occupation force were unrealistic see "7 Retired US Generals And Admirals Speak On Iraq".

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip on the first link.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 12 11:41 AM  Mideast Iraq

Stephen said at June 12, 2005 7:58 PM:

As they say, "He may be a dictator, but at least he's our dictator".

PS: Brilliant article Randall.

PacRim Jim said at June 13, 2005 1:35 AM:

Funny thing, America never has entered a war with post-war plans in hand. Has anyone? Sometimes the world seems to abound with idiots.

Braddock said at June 13, 2005 4:35 AM:

No battle plan has ever survived contact with the enemy. History is a long string of miscalculations. Humans in general are very poor at predicting the future.

There is an interesting concept of writing down several predictions beforehand. Then after the fact, you pull out the predictions that come closest to what happened and declare: "See!!! I knew it all along!"

Braddock said at June 13, 2005 4:50 AM:

Here's a link to a Winds of Change posting by Chrenkoff, one of a long series. The intelligent person has an open mind to a wide range of possibilities.

gcochran said at June 13, 2005 8:05 AM:

I wrote down mine (concerning Iraq) and every damn one of them came true. The Administration assumed that there would be zero resistance after we invaded and occupied: they were idiots.
Call them - irresponsible.

daveg said at June 13, 2005 1:43 PM:

Call them dual loyalists, with even the dual being questionable.

Kurt said at June 13, 2005 3:52 PM:

Gregory Cochran and Jerry Pournelle made extensive predictions about how Iraq would turn out which made considerable sense at the time (prior to the war). Jerry even pointed out the extensive planning that began around 1943 for the reconstruction following WW2. Everything these peopel said made complete sense given the knowledge that I have about Arabs and Arab culture and I saw no basis which I could argue with them.

The negligence that the Bush administration has desplayed with regards to post war planning as well as the shameless methods that were used to get us in the war in the first place is simply criminal.

Pro-Iraq war people often cite Germany and Japan as sucessful case examples of reconstruction of countries with no prior history of democracy and liberalism into modern democratic liberal societies. What these people fail to point out is that we have have tried the same kind of reconstruction on a large number of Latin American (think Cuba, Nicaragua, etc.) as well as the Philippines. The number of successful cases here is zero.

The Bush strategy may work, although at considerable cost. Since we are now in for a penny, in for a pound; I certainly hope that Bush is successful in Iraq.

Kurt said at June 13, 2005 3:54 PM:

A point: The "war on terror" has now lasted longer than our participation in WW2. Perhaps the war on terror will be as long as our participation in the Vietnam War (1964-1973).

Randall Parker said at June 13, 2005 4:03 PM:

In support of Kurt's point about the failure of US interventions see my post "History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy".

Marvin said at June 13, 2005 4:21 PM:

The biggest problem I see with the Iraq intervention in particular, is the generally low IQ of middle eastern people. Supposedly, it requires an average societal IQ of at least ninety or so to manage a complex modern nation. Arab countries generally have average IQs under that number. You would expect a liberation/nation building exercise in an african nation to be even less likely to succeed, for that reason, given that average IQs in african nations, according to Lynn, are under eighty.

According to that theory, primitivism in the third world is not due to colonial after effects, but is instead inherent in the makeup of the population.

Friendlyfire said at June 18, 2005 5:03 AM:

A excellent read.
You should also look at the "future of Iraq project" started under Clinton in 98. in which the merticlous and detailed planning for a post-war Iraq was simply discareded since it failed to fit the reality the Bush administration had dreamed up.

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