Friday, April 01, 2005

Deja vu all over again

What with the pope dying, Terri Schiavo dead, and Michael Jackson being on trial, you may have forgotten about the war in Iraq, and who could blame you? Well, it seems that the Rand Corp. released a report a month ago blasting the Pentagon for its failure to adequately plan for the war's aftermath:

The study, done by the Rand Corp., an independent research group that was created by the U.S. government and frequently does analyses for the Pentagon, also says the experience in Iraq has underscored the Pentagon's tendency "not to absorb historical lessons" when battling insurgencies. It notes a lack of political-military coordination and of "actionable intelligence" in the counterinsurgency campaign, and urges creation in the Army of a "dedicated cadre of counterinsurgency specialists."

The study highlights shortcomings as well in the conduct of the invasion. It cites inflated expectations at the outset about airstrikes in toppling the Baghdad government, poor performance by Apache helicopters in attack missions, delays in bomb damage assessments, gaps in tactical intelligence for battlefield commanders, disruptions in supply lines and inadequate coordination between Special Operations units and conventional forces.

Although the report notes that Iraq's poorly trained and ill-equipped forces proved "no match" for U.S. troops, it says the conflict exposed some important problem areas for the U.S. military that need fixing.

"There is a case for change, and even urgency, in those areas where problems arose even in such favorable conditions," concludes the confidential report, a copy of which was made available to The Washington Post. ...

When the insurgency arose, the report says, U.S. authorities failed to understand how it differed from past "wars of national liberation" or from a "classical guerrilla-type campaign."

The president has insisted that the war be judged by its ultimate results, and those are still unclear. But nothing should absolve the administration from responsibility for its mistakes, most born out of arrogance and a rush to fight an unnecessary war.

Which reminds me...the commission looking into the intelligence failures that led up to the war (you may recall that Saddam Hussein was supposedly developing weapons of mass destruction) issued its report, and this Slate articles discusses what the report does and doesn't say:

Reading beyond the executive summary reveals that the intelligence failure on Iraq had little to do with management, interagency disputes, or sloppy organizational charts. Rather, the main causes were twofold. First, on many points, well-placed intelligence analysts were simply wrong; it's as plain as that, and it's hard to see how any reshufflings or new directives might have overwhelmed human fallacy. Second, everyone knew President Bush was gearing up for war; he, therefore, wanted, needed, to find Iraq worthy of invasion; and the heads of intelligence, doubling as administration appointees, accommodated that disposition.

The commissioners try to skirt this political dimension of the intelligence analysts' findings. "In no instance," the report states up front, "did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgment." However, it goes on, "That said, it is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence agencies worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom."

Later on, the report elaborates: "Some analysts were affected by this 'conventional wisdom' and the sense that challenges to it—or even refusals to find its confirmation—would not be welcome." This "climate" was shaped, the report continues, by a "gathering conviction among analysts that war with Iraq was inevitable." ...

The panel didn't interview the president or vice president. The report doesn't even mention the special five-man team that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set up in his Pentagon office in the fall of 2002 to scour raw reports for the slightest suggestion of evidence, which the CIA might have missed, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or links to al-Qaida. An executive order is an executive order. But for a report about intelligence errors to avoid such matters is like viewing Hamlet through Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (but, unlike Tom Stoppard, not for laughs).

Now, back to the real news.


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