POSTWAR PLANNING….Karen Kwiatkowski, a recently retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, served in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans for ten months. Shortly before her retirement she was finally allowed to transfer back to her original post:
The transfer was something I had sought, but my wish was granted only after I made a particular comment to my superior, in response to my reading of a February Secretary of State cable answering a long list of questions from a Middle Eastern country regarding U.S. planning for the aftermath in Iraq. The answers had been heavily crafted by the Pentagon, and to me, they were remarkably inadequate, given the late stage of the game. I suggested to my boss that if this was as good as it got, some folks on the Pentagon’s E-ring may be sitting beside Saddam Hussein in the war crimes tribunals.
Well, yeah, I can see how a remark like that might finally succeed in getting you transferred. It sure as hell isn’t going to get you promoted.
As it turns out, Kwiatkowski’s article isn’t nearly as interesting as you’d think for someone who served in the OSP and thinks it was badly run. (For the record, she says they suffered from isolation, cliquishness, and groupthink, which sound like three names for the same thing, to me.) However, she does raise what I’ve long thought was the most perplexing question about the whole war, maybe even more perplexing than the missing WMD: the lack of postwar planning.
It’s become common knowledge since the end of the war that the Pentagon did virtually no planning for postwar Iraq, but I’ve never heard a reasonable sounding explanation for this. After all, the real purpose of the war, we’re told, was to turn Iraq into a model for other Middle Eastern states to follow. I think this explanation is essentially correct, and what’s more, I agree that it’s the only real justification the war had.
But if that’s what the White House and the Pentagon really believed, wouldn’t postwar planning be the most important task they had? After all, the whole point would be to take out Saddam and then engage in a whirlwind of activity to demonstrate to the Iraqis (and the rest of the Arab world) that the United States had their best interests at heart and was truly a friend to democracy and tolerance.
And the faster the better, of course. After all, the longer it takes the more likely it is that the Iraqis would turn against the occupation.
So why the lack of planning, which so clearly works against America’s best interests? Did they just screw up? Did they truly believe that we’d be universally greeted as liberators and the country would be up and running in no time? Did they somehow think the UN would jump in to help?
It just doesn’t make sense. What were they really thinking?