Iraq Rebuilding Blunders

U.S. Army military police and Iraqi police play with children in Sab al Bor, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. William Greer)

U.S. Army military police and Iraqi police play with children in Sab al Bor, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. William Greer)

A forthcoming government history on Iraq War reconstruction depicts an inept process marred by politics and bureaucratic infighting, NYT reports.

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

[…]

It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”

[…]

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

That sounds about right. Of course, the Marshall Plan involved giving the money to leaders of advanced countries to rebuild war-ravaged infrastructure after the conflict had ended, whereas this effort had outsiders with virtually no knowledge of the area trying to create a modern state out of an underdeveloped one while terrorists were trying to undermine the effort at every turn.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. caj says:

    If we hadn’t gone there in the first place, there would not be a country to rebuild…simple as that.
    This was Bush’s war and we will be suffering the consequences for years for his inept leadership and his stubborn manner of running this country into the ground.

  2. Mithras says:

    Well, there is a bright side: The failed reconstruction, like the occupation itself, has created enormous long-term opportunities for Iran.

    Wait. Hmmm.

  3. […] the only other conservative writing about this story but I still think James Joyner is on the wrong track with this: That sounds about right. Of course, the Marshall Plan involved […]

  4. Around The Sphere…

    Our famous linkfest to posts of varying viewpoints from all over the Internet and news media.

    The Bush Administration Continues To Work On Having The Worst Environmental Record In American History: The White House is removing protections for endanger…

  5. anjin-san says:

    I have a feeling that the amount of “rebuilding” money that ended up in Swiss bank accounts could easily cover the auto bailout.

  6. odograph says:

    That sounds about right. Of course, the Marshall Plan involved giving the money to leaders of advanced countries to rebuild war-ravaged infrastructure after the conflict had ended, whereas this effort had outsiders with virtually no knowledge of the area trying to create a modern state out of an underdeveloped one while terrorists were trying to undermine the effort at every turn.

    It is fair to say “ideologically chosen NeoCons” in place of “outsiders” isn’t it?

    One part of the drama was the exclusion of nation-builders from … what was it, the State Department?

  7. Triumph says:

    I love how these liberals do nothing but complain. People don’t realize that we were on the cusp of being annihilated by Iraq in 2003.

    As Bush and Rumsfeld realized, Iraq was an immanent threat. They had supported the 9/11 attacks, had agents in Canada and Mexico and were likely reconnoitering in Cuba to launch an assault.

    Had we not invaded, we would likely be speaking Arabic right now, being ruled over by Uday, Qusay, and Baghdad Bob. Additionally, our invasion prevented terrorist attacks on US soil. We stopped evil.

    These ungrateful Iraqis should be lucky we spent any reconstruction money on them in the first place.

    It is clear that they are sabotaging Bush’s efforts in order to strong-arm a better deal from Obama.

    Unfortunately, B. Hussein has a natural affinity for the Islamic radicals in Iraq and will likely pour tons of money into the country to no avail.

    Instead of “reconstructing” we should cordon off the civilian population from the oil fields, protect oil pipelines to the Gulf and extract every drop of oil until the Iraqis pay the entire bill for their liberation (+15% interest).

    At that point we can begin to talk about “reconstruction.” Until then, they owe us big time. It’s too bad that our Hussein has more in common with their Hussein and will likely placate to their will.

  8. ggjr says:

    So if I read you right Triumph, you’re saying that a country powerful enough to invade the US and force their language and Islamic law on it was stopped by 100,00 troops?

    I’ve heard the argument about preventing terrorists attacks before, first time I heard about an impending invasion.

  9. Triumph says:

    I’ve heard the argument about preventing terrorists attacks before, first time I heard about an impending invasion.

    Don’t you remember, Bush called Iraq an “immanent threat.”

  10. charles johnson says:

    I liked this bit excerpted by the NYT:

    The history records how Mr. Garner presented Mr. Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.

    “What do you think that’ll cost?” Mr. Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.

    “I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Mr. Garner said.

    “My friend,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”

    That sound you just heard was my ironymeter overloading.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    I think we’re making the wrong comparisons. The decision to invade Iraq was a bipartisan one. Plenty of Democratic senators, including one who will be the new Secretary of State, voted to support the invasion. Their post hoc denials are just trying to weasel out of the consequences of their own decisions. The record is really quite clear.

    So, rather than debating about what we would have spent had we not invaded Iraq, which plenty of self-described progressives, e.g. Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, supported although I did not, we should be comparing what we spent and what we would have spent if we managed the best occupation we could have managed under the circumstances.

    I have no idea what that is and the NYT article does nothing to elucidate it.

  12. odograph says:

    That does not match my recollection, Dave. There was a great kabuki in the adminisration’s case for war and (importantly) there assurance it would be a last resort. To imply partnership is laughable on its face. See also the adminisration’s skillful telling of reasons NOT to go to war as embargoed classified information to members of congress.

  13. caj says:

    Don’t you remember, Bush called Iraq an “immanent threat.”

    Posted by Triumph | December 14, 2008 | 02:44 pm

    Oh yes, I remember that well, and boy did he play that up for all it was worth…Iraq was never an imminent threat to the US….that was only in Bush/Rumsfeld and Cheney’s dreams!!!
    I can’t believe how gullible people like yourself after all we know now are still so keen to believe it was actually true!!!!
    Still, unfortunately people will hang onto Bush”s every word even now and take it as Gospel and because he is still the President feel they have to be loyal no matter how many lies the administration have told us over the years.
    It really is time to wake up about the Bush administration and see what they’ve really been up to these past 8 years…well, we’ve seen what they have been up to and it’s ruined this country.

  14. ggjr says:

    Don’t you remember, Bush called Iraq an “immanent threat.”

    Good thing they were invaded before they had time to put together their own fleet to conquer the US and force its inhabitants to convert to Islam and speak Arabic.

  15. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Saddam had a cute practice of stuffing his enemies into wood chippers. Those the guards liked went in head first. I wonder just how man wood chippers Saddam would have worn out had he not been removed from power. Some idiots here would have protested the removal from power of Adolf Hitler, had that action been taken. Some of you dumb f**ks cannot see beyond the next election. Others oppose any action not taken by a Democrat. All of you who opposed Bush in Iraq should have been allowed to suffer under Saddam.

  16. mike says:

    You all do know that Triumph is joking in his posts – keep it up Triumph b/c the world needs humor to get through the day.

  17. Triumph says:

    I can’t believe how gullible people like yourself after all we know now are still so keen to believe it was actually true!!!!

    Keep your shoes on buddy!

  18. This is old news to anyone who has read, Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

  19. Dave Schuler says:

    That does not match my recollection, Dave.

    Your recollection is flawed.

    The Clinton Administration was saying little different than the Bush Administration. And senators have access to plenty of classified intelligence. If they’re inclined to look at it.

    Feel free to make the argument that senators didn’t do due diligence in 2002 and 2003. That’s my opinion.

  20. caj says:

    All of you who opposed Bush in Iraq should have been allowed to suffer under Saddam.

    Posted by Zelsdorf Ragshaft III | December 14, 2008

    Nobody said Saddam was a good man and things he may have done I’m sure were terrible, that being said, still did not give Bush the right to invade his country on a pretext of an “imminent threat” to the US!!!!
    There are many evil dictators all over the world and the US does not go around getting all of them….this was convenient for Bush to attack Saddam with this nonsensical WMD excuse.
    You can’t pick and choose which dictator you want to see eliminated on a whim, as they are all equally repressive surely.
    No,Bush was going to get Saddam no matter what from day one and 911 was the prefect excuse alongside these infamous WMD’s…no doubt about that.

  21. odograph says:

    Dave, I opposed the war, as a Republican (at the time) and wrote President Bush to say that it failed tests of realpolitik, and would yield blowback for generations.

    I think I remember those times, as an observer of why things were going to turn out differently than I wanted. The two strongest factors were “fixing the intelligence around the strategy” (see Downing), and the unresolved anger so many Americans still felt about 9/11. It was very easy for the first factor to leverage off the second.

    Yes, some lax senators (on both sides) allowed themselves to be swayed by the (directed) anger of the crowd, but that was not the whole or central story.

    What I am remembering, specifically with respect to embargoed information was the difference between the classified NIE and the unclassified version. The White House trumpeted the unclassified version as proof of Saddam’s WMD (esp. nuke) ambitions. BUT! the senators who saw the classified NIE knew case for aluminum tubes was much dodgier. Now here is where it got sick: if they said that the case was dodgy they were breaking their oath. The were committing treason.

    It was a sad, sad, chapter in American democracy.

  22. odograph says:

    Shorter: Are you blaming the victims?

  23. anjin-san says:

    Feel free to make the argument that senators didn’t do due diligence in 2002 and 2003

    I certainly hold all the Senators who voted for the war accountable, it is one reason I did not support Hillary.

    But there is only one President. That buck can’t be passed.

  24. charles johnson says:

    I think we’re making the wrong comparisons. The decision to invade Iraq was a bipartisan one. Plenty of Democratic senators, including one who will be the new Secretary of State, voted to support the invasion. Their post hoc denials are just trying to weasel out of the consequences of their own decisions. The record is really quite clear.

    Yeah. It is. Let’s turn to it:

    Wikipedia:

    “Iraq Resolution” and “Iraq War Resolution” are popular names for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002,[1] a joint resolution (i.e. a law) passed by the United States Congress in October 2002 as Public Law No: 107-243, authorizing the Iraq War.

    House of Representatives
    Republicans: 215 yes, 6 no
    Democrats: 82 yes, 126 no

    Senate:
    Republicans: 48 yes, 0 no
    Democrats: 29 yes, 21 no

    adding up all of congress:
    263 republicans voted yes, 6 voted no.
    111 democrats voted yes, 147 voted no.

    I can understand why you’d want to pretend it was bipartisan, but the facts clearly say otherwise.

  25. odograph says:

    Excellent Charles, but let’s also remember that the resolution was not for unconditional war. Many (including I, who opposed it) hoped that Bush was just playing Saber Rattling on a grand scale. We hoped “he must let in inspectors” was a honest condition and not a pretext.

  26. Drew says:

    “A forthcoming government history on Iraq War reconstruction depicts an inept process marred by politics and bureaucratic infighting, NYT reports.”

    An inept process marred by politics and bureaucratic infighting? No !?! Cluck your tongues if you like, NYT, but it sounds alot like the the US government.