POSTWAR PANICKING

Morton Kondracke, Joe Lieberman, and Stuart Taylor all weigh in on the problems the US is having in postwar Iraq.

Kondracke fisks Bush’s speech on the Lincoln and argues that very little has been accomplished:

Bush also declared, “We’re bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous,” and, “We’re helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built himself palaces for himself instead of schools and hospitals. We will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by and for the Iraqi people.” It’s pretty clear that, a month after the military victory, order is not restored and the rebuilding process has not begun swiftly enough – apparently because of faulty pre-war planning by the Bush administration.

“Chaos” and “anarchy” are the words being used to describe conditions in Iraq – a lack of governmental authority, policing, health administration, clean water, food and fuel.

Businesses and banks can’t open because their operators fear looting. Women are being kidnapped and raped, permanently damaging them in Islamic culture. Children are suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea from contaminated water.

Never mind that the speech was less than three weeks ago. Sure, we toppled Saddam in that amount of time but totally reorienting a failed state takes longer than toppling a despot. And who is using the terms “chaos” and “anarchy” other than the American commentariat?

Lieberman takes a similar path in his critique:

. . .shock and awe is giving way to stumble and fumble. Weeks after a brilliant military victory, the Bush administration is failing to secure the peace.

Law is still absent and disorder is widespread. High-level American officials are being replaced with frequency. The Bush administration is now seeking to gain complete coalition control over Iraqi oil during the transition. And many of the most sensitive facilities in Iraq – sites we believed to house weapons of mass destruction – were left unprotected and were looted after the fighting ended.

The fair point of comparison is pre-war Iraq, not the United States. How safe, orderly, and fear-free were the streets of Iraq two months ago? Are the people noticeably worse off, even in the short term, than they were under Saddam?

Taylor and Kondracke offer a more reasonable criticism, though. Taylor:

Did the Bush administration deliberately mislead the nation and the world when President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and others so confidently suggested, as their casus belli, that Saddam Hussein had hundreds of tons of banned chemical and biological weapons and a program to build a nuclear bomb?

Kondracke:

In the aftermath, the administration is touting the “liberation of the Iraqi people” as its justification. Unquestionably, it’s a boon that an evil despot has been toppled.

But as long as weapons of mass destruction aren’t found, questions remain – at a minimum, about U.S. intelligence. It appears that U.S. forces may have located the looted hulks of several mobile biological laboratories, but proof-positive of a large-scale WMD program is still missing.

If it turns up, Bush will be vindicated. If it doesn’t, he’ll be embarrassed and his critics at home and abroad can legitimately ask, “What did we fight this war for?”

I agree with this. While I would have personally been in favor of the war simply to eliminate the threat of Saddam’s acquiring WMD and eliminating an evil regime that was torturing its people and fomenting terrorism, that was not the basis on which the Administration made the case for war. We put US credibility on the line that there was a vast WMD arsenal in Iraq. Indeed, the whole case in international law was to enforce UN resolutions about WMD. If we don’t find these arsenals, it’s going to be quite embarrassing.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
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. George says:

    After the 1991 war it took 2 YEARS to to get the lights turned on in Baghdad.

    After this war, the critics started whining when we had not done it in 2 DAYS.

    What we are seeing is a country that was a total freaking mess before the first bomb fell. Somehow that is not Saddam’s fault, it is Bush’s.

    SIGH

    George