Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ignoring the lessons of history

The first in a series of what went wrong in Iraq. It looks like it's going to be a really good series of articles. Apparently, the Army thought Iraq was going to be another Bosnia or Kosovo. The only problem is that in the Balkans, all the parties involved were bled dry and exhausted. The local military age men were either killed or burned out by 4+ years of war. The Balkans also had more of a Western outlook (yes, I know they were communists but remember Marxism is a Western philosophy that was born of the Enlightenment) than the Iraqis or the Vietnamese. That was not the situation in Iraq. Actually, I think the situation is more like the German invasion of France during WWII (no, I am not comparing our soldiers to stormtroopers) than the Balkans.

I think these are some of the more telling quotes of the political leadership:
Complicating the U.S. effort was the difficulty top officials had in recognizing what was going on in Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at first was dismissive of the looting that followed the U.S. arrival and then for months refused to recognize that an insurgency was breaking out there. A reporter pressed him one day that summer: Aren't you facing a guerrilla war?

"I guess the reason I don't use the phrase 'guerrilla war' is because there isn't one," Rumsfeld responded.

That summer, retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, an expert in small wars, was sent to Baghdad by the Pentagon to advise on how to better put down the emerging insurgency. He met with Bremer in early July. "Mr. Ambassador, here are some programs that worked in Vietnam," Anderson said.

It was the wrong word to put in front of Bremer. "Vietnam?" Bremer exploded, according to Anderson. "Vietnam! I don't want to talk about Vietnam. This is not Vietnam. This is Iraq!"

This was one of the early indications that U.S. officials would obstinately refuse to learn from the past as they sought to run Iraq.

As that great philosopher Obi Wan Kenobi said, "Who is the bigger fool? The fool? Or the man who follows him?"


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