Sunday, May 21, 2006

Apres nous le deluge

The NYT starts to tell the story of how we got where we are today in Iraq:
"More attention should have been paid to the police after the fall of Baghdad," said Mr. Miller, one of the officials who objected to the original proposal to deploy thousands of advisers. "That is obvious. Iraq needed law and order established."
The question persists: how are "law and order" established? Force of arms? Or agreement of the governed? One would think this would be obvious to as Hobbesian a foreign policy Administration as the current one is. But no; they aren't, of course, Hobbesian at all. They are clueless, and rather than accept that the monarchy must be responsible to the governed, they blame the governed for not supporting the monarch (Hobbes, IOW, would have this group for lunch):

Administration officials say that the insurgency, more than any other factor, has slowed their progress. While field training has been limited, they point out that most of the 152,000 police officers have attended nine new training academies, some for as long as 10 weeks.
Destroy all the institutions of a culture that give organization of the society both meaning and function, and what result do you expect? Hobbes could tell you. But that, obviously, is a question this Administration never considered:

Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner sent to Iraq in 2003 to lead the police mission, said Pentagon officials gave him just 10 days notice and little guidance.

"Looking back, I really don't know what their plan was," Mr. Kerik said. With no experience in Iraq, and little time to get ready, he said he prepared for his job in part by watching A&E Network documentaries on Saddam Hussein.
So let's go with excuses:

In interviews, White House and Pentagon officials defended their decisions, saying that it would have been impossible to find thousands of qualified trainers willing to go to Iraq and that deploying large numbers of foreign officers would have angered Iraqis and bred passivity.

"Where it was possible to have a light footprint, that was preferable to a heavy-handed approach," the National Security Council said in a written response to questions. "The strategy was to support the Iraqis in every way possible and to enable them to do their jobs, not to take over their jobs."
An argument which simply makes no sense at all, unless you consider the avoidance of responsibility which is the hallmark of this Administration and, not coincidentally, the pattern and defining characteristic of the President's life.

Atrios is right: read the whole article. But it isn't a question of how any of those responsible sleep at night; clearly they sleep very well. They don't consider themselves responsible, and no amount of dunning, berating, blogging, or even good reporting, is likely to make them change their minds. Consider, for example, just how much depends on a red wheelbarrow; or on the health of one person:

On May 18, Mr. Kerik arrived in Baghdad and found "nothing, absolutely nothing" in place. "Twelve guys on the ground plus me," he recalled. "That was the new Ministry of Interior."

Mr. Mayer, the author of General Garner's police training plan who worked in the Department of Justice, had fallen ill in the United States, and the Justice Department team was apparently unaware of his prewar plan. Working from scratch, the team pulled together a new plan to train 50,000 to 80,000 members of an Iraqi police force.

"If you took all of the postconflicts from the 1990's and combined them together, it would not equal what you're up against in Iraq," recalled R. Carr Trevillian IV, the senior Justice Department official on the team. "Even if it were a benign environment."

At first, members suggested that Iraqi police recruits receive six months of academy training, the amount trainers settled on in Kosovo. Mr. Kerik said he "started laughing," and calculated that it would take nine years to train the force.

The team reduced academy training to 16 weeks, and eventually 8 weeks. Later, a 2005 State Department audit found that translating classes from English to Arabic ate up 50 percent of training time. With translation, Iraqi recruits received the equivalent of four weeks of training.

To make up for the shortened classes, the Justice Department team proposed a sweeping field training program similar to Mr. Mayer's. The team calculated that more than 20,000 advisers would be needed to create the same ratio of police trainers to recruits in Iraq as existed in Kosovo.

Deeming that figure unrealistic, they recommended placing 6,600 American and foreign trainers in police stations across the country to train Iraqis and, if necessary, enforce the law.
Entire academic seminars could be conducted pulling that story apart. For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost. Complete ignorance as to the obstacles being faced (the "hope is not a plan" proposal of 6 months training, v. the reality of 9 years to develop a police force); the decision, obviously made for bureaucratic reasons, to reduce the training to 16 weeks, and then to 8; the simple clerical issue ("all for want of a nail") of translating training documents from English to Arabic (everyone doesn't speak English? What are they, foreigners?); and then, when you can't possibly place enough people to do the job, place as many as you can and call it sufficient. The entire war effort in a nutshell. Need one point out we are no longer even hearing that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein? Or that we are spreading democracy in the Middle East?

But all of that is nothing more than chasing the dog's tail, and finding out, when you are exhausted, that not only have you still not caught it, but you are still the dog. The question is really more fundamental. It's a philosophical one, a theological one. What is the nature of government? And what is human nature? Does law always produce order, or does law flow from order? It isn't a question of planning, but of what did we think we were doing? It's a question of what we think the nature of liberty is. Learned Hand, the great American judge, pointed out that: "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it." Liberty, in other words, is neither imposed, nor granted, it cannot even be preserved in law. It exists in a society, or it doesn't. Unleashing chaos does not unleash liberty; it destroys it. Freedom is not free? Liberty is not liberation. That should be the first lesson.

The only conclusion we can reach now about Iraq is: this Administration had absolutely no idea what it was doing. But clearly, we never should have thought it did.

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