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    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    Planning for a Self-Inflicted Wound: US Policy to Reshape a Post-Saddam Iraq

    Planning for a Self-Inflicted Wound: US Policy to Reshape a Post-Saddam Iraq

    3rd Draft - 31st December 2002 - Professor Anthony H. Cordesman

    The hardest part of war is often the peace, and this is particularly likely to be the case if the US goes to war with Iraq. It is not that the US is not planning for such contingencies; it is the quality of such planning that is at issue. Unless it sharply improves, it may well become a self-inflicted wound based on a series of “syndromes” that grow out of ignorance, indifference to Iraq’s real needs, and ethnocentricity.

    The US does not have to suffer from “Iraq War Peace Syndrome.” Some good studies and planning efforts are emerging, but they are the exception and not the norm, in an uncoordinated and faltering effort. Far too often, we are rushing our planning efforts without making adequate efforts to make up for our lack of knowledge. As a result, planners both outside and inside the US government may end up doing more harm than good, and in laying the groundwork for serious post-war friction and problems. ...

    One of the most important things we need to do is to admit our level of ignorance and uncertainty. Far too many "experts" who are now working on post war planning have (a) never been in Iraq to the point of having practical knowledge of the country, and (b) have concentrated on the threat so long that they have little intelligence data on the workings of its government, civil society, and economy.

    We may or may not be perceived as liberators. We are dealing with a very sophisticated and long-established tyranny, and we really don't know how an intensely nationalistic people with deep internal divisions will react, and how the impact of the fighting will affect the people. We don't know how long any support will last by a given group or faction the moment we become involved in trade-offs between them. We may well face a much more hostile population than in Afghanistan. We badly need to consider the Lebanon model: Hero to enemy in less than a year. We also need to consider the Bosnia/Kosovo model where internal divisions leave no options other than stay and police or leave and watch civil conflict emerge. ...

    Couple this to an unpredictable but inevitable level of collateral damage and civilian casualties, to what the word "occupation" means in the Arab world because of Israel, to the historical memory of the British mandate and US ties to the Shah, to Shi'ite tensions over US relations with Iran and the Axis of Evil, and to factional tensions in Iraq, and we are almost certain to face serious problems with at least some major blocs of Iraqis. No study or plan that does not deal at length with these risks, or prepare for them on a contingency basis, can do more good than harm. We should focus on giving Iraqis what they want, and not on giving Iraqis what we feel they need. Our actions should be based on partnership and a high degree of humility, not on occupation and arrogance. ...

    We must realize that one day after our forces enter any area, the world will hold us to blame for every bit of Iraqi suffering that follows, as well as for much of Saddam's legacy of economic mistakes and neglect. The first minute of the war is the beginning of the peace, and any plan that does not explicitly recognize this is dangerous. ...

    The Revolutionary Guards, the secret police, and other Saddam loyalists are contemptible, but the idea we disband the entire army and security forces and start over with training and ground up new groups is impractical and dangerous. Many elements of the regular army are nationalist, not pro-Saddam. We don’t want 400,000 nationalists in the streets and hostile. We don’t want to leave a weak army in service and an angry army in the streets. Germany after World War I showed the impact that can have. By all means clean the army up, clean up the officer corps, provide political training, etc., but leave the professional and competent elements in tact. Leave Iraq with some dignity and co-opt the army rather than destroy it. Leaving the police in place, after the same purging, is even more important. The first priorities are food and security and then jobs and security. Trying to bring in inexperienced mixes of outsiders, training a new police force from the ground up, and recreate a police/legal system interface from the ground up is almost mission impossible in terms of manpower, cost, and timeliness. Cleaning up the existing force is not. ...

    Every past peacemaking effort has shown that an explicit exit strategy is vital. The key in this case is an entry strategy that makes a real peace possible, setting modest and achievable objectives, treating the Iraqis as partners, and leaving when they either want us to leave or are ready to have us leave. It is to avoid any chance of civil war, clearly act in Iraq’s benefit, and plan to leave early rather than late. ...

    Getting rid of Saddam and Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction is an important set of goals if the war goes well.

    No war, however, can do more than provide a basis for making Iraq somewhat better and then giving the Iraqis control over their own destiny. No outcome of the war can reshape the Gulf or the Middle East.

    The idea of instant democratization coming out of the war and spreading throughout the region denies the laws of cause and effect and is ridiculous. So is the idea we know enough about national building to create an Iraqi United States.

    The best we can do is minimize our mistakes and the effect of the law of unintended consequences. To do this requires both realism and commitment. If we rely on miracles and good intentions, or act as occupiers rather than partners, we are almost certain to be far more unhappy on the tenth anniversary of the next war as we were on the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War.

    Planning for a Self-Inflicted Wound - US policy to shape a post-Saddam Iraq (PDF Format 11 pages)

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