The New York Times has a long piece today by Michael Gordon showing how abysmally the administration miscalculated in the aftermath of victory in Iraq. The upshot of the piece is that there were never enough soldiers, and that just when the U.S. needed more troops to stabilize the situation on the ground, the Pentagon was already planning a massive cutback in forces.
Though the article will give some ammunition to John Kerry and his contention that Bush bungled Iraq badly, the fact is that the piece actually shows Bush to be poorly served by his subordinates, most prominently Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rummy is the real villain of the piece, largely because he kept troop numbers down, even in the face of repeated warnings, in order to prove his point that a smaller, more mobile military was the way of the future. This not only bothered Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, the U.S. representatives in Iraq, it also prompted Newt Gingrich, a member of the advisory Defense Policy Board, to say that "he would go back and press [Rumsfeld] to stop messing around with tactical-level decisions…"
Also somewhat blackened by the piece is Tommy Franks, whose reputation is apparently so tied in with Rumsfeld's, that he feels he has to defend the secretary to the idiotic hilt. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice also comes out looking like the sneaky chameleon that she is–a good bureaucrat, but utterly devoid of compelling ideas. The striking coda at the end of the piece is Jay Garner's:
"John Abizaid was the only one who really had his head in the postwar game," General Garner said, referring to the general who served as General Franks's deputy and eventually his successor. "The Bush administration did not. Condi Rice did not. Doug Feith didn't. You could go brief them, but you never saw any initiative come of them. You just kind of got a north and south nod. And so it ends with so many tragic things.
The Washington Post also has an interesting story on the delays in preparing Iraq for the January 2005 election. One problem is that the UN has been unable to fully staff its operation in Iraq, from which election specialists would have been presumably drawn. Why? Because two UN employees' unions, who already want to withdraw all remaining UN personnel from Iraq for security reasons, have no intention of permitting it.
That just comes to show how much the organization is a slave to its own bureaucracy, but worse that this high-paid bureaucracy has become utterly risk averse. For an unsympathetic piece on that malady, read this commentary by a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, David Malone. It was published on the op-ed page of the Daily Star, and provoked a gnashing of the teeth from UN pencil pushers.
Meanwhile, Iraqis try to fill the election vacuum, fully aware, no doubt, that when it comes to Iraq, the UN has often been more the problem than the solution.