Monday, November 20, 2006

THE BIG LIE VS. THE BIG MISTAKE

The Big Lie vs. the Big Mistake

I continue to hear our politicians speak about the pre-Iraq war intelligence as faulty, a lie to the American people and a ruse by the current administration to justify its plan to invade Iraq regardless of the truth.

As I listen to these folks, most of whom just faced the voters or are looking at 2008 I grow more and more frustrated by this continual look at how we got into the war vice how we get the job done so we can get out of the war but it prompted me to look back myself and when I did I decided the great mistake was worse than the so called great lie. First before I talk more about what I call the great mistake lets look at the pre-war intelligence and decide whether it was a lie or a ruse by an administration set on taking out Saddam.

There were claims made by several intelligence agencies going back to the Clinton administration that Saddam possessed chemical weapons, the means and will to deliver them. They pointed to UN inspectors reports which clearly showed the amounts declared and found after the first Gulf War the amounts that were verifiably destroyed and the amounts believed destroyed without proper documentation. This left several tons of weapons grade chemical munitions and material unaccounted for so they turned to the Iraq government who acted as if it had something to hide and continually put obstacles in the way of the inspectors.

Next let’s look at the will to use such weapons, well they obviously had the will as they’d used chemical weapons during at least two offensive operations against civilians and they had used them several times during military operations against the Iranian military.

The means to deliver these weapons was also easily verified in the form of medium range artillery and long range Scud Missiles all of which were capable of firing chemical warheads and had been used to deliver these munitions in the past.

Nuclear weapons were a theme that seemed to give most people pause as several administration officials emphasized this aspect of the WMD argument. Intelligence agencies tend to air on the side of caution so their arguments pointed out worst case scenarios to ensure their political masters couldn’t come back and say you told me it would take 6 months to accomplish X when it only took 2 months and we weren’t prepared. If folks have anything to complain about it’s the fact that the administration took the worst case scenarios presented and pushed them to the front of the argument line when they knew that these scenarios were in fact the lowest possibilities with the least possibility of being real threats. If they have one defense it was Saddam himself and his unwillingness to cooperate in any way with the UN inspectors. This was seen from the perspective of he must be hiding something worse then we know about. In fact we all now know it was Middle East bluster meant more for his neighbors than for the world.

So was it a lie or a ruse, no I don’t believe it was, what I do believe is that like most executives the administration looked at all the evidence it was presented and focused on the evidence that suited their arguments while down playing the evidence that wasn’t helpful. We see this in business, op-ed pieces, politics and day to day debate and arguments.

Now what was the big mistake, it’s taken me awhile to decide what I want to call the big mistake as there has been several mistakes that really hurt our progress in Iraq many committed by Paul Bremmer and the CPA such as completely disbanding the military, the Baathist government (the bureaucrats required to run the day to day government services) and attacking Fallujah after 3 US security contractors were killed in a public way. These were all mistakes that had huge consequences for the US military, and the Iraqi government and their ability to stabilize the country.

After carefully looking at history I believe the big mistake was not occupying Iraq completely and utterly as was done in post war Germany. There should have been total domination of all areas of Iraqi life including the provision of security and policing forces for at least 2 years. Yes you can keep the bureaucrats but they must only kept for day to day issues with no ability to hire, fire or touch or influence the money pouring in. Why did the US decide that they must move so quickly to reinstall Iraq authority, stand up a new Army get a constitution and hold parliamentary elections? Well the answer is simple they looked at Afghanistan and said it worked there and we don’t want to be seen as occupiers in the eyes of our Arab friends.

What the administration didn’t take into account was that Afghanistan and Iraq are two very different cultures who react very differently to foreigners. Afghanistan throughout its history has resisted occupation in any form, in fact they have always put aside their internal differences to fight a foreign invader or occupier no matter what policies that occupier brings to them but as soon as the foreign invader / occupier is defeated or leaves they quickly go back to fighting each other based on tribal or religious differences. When a country has a reputation and history such as this you must, once you’ve provided that initial stability, step back as quickly as possible and put into place a stable government that responds to the people’s wishes and needs. The US really did their collective homework in Afghanistan.

Now let’s look at Iraq and its history, it was created out of nothing and lumped 3 main groups together under a newly created Royal family. It was a monarchy and run under the British system until it was overthrown by a dictator. The people thrived until the Iran-Iraq war with huge improvements in their quality of life and standards of education. Women had the vote, had access to University level education while religion was not outlawed Iraq became a secular nation much as America is official secular in law but founded on a religious basis with it’s laws entrenched in religious morality. My point is a simple one, from the time Iraq was created to the day the US invaded it has never known democracy nor did it dream of it. Popular uprisings were not based on the dream of democracy but because of the suppression of religious freedoms or minority issues. Had these uprisings been successful the groups rising up would not have brought freedom to the people they would have brought power to their group and dominated all others.

With this understanding of the Iraqi mentality the big mistake becomes clear. The Iraqi people see democracy through very different eyes. Democracy means they can dominate those that have oppressed them. The US made a HUGE and perhaps un-recoverable mistake in trying to replicate the Afghanistan model in Iraq. The people and their leaders weren’t ready for it and we’re seeing it now. The parliament is split along sectarian lines and infective, the military and police forces are split along sectarian lines and aiding those they support and going after those they don’t. Cabinet ministers were selected not based on their experience but in a way to balance the appearance of power between the Sunni’s Shia and Kurds. The constitution was an utter waste of time as is the idea that you can have Western style justice in Iraq at this point in time.

Had we occupied Iraq with overwhelming force and determination we could have then selected those Iraqis that actually believed in Western style democracy and a free market economy and then slowly provided them with more responsibility and authority pulling it back if they went back to their roots. This would also have allowed a middle class to develop and a bureaucracy that was loyal to the rule of law and the constitution instead of a specific government or religious group to step forward.

Germany was ruled by a dictator for almost 10 yrs and the US took some 9 years before turning full control of Germany back over to them in 1954. Iraq was dominated by a dictator or a King for it’s entire existence (since 1932) so why throw down some foreign ideas and concepts and then say if you don’t get it we’ll leave and to hell with you. It really makes you wonder who was calling the shots in the Department of State and directly at the CPA. Did none of them read history or were they overwhelmed by the success of Afghanistan and the fool hearty belief and misunderstanding that all Muslim countries are the same and a good cookie cutter solution that is successful in one works in all.

There’s no going back now and re-occupying Iraq by throwing another 20-30-40-50 thousand troops at the problems nor should we be talking to Iran or Syria other than to say if you keep helping and supporting the insurgency we are going to make you pay a big time penalty as these countries are only interested in success in Iraq if it means Shia domination and if that occurs all your dreams of democracy in the Middle East truly go down the drain as the Shia would first wipe out the Sunni’s (Saddam’s religion) and then turn their sights on the Kurds (who both the Shia and Sunni hate).

How we fix this problem now is actually rather simple to write about and probably impossible to achieve. We need patience and to continue to support train and mentor the Iraq security services, judicial system and government while assisting in the reconstruction of the country. Oh yes and something very familiar to all Americans we need to secure the Iraqi borders ourselves. I would immediately pull the majority of troops out of the Baghdad region and use those troops to secure the Syrian and Iranian borders as the majority of IED’s, suicide bombers and militia leaders receive weapons, explosives, training and logistical support from those two nations. Slowly but surely you will see the change in attitudes and the belief that with America’s help the next generation who is educated in the forms of Western style democracy and free market economies will emerge. Just ask South Korea how long it takes!

Patience is something American’s aren’t known for but unless we want to be known as the cut and run country who will never be able to assist another nation that wants freedom again we must stick with the process and slowly but surely help these people achieve what we’ve offered them.

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