The War After the War

U.S. Army Documents Warn of Occupation Hazards

The humanitarian undertaking is likely to be formidable as well—a task, given the dangerous circumstances, that can't be left exclusively to the UN agencies and NGOs. "Post-conflict humanitarian requirements will increase dramatically," the paper predicts. "In many cases, the army will be the only entity capable of providing much needed assistance and the required security aspects of the relief effort."

And, as the paper notes, "if one 'peels the onion' " of tasks that fall under the main headers of several key "post-conflict strategic requirements," the illusion that the army will be a brief, temporary presence evaporates almost immediately. Take security. "Post-conflict Iraq security tasks may include control of belligerents, territorial security, protection of the populace, protection of key individuals, infrastructure and institutions, and reform of all indigenous security institutions," the report notes.

Officials at the War College wouldn't make available the authors of the studies to elaborate. But "The Day After" points out that each of those task subsets begets more subsets. "For example," the paper continues, "the control-of-belligerents task includes: Implement and maintain the ceasefire; enforce the peace agreement, and support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Territorial security includes border and boundary control, movement, and points of entry. Protection of the populace includes non-combatants, maintaining public order, and clearance of unexploded ordnance. The protection of key individuals, infrastructure, and institutions includes private institutions and individuals, critical infrastructure, military infrastructure, and public institutions. The reform of local security institutions includes national armed forces and non-military security forces."

After a victory in Iraq, the transition from soldier to cop may be harrowing for the U.S. military.
illustration: Roberto Parada
After a victory in Iraq, the transition from soldier to cop may be harrowing for the U.S. military.

Army research indicates that just to address the "security" issue, there are "well over 100 essential services that the Army must provide or support." Problem is, the army may not have enough people to fulfill those and other services. Two-thirds of army combat-support functions are not, in fact, elements of the standing army, but the army reserve. "A majority of functions and services being performed by reserve component organizations in support of the Balkans and the GWOT are the same that will be required in a post-conflict Iraq scenario," the report says—further noting that there aren't enough army specialists available right now to meet GWOT requirements alone. The "resultant stress on the army mobilization function" for post-war Iraq does not, the paper suggests, look reassuring.

Yet to the Pentagon's appointed civilian leaders (increasingly the subject of derision by many officers for their combination of grand ambition and lack of military experience), the exigencies of post-war Iraq should be, according to one, "minimal." In a lengthy interview with the Voice last week, a high-ranking Defense Department political official did concede that preparation for Iraq after a war is seriously lacking. "The planning should have started much sooner," the official said. "That's hard to deny." But, the official added by way of spin, that's really nothing to be concerned about, because compared to Afghanistan, Iraq is really much easier to handle, and won't require a protracted military presence, in keeping with Donald Rumsfeld's view that the military should not be a tool for "nation building."

"It's not like there's a bunch of roving warlords and ethnic or religious differences on the same scale as Afghanistan," the official contended. "We're getting word that a large part of the military and Ba'ath are opposed to Saddam. And I think the Iraqis, the exiles who want to go back and help rebuild in particular, are getting angry with people who don't believe they can transition to democracy without the U.S. sticking around for a long time."


Yet much of this flies in the face of the Army War College's 84-page "Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario." Designed as guidance for military planners, the report provides a detailed "mission matrix" of 135 tasks essential to Iraq's stabilization and reconstruction. Its tone has been aptly described by one officer involved in post-war planning as "Here's everything you need to do to do this right and get out of Iraq as quickly and effectively as possible, but don't hold your breath."

As much a historic inventory of American occupation and post-conflict stabilization operations as it is a considered view of post-war Iraq, among other things the paper concludes that "recent American experiences with post-conflict operations have generally featured poor planning, problems with relevant military force structure, and difficulties with a handover from military to civilian responsibility." While the administration has often tried to describe a post-Saddam Iraq as something akin to post-war Germany and Japan, the paper notes that an entire army staff was dedicated to planning for post-war occupation two years before the end of World War II. In the case of Iraq, similar foresight has not been exercised.

And while General Douglas MacArthur "had the advantage of years of relative quiet to carry out his programs" in a post-war Japan that unconditionally surrendered, this occupation will be taking place in the Middle East, one of the most volatile regions in the world. In this case, "all American activities will be watched closely by the international community, and internal and external pressure to end any occupation will build quickly," and "regionally, the occupation will be viewed with great skepticism" on account of the fact that "the United States is deeply distrusted in the Arab world because of its strong ties to Israel and fears that it seeks to dominate Arab countries to control the region's oil."

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