In what is essentially a revisitation of an article from last September, the New York Times once again worries about how the decision to dismantle the old Iraqi military was made.
This continues to be a funny little game of political ‘gotcha!’ that does little, if anything, to help anyone in any meaningful way.
The criticism seems to go something like this:
- There was no plan for the post-invasion occupation of Iraq
- Bush deviated from it by disbanding the army
- What an idiot…no wonder we’re going to lose
I discussed the September article here: To dismantle or not?
Today’s article links to a .pdf of part of a memo from March 7th, 2003:
The plan was outlined in a PowerPoint presentation that Douglas J. Feith, a senior aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, gave at a National Security Council meeting that Mr. Bush convened on March 12, eight days before the invasion began. Republican Guard units, the forces deemed most loyal to Mr. Hussein, were to be disarmed, detained and dismantled.
But the rest of the army would be retained. Three to five of the divisions would be used to form the –nucleus” of a new Iraqi Army, according to a copy of the PowerPoint slide, which was obtained by The New York Times. Other Iraqi troops would be used as a reconstruction force to rebuild the nation.
The presentation also carried a caution about the risks of dismissing the army in the early months of an American occupation in a nation racked by high unemployment: –Cannot immediately demobilize 250K-300K personnel and put on the street.”
What is missing in the discussion of this point is the fact that the army had already disbanded and demobilized. There weren’t “three to five of the divisions” left to use as the nucleus of anything, let alone a professional army.
Another thing that rarely comes up when blaming the disbanding of the old army for the size of the insurgency is this: Would we be finding it easier to reach political unity and national reconciliation in Iraq with a largely Sunni army under the control of a largely Shiite government? Or would we be seeing the Shiite militias openly backed by much of the government and population, much more than we see today, in an effort to resist the brute force of the military? Talk about a recipe for an Iraqi civil war.
I maintained for quite a while that we were seeing what amounted to a guerrilla civil war in Iraq. We certainly seem to have stepped back from the brink, thankfully. But what if the insurgency, rather than being a bunch of unemployed dead-enders, had been armed and controlled by factions within the legal government? wouldn’t that truly have set the stage for full-scale civil war?