Basmati on Iraq, de-Baathification and the Iraqi Army

Basmati's picture

I thought I'd try something a bit different in this blog. I'm going to put aside my personal animosity towards ArmyMajRetired and attempt to have a debate of substance with him.

I think a good topic to begin this dialog would be Iraq de-Baathification and disbanding the Iraqi Army.

From what I can tell, there are two distinct and diametrically opposed positions on both of the above areas.

One one hand, you have a substantial number of people who believe that removing all traces of Baathist influence in Iraq was both the right and proper thing to do. Ditto disbanding the Army.

On the other hand, you have another substantial number of people who believe that de-Baathifying and disarming Iraq cripples the nascent government.

I count myself among the latter group, and I'll present my case as to why I believe what I believe. I'll let others besides myself and the Major decide who has the stronger argument.

Okay then: to the crux of the debate. When Great Britain cobbled together three separate and distinct factions (kurd, shiite and Sunnis) way back in 1905, they imposed a strong centralized government to bind the nation together. Whether by fortunate accident or design, they implemented more or less the "British model" which made the general populace very dependent upon government services. I realize that this model is anathema to most capitalist-leaning Americans, but it was an inspired choice for a country without any industrial base. The best way to rise to the top in Iraq was for many years through either the government ranks or the military ranks, again, not unlike Britain. Over the course of a century, this served the country of Iraq reasonably well. The Army had the additional benefit of instilling a sense of national identity among Iraqis, they may have first and foremost been Shia or Sunni or Kurd but they were also Iraqis.

When the British largely withdrew from Iraq post-WWII, some rot sept into the system. One faction, the Baathists, manipulated the government skillfully until most key posts were filled by Baathists. Saddam Hussein rose through the military and eventually overthrew the civilian government with the assistance of both the military and the Baathists. The Baathists then had a dubious "legal" lock on the government power structure.

Enough history for now. America began a war with Iraq and overthrew the existing government.

The question then became, what to do? There was one body of thought, articulated by the State Department, the Army War College and the counterinsurgency dept of the Special Warfare command that held that to successfully continue providing government services to the people of a conquered nation, you removed the immediate two highest layers of management within a government (these managers are considered tainted) and allow other "party members" to continue running the government.

The opposing view, held primarily by the civilian leadership of the US Dept of Defense, was to remove any and all trace of "party members" from the existing government function, implying that "party membership" in and of itself constituted a taint.

I feel that the latter argument, which eventually prevailed as the official position of the United States government, was overly simplistic and ignored the hard realities of running a postwar occupation government. This policy, with the keen benefit of 20/20 hindsight, has been nothing short of disasterous in my opinion. Replacing an entire cadre of trained bureaucrats with essentially rank beginners solely on the basis of party membership and/or religious affliation had a tremendously adverse effect on the the occupation.

Likewise, disbanding the Army. The Army was the last manifestation of "national pride" in Iraq. Summarily dismissing the Army removed the last vestige of "national pride" from the populace, and immediately created a situation of 200,000 plus unemployed resentful armed fighting men. It's an imperfect analogy, but suppose President Bush (or Clinton, your pick) was impeached and removed from power and the American army disbanded as well for their "support" of their commander in chief. I simply fail to see the logic in disbanding the Iraqi army.

That's my take on things, I welcome any comments.

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AF A-10's picture
Submitted by AF A-10 on Tue, 02/13/2007 - 6:47pm.

Because if you are unemployed and underutilized, it is quite easy to get swept into a populace movement (aka insurgency) and vent your anger towards those who layed you off. The interesting thing to me is where I become even more conservative than conservatives. I believe (as they did in 1994) in accountability. If J. Paul Bremmer, Mr. debaathification, also skillfully loses track of Approximately 8 billion dollars of US currency, why in heaven's name do you give him the Presidential Medal of Freedom? We criticize the intel comming from George Tennet's CIA, and then give him (drum roll)..... The PMF. "Good Job Brownie" kind of moments. I wish you guys could travel with me to pubs and places around the globe. When you watch the news in Germany, England, Brazil, Ireland, France, Scotland, even Hungary, you would think they are all yellow-bellied liberals the way they criticize our decisions over the last several years. But hey, what does the rest of the world know? We've still got the Austrailian PM on our side as he publicly criticises Obama. (His son was on the Bush-Cheney reelection team) The next president, whomever they may be, has some major repair work before them.


Kevin "Hack" King

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Tue, 02/13/2007 - 7:07pm.

I don't give Paul Bremer sense enough to release an army and the government. He didn't have that authority and wouldn't have done so even if they had told him he could, if he didn't say who made the decision.
Those recommendations (to disband armies and governments) are made by NSC's advice to the President--who ultimately must decide. If he gets bad intelligence, it is still his fault for not having a back-up advisor on such things, as most Presidents have had. People who tell the President what is correct, who don't need his loyalty to survive. Clark Clifford comes to mind for Truman. Excuses don't cut it.

AF A-10's picture
Submitted by AF A-10 on Tue, 02/13/2007 - 7:47pm.

So you see Bremmer as the fall guy (much like Scooter Libby) bearing the blame for mistakes made at higher pay grades? That is very, very plausible. It's very interesting seeing blame kicked around in the administration. So many people have dodged blame for miscalculations, like the yellow cake uranium story. Despite Ann Coulter's attempts to say, without offering proof, Iraq was indeed attempting to attain yellow cake from Niger, testimony was offered under oath in the Libby trial that George Tennent personally told the administration to pull that contention from official press conferences due to lack of proof. The testimony offerred suggested Condi Rice didn't want to confront the VP when the yellow cake claim was reinserted into the State of the Union. So far, everyone is saying, "don't blame me, I just work here." That doesn't work in my profession because, like the airlines, the military now tapes EVERYTHING! Nuts! No anonymity. No scapegoating!!!


Kevin "Hack" King

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Tue, 02/13/2007 - 7:54pm.

People like Howard Hunt will die for superiors decisions providing plausible deniability. The military has it also. Recordings or no.

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