First off, good luck finding the studies referenced in this article. The U.S. Army War College website that contained them has, since last week, become inaccessible. If you're deft with Google and know what the “cache” option means, perhaps you can find the studies on your own. In fact, if it weren't for Village Voice contributor Jason Vest being on top of things (see “The war after the war” in the March 19 online issue of the Voice), the studies might have gone entirely unpublicized-it seems no other media outlet has dug up the information or found it worth sharing.
“The Day After: The Army in a Post-Conflict Iraq,” published in December 2002, and “Reconstructing Iraq: Challenges and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario,” published Jan. 29, 2003—both commissioned by the U.S. Army War College—point to something that the Bush-Rumsfeld-Powell machine hasn't dared to broach: it's quite plausible that the U.S. will win the war in Iraq, but lose the peace.
Though we're being told by the mainstream media to expect dancing in the streets of Baghdad once Saddam Hussein is ousted, the reality is that not every Iraqi citizen will embrace U.S. post-war plans to occupy and rebuild their nation. “The most challenging and important phase of the operation,” states the December study,” may not be the actual combat, but the post-conflict requirements that follow.”
The report estimates it will take, at minimum, 65,000-80,000 troops and up to 10 years before Iraq achieves a functional level of stability—quite a variation on President Bush's rosy “not a day more than necessary” scenario. This week's announcement by Bush that “disarming” Iraq will cost an estimated $75 billion failed to mention that that number could skyrocket to $1 trillion before the U.S. is able to get Iraq back on its feet.
The report compares the task of rebuilding Iraq to “peeling an onion”—every layer of tasks will reveal another layer and another.
The January report, 10 times the size of its December predecessor, reveals some 135 “essential tasks” including everything from restoring a criminal and civil court system to establishing reliable media systems to establishing a police force. However, the report warns that attempts to impose a democratic system of government on Iraq could easily backfire. Politics in Iraq, the report states, had a violent history before Hussein (who, the report states, simply “institutionalized” violence) and could, logically, plunge back into chaos after he's gone due to tensions between religious and ethnic factions competing for control. “Power sharing,” the report states, “is a new and untested concept in Iraq.”
And what's the impetus for studies of this sort, which, Vest notes, are being “read with increasing interest by some Pentagon planners”? As the January report states, post-World War II plans to rebuild Germany began two years before that country surrendered. The Gulf War, on the other hand, revealed cockiness on the part of military planners, who failed to properly consider what it would take to rebuild post-war Kuwait. Lieutenant General John Yeosack, commander of the Third Army division tasked with dealing with prisoners, refugees and hospitals complained that he had been left with a “dripping bag of manure” that no other government body wanted to deal with.