View Full Version : Give Rebuilding Lower Priority in Future Wars

04-08-2006, 08:22 AM
8 April New York Times - Give Rebuilding Lower Priority in Future Wars (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/08/washington/08recon.html).

As factions in the Bush administration continue their bitter infighting over the reconstruction program in Iraq, the State Department has produced a draft planning document saying that after any future conflicts, the United States should not immediately begin a major rebuilding program.

Instead, it says, the first priorities should be to establish a secure, stable environment and begin political reconciliation. Otherwise, officials said, Washington and any local government that is formed are likely to suffer major political repercussions by making promises that cannot be kept.

In Iraq, "We set it up to fail," said Andrew S. Natsios, who was director of the United States Agency for International Development until January. He and some White House and State Department officials say they argued early on that a large-scale reconstruction program could never succeed in a hostile environment...

Bill Moore
04-09-2006, 04:07 PM
I hope this article generates some serious discussion at the interagency level. I think the rapid attempt to rebuild Iraq was based on the assumption that Saddam and other insurgent, terrorist, and criminal elements were defeated (or at least suppressed to a manageable level). This proved to be false, so the assumption that our plan was based on was faulty, yet we didn't adjust our plan and blindly spent billions of dollars attempting to reconstruct Iraq's infrastructure while these efforts were (and continue to be) undermined by terrorists, insurgents, and corruption, and thus so far we have failed. To make matters worse we're in a situation where we don't see any return on our investment so dollars for reconstruction are drying up. This points to sad future for Iraq.

While major reconstruction efforts have to wait until an acceptable security base is established, we're still responsible for providing essential civil services to the people, foremost of which is security, but also food and water distribution, basic health care, etc., all of which can be addressed on the cheap "relative" to major multi-million dollar reconstruction efforts. The money we wasted on reconstruction efforts (unless you're a contractor) could have then been diverted to the security effort to get more manpower into the fight to defeat the insurgents, but that's hard to do when you have some key decision makers denying reality on the ground by denying an insurgency existed.

To clarify, I'm not arguing for sending more troops now, we missed our window of opportunity. For now Iraq and our soldiers will simply have to bear the brunt of bad policies and try to make the best of a bad situation.

I accept the fact that Iraq's future will be bleak for years to come, but I hope we don't take the wrong lessons from this war. With more competent leaders we could have achieved our objectives in Iraq. It isn't that it was undoable, but that you had to do it well. We had the expertise in our government to plan this, but they were marginalized. My biggest concern now is OIF will hamper future decision makers from taking aggressive action (only if needed) based on the results of this war, much like Vietnam hindered us for years afterwards.

Tom Odom
04-10-2006, 02:37 PM
While I don't dispute the idea that more could have been done to set conditions for success with regards to security and reconstruction, I would also say there is some self-serving aspects to the comments from Natsios and others.

Natsios was the 1st Bush Administration's Disaster Assistance Coordinator. He had point on Somalia and I even had him come over and speak to the Army's senior leadership about the initial entry for Op Restore Hope. He is a master of of the 7 second soundbite, very adept act making complex issues seem relatively simple, too simple I would say looking back.

Cobra II does much to dispute the idea that State had an actionable plan ready to go. That books relates that while there was a multi-agency document it was more a series of concept essays rather than a plan. The concrete plans that were offered and rejected were in the areas of police forces.