September 04, 2003

Don't Panic

Andrew Apostolou in a piece that manages to be both refreshing and sobering at the same time:

That mistakes have been made in postwar Iraq is not in doubt, but that predicted disasters have not transpired is rarely acknowledged. The Coalition, like the U.N., planned for a humanitarian catastrophe when there was none. Contrary to some pessimists, Iraq has not fallen apart. Far from destroying Iraq's territorial integrity, the Coalition has restored it, bringing the Kurdish safe haven back into Iraq. There have been remarkably few revenge killings so far, thanks to the Coalition presence, and equally little of the predicted ethnic conflict. Hundreds of thousands of ethnically cleansed Kurds have not rushed back to their homes nor have they punished their Arab oppressors. There has been little of the reverse ethnic cleansing seen in Kosovo where the Albanians often dispensed rough justice to their former Serb overlords.
He's no pollyanna, though. There are plenty of problems, even if they are smaller than those we anticipated. Read the rest, and take note of the last sentence.
[T]here is no surer path to defeat than to rush into the arms of those who wish we had never toppled Saddam in the first place.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 4, 2003 10:39 PM

Just thought I'd get in my "Thanks for pointing this one out, Michael" before the outrage begins in earnest. :)

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 5, 2003 06:11 AM

Good note by Michael, important perspective by Andrew.

Things not perfect in Iraq. What about those mobile phones? What about local housing protection groups? Rummy needs to kick more butt to do more smart things, faster & cheaper -- meaning find more ways to use Iraqis to do actual work. Guarding, asking questions, recording questions, watching -- calling Iraqi police or US.

Posted by: Tom Grey at September 5, 2003 07:40 AM

At least Rummy seems to be enjoying some good sleep at Saddam's Palaces these days.

Posted by: Dave at September 5, 2003 09:46 AM

The ability to prognosticate without being held responsible for failed prophesies is a privlige of any opposition.

That being said, American warfighting and reconstruction share some good parallels. America has historically fielded armies that were pretty darn incompetent at the outset of war, but tended to learn very quickly. The military-political culture changed with the Cold War, and the military has effectively been in a more-or-less warfighting mode (psychologically) since Pearl Harbor. As a result we don't tend to reset to zero experience as quickly when we're not actively engaged in hostilities.

Reconstruction and peacekeeping still follow the old American trend of learning by doing. So, yes, we came in absolutely green at the outset of post-war Iraq, and are getting better and doing it quickly. If America wants to cement its predominance, it'll have to follow the same path it did with the establishment of the DoD, where training for contigencies is routine, rather than contingency-based, so to speak. If we become, over the next several decades, as good at rebuilding as we are at bombing, there will be essentially much less political leverage with which to restrict American use of force.

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at September 5, 2003 10:01 AM


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