The Reconstruction of Iraq

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF IRAQ….The LA Times reports today on the problems we’re having in postwar Iraq:

U.S. officials concede that many of the key assumptions that drove planning for the postwar administration were wrong.

….When U.S. officials mapped their effort to get the country going again, they prepared for a significant flow of refugees, a humanitarian crisis, thousands of prisoners of war and for a longer honeymoon period — a time in which Iraqi people would be heady with a sense of relief at the departure of Saddam Hussein.

Hardly a single Iraqi fled the country, however, and far fewer were internally displaced than projected. The prisoners of war have mostly been released. What came as the biggest surprise was the violent and long-running looting of government offices — looting that persists on the streets of a capital that seems perpetually on the cusp of chaos.

….Agency officials said that despite weeks of planning, they were unprepared for the number of obstacles. “There was a constant reevaluation,” Bodine said.

Weeks of planning?

Look, I know this is a tough job, and there are plenty of unavoidable problems inherent in the reconstruction of Iraq. But shouldn’t postwar planning have been going on for months, not weeks?

The naive assumptions of the administration hawks become more obvious every day. There were supposed to be swimming pools of anthrax around even though the CIA said there wasn’t. The Iraqis were supposed to greet us as liberators. The UN and world opinion were supposed to turn around as the evidence of Iraqi perfidy mounted.

None of that happened, and out of all this I have a suspicion that the biggest miscalculation was the UN: Bush and Blair probably thought all along that eventually the Security Council would support us, and postwar planning would therefore be largely supported by a small army of UN planners, humanitarian groups, and peacekeepers. As it became clearer that wasn’t going to happen, they scrambled to put together a plan on their own, and wishful thinking replaced more hardheaded judgments.

Paul Bremer has his work cut out for him. I wish him the best of luck.

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