Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Post-war planning - what to get right next time

Russell Brown links to the David Rieff critique of post-war planning in Iraq Blueprint for a Mess.

While the article actually does not bare out Russell's claim that "the Bush administration were willing to lie to themselves and others about what was really going to happen in Iraq" it is a very good analysis of what the Bush administration got wrong in planning for the peace. In the end Rieff's severest criticism is one of "wishful thinking" rather than mendacity.

It pulls no punches but is not completely damning: "Much of the postwar planning that did get done before the invasion focused on humanitarian efforts...".

On the looting:

"Garner told me that while he had expected Iraqis to loot the symbols of the old regime, like Hussein's palaces, he had been utterly unprepared for the systematic looting and destruction of practically every public building in Baghdad. In fairness to Garner, many of the Iraqis I spoke with during my trips were also caught by surprise"

and

"One reason for the looting in Baghdad was that there were so many intact buildings to loot. In contrast to their strategy in the first gulf war, American war planners had been careful not to attack Iraqi infrastructure. This was partly because of their understanding of the laws of war and partly because of their desire to get Iraq back up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible."

Bush's distaste for nation building (he commenced his presidency with an isolationist policy - a stance he has abandoned but still championed by the Left) seriously hampered the post-war planning.

Rieff took part in a discussion on humanitarian intervention in The Atlantic: Picking a Good Fight. A level of debate on this issue not generally seen in NZ but quite common in the US.

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