Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rumsfeld's War

I've been reading more of "Cobra II," covering the time leading up to the invasion of Iraq. The theme from the beginning of the book has been clear and consistent, and the cast is surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) small. The major player is, of course, Donald Rumsfeld, who has had a personal hand in much of the invasion planning to date (we're in late 2002 now), to a degree probably unprecedented by any civilian save possibly Robert McNamara. The other main player to date is General Tommy Franks, the CENTCOM commander responsible for the invasion.

Franks comes off as being somewhat cocky and unimaginative in the book. While CENTCOM is the logical command to oversee the invasion, as it is the theatre command, none of the command staff have any experience in occupying and reconstructing a nation and from bottom to top there is a clear lack of appreciation of the tasks involved. The expertise for this does exist in the military, in the European command responsible for peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans, but there is no interest from either the administration or CENTCOM in tapping this knowledge. The Joint Chiefs do try to make several recommendations about force levels, as well as suggestions based on experience from the Balkan conflict, but Rumfeld sidelines the JCS as irrelevant and deals directly with CENTCOM.

The post-war occupation and administration of Iraq is referred to throughout the military as "Phase IV," but almost no effort is put in to it. Word comes down from the administration that Phase IV will be handled by other parts of the government, so Franks assumed it was someone else's problem. The clear warning signal, to those familiar with the dynamics of large organizations, was that no individual was actually tapped to lead the effort. Throughout this entire period, as well, Franks is engaged in a constant struggle with Rumsfeld to get commitment to use the forces the military wants for the invasion. Rumsfeld wants to use as few troops as possible, and constantly questions deployment orders and schedules in an effort to pare down the size of the invasion force.

Phase IV plans are further muddied and hampered by Rumsfeld's ongoing power grab to consolidate as much under the Department of Defense as possible. It is around this time (again, late 2002) that post-war administration will be handled by the DoD instead of the State Department, which traditionally takes on these duties.

The final element confusing all of this is a terrifying lack of intelligence about the situation and events occurring inside of Iraq. The CIA has almost no human assets inside Iraq, let alone ones at the policymaker level, and makes all its assessments based off of inferrence, satellite imagery, and some intercepted communications. This leads to intelligence analysis somewhere in the realm of a wild-ass guess. And, unfortunately, they're completely off base.

The funny part (that's funny boo-hoo, not funny ha-ha) about this is that everyone is convinced that President Bush knows something they don't, and that's the basis for the invasion. And I mean everyone.
'Abd-al-Tawab 'Abdallah al-Mullah Huwaysh, who oversaw Iraq's military industry, had no idea what America was talking about; he was not aware of Iraq's possessing any WMD and he was in a position to know a great deal. But the charges leveled by Washington had been so unqualified and persisten that he started to wonder whether Saddam might not control a secret cache after all. "I knew a lot, but wondered why Bush believed that we had these weapons," he told his interrogators after the war.
The assumption that Iraq possessed WMD was so fundamental that it was never seriously questioned. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that a great amount of planning on the military side was devoted to how to contain and react to the threat of Saddam's non-existent WMD, while little attention was paid to the large caches of small arms created throughout the country to support the activities of the Fedayeen (government-backed militia), or to Phase IV planning.

No comments: