"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with

Condoleezza Rice
"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with
Wed Oct 8 15:28:51 2003

Condoleezza Rice: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with B.S.!"

When all else fails, reorganize
By Ehsan Ahrari

Coming back from a week long vacation, when I forced myself away from almost all means of global connectivity, it appeared that I left the world around me in "freeze" mode. The United States is still acutely embroiled in Iraq. Nothing seems to be going right in that country. Afghanistan is an equally unstable place.

In fact, Amnesty International issued a report that portrays a very gloomy picture of female suffering in that troubled land. Women are still being brutalized, suppressed and even raped, while the US is the chief occupier, with NATO forces taking the lead in peacekeeping. For those women, the dream of a better life after the Taliban remains a delusion.

For the third time in the past six months or so, the White House announced on October 6 a new regrouping or reorganization in both Afghanistan and Iraq, as if the problem is not due to failed policies in those countries, but is merely of an administrative nature.

Accepting that the post-conflict US involvement in Iraq ("phase four" in the military parlance) has been a miserable failure will provide ample fodder for a number of Democratic candidates, who are already escalating their criticism of US President George W Bush and his hapless foreign policy in the Middle East. Thus, the administration is heavily relying on using politically correct euphemisms in order to soft-peddle its wrongheaded policies.

The mission of nation building in Iraq is going nowhere, attacks on the American soldiers are continuing, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are nowhere to be found. But David Kay, head of Iraq Survey Group, is still refusing to admit that there might not be any WMD left. Instead, he opted to raise the concern of those who are still listening to him by claiming that Iraq may have hidden chemical munitions among vast piles of conventional munitions buried at various locations.

Now the Bush administration is going through significant gyrations by announcing that it will overhaul its missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are told that a new entity, the Iraq Stabilization Group, will be responsible for subsiding violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will also spearhead nation building in those countries. The person in charge is Condoleezza Rice, Bush's National Security Adviser. A very interesting aspect of this development is that Bush is reported to have been frustrated with the handling of the modalities of the US involvement in Iraq by the Department of State and the Pentagon. In other words, according to this description, he sees nothing wrong with the US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rather, he envisions the incessant setbacks that his administration is facing as outcomes of bureaucratic maladies and dysfunctionalities.

Like the rest of the leading US bureaucrats who are conducting US foreign policy, Rice also refuses to admit any failure related to the nature of US commitment or its handling of the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. In a statement that ought to worry most leaders of the world, it dawned on Rice only now that "we are in a different phase" of that conflict. She said that reorganization efforts are devised by herself, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as an outcome of a discussion they held with the President last August.

The thinking underlying this reorganization is that by diminishing the authority of the Department of State and the Ministry of Defense, Bush would see promising results in Afghanistan and Iraq, and soon. The pundits in Washington are also quite sanguine about couching this reorganization in the context of bureaucratic tug-and-pull. This new measure is seen as resulting in diminution of authority of Powell, as well as Rumsfeld. The new major player is Rice. The creation of the Iraq Stabilization Group promises to give her more direct control. It is also a major shift in her role from a provider of quiet advice to Bush - a role that Rice has clearly preferred - to a direct implementor of two of the most intricate issues of foreign policy, similar to that of Henry Kissinger when he was the National Security Adviser during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Four of Rice's deputies will head coordinating committees on counter terrorism, economic development, political affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the "creation of clearer messages to the media" in Iraq.

The fact of the matter is that the massive regrouping or reorganizing efforts in Washington do not go to the heart of the problems in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan has been a political and economic basket case before the US carried out its military campaign in 2001, and is likely to remain so. The type of massive assistance and attention that country alone requires before it emerges as a halfway decent polity is beyond the capability of the US and its NATO allies. Only the commitment of the international community over several decades might alleviate its misery - and the operative phrase here is "might".

Iraq was a mess of a different sort before the US invaded it. As nefarious as dictators are, they have a record of keeping a multiethnic caldron from boiling over. Josip Tito of Yugoslavia and Saddam Hussein come to mind. Now Iraq resembles Afghanistan. Indeed, Iraq has become a gathering place for global jihadis who have nothing but death and destruction to offer to the American forces and to anyone who goes there even pretending to be siding with America.

The recent news that Turkey might send its peacekeeping troops to Iraq promises to add one more group to the ongoing death and mayhem. This time, the Kurds are likely to do their utmost to settle their own ancient scores with the Turks. But the US badly needs the Turkish participation in order to have a visible Muslim presence, and also to alleviate the chances of further deaths of its own troops.

The solution to endless death and misery in Iraq is the painful decision to hand over the rule of that country to the UN. The US must consider lowering its presence, authority, and, most important of all, its aspirations in Iraq. These observations might sound like a broken record to the Bush administration, but they bear repeating as long as young GIs are dying, and Iraqis of all walks of life are making it their national pastime to cause injury to the occupiers of their country. Even the current attempt to reorganize the US mission in Iraq is akin to saving a sinking ship by appointing a new leader of the crew whose mission is to bail the rising level of water. Instead, the objective of the US ought to be to bail out while it still can.

Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an Alexandria, Virginia, US-based independent strategic analyst.

(Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com  for information on our sales and syndication policies.)


Iraq: New U.S. Plan Seeks To Expedite Reconstruction

By Andrew F. Tully

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, facing persistent problems with restoring order in much of Iraq, has formed the Iraq Stabilization Group to expedite its rebuilding and security efforts there. Ultimate responsibility for reconstruction has been shifted from the Pentagon to the White House, under Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

Washington, 8 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- At a news conference in Washington on 6 October, U.S. President George W. Bush expressed confidence that all is going well in Iraq.

"The situation is improving on a daily basis inside Iraq. People are freer, the security situation is getting better, the infrastructure is getting better, the schools are opening, the hospitals are being modernized," Bush said.

During the same appearance, however, Bush appeared to contradict that conclusion by discussing the creation of the Iraq Stabilization Group, under which the ultimate oversight of Iraqi reconstruction will no longer rest with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld but with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and the White House National Security Council.

"This group formed within the National Security Council is aimed at the coordination of interagency efforts, as well as providing a support group to the Department of Defense and [top U.S. administrator in Iraq L. Paul] Bremer," Bush said.

The fact that Rumsfeld was originally in charge of Iraqi reconstruction represented a shift from past practice. Historically, such efforts have been the province of the State Department, which reportedly had spent 18 months developing a reconstruction plan for Iraq in case the United States went to war there.

Bush originally decided to give the job to Rumsfeld's Pentagon, but the White House now recognizes that the job has not been going well. That's the conclusion of Marina Ottaway, a senior associate of the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy center.

Indeed, in an interview with the "Financial Times" yesterday, Rumsfeld said he had not been informed of the creation of the Iraq Stabilization Group beforehand.

Ottaway told RFE/RL that the creation of the Iraq Stabilization Group and the shift of responsibility show that Bush now regrets putting the Pentagon in charge. "I think that there is an implicit criticism of what the Pentagon has been doing," she said. "What is clear is that nobody at this point has a compass for the political transition any longer because the process that they had devised is not working."

Ottaway said the occupation of Iraq is more difficult than similar situations in Germany and Japan after World War II because the country has not been defeated. Instead, she said, its army dispersed as U.S. and allied forces moved deeper into the country, and now some former officers are apparently involved in the bloody resistance. More than 100 U.S. and British soldiers have been killed in Iraq by hostile fire since the end of major combat operations on 1 May.

Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, another private think tank in Washington. In an interview with RFE/RL, he noted that the creation of the Iraq Stabilization Group comes a week after the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq reported that attacks on his personnel were increasing in frequency and severity, with between three and six U.S. military personnel being killed -- and as many as 40 being wounded -- every week.

"It's an implicit vote of no confidence in the Pentagon's handling of Iraq," Carpenter said. "The security situation in Iraq is less than stable, and the Pentagon has had an extended period of time to get it right and really hasn't gotten it right yet. So the White House is taking more control."

In an interview with RFE/RL in May, Carpenter commented on the appointment of L. Paul Bremer, who had a long history with the State Department, to replace retired U.S. Army General Jay Garner as the chief civil administrator in Iraq. He said the choice of Bremer demonstrated the increased influence of Secretary of State Colin Powell in an enterprise being overseen by Rumsfeld.

But Carpenter said he does not necessarily see a parallel decline in Rumsfeld's influence with the shift of responsibility for Iraq's reconstruction from the Pentagon to Rice's National Security Council.

Instead, Carpenter sees what he called a lessening of Bush's confidence in some of Rumsfeld's top advisers. Carpenter specifically cites Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the administration's Iraq policy.

Carpenter recalled that Wolfowitz and other Defense Department officials received cool, if not hostile, receptions at recent congressional hearings, even from members of Bush's own Republican Party.

In particular, senators criticized earlier claims by the officials that Iraqi oil would pay for the country's reconstruction. Now, Bush is seeking $87 billion for operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, including about $20 billion for rebuilding Iraq.

"Remember, Wolfowitz got a very rough reception on Capitol Hill a short while ago," Carpenter said. "Even Republicans were less than pleased with him, and I'm sure that word has gotten its way to the president."

Ottaway said Bush's decision to expedite reconstruction with the Iraq Stabilization Group also was driven by impatience -- on the part of Iraqis, on the part of America's European allies and on the part of many in U.S. politics -- to restore sovereignty to the people of Iraq.

According to Ottaway, Powell spoke unrealistically last month when he urged the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to draw up a constitution within six months so that elections can be held next year and U.S. forces can be withdrawn.

Ottaway said deciding on the authors of the constitution alone will take time, and drafting the document itself will take even longer. The whole process, she said, could take years -- and the Bush administration's plan is not to withdraw U.S. forces until a fully formed Iraqi government is in place.

But it would be inappropriate for the United States to keep occupation forces in Iraq for that long, she added. The Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment, where Ottaway studies, recently issued a paper suggesting an alternative approach that is quicker, if not as thorough.

"What we recommend instead is that we just focus on getting the Iraqis to approve an interim constitution, elect quickly a constituent assembly and a government of national reconciliation to which the U.S. could transfer sovereignty, and then start trying to work out the problems of what a [permanent] government and a constitution should look like," Ottaway said.

Ottaway said an interim government should be able to stabilize Iraq with little U.S. help until a permanent government is elected. This would be consistent with Bush's move to expedite reconstruction with the Iraq Stabilization Group.

Carpenter counters that the whole idea of the group makes little sense. He said the Bush administration seems not to understand the very nature of the problem it faces. "The problem is not bureaucratic organization," he said. "The problem is the substance of the policy, that there are a significant number of Iraqis who regard the U.S. as an alien occupying power. They are resisting that occupation, and they are inflicting damage on the U.S. military force there and creating a good deal of trouble in terms of efforts to repair the infrastructure. That's not going to change simply by changing the bureaucratic arrangements back here [in Washington]."

Main Page - Saturday, 10/11/03

Message Board by American Patriot Friends Network [APFN]


messageboard.gif (4314 bytes)