July 22, 2003

THE MILITARY IS JUST LIKE ANY OTHER BUREAUCRACY

WASHINGTON'S BATTLE PLAN: Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace: U.S. is paying the price for missteps made on Iraq. (Mark Fineman, Robin Wright and Doyle McManus, July 18, 2003, LA Times)
The tale of what went wrong is one of agency infighting, ignored warnings and faulty assumptions.

An ambitious, yearlong State Department planning effort predicted many of the postwar troubles and advised how to resolve them. But the man who oversaw that effort was kept out of Iraq by the Pentagon, and most of his plans were shelved. Meanwhile, Douglas J. Feith, the No. 3 official at the Pentagon, also began postwar planning, in September. But he didn't seek out an overseer to run the country until January.

The man he picked, Garner, had run the U.S. operation to protect ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Based on that experience, Garner acknowledged, he badly underestimated the looting and lawlessness that would follow once Saddam Hussein's army was defeated. By the time he got to Baghdad, Garner said, 17 of 21 Iraqi ministries had "evaporated."

"Being a Monday morning quarterback," Garner says now, the underestimation was a mistake. "But if I had known that then, what would I have done about it?"

The postwar planning by the State and Defense departments, along with that of other agencies, was done in what bureaucrats call "vertical stovepipes." Each agency worked independently for months, with little coordination.

Even within the Pentagon there were barriers: The Joint Chiefs of Staff on the second floor worked closely with the State Department planners, while Feith's Special Plans Office on the third floor went
its own way, working with a team from the Central Command under Army Gen. Tommy Franks.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's civilian aides decided that they didn't need or want much help, officials in both departments say.

Central Command officials confirmed that their postwar planning group - dubbed Task Force Four, for the fourth phase of the war plan - took a back seat to the combat planners. What postwar planning did occur at the Central Command and the Pentagon was on disasters that never occurred: oil fires, masses of refugees, chemical and biological warfare, lethal epidemics, starvation.

The Pentagon planners also made two key assumptions that proved faulty. One was that American and British authorities would inherit a fully functioning modern state, with government ministries, police
forces and public utilities in working order - a "plug and play" occupation. The second was that the resistance would end quickly.

Some top Pentagon officials acknowledged that they have been surprised at how difficult it has been to establish order.

"The so-called forces of law and order [in Baghdad] just kind of collapsed," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said in an interview. "There's not a single plan that would have dealt with that.... This is a country that was ruled by a gang of terrorist criminals, and they're still around. They're threatening Iraqis and killing Americans."

The military's sprint to Baghdad initially vindicated Rumsfeld's prime directive to transform the U.S. armed forces into a lighter, more mobile force. It shortened the war, probably prevented many of the
disasters the Pentagon had been planning for and saved lives during the takeover of Iraq. One senior Central Command official said the still-classified battle plan called for as many as 125 days of
combat. Baghdad fell in just 20.

But the quick victory also created what Franks called "catastrophic success." It left large areas of the country and millions of Iraqis under no more than nominal allied control, with a force considerably
smaller than some experts inside and outside the military had warned would be needed to stabilize and occupy the country.

"I would not for a minute in hindsight go back and say, 'Gee, we should have gone slower so we could have had more forces built up behind us to control areas that we went past,' " Wolfowitz said.

One result, he acknowledged, is "it leaves you with some holes you fill in behind."

But could those unfilled holes have been foreseen? Many outside the Pentagon say yes.

Long, fascinating piece on how bureaucracy and too rapid success have contributed to a difficult, though very early, postwar situation. Posted by Orrin Judd at July 22, 2003 7:00 PM
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