Editorials

Iraq: Strategy falls short

LACK OF PLANNING?

Iraq strategy falls short

Opposition to this country’s war against Iraq is more than a simple matter of being anti-war. As a letter-writer pointed out last week, most people claim to be against war.

In the case of America’s go-it-alone assault on Iraq, there’s also the issue of the deceit involved in promoting the war and the apparent lack of planning that accompanied the effort.

Those who spoke critically of the war in the months leading up to the attack are still dismissed as “appeasers” who give support to the enemy. Now, as the war continues long after victory was declared, most of the cautions issued by the appeasers have become reality. The glowing accounts of success put forth by the Administration seem to address a different reality.

When the President campaigned for office, he spoke of his opposition to both “nation-building” and to committing U.S. troops to battles that didn’t offer a clear sense of direction.

He soon became part of nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. Although he’s engaged in nation-building, his reluctance seems to show through via a policy guided by so many generalities. Who exactly is our enemy in Iraq? What is our goal in the effort? How will we know when we’ve succeeded? Is there a way out?

A troublesome facet of the emerging guerilla-type conflict is that it wasn’t unexpected—at least not by many military personnel who cautioned against a war in Iraq. But this wasn’t a quick decision by the Bush administration. The desire to impose democracy on Iraq wasn’t even fallout from the 9-11 attacks.

Several people in the administration—including Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney—have discussed just such an effort for years. And despite years of planning, we entered the battle without a clear goal and with little planning for what would happen when the bombing ended.

Instead, it was perceived as an easy fight (it was), a welcome by the natives, a relatively quick rebuild, and—voila!—instant democracy in the midst of the Middle East. There appears to have been little consideration to other alternative endings.

We went in fighting one of the world’s most brutal dictators and we remain as an occupying force, dodging bullets and bombs from militants. It’s a situation we helped create, just as many feared would happen.

Another week of instability in Iraq, another billion dollars spent, and that’s just to maintain our presence. The estimated cost of reconstruction stands at $100 billion.

That leads to one more question that demands to go beyond generalities: Where will we get the cash?

    - DGG, Aug. 27, 2003