Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rummy beat Powell, what does it mean for Iraq?

The New York Times recently published an article about by the U.S. State Department regarding reconstruction in Iraq. The article states that after any future conflict, rather than first attempting to rebuild the country physically, the U.S. should first “establish a secure, stable environment and begin political reconciliation.” The report essentially slams the brunt of U.S. attempts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, especially with regards to availability and delivery of utilities to citizens, which is actually functioning worse than prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003. It is feared that the failings of the reconstruction projects will lead to increased discontent make it even more difficult for an Iraqi government to effectively take control of the country. The article highlights that such differences over the appropriate actions to be taken immediately after the invasion were argued over prior to U.S. action there. The State Department and USAID had argued that a massive reconstruction program so early on would fail without a secure environment first being established, but those fears were pushed under the rug by the Pentagon, whose reconstruction plans were ultimately the ones implemented in Iraq.

This case serves as a classic example of bureaucratic competition as described by Allison. The Pentagon, under Donald Rumsfeld, over-ruled Powell’s State Department and USAID. It’s pretty generally agreed that the Bush Administration has tended to favor the Pentagon over the State Department with regards to Iraq, and it is becoming clearer that such a choice may prove to our detriment in the rebuilding. The State Department’s comprehensive study on the appropriate way to deal with post-war Iraq was completely dismissed, although it foresaw many of the problems being faced in Iraq today. Regardless of opinions of going to war, we see that some serious errors occurred during and after the invasion: not sealing borders, failure to protect weapons caches, disbanding the military, the focus on reconstruction over other areas of concern. We see here first hand the dangers of policy being enacted based on access to the President rather than the merit of their arguments. I'm not saying the Pentagon didn't think its plan would work, but all options should have been given equal weight. The U.S. military does not nation build, that is not what they are trained or equipped for, why then would their plan be followed for the rebuilding of a tension-filled state. Hindsight is always 20-20, but its not a relatively new idea that during Bush's first term, the State Department was shoved to the side so the Pentagon could be front and center, it seems clear that we're still paying the price for that decision.

No comments: