The other night, Trish posed this question. "How much longer do we have to play Wounded Elephant on the Euphrates?" Did the arrogance of the Bush Administration and a misunderstanding of American history doom the venture? Was it ignorance of Iraq and the Middle East and a naive goal? The US people were asked to support a war and I believe they would have, but what kind of war?
The mantra after 911 was the long generational conflict. If the Administration knew that to be true, then they should have known the best way to win a long war was to sequence a linear campaign of demonstrably singular wins. A Roman style destruction of one enemy after another would work just fine. WWII was an example where The US systematically crushed one Japanese held island after another. Enormous losses were tolerated because they were followed with victories. The victories offset early losses and humiliations.
“My way or the highway” pushed potential allies away and events pealed active allies away, one at a time. "Old Europe vs. New Europe" delivered with a gleeful smirk may have been fun, but it established a policy of creating division, reluctance and outright rejection from a growing community opposed to the Bush way and it escalated into outright hatred. Instead of creating forward momentum, which would have brought new allies to the front, the Administration created adversaries. The most glaring example was the dismantling of the Iraqi bureaucracy and the Iraq military.
At one time the Administration estimated that about 400,000 people, mostly military personnel, lost their jobs when Saddam's military apparatus was dissolved in May 2003.
Initial plans for the interim defense force called for bringing about 30,000 Iraqi troops back to active duty. They were drawn from regular army units. This interim defense force was used primarily with coalition joint patrols and border patrols.. In a January 2006 interview between Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor of the Council of Foreign Affairs and L. Paul Bremer we see this surprising exchange:
"In your new book, My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope, you’re quite candid about the differences you had with Secretary of Defense [Donald H.] Rumsfeld and the Pentagon leadership over troop levels in Iraq, which you felt were too low. And in May, 2004, just before you departed for home you sent a personal message to Rumsfeld, again saying the troop levels in Iraq were inadequate. The troop levels since then have been about the same and the insurgency still continues. What is the problem with getting more troops into Iraq?The declared mission understood by the Administration was "law and order", and not military victory? Why did they think Americans would accept the role of policing Iraq? That does not sound like a war. That does does not ring in my memory as the stated goal, but to the man responsible on the ground, the goal was to establish law and order. How would that have worked in WWII? The metaphor proposed by Trish may be apt.
Well, the disagreement here is a view that I had while I was there that our primary responsibility was for law and order. In particular, in the aftermath of the invasion, we had not cracked down on the looting, which set an example on our apparent unwillingness to enforce law and order. On the other side of it, military people in our government argued that, first of all, they believed they had enough forces to accomplish their mission, and secondly, that adding more forces would, in their view, make the situation worse because you’d have more soldiers on the street and in their Abrams tanks. That’s a respectable view but I just don’t happen to agree with it. So, that was the key argument: Do the American troops actually need more troops—and by the way, I never heard a military man while I was there say he needed more troops. And the president had said and still says if they ask for more he will give it to them. So those are the two sides of it.
Since then, the insurgency has continued at the same or higher levels. Of course, now the sovereign Iraq government is in charge and the quality of the Iraqi troops, I guess, will be the deciding factor.