Iraq: May 12, 2003

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Over the weekend, the American leadership team running the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq was replaced. There was dissatisfaction with the way public order and media relations were being handled. In other words, there were too many media stories continuing to come out of Iraq about lawlessness and disorder. The new guy is charge is Paul Bremer, a State Department diplomat who is also an anti-terrorism expert. It's unclear why the previous team failed, or simply was unable to look successful. The Department of Defense has been studying these peacekeeping and nation building operations for over half a century. This sort of thing was what the Special Forces were established to deal with back in the late 1940s. Moreover, the army in general has sent thousands of troops through the Balkans peacekeeping operations in the past decade, providing invaluable experience. The problem appears to be simply one of leadership, with the original occupation team using a plan that did not produce satisfactory results quickly, or visibly, enough. Leadership does make an enormous difference. This could be seen in the occupation of Germany after World War II, where results (dealing with nazi officials, remaining opposition and economic devastation) varied considerably from area to area depending on who the local occupation commander was. 

The outgoing leadership team was criticized for not making public announcements about how it was going to solve specific problems in Iraq (restoring utilities and public services and economic reconstruction.) There was apparently a plan, but it was never laid out for the public, inside and outside Iraq. There is progress daily, because there are thousands of Special Forces and Civil Affairs troops working in the country, and enormous quantities of economic aid pouring into the country daily. Day by day and week by week, more Iraqis are finding themselves better off than they were before the war. But this doesn't get much attention. Bad news always outsells good news.

 

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