Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Washington Post has obtained a copy of a paper presented at a Cornell University conference, concluding that the Bush administration's war planning before the invasion of Iraq was inadequate, and that there was no written, formal plan for Phase IV of the war: the postcombat phase.

Obviously, this conclusion does not come as a huge shock at this point. But what is new and different about this report is that it was written by a military insider: Maj. Isaiah Wilson III served both as an official Army historian, and as a war planner.

Wilson contends that the military authorities failed to understand, or misunderstood, political and social realities in Iraq before the invasion; and continue to misunderstand these realities to this day.

First reality: Winning a war in Iraq was not just about toppling Saddam Hussein.

[The] lack of sufficient troops was a consequence of the earlier, larger problem of failing to understand that prevailing in Iraq involved more than just removing Hussein. "This overly simplistic conception of the 'war' led to a cascading undercutting of the war effort: too few troops, too little coordination with civilian and governmental/non-governmental agencies . . . and too little allotted time to achieve 'success.'"

Second reality: The U.S. military forces in Iraq have been inflexible in their thinking and unwilling to adapt to changing circumstances and realities.

Army commanders still misunderstand the strategic problem they face and therefore are still pursuing a flawed approach, writes Wilson, who is scheduled to teach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point next year. "Plainly stated, the 'western coalition' failed, and continues to fail, to see Operation Iraqi Freedom in its fullness," he asserts.

"Reluctance in even defining the situation . . . is perhaps the most telling indicator of a collective cognitive [dissonance] on [the] part of the U.S. Army to recognize a war of rebellion, a people's war, even when they were fighting it," he comments.

Wilson has not published his paper, and does not plan to, because of anticipated Army objections - but the Pentagon would be well advised to take his observations to heart.

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