Archive for May 2007

CSIS Report Excerpt

May 25, 2007

Excerpt from Cordesman’s CSIS report on the future of Iraq, “Iraq’s Troubled Future: The Uncertain Way Ahead”, revised April 13, pages 4-5 PDF document.

Under the heading, “The American Civil-Military Threat to Iraq”, Cordesman makes the following points (quoted verbatim or paraphrased):

1. The US invaded Iraq without a valid understanding of the Iraqi government, economy, and sectarian and ethnic differences. It did not have plans, staff, or aid money to deal with the situation; and did not have the force strength to provide security.

2. Our reaction to the problem was incompetent and misdirected. We focused on national elections and paper constitutions, rather than effective governance, and a massive aid program to “reconstruct” Iraq in American terms. It failed to recruit, deploy, and retain competent civilians.

3. It took too long to realize that creating effective Iraqi security forces was a critical element of stability. It rushed ill-prepared Iraqi Army units into combat and local security missions.

4. The US military was ill-prepared for its new focus on counterinsurgency, stability operations, and nation building. Its military have been pushed into a wide range of new training and civil military roles. It remains short of experts and fully qualified translators (where it may still have less than 25% of its needs).

5.The US is only now is beginning to understand the full limits of Iraq’s oil “wealth,” the depth of the structural problems in Iraq’s economy, and the need to “reconstruct” in ways that take account of the need for money to flow to Iraqis, rather than foreign contractors.

6. Tactical victories and military efforts are pointless without political success. The US supported a form of deBaathification that was bound to alienate the Sunnis, and removed much of the nation’s secular core from power. The US insistence on national elections in a country without political parties left a legacy of government divided along sectarian and ethnic lines. The US pressure for a new constitution helped make “federalism” a key issue. Political conciliation has been far more cosmetic than real, adding Arab Sunni versus Arab Shi’ite, Shi’ite on Shi’ite, and Arab on Kurd tension and violence to the threat posed by hard core Sunni Neo-Salafi led insurgency.

7. The “surge” strategy in Baghdad is little more than a repeat of previous tactical efforts to bring local security to the capital city. If it succeeds, it will probably be because the Shi’ite
militias stand down, and the US effectively helps a Shi’ite dominated government “win.” If it fails, it will probably be because US military friction with the Shi’ite militias becomes violent. It is far from clear that the US Congress will give either the current or the next President the necessary time and resources to exploit “success”, even if we achieve it.

8. As in Vietnam, the US has created reporting systems designed to report success, not real progress or the lack of it, for its Iraqi force development and political and economic aid efforts. This reporting has slowly improved in some areas under the pressure of events, but much of the US reporting on Iraqi force development and economic aid efforts still lacks meaning and credibility. This includes basic data like Iraqi force manpower, unit readiness, aid efforts relative to requirements, and reporting on aid based on meaningful measures of effectiveness.


American Irrresponsibility

May 17, 2007

In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Nir Rosen had an excellent piece on Iraqi refugees. There are now about two million outside the country, nearly all in the Middle East, and nearly as many displaced persons still within the country. The largest number is in Syria, and here the refugees have found the most welcoming situation. Syria is the only major state that welcomes Shiites, and it is the only state that has managed to reduce hostilities among competing groups from Iraq. It does this by trying to remain friendly to all, and by strongly discouraging any talk of sectarianism (a stance that also fits its internal balance of power requirements).

There are fascinating glimpses of the approaches of the factional leaders now in Syria. Originally, they saw the enemy as the Americans. But over time this has been changing. Now their most intransigent enemies are the al-Qaeda and Jihadist groups who have no real interest in Iraq or Iraqis. They distinguish sharply between the “honorable struggle” that targets only foreigners and the al-Qaeda approach that targets civilians as well. They are also coming to see the Iranians as a common enemy of Iraq. (It must be said that most of the conversations are with Sunnis). They also see Iraq under Hussein as being essentially non-sectarian, pointing out that the coup attempts against Hussein were almost entirely by Sunnis.

But the most discouraging section of the piece is that on the American response. We have done almost nothing for the refugees and do not intend to. Our position is that of Bolton, former ambassador to the UN. He told the author that Americans have no responsibility for the refugee problem “Our obligation was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation.”  Another high-ranking official in the Bush State Department agreed, pointing out that “Refugees are created by repressive regimes — the refugee problem was caused by Saddam Hussein”. Thus, when we got rid of him, we had essentially “solved” the refugee problem.

It would seem as though many in this administration live in an alternate universe. There is no recognition that the chaos has been caused by faulty decisions, no matter how well intentioned they might have been. We have produced a mess from which the Iraqis flee. Of course, they are partly responsible, but the world believes and I believe that we are also responsible — for ending the war and for what it has produced.