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Military Incompetence
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, April 17, 2006

McQ's post on the New York Times story on pre-war planning by Michael DeLong, combined with the discussion we had during this week's QandO podcast has solidified my thinking a bit on the whole issue of post-war planning.

During the Podcast, we discussed DeLong's admission that our Phase IV planning simply didn't anticipate some of the major problems that developed in Iraq. We didn't have a "go to hell plan". (i.e., a plan for if things go to hell) DeLong wrote...
The outcome and ramifications of a war, however, are impossible to predict. Saddam Hussein had twice opened his jails, flooding the streets with criminals. The Iraqi police walked out of their uniforms in the face of the invasion, compounding domestic chaos. We did not expect these developments.
I can certainly understand why the Pentagon Wargamers didn't anticipate some specific incidents such as Saddam "flooding the streets with criminals", but I have a great deal of trouble understanding how people can seriously claim that we couldn't have expected the Iraqi Army, police force and civil infrastructure to just completely fall apart. Let me be a bit more clear: the complete dissolution of the Iraqi army, police and civil infrastructure is precisely what we should have expected to cope with during Phase IV, because that's exactly what we set out to ensure.

DeLong admits that the Pentagon "banned the entire Baath Party" and "dissolved the entire Iraqi Army". And yet we were surprised that the Iraqi Army and civil infrastructure (which consisted of Baath Party members) melted away? Well, what did we expect would happen when we invaded a country that conscripted people into the military, that underpaid them and kept them in uniform by fear? And before overrunning that military, we conducted a campaign to get Iraqi officers to defect or otherwise walk away from the fight.

And now people want to argue that nobody could have predicted the Iraqi Army would just dissolve? Nonsense. That was our goal.

Further, as DeLong notes, we explicitly barred Ba’athists from public service almost immediately after the war. But the entire civil infrastructure of Iraq was based on Ba’athist patronage. They were the civil infrastructure of Iraq. We fired all of them. We voluntarily disbarred the entire bureaucratic population of Iraq.

And now people act shocked that the Iraqi infrastructure ceased to operate? Bull. That was the necessary result of our plan.

How could it be otherwise? If the US was invaded, and the management of every Federal and State agency was purged, would operations continue normally? Did we expect Iraqi police to patrol their streets alongside the Saddam Fedayeen and and an occupation army?

Forget a Go To Hell Plan. It doesn't even appear that we had an "everything goes according to plan" plan. History will treat the war planners very badly, indeed.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni said "Rumsfeld should be held accountable for a series of blunders, starting with “throwing away 10 years’ worth of planning, plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq.”


 
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
“throwing away 10 years’ worth of planning, plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq.”
How convenient for Gen Zinni. I’m sure GEN Tommy Franks was complicit, wasn’t he? Same with LTG Newbold who was the plans guy and has never made that claim.
History will treat the war planners very badly, indeed.
I agree. It was a pretty pathetic performance.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
“throwing away 10 years’ worth of planning, plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq.”
I’d be very curious to know what plans we had, what we discarded, who made those decisions and why. I’m certain we had plans that dealt with post-war problems, because Bush 41 discussed how difficult regime change would be. Obviously, they’d thought it through that far. What happened to that institutional knowledge?
I agree. It was a pretty pathetic performance.
Only the post-war planning, though. The actual regime change part of the war was, by all accounts, excellently planned and executed.

I’ve heard various people say that Tommy Franks was very interested in the thrust to Baghdad, but very disinterested in post-war planning. And he retired not long after the war. I don’t know, but I’d guess there’s an interesting story there.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I’ve heard various people say that Tommy Franks was very interested in the thrust to Baghdad, but very disinterested in post-war planning. And he retired not long after the war. I don’t know, but I’d guess there’s an interesting story there.

Or Not, he may have just decided that this was the war he was willing to fight as opposed to the war you have to fight as CoS Army, the only step "Up" for him from CinC Cent. To have replaced Shinseki was to be in D.C. and fighting the Air Force, The Navy, and Rumsfeld for a share of the budget. It’s an important fight, but it’s not one he may have relished.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
1) The Iraqi had to go....
2) The Ba’ath Party had to go
3) The 300,000-400,000 troops people think were necessry may nto have been militarily sustainable thru Kuwayt AND to produce them would have self-deterred the United States.

It is quite possible that what happened in Iraq was INEVITABLE, even if unforeseen. It is very unlikely that OIF was ever going to contain enough troops to "succeed" in the manner Henke and others posit. As to the rest the oppressive aparat of the ancien regime had to be dismantled. Only McQ can really comment on the ability to sustain the force projected thru Kuwayt.

OIF was NOT Desert storm which used the entire port and airfiled infrastructure of Saudi Arabia.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I wish we, as a country, could have an open/honest discussion about the war planning - review what we did right and wrong. I don’t think we can do it just yet because the anti-war crowd and the media tend to exploit such information in order to fulfill their own agendas - and thus removing most of the honest debate element from the effort.
 
Written By: Monica
URL: http://
I can’t recommend enough Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating, which discusses in depth just what post-war Iraq should have looked like, why it didn’t, and how it will in the future.

This guy has the ear of the SecDef and the JCOS as well as the all the military planners and, apparently, they are listening with great interest. Enough interest to be reform how the military is organized and how plans are made.

I haven’t finished it, but so far it has been very eye-opening and scholarly while at the same time being easily accessible. It is directly on point with respect to this post.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://
Those plans of which Zinni speaks are probably the same ones over which he used to criticize Clinton. He spent most of the late ’90s saying that our funding of Iraqi opposition groups was a bad plan, and predicting the complete falling apart of the Iraqi government into "15, 20, 90 groups competing for power".

So was there a solution put forth? A better plan? Or is Zinni just good at pointing out what won’t work? Buy the book to find out!
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
I wonder sometimes how different things would have been had Turkey not balked at allowing us to traverse their territory. Specifically, I wonder how many more of the Saddam Fedayeen we would have been able to kill if they hadn’t had anywhere to go in the face of our troops but rather had been caught between the hammer and the anvil as was planned for them.
 
Written By: Peter Jackson
URL: http://www.liberalcapitalist.com
Peter, It might have made some difference in the opening of OIF, but it wouldn’t have done much for the insurgency. The 4th ID, IIRC, ended up deployed in Iraq, any way. It simply deployed out of Kuwayt I believe. So it’s not like the troop level was reduced in the aftermath of OIF.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"I’ve heard various people say that Tommy Franks was very interested in the thrust to Baghdad, but very disinterested in post-war planning"

Sounds reasonable to me. Most soldiers become soldiers because they like being soldiers, not administrators of civil government.

Speaking of civil government, it is my understanding that the army has whole units, mostly reserve, that specialize in military government. What do these people do if not prepare for such contingencies as administrating occupied territory? Where were they, and did they have any input at all in planning for the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq? If not, why not?

." The 4th ID, IIRC, ended up deployed in Iraq, any way"

True, but they were not there at what may have been a critical time for preventing or minimizing disorder and the beginnings of an insurgency.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I think we can all agree that disbanding the army was a tough judgement call. Imagine what the pundits would be saying right now if we had not disbanded the Iraqi army, and suddenly large units defected to the insurgents, or they turned on smaller US units that were based nearby...can you see the headlines screaming "US Base Overrun by Rebels?" Or how about a Sunni unit massacres Shias...gee the press would then scream why we didn’t disband the army!

That said, the plan for re-constituting the army should have been ready to go from day one. Of course, it would be a slow slog. Would it even be possible to speed up the job without sacraficing too much quality?

de-Baathification had to be done, if only for PC reasons. (because we could have kept the Baath party in power, and ruled through a Sunni minority military dictatorship...but would that fly in Europe?) Let’s say you also were smart and realized that de-Baathification would severely impact your civilian infrasture - well, what’s your plan? Bring in 1,000,000 civil servants to run everything from Soviet designed power plants to the airport? Sure you can plan for that...but it’s going to be slllllloooooow no matter how great your plans are because the excecution would still take a long time.

For troop levels, I think a small footprint could really have paid off if it worked with Iraqis feeling like "I don’t see too many Americans, so I don’t really feel ’occupied’ but once it becomes an insurgency the small footprint becomes a big drawback. But a big footprint might not have done much better - more targets, more convoys, more people who don’t speak Arabic...

On the plus side, I bet we had great plans for feeding a million refugees and air-dropping humanitarian daily rations, etc. and the oil fields weren’t fired, a plus for the environment.

I suspect we could have had much better planning for Phase IV, but the size of the problems might have made slow going even with the best plans.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I wish we, as a country, could have an open/honest discussion about the war planning - review what we did right and wrong. I don’t think we can do it just yet because the anti-war crowd and the media tend to exploit such information in order to fulfill their own agendas - and thus removing most of the honest debate element from the effort.
Damned if they question the plan before, damned if they question it during. And they’ll be damned for questioning it after...

Too bad war supporters weren’t also asking these types of basic questions in 2002. Must be something about their nature.
 
Written By: srv
URL: http://

 
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